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Interview with Uncle Steve from Jail

by Jake Silverman
March 18, 2011

You know, after all the time I've been posting news to the web site about Uncle Steve's, I haven't put up any information about the history of the club or the man whose name is painted on the front of it. Well, to be fair, nobody's asked me any questions in that regard. Actually, for quite some time, nobody's sent me any e-mails about anything at all, except to try to sell me some Viagra from Canada or to wire me several million dollars from a bank account in Burkina Faso. I already get enough of those e-mails, so I'm not posting my e-mail address to this website and inviting an army of robotic spammers to flood my inbox.

So, even though nobody has asked me to do it, here you have the history of the club followed by an interview with the man who founded it and who still technically owns the building, although Norm and I have been paying the property tax on it for the last few years as well as all the bills associated with its upkeep. A labor of love, but that's another story for another time.

As you can probably tell from the way the building looks, it used to be a gas station. It was owned by Uncle Steve's grandfather, who died in 1993 at the ripe old age of 88. Uncle Steve, whose real name is Stephen Metzger, had been working sporadically for his grandfather as his assistant at the gas station ever since dropping out of high school. Apparently, Uncle Steve inherited the gas station and its surrounding property upon his grandfather's passing.

For a time, Uncle Steve -- who refers to himself as "your good old Uncle Steve" when hitting on younger women -- kind of tried to keep the gas station going, but, without his grandfather's watchful eye on the cash register, within a month or two Uncle Steve ran out of money to buy more gasoline, condoms and snack food items to keep the store on its feet. Desperate, he invited several buddies over to finish off the rest of the beer left in the gas station's refrigerator. Someone suggested that they hold a "save the station concert" as a fundraiser. Uncle Steve agreed, and to make room for the concert, they gutted the store and constructed a stage, which is still in place today.

Several local bands and solo musicians showed up to perform for the fundraiser concert. Although no money was actually raised, Uncle Steve felt that he had found his true calling in life as the owner of a music club. And for that, Bratwurst and the surrounding area has been grateful for many years. Well, not everyone, especially not the police for a number of reasons such as noise complaints, but a lot of us have, really.

There was one time several years back when Uncle Steve owed this guy a lot of money and actually put the building and lot up for sale. But since he was asking for too much money -- he really owed quite a lot -- there were no buyers, and then the guy, who, rumor has it, put an unloaded gun to the side of Uncle Steve's head one evening to try to speed up the repayment process, died after hitting a patch of black ice at 185 mph on his motorcycle. I'm very sorry that guy died, but I'm also very glad that Uncle Steve didn't have to sell the club after all.

A few years back, Uncle Steve found himself inadvertently caught up in a complicated situation that involved a number of people who apparently had a loose association set up for the purpose of engaging in a particular type of somewhat discreet activity which I won't go into here, in principle and in theory a completely legal enterprise, with certain people collaborating with others under the impression that the thing was basically legit when in reality it was really kind of something else under the surface, that is, totally against the law.

The end result was that the wrong information ended up with the wrong people, mistakes were made, there were several misunderstandings and crossed wires, and before anyone knew what was happening, the local authorities got involved. Uncle Steve, who to this day insists that he was only peripherally involved in the whole controversy, was hauled in and brought to trial, where he was found guilty on several counts. False testimony was given against him, implicating him as the mastermind in the whole affair.

Although it is true that Uncle Steve had experienced quite a few run-ins with the law prior to his conviction, let's not forget that we live in a society where a man's past criminal history does not mean that he is automatically guilty of any crime of which he is accused. Justice for Uncle Steve!

Since his conviction, Uncle Steve has been fighting to have his case heard again in a court of appeals. I recently spoke to his lawyer, Rob Francis, who is working pro bono for Uncle Steve since he is married to Uncle Steve's sister, Peggy. Rob told me that he expects Uncle Steve to get his hearing any day now. Well, he told me the same thing last year and the year before that, but this time things are different. There were a number of obstacles that came up previously which have finally been swept out of the way, so we hope to see Uncle Steve back at the club soon.

Since Uncle Steve's incarceration, I've gone to see him fairly regularly at the jail, usually on a monthly basis, but sometimes more often, especially if something has come up at the club that Norm and I need to consult with him about. On my last visit, I made a digital recording of our meeting, parts of which I have typed out for you here.

Jake: We really can't wait to see you again at the club. I'm telling you, Norm and I have really fixed it up nicely. We're even serving dinner now ‑‑ we've got a real bona fide restaurant setup.

US: Man, that's just great, really awesome. I love you, man, you're the best. I really mean it. I love you right from the bottom of my heart, you're my bro. You and Norm both. I'd give you a hug right now, but you know, this Plexiglas stuff, what can you do.

Jake: Hey, I was wondering if I could record our conversation here and put it on the website page for the club.

US: You think you have to ask me? Come on, bro, you know me! Don't ask, just do! Is it on? It is? Alright, let's go. Interview away!

Jake: After you did the first historic fundraising concert, why did you decide to permanently turn the gas station into a music club?

US: Well, we didn't raise any money, number one. Nothing. But you know, I didn't care, I was in the crowd totally getting into the music like everyone else, so I just forgot to make an announcement during the show, you know, to ask people to contribute. It just slipped my mind and all. Plus I got kind of distracted by this incredible babe, so you know how it goes -- my mind was on other things and all. But the next day after I got over the hangover, I remember, I was out at the swimming hole smoking me one and watching the sun set, and I thought, I don't want to run a damned gas station, that was my grandpa's thing, not mine. I mean, I didn't ask for that, he just gave it to me. Then this big falcon was flying overhead, circling around, and I knew it was a sign for me.

Jake: So, you realized that you had to be free just like the falcon?

US: Man, I love the way you always get it! You really know me, bro, it's like you're totally psychic or something, awesome. Yeah, exactly, I knew that the gas station was dead just like my grandpa, and that a music club had come to life. Dead, reborn, kind of like that religion stuff from India, what do you call it, reinvention, reproduction--

Jake: Reincarnation, maybe?

US: Right! Totally like that. Symbolic as hell and all. It's like I knew who I was right then and there.

Jake: That's profound.

US: Majorly profound, dude. You get it, my brother.

Jake: Those were some great years that you were with us at the club.

US: Dude, dude, please, please, please, don't talk about it like something out of the past. Me and the club, it's an ongoing relationship. I'm going to be out of here before spring. Or maybe I'll get out right as spring is starting. You know, spring flowers will bloom and I'll be back at the club. That's how it's going to be, my bro. Beautiful.

Jake: Can we talk about your arrest and conviction?

US: Alright, here it is: I was set up, framed, manipulated, lied to -- if it was dirty and underhanded, I'm telling you, it was done to me. People took advantage of my good nature. You know, I'm a trusting guy, what you see is what you get, but not everyone out there is going to give it to you straight like I do. I was accused of things I never did, and they told me I set up operations I knew practically nothing about. Now, I'm not going to lie, I'm not a saint, I never claimed to be, and I'll admit, part of the charges were true, but those were all misdemeanors without jail time. Now, the felony counts...

Jake: I see you're getting kind of emotional there. We can stop now if you like.

US: Nah, bro, hold on a minute. It's just I miss my little girl, you know, tell her to come by and see her daddy when you see her next. It's been awhile.

Jake: You got it.

US: So, like I was saying, the serious charges, the ones I'm in here for, all false. Guilty by association, plain and simple. Bro, can I change the subject?

Jake: Absolutely.

US: I just want to send the word out to all of you at the club. Just want to say, Jake told me about the hard times and how nobody was coming around anymore. So, I just want to say, come back to the club, for my sake, sure, but for your own sakes too, because music makes everyone happy. It means a lot to me. I mean, I'm in here, and you come and visit me here all the time, and I love you all, you know I think I get more visits than anyone else in this place, I'm totally blessed, I really am. So, all of you coming here to see me at the prison, go see Jake and Norm over at the club too, because I'll be joining them over there before you know it, and I don't need to be over there for you to be over there in the meantime, so keep the music going...

Jake: Man, I hate to see you crying like that--

US: No, no, hold on bro, I'm not done yet.

Jake: Okay.

US: I just want to say, I love you all, peace and love to everyone. You are all beautiful.

Jake: That's awesome. Thank you, Uncle Steve.

US: God bless you all. And pray for my hearing to go well. Prayer makes a difference!

Jake: If you say so, I believe it.

US: It doesn't matter what I say, bro. Believe it because it's true! Oh, I almost forgot, check this out, let me show you this tattoo I just got, right here on my arm. Pretty killer, huh?

That's how our interview ended. As anyone with half a heart can see, he is totally innocent and a victim of society's injustice. Free Uncle Steve! And come to the club to play your music, listen to other people play theirs, eat delicious Lebanese cuisine, and don't forget -- we have a liquor license! Bert, bring your buddies with you! See you soon!

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...