I Defeat Satan—Yes, That Satan—in a Tenderloin Dive


Good Evening:

You probably know that Satan resides in Hell. Here’s something you don’t know: it just so happens that God owns Hell. Therefore, Satan doesn’t just live in Hell–he also has to pay rent. Trouble is, he can’t always scrounge up enough cash to make his payment on the first of each month. Therefore, God allows Satan to work menial jobs in the world of humans to earn enough to avoid eviction (and if you get evicted from Hell, where the h— might you end up?). However, God has a sense of humor, which you might expect from the Supreme Being who designed evolution to allow for the creation of the Duck-Billed Platypus. So when Satan works his menial jobs on Earth, he has to assume the form of a 4′ 11″ human female with broad shoulders, stringy blonde hair, and a hoarse, harsh, raspy voice that sounds like Louie Armstrong with the mother of all sore throats.

Satan herself told me so.

During the late 1990s, Satan tended bar in a Tenderloin dive bar/restaurant at the intersection of Ellis and Mason on Friday and Saturday nights lo these many years ago (it’s now a Thai restaurant). I had asked the young woman how she got the name Satan, and that was the story she gave me, just before resuming her usual evening’s entertainment, which consisted of insulting all of the male patrons at the bar, patrons who had gathered at that bar on that night specifically to get drunk whilst being insulted by the great Satan.

Satan’s insults were spectacularly funny. She could have taught Don Rickles. The guys loved her.

This particular bar, and this particular bartender, were popular with the actors who performed at the Exit Theatre, around the corner on Fell and one of San Francisco’s great theater treasures. In 1999, I acted in a show there and after the performances would join the rest of the cast for beer and abuse. One night, I forget how the conversation started, but Satan had started bragging.

“Let me tell you something, boys: no one has ever grossed me out. Never. No one has ever grossed me out, and no one ever will. Period.”

I had been silent until then.

“Really? No one has ever grossed out the great Satan?”

“Nope, and thanks for calling me great, jackass.”

Everyone laughed, including me.

I said, “Are you sure no one ever has before?”



“Never ever never ever never ever.”

I held absolutely still until I knew that everyone in my party was looking at me. I reached for a half-empty bottle of catsup on the bar. I slowly unscrewed the cap. I held the catsup bottle up high for all to see.

I drank the entire bottle in one gulp.

I rescrewed the cap on top of the plastic catsup bottle, slammed it on the bar, and shoved the empty to Satan.

“Gimme another.”

Satan bent over at the hips, clutched her hands to her stomach, and almost threw up.

And that’s how I defeated Satan—yes, that Satan—in a Tenderloin dive.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Did Satan reward me with a free drink, a free burger, or even another bottle of catsup? Of course not. Of course she wouldn’t. Remember, she was Satan.


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