The Jimmy Duff Interview
Article And Photos By: Sara Liberte – www.saraliberte.com
Originally Published In The July 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
If you like heavy metal and cheap beer, then you can’t even begin to think about visiting Brooklyn, NY without a stop at Duff’s Bar. Duff’s is the mecca for any heavy metal fan, and the man who runs the joint, Jimmy Duff, is an icon in the world of rock-n-roll. Once I found out our crew from the Source was headed to Article And Photos By: Sara Liberte www.saraliberte.com I Brooklyn, I called my friend, heavy metal artist, Joey James Hernandez. His art can be seen all over the walls of Duff’s so I asked if he could quite possibly score me an interview with the man himself. Joey delivered, like he always does, scoring Full Throttle Rock the best interviews. We set it up for a late night hang out at the bar. When we arrived at Duff’s, it was even more awesome then I imagined it would be. As we walked down the concrete steps to enter, it felt as if we were stepping into the bowels of hell. The place is lit front to back in red, just as you would imagine Satan’s lair to be. Motorhead was playing loud, and I was experiencing a visual orgasm as I tried to take in all the heavy metal art and memorabilia along with every other bit of cult classic, horror art you can imagine that neatly filled every bit of space from floor to ceiling.
Duff’s was recently named one of the top 5 “Beer & Shot” bars in Williamsburg , Brooklyn by CBS.com. This is the second recent nod from them, h a v i n g been named one of the best metal bars in NYC back in 2010. We soon found out why this place gets all the cred it does. We met up with Joey and he introduced us to Jimmy. Jimmy, a big strapping man, donning his famous cowboy “metal” hat and glasses, greeted us with such kindness that I instantly wanted to hug this guy. He reminded me of that cool uncle in the family that is into rock ‘n’ roll, but is gentle as a teddy bear and just as cool as can be. He ordered us up a round and told us to take our time checking the place out; we would soon head down to the basement for the interview. No shit, we were going down to the dungeon of Duff’s for the interview!
I’m not gonna lie, I was a little bit frightened inside to be going down there. I knew the downstairs had to be filled with creepy, scary stuff. Sure enough, we head down and the first thing to greet me was a huge mannequin of some monster dude. I was terrified thinking that someone inside was going to jump out and scare the crap outta me. But no, it was just cool, creepy stuff with no hidden agenda. I was at ease again and back in awe of the visual overload my eyes were soaking in. Downstairs we talked about the birth of Duff’s as it began its life as the Bellevue Bar in Manhattan. Jimmy was a bouncer in the early days and figured he knew the business so well he could open his own bar. But not just any bar, one that would be done right, and one any metalhead could call home. More importantly to Jimmy was to have a bar that would house the best heavy metal juke box in the city and be filled with no bullshit marketing propaganda, but rather straight up, in your face, rock ‘n’ roll and cheap drinks. After a few moves over the years, Jimmy finally landed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The bar is now filled, and I mean every inch of wall space is covered in rock ‘n’ roll history and memorabilia. Jimmy told us there is over 6,000 hours in getting the walls filled with the art. The stories this guy can tell are priceless.
On any given night, some metal gods can be seen hanging with Jimmy at Duff’s, bands like: Slayer, Type O Negative, and Biohazard have all been known to just pop in to hang out. Jimmy’s mantra, “To some it’s a business, to us it’s a lifestyle,” is deadon and exactly why this man is so successful. He treats everyone with respect and everyone that hangs in this place treats the bar and the crowd with the same respect. During our time in the dungeon, more drinks kept showing up and the stories kept going. We’d find some cool stuff on the wall and ask Jimmy the story behind it. One of the things was this 3 ft. x 3 ft. kickass back lit Slayer album cover piece. Jimmy told us one of the Virgin Records’ stores was going out of business and as he drove by, he saw a sign that said: Everything Must Go. The Slayer art was in the same window. He swung around, went inside, and asked, “How much for the Slayer sign?” They said, “How about $100.00?” Jimmy threw down and left a very happy man. “I was willing to pay a hell of a lot more for that,” he said. Darren asked Jimmy if he wanted to double his money on it, but Jimmy turned him down. Darren wanted to buy it as a present for our buddy Wes who is no doubt the biggest Slayer fan that lives on planet Earth.
One story I had to get from Jimmy was the story on Dancin’ Dominic, the bar’s “mascot.” If you have seen any artwork about Duff’s, then you have seen Dom’s face blended in somewhere. Jimmy told me, “I originally met Dancin’ Dom one night in January 2000 on an impaired CD run to Virgin Records Times Square. I came across him performing his ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Dance’ at the top of an aisle for no one in particular. I thought it was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. I immediately offered him a job. He was surprised, but he accepted the gig and started the following weekend.” Jimmy went on to say, “Dom is to Duff’s what Eddie is to Iron Maiden. He will always be a part of us and his legend lives on here at the bar. Dominic made many people happy with his rock ‘n’ roll dancing and unique sartorial style. All who had the pleasure of knowing him will miss him. Dom used to say, ‘The kids, they go coo coo for my rock ‘n’ roll dancing.’
At Duff’s, Dom was a fixture and a crowd favorite until his passing in March 2002. Dom’s custommade jacket is now on display permanently at the bar. By the time we made it back upstairs, the rest of the crew were onto shots and the party was just gettin’ going. The sound system in this place will blow you away and at one point, Jimmy threw in a live Slayer DVD and everyone just went nuts jammin’ and throwing back shots. To be honest, the rest of the night just got better and we can’t wait till we can head back to Brooklyn to enjoy the good company at Duff’s again. Maybe we can get our buddy Wes there and Jimmy will show him the cool Slayer piece. It’s not too often you find a great bar on the road that makes you feel like you’re at home. Make sure you check this place out if you’re in the Brooklyn area. Don’t forget to say what’s up to Jimmy and tell him Cycle Source sent ya.