The Compleat Angler
Bimini’s second sleaziest bar
Let me say this about that.
With apologies to Humphrey Bogart “Of all the bars in all the world …… ” give me the sleazy ones (that last part was mine). Sleazy bars are home to a rare breed of animal that is comfortable with who they are, have no desire to change their station in life, good or bad, and are some of the most real people God ever put on this good earth. Sitting on adjacent bar stools in these establishments are millionaires, crooks, bums, homeless, movie stars, fishermen, politicians, and all manner of folk famous and infamous. But in a great sleazy bar, you can’t tell one from another. Such a place was The Compleat Angler located on Bimini Island in the Bahamas.
Unlike it’s neighbor a few yards down the road, The End of The World Saloon, whose charm lies in it’s total lack of any redeeming attributes, The Compleat Angler had a deeply colorful and rich history. I say ‘had’ because… it burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances four years ago.
The Compleat Angler bar was a staging point for rum runners in the ’30′s. It also had a few hotel rooms, one of which was home to Papa Hemingway in 1936 and 1937 while he wrote Islands In the Stream. This is also the bar that is pictured in the background of a photo of Gary Hart and Donna Rice, that ended Hart’s presidential aspirations in the late ’80′s.
The first time I was in The Compleat Angler, some friends joined my wife and I after dinner to listen to some island music in the main bar. It was the only place on the island with live music so the place was packed. After a while, the police chief entered the bar – in uniform – and made his way through the crowd shaking hands and greeting the guests. Now this little guy was a real piece of work. He reminded me of a black Danny DeVito and had more gold chains around his neck than Mr. T. He stopped by our table and said: “Welcome to Bimini. I hope you are having a good time” and continued working the crowd.
Half an hour later I go to the rest room, which I could barely squeeze into because of the drunken hordes in this tiny john. When I finally got in, I noticed no one was using the facilities – they were all huddled around the police chief who was selling little packets of cocaine. “Welcome to Bimini. I hope you are having a good time.”
Bimini is the self proclaimed “Fishing Capital of the World”, so the bar was filled with pictures of guys with giant fish, hung by their tail on the dock weigh station with the names of the anglers and the weight of their catch. There is one photo that hung in the The Compleat Angler that will always define this place as one of the best sleazy bars in the world. It was a picture of a huge-breasted, and totally nude blond lady, hung by the ankles upside down like a game fish on the dock weigh station. On either side of this ‘catch’ stood two proud anglers with fishing rods in hand. The caption at the bottom of the picture read:
“Catch weighed 135 lbs and was mounted on September 14, 1968 …….. twice.”
And, that is all I have to say about that.