Dan Wakefield’s Red Key

What I love most about Dan Wakefield is his sense of humor. He is really funny. It is uncanny how close in humor he naturally is to his dear friend Kurt Vonnegut. Dan’s wit and satirical sense of humor is not lost on me.

Dan WakefieldWakefield is starting a blog called “Vonnegut’s Oldest Living Friend” which has an asterisk beside it, since it isn’t
exactly true. Vonnegut’s lawyer is older and so is one other friend, so I suggest the title should be “Vonnegut’s 3rd Oldest Living Friend Who Writes Almost As Well As He Did”

The truth is, Wakefield can hold his own against anyone.

Wakefield will soon be releasing a soft cover version of “Under The Apple Tree”. He was inspired to write this from memories of his childhood, creating the older brother he longed for, modeled after his WWII hero cousin who grew up next door to Dan on Guilford.

When I interviewed Dan a couple months ago for an article in the Broad Ripple Community Newsletter, atBRip.com, Dan told me he moved back to Indy for two reasons: the Indianapolis Central Library and The Red Key.

Spending an evening with Dan Wakefield at his favorite hang out, I understand the draw.

After we sit down at a booth with a small table, the waitress immediately brings him a glass of red wine.

No one’s head turns when you walk in. This isn’t a place to see and be seen, it’s an intimate gathering place, for quiet and friendly conversation.

The owner is behind the bar, representing the 2nd of 3rd generations of their family. The name could be “The Red low-Key” The lighting is just right and the furnishings are all cozy originals (and still comfortable, thank God).

After I order a drink, Dan deposits his change into the jukebox, filling the place with his favorite music, which compliments not only the ambiance, but Dan’s life. ”The Rose” sung by Bette Midler comes on first.

Wakefield shares a story about a friend of his who met her husband at The Red Key. As the story goes, the gal was at the bar and a man sat next to her, hoping to make a new friend. She got up to use the bathroom and the owner (Russ, the founder) came over to the guy and told him that his intentions better be honorable or else. These two ended up marrying.

The proprietor wanted to establish a place where a woman could come in and feel safe.

Dinah Washington sings, “Love Walked In”

As I comment that the menu is comfort food, Dan responds, “it’s comfort everything.” For him, no truer statement could be made.

Dan is a vegetarian unless he is at The Red Key. Simple options on the menu make for quick decisions, the burgers are good and so is the chili and potato salad.

In the article I wrote about Dan, our graphic artist used a painting of Dan by artist Ellen Crabb, based on a photo taken at our booth. Dan shares that he met the artist, Ellen Crabb, here at The Red Key.

Dan was dining with a couple of friends and asked Ellen if she was a relation of Cecil “Buddy” Crabb, a former star halfback of the Shortridge Blue Devils. Buddy had been 2 years ahead of Dan at school, and had no idea who Dan was, but everyone knew Buddy. Turns out Buddy was Ellen’s uncle who lived on Meridian Street, had been a fighter pilot in Korea and a General in the USAF.

“I can’t get started” plays on the jukebox with Bunny Berigan on trumpet. The lyrics are hysterical and Dan (as am I) is highly entertained by them:

I’ve flown around the world in a plane, I’ve settled revolutions in Spain, The North Pole I have charted, but I can’t get started with you.

“It’s the first song, written in 1936, that uses contemporary references,” shares Wakefield, “I thought Cole Porter wrote it, but he didn’t.” It was Ira Gershwin. I looked it up. Everyone from Bob Hope, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, have all covered it. Great tune.

Dan asks me if I have seen the latest Nuvo, which I hadn’t but fortunately it was on a stand by the door. He told me that the front page reads, “Dan Wakefield on Orgasms. Page 21” I immediately jump up to grab a copy.

Betsy Blankenbaker wrote a book about her orgasms. It is an important work, truth be told. Apparently Betsy directed a documentary on “New York in the 50s” which is Wakefield’s favorite of his works (I believe he said this, if not exactly his favorite work, this was his favorite class he taught at Florida International University.) So in thanks, he writes a book review of her Autobiography of An Orgasm. I ordered my copy.

Dan explains that while they are friends, they weren’t close friends and reading this book was the first he’s known of her orgasms. Now that that’s out of the way…

Sammy Davis Jr. is singing “Something’s gotta Give”

Looking at the planes hanging from the ceiling, Dan shares that during filming of Going All The Way, any planes that were not WWII were taken down. A few scenes were shot in The Red Key. (then it hits me – I am in a pub where Ben Affleck has been! – actually, I just thought of that. I don’t care about this aspect. At all.)

“I wrote the book Going All The Way while living in Boston,” says Wakefield, “In it, I mistakenly wrote that The Red Key was located at 54th and College, and I heard about it from many a local critic…”

It’s located at 52nd & College.

We finish up as “My Way” by Frank Sinatra plays.

View the article on Dan here:

Kara Kavensky

Kara Kavensky