Louisville Magazine

FEB 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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tailspinalefest.com LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 2.19 41 'When you get done, what are you going to do?' He said, 'I'm going to Air Devils Inn to get a drink.'" (Air Devils wouldn't open for another seven years.) Air Devils served as a watering hole for crowds who flocked to Bowman to watch aerial exhibitions of stunt flying, parachute jumping, air racing and skywriting. Some came to see planes land near the Art Deco terminal, which could have been a stand-in for a Casablanca movie set — and, in fact, was later used in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger as the site of Pussy Galore's Flying Circus. During WWII, Air Devils got another big boost. Bowman Field's role as a key military training base made it one of the nation's busiest airports. It was home to a bombing squadron and basic-training personnel, including flight surgeons, medical technicians and flight nurses. Couples came to the bar for big-band music and an outdoor beer garden. A latticed bandstand overlooked a large maple tree by a smooth terrazzo tile dance floor, which a 1930s newspaper ad called the "South's finest." "It had a well-known dance floor," says patron Jim Murta, who served in Korea and is a regular. By the late 1940s, the city was trying to rid bars of illegal slot machines, and the Courier- Journal twice sent reporters throughout town to see if the effort had been successful. Air Devils still had two slot machines, one costing a nickel per play, the other a quarter. Players hoped for cherries to turn up. "It's due to hit," a middle-aged man assured one reporter. Air Devils Inn was also where the "Case of the Disappearing Legs" was solved, according to a 1953 C-J story. A night watchman heard a noise and saw legs disappearing into the bar's ceiling. He fired two shots and called police, who later arrested two brothers. ey were discovered with plaster and cobwebs on their feet from where they'd broken in. A 1969 newspaper ad called Air Devils the "Home of the Big Band Sound," with cocktails by "Louisville's top mixologists." More than a decade later, the bar still had the best big- band jukebox in town. According to a C-J article: "Walk in the front room, drop some quarters into the machine, punch up some Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw, and all of a sudden it's 1942." (Air Devils was apparently a C-J hangout. One piece praises a bartender for putting up with the newspaper staff's "lunatic fringe.") In the 1980s, a Vietnam War veteran named Daniel Shockley decided to purchase the bar, its building still owned by a landlord. Shockley, whose legs were in braces after the war and who was later paralyzed after falling off a ladder, wanted to make the place a home for great music. And he saw that things were changing. "Little joints like this are a vanishing breed," Shockley told Downie. "In the near future, it'll all be Applebee's, where they pull up with a tractor-trailer full of memorabilia, and they create the atmosphere rather than have it naturally happen." Shockley, who was known for vaulting himself onto a barstool, became the Air Devils Inn's welcoming face. Today, his painted image

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