Thursday night: BAR on Crown Street teems with post-grads, professionals, townies, and seasoned flirters snaking their way past bouncers. Wallflowers float around the exit doors. Students awkwardly feign an interest in pool to avoid talking to women, bros quaff Bud Light Platinums in one hand with a companion wrapped around the other.
Somewhere in the midst of the watery belches, discordant singalongs, and the promise of alcohol-induced friendship we see the profile of an elderly man dressed in full suit and sunglasses, sipping his beer so eloquently like something out of a Dos Equis commercial.
Anyone who frequents the New Haven bar scene knows Adams man by face. His Stan Lee look brands him as one of New Haven’s nightlife icons. In his phone he stores troves of photos taken with bargoers who celebrate him as an outlandish novelty.
“Who is that grandpa?” a young woman asks her group of friends.
Adams fearlessly shimmies his way into the group, showcasing his classic dance moves which his closest friends have coined “The Jerre Shuffle.”
How to Jerre Shuffle:
1. Place legs shoulder-width apart.
2.Pose hands as if they are resting palm side on a high table.
3. Shimmy left and right fluidly like you are wadding through the low end of a swimming pool.
“Oh my goddd!” the woman and her friends drunkenly fall into each other exclaiming. Adams sticks to the routine, taking one of them by the wrist then gently kissing her hand. Her friend produces a fractured Iphone from her bra and snaps a few selfies. Then they all disappear into the pulsating crowd.
Jerre Adams looms over the bar with a father-like authority that attracts plenty of young women, sports and bucks. He’s a bar stool highlight. Men shake his hand; women peck him on the cheek, some shrieking with excitement when they see him.
They all know Adams, but they don’t know him too well. To the frequent bar hopper, he is an ornament of the night. His is a quirky story to recount while nursing a Sunday hangover with the bros, without background details. Underneath the Walgreens shades, the tailored blazer, the Hefner look sits a docile graying bachelor who’s just having a good time.
Adams told me part of the story. (He left a lot out.)
Born in 1944, he grew up in Fairfield, Maine, a town that has more potato farms than Dunkin Donuts outlets. (That says a lot for a New England town.) He suffered an uninspired childhood raised by a family of truckers in a classic ‘50s household. In his late teens, he attended a dance at a local club, where he met his wife. Thus, a legend was born.
After 20 years of marriage, and several careers including trucking, and real estate, Adams and his wife bought a house in Guilford to settle down.
It wasn’t until his divorce years later that Adams moved to New Haven and discovered his passion for the nightlife.
“When I got divorced I was free to do what I wanted,” Adams said. “I have been clubbing for about ten years.”
Inside his New Haven condo, Adams showcased his arsenal of weapons of influence: 50 pairs of shades, about 100 blazers, troves of shoes and button down shirts, a different outfit for almost every day of the year. His condo balcony, located across the street from the downtown Walgreens, towers over the New Haven bar scene like Batman’s perching spot over Gotham.
On a recent Thursday night, Adams kickstarted the weekend, as usual these days, at the new college club, Vanity, which is owned by the guy from the Barberino Nissan commercials, John Mocaldo. Vanity attracts troves of scantily clad young Quinnipiac women, some developing alcoholics, and Yale undergrads. On a recent night, a lot of college students recognized Adams from the week before. They said they admire his age and style. They called him a boss, an OG, a player.
From Vanity, Adams and his entourage of young admirers traversed the crowded streets to BAR or Brother Jimmy’s. At the bar Adams wasted no time. Underage collegiate women summoned him for Snapchat selfies; others thrust themselves on him, grinding in an overtly sexual manner. Adams soaked it all in. “I just like the excitement of the night life,” he said. “I like the young people. I don’t go to the bar to be a player. ... A girl once claimed that I grabbed her inappropriately, but everyone in the bar defended me. They said, ‘We know Jerre, he wouldn’t do that!’”
He typically carries several pairs of sunglasses to distribute throughout the night. If a bar acquaintance is lucky enough, they’ll be granted a pair.
“I came up with the idea after I lost so many sunglasses at the bar… So I just bought more and started giving them out.”
Now Adams owns over 100 pairs of sunglasses. In addition to sunglasses, bar goers may also be given a signature conversation card—a black card that encourages recipients to contact him to talk about anything.
“He’s a good guy with a good heart,” said Dan Salem, a regular at BAR.
After a weekend of drinking, dancing, and socializing, Adams was exhausted.
“I can’t spend the energy that I used to,” he said. “I can’t drink like I used to. … Sometimes I’ll drink a little too much one night and regret it the next day.” Adams said he knows his limits, and he watches out for others too. When someone is too drunk to drive home, he will often offer to pay for a cab or Uber. “We’re all here to have fun,” he said. “The last thing I want to see is a kid die. It’s happened before.”
If you see Jerre at the bar feel free to start a conversation with him: “I’m always here to talk.”