PLATTSBURGH — At one time in his life, John Perras had three mothers, the latter two named after his mother, Olive Perras.
These days in Daytona, John hustles at the billiards table in Walden’s Bar, which has served spirits and good times since 1948.
That’s three years after John was born in Lake George.
He opened Mother’s I there in 1969. It was named for his mother, Olive.
“It was a log cabin built back in early 1940s with hand-hewn Adirondack logs and was 5,000 square feet,” said John, who was in Plattsburgh recently for a surprise belated-birthday celebration and Mother’s reunion at the Green Room, the former site of Mother’s.
“It was a bar and nightclub. We ran rock 'n’ roll groups on Friday and Saturday night,” he said.
“We opened Oct. 9, 1969. That was our first weekend. We were the only bar opened in Lake George with a rock 'n’ roll band. We had a tremendous amount of locals.”
Mother’s I talent included Randy Vaughan, Dennis Booth and trumpeter truck Chuck Mangione of Rochester.
The stage was enlarged to 15 feet to accommodate Mangione’s octet.
Another talent to walk into Mother’s I was Joey English, who gigged there three summers. He was the lead drummer for Paul McCartney and Wings.
Mother’s II opened on the corner of Margaret and Bridge streets in Plattsburgh at 7 p.m. Feb. 17, 1977.
“It was $1 to get in and your first drink was free,” John said.
“Draft beers were 35 cents, a mixed drink was 50 cents, and a bottle of beer was 45 cents. Happy Hour was from 4 to 7 p.m. with nickel drafts.”
Mother’s II’s clientele was 50 percent college students and 50 percent Air Force personnel, "jet heads."
The friction between locals, college students and Air Force personnel was the biggest beef at Mother’s II in Plattsburgh.
“A lot of guys (veterans) were coming home,” John said.
“If you worked the front door, you would get in a fistfight trying to put someone out. That was the toughest turn. During the Vietnam era, people would fight at the drop of a hat.”
The Mother’s II downstairs dance floor could accommodate 200 sweating bodies.
“We had some local bands in the beginning," he said.
"Some groups, it was $5 a head to get in. We brought the first male dancers into Plattsburgh. There was a line around the block waiting for the male strippers.”
He handled the programming, physical plant and hiring. His mother did the books.
They expanded their operations and opened Scandals, a 6,000-square-foot space in a former Woolworth’s in Glen Falls.
The totally rad ‘80s was Perras’s favorite era.
Hot artists like Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Prince are gone now, but their hits “Beat It,” “Let’s Dance” and “When Doves Cry” were spun during Mother’s glory days.
An '80s deejay was Andy DeBono, a Brit, who crossed the pond last week for his old friend.
“He sent me a letter from London,” said John, recalling how they met.
“He wanted to come to states to disc jockey. I had listened to everyone on the East coast. He was not only my deejay but my general manager. I would look for someone willing to put dance music on and make sure people are on the dance floor. If they don’t dance, they don’t sweat. If they don’t sweat, they don’t drink.”
Richie Havens was one of the celebs who lounged in the deejay booth, where VIPs hung out above the dance floor.
Mother’s apparel included a gold jacket with maroon lettering emblazoned across the back and the infamous dance-your-ass-off T-shirt.
“Police Chief Leo Connick wanted to arrest me for having that jacket on," John said.
"He thought it was vulgar.”
During the ‘80s, Plattsburgh State hockey was one of his other favorite things.
“My older son, Jay, ended up playing at Plattsburgh State for two years,” John said.
The reunion's well-wishers included Chris Panek of the championship 1987 squad at Plattsburgh State.
“He kept handing me the phone,” John said.
“Every time it was another All-American from Plattsburgh State wishing me a happy birthday and sorry they couldn’t be there.”
John's former wife, Marianne Morrison, was among his well wishers.
She was responsible for Mother’s décor and ambiance.
“What a wonderful run,” he said. “I could not have done it without her or Sandy O’Brien (office manager for 13 years). They both held up their ends.”
Mother’s closed as the result of a family illness in 1993.
“We pulled out,” John said.
“One of my managers came in George Facteau. He ran it and after him Kevin Hunt who came in.”
Perras had no inkling of his surprise-surprise masterminded by his son, Zeke Perras.
His sons lured him with the promise of a meet-up with old Mother’s managers and a long-overdue visit to his grandchildren, Julia, Alix and Cameron.
The plan unfurled without a hitch.
After an Italian dinner, they lured their father to the Green Room to shoot pool.
“Zeke said, ‘When you open that door, I don’t want you to have a heart attack but 200 friends and employees from around the world are waiting,’"John said.
"I opened the door and cried the first half hour. I had people from 12 states for the party. It was just overwhelming.”
With DeBono deejaying like back in the day, those assembled partied like it was 1993.
“Oh my God,” John said.
“I got home at 8:30 the next morning. We closed the Fourth Ward, and then we went to an after-hours party. I was up 25 hours straight without sleep. At 70 years old, I’m in great condition.”
'BEEN IN THAT BAR'
Back in Daytona, he plays softball with 60-and-older and 70-and-older teams.
“The last 10 years, I won nine city championships,” John said.
“I’m happy to be alive. It’s good to be here. It’s more than one time a bullet lodged next to me in Mother’s.”
At the reunion, he wore a vintage Mother’s gold jacket.
In Daytona, he gets tapped on the shoulder regularly when he rocks it.
“I wish I had dollar every time someone stopped me and said, ‘I’ve been in that bar, and I had a wonderful time,’" John said.
"There’s nothing to say there won’t be another Mother’s.”
Email Robin Caudell: firstname.lastname@example.org