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Farewell to a Legend: Michael Hosford

In the rich land that was the Annapolis restaurant scene in the 1970s, Michael Hosford was a legendary bartender, and his domain was the Maryland Inn. There are a few things you need to know about the Inn back then. The hotel housed The Treaty of Paris, a world-class restaurant, and two bars, The Drummer’s Lot and The King of France Tavern.

          The Drummer’s Lot was packed with regular people every afternoon for happy hour. Late at night, the employees from bars that closed at midnight came to unwind after their shifts were over. It was hilarious, it was crazy, and Michael was standing there, behind the bar, smiling and pouring some of the best drinks you would ever have.

          Down the hall was the King of France Tavern. It was one of the top jazz listening rooms on the East Coast. The great, and I mean great, players came through and played Tuesday through Sunday nights. Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel, Charlie and Joe Byrd, Buddy Tate, Scott Hamiliton and many, many more. Michael knew them all.

          Everyone who worked in restaurants downtown in the 1970s probably has their own favorite story. Mine was from a night when a businessman from out of town asked him where the hookers were. He kind of looked around The Drummer’s Lot, looked back at the man at the bar and said, “Honestly, I don’t know. They just give it away here.”

          It’s easy to dismiss a world in which drugs and alcohol were part of the fabric of life. It’s easy to see those days as destructive and dark. But I take exception to that broad-brush stroke. That was part of life, but it was not all there was. 

          A couple of weeks ago, Michael and I were talking about that time and place. We were talking about the community of artists, musicians, poets, photographers and writers who lived and worked in Annapolis. Yes, there was a lot of drinking. Yes, there were a lot of very, very late nights.

          Yes, there was an extraordinary quality of creative expression. Very smart, very talented people were waiting tables, tending bar or working in the back of the house. It was a community, a strong community.

          Then it was gone. People moved away, people went to graduate school, people left the business to work a day job that was easier on relationships.

          But for this one decade in Annapolis, life and art were one, and Michael was right there, giving us a space to meet and celebrate our triumphs (and failures) and holding us all together.