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Bartender had brushes with stars but lived for her friends


Barbara Glomski

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Updated: November 8, 2012 12:03PM

Barb Glomski hung out with Slash, rebuffed an advance from Iggy Pop and bowled with the Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlin.

But her brushes with fame weren’t what endeared her to “all of us misfits, bar people and musicians,” said Ric Addy, owner of Shake Rattle and Read, a used book and record store in Uptown.

Mrs. Glomski, a former bartender at Smart Bar, the hideaway under Metro on Clark Street near Wrigley Field, “gave shelter and warmth to those who just didn’t quite fit,” said her friend, Steve Silver. “She was the mother hen of the island of misfit toys we all live on.”

She didn’t just try to save every stray cat she saw. She also would invite strays of the human variety over for dinner, for holidays and for her gumbo-licious Mardi Gras party.

She tried to fix up her single friends because she loved being married to sound/recording engineer Dan Glomski and wanted them to be as happy as she was.

“She invited me to her home for Christmas dinner the last 10 years because I don’t have family here,” Addy said.

As soon as one party was done, she would ask: “ ‘What are we going to do next?’ ” he said.

Mrs. Glomski, 55, died Sunday at Illinois Masonic Hospital after she had a heart attack at her home in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood.

Her stints at clubs in the 1980s and ’90s made her a well-known figure in an era when music was what put people in contact, rather than texting or tweeting. One of her longest gigs was at Smart Bar, from about 1984 to ’95.

After performing upstairs at Metro, stars — and future stars — would drop in at Smart Bar. They were the likes of Kurt Cobain, Billy Corgan, Al Jourgensen and Nick Cave.

Mrs. Glomski treated them with the same warmth and welcome she showed the people she invited over for Christmas dinner, said Aldona Urbutis, a friend and fellow Smart Bar bartender.

Once, “Guns N’ Roses were rehearsing, they were writing an album on the top floor, so they hung out there,” Urbutis said. Slash “would come behind the bar with us and just hang out.”

If the bar was a little dead, Mrs. Glomski would get people talking to each other. She might offer them her signature creation — a “Chicken Butt” — a shot a lot tastier than its name.

“After you did the shot, you did the [Chicken] Dance,” said her friend, Laura Gomel, who toured as a singer with My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult.

“The whole place would just go into uproarious laughter,” Metro owner Joe Shanahan said.

“She could just turn a roomful of strangers into one big party,” Urbutis said. “She had a great, oversized personality, and a great smile, and a fabulous laugh.’’

Other bars and restaurants where she worked included the Artful Dodger, Berlin, Bransfield’s, Cafe Voltaire, Chicago Joe’s, Leona’s on Sheffield, the Lyons Den, Village Tap, Tai’s Til 4 and Kingston Mines, which stoked her love of the blues.

“She was the only girl I knew who had the entire Robert Johnson boxed set,” her husband said.

Born in Alameda, Calif., she moved around a lot because her father, Robert Derry, was in the Navy.

She went to West High School in Rockford, where she helped open a vintage boutique called Pinkadelic with her first husband, Jim Staskauskas, who would later marry Liz Phair. They were thrilled when Robin Zander of Cheap Trick came in and browsed.

She was friends with fellow Rockfordians Declan and Aidan Quinn, two brothers who became a cinematographer and actor, respectively. She liked Aidan’s name so much that she gave it to her son, Aidan Staskauskas.

At times, she also worked as a dog walker; dental assistant, and house painter.

After her club days, she got a “straight” job as an administrative assistant at Walton Street Capital, where she continued to mother co-workers, bringing them basil from her garden.

She liked to name things. Her scooter was “Buddy.” She christened her house “Eleanor.” She loved her cats, Dasher and Bella.

Her sense of humor meant she never cashed the $15 check presented to her by Victory Auto Wreckers on the death of her Yugo, her husband said.

A memorial gathering will be held from 1 p.m. to about 6 p.m. Sunday at Martyrs.

Other survivors include her brothers, Michael and Bob Derry.

Her husband is sorry she will miss Halloween, one of her favorite times of year. One time, the Glomskis painted their faces as skulls to become Day of the Dead characters. She costumed herself as the fancy lady in a plumed hat from a famed Mexican etching by the artist Posada, “La Calavera de la Catrina” — the Skull of Catrina. It symbolizes that, rich or poor, we all are equal in the end.

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