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"If I was talking to Jesus Christ, I'd say the same fucking thing," he says. "But it's not just the word. It's the right to say the word."
Leonard has been exercising that right for almost his entire life. He picked the word up from his dad, Leonard III, a bootlegging pool-hall operator in Pueblo, who, when he was in the company of his paisanos, uncorked dirty words like bottles of wine.
"My old man said it. My old man's friends said it. All the men said it. All the boys said it," Leonard recalls. "In the Italian community that I was in, it was hereditary."
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"The Offal Truth"
Then Leonard joined the Navy, and after that he worked eighteen years in a steel mill, so whatever little speaking etiquette might have rubbed off from his churchgoing mother, he soon washed away with the grime on his hands.
To emphasize the point, he gestures toward another sign: "The only urine test you'll get out of me is a taste test."
"Am I offensive?" he concludes. "I am. What the fuck?"
During his 66 years, Leonard has been many things, including a husband for 44 of those years, a father of four children and a grandfather of twelve. But as far as he's concerned, he was placed upon this earth to stand behind a gleaming wooden bar with a towel, a shot glass and a dirty joke. "I was born on a pool table," he says, and he's been involved in the bar business one way or another since he was sixteen. All told, he's owned ten of his own restaurants and bars in Pueblo and Colorado Springs, including the Glory Hole, Dante's Inferno, Kojacks, The Egg & I, The Lair Lounge and the Kachina Lounge.
"I love the industry and the people in it," he says. "I'm here seven days a week, all day and all night long, and when I'm gone, I can't wait to get here. I love everything about this place."
What he loves most is passing down the bartending traditions of his old man, including the Carlo motto: "Cleanliness is next to godliness." There's not a single cigarette butt in the urinal, not a single napkin on the floor, not a single maraschino cherry in the ashtray.
"My bar never smells like a bar," Leonard says. "If the weather is nice, the front and back doors are open at all times. Who wants to walk into a bar and smell afterbirth, farts and puke? I've got the number-one cleanest bathrooms in Colorado. I demand it. If nothing else, this place is clean, clean, clean."
Unless you count his signs, which are dirty, dirty, dirty.
Leonard has always been the type to post his rules, announcements and occasional epiphanies. Even when he ran restaurants that catered to families, signs cluttered the walls. But since children and senior citizens were often present at those places, the placards were rated G. "I respect that shit," he says. "Kids don't need to be anywhere near a stinking bar."
But by the time he opened Leonard's II in 1994, Leonard's internal censor had fallen off the wagon. His friends say it happened on his sixtieth birthday, when Leonard made himself a promise: Since the first twenty years of his life had been devoted to his mother and the next forty devoted to his wife, family and career, the next sixty would be devoted to Leonard.
Or, as Leonard puts it, "I'd been sucking everyone else's dick for sixty years, so I decided, what the fuck?"
One of the ways that newfound independence manifested itself was on the wood-paneled walls of his tavern. To wit: At the end of the bar where waitresses pick up orders, Leonard posted a placard saying, "Do not fucking stand here." At various locations around the tavern, he announced, "No Fucking Tap or Draw Beer, Children, Animals, Tabs or Checks" and "No Fucking Free Water or Pop." And on the back wall hang the names of those banished forever: "No more fucking nasty mouth whore Mexican Barbara," "No more fucking whore ass trouble-making cunt bitch Melissa," "Fucking Nothing for the Fucking 3 Kunts (Kunt Lynda Kay, Rat Sherri and Ratcunt Bonnie Sue)!"
"All of the people who are up on that wall are up there for a reason," Leonard says. "My reason!"
Some of his signs are scribbled on cardboard, and others are professionally crafted. But all feature Leonard's own unique linguistic phrasings: "Puse Dripping, Kunt Eating Kunts, Asshole & Shit Eaters Worsters Kock Suckers."
Crude, yes. Juvenile, certainly. X-rated, definitely. But 100 percent Leonard.
She pops the Advil, swallows some water.
"I've known him since I was eleven, and I'm 35," she says. "Leonard can't say a sentence without saying 'fuck.' He's always been like that, he's not going to change, and if people don't like it, they can kiss his butt. It's not that he's trying to be mean, but fuck -- see, if you hang around him long enough, you'll start talking that way -- that's just the way he is. That's his forte. And he'll be like that until they carry his ashes out of here. And you know something else? I miss those signs."