A beloved cult figure in 1990s New York City, Timothy "Speed" Levitch became locally famous for his rhapsodical, philosophical, and downright eccentric (and yes, speedy) lectures as a bus tour guide. His exceptional worldview and heartfelt, often psychedelic stream-of-consciousness performances were captured as the subject of director Bennett Miller's 1998 documentary 'The Cruise.' Levitch is back on camera, this time on the Hulu original series 'Up To Speed,' in which he crosses the United States – everywhere from San Francisco to Kansas to Virginia – in search of quirky places with cool backstories.
He also likes good beer, which is why we asked him for a list of the oddest and most history-filled bars in America. When speaking with a genius tour guide, so it goes. From the birthplace of the Bloody Mary to a ramshackle speakeasy, these bars are sure to whet your curiosity, if not your thirst for a strong stout. Launch Gallery >>
McSorley's (New York)
Before departing for the trenches of the Great War, the young patrons of this classic joint in Manhattan's East Village placed turkey wishbones on the old gaslight hanging above the bar as a prayer for good luck in the coming battles. The wishbones that still hang there today are those of the men who didn't make it back. As with so many old New York bars, this is just one enticing story dangling among many. (According to Speed, "Abraham Lincoln used to get blasted in there.") Faded photographs of Babe Ruth dot the walls. These were gifts from their photographer, who was a patron at the time of Ruth's rise to glory. Handcuffs from one of Houdini's escapes are locked to the bar top, and original John Sloan paintings, studied by countless eyes, are suspended around the room. "If you're looking for a real bar," says Speed, "that's a real bar." [McSorley's; 15 East 7th Street, New York, NY, 212-474-9148]
Credit: Leonard J. DeFrancisci