Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Terminal Humor Nbc's Version of the St. Louis Bus Station Bears Little Resemblance to the Real Thing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Terminal Humor Nbc's Version of the St. Louis Bus Station Bears Little Resemblance to the Real Thing

Article excerpt

EVEN for John Hemingway and the Crossroads Bus Depot, this was an unusually bizarre Tuesday night.

One minute, a gang banger was slicing off Hemingway's necktie with the business edge of a very big knife, and the next Hemingway was turning into a glop of quivering jelly as Carly the prostitute used his desk to make a sex call to a client.

Then, almost before you could ask "How much is a one-way ticket to Little Rock? ," Hemingway was reaching into the janitor's waste barrel and pulling out a neatly wrapped 20-ounce bundle of cocaine.

Hey, bud, how's that for a fun weeknight in downtown St. Louis?

Or rather, how's that for NBC's version of a fun weeknight in downtown St. Louis?

This seamy St. Louis is the setting for "The John Larroquette Show" (8 p.m. Tuesdays on Channel 5), with Larroquette (who won four Emmys for "Night Court") as a recovering alcoholic determined to turn his life around even if it means taking a job as night manager at a grungy urban bus station.

"The worst part is that he doesn't even wear a uniform," said Beverly Smith, a customer service agent for Greyhound's St. Louis bus terminal and the real-life equivalent of Larroquette's fictional John Hemingway.

For Smith, a pleasant but no-nonsense grandmother, the program is a long way from the reality of the Greyhound station in the former Cass Bank building on North 13th Street.

"We really don't have a lot of trouble here," Smith said. "There are a few hustlers who come in off the streets, but when they see me they run.

"I tell 'em, `You come into my station and the police will have you.'

"And we get a few drunks in here. But I tell them they can't ride a bus if they're intoxicated, and I try to get some coffee into them."

Smith said she has never had an encounter with a gang member at the depot; in fact, she said, she does not even remember any serious altercations inside the station.

On a recent Thursday evening, she spent much of her time helping customers open lockers, helping route riders to Pensacola, Houston and Memphis and making sure that security personnel ushered loiterers from the building.

And janitors at the Greyhound station, unlike those on the TV show, actually clean the restrooms, Smith said - regularly.

There are other differences, too. The Crossroads station offers a full-service lunch counter, something that remains only a dream to local Greyhound officials. At the local Greyhound station, anyone wanting to eat inside the depot can choose among vending-machine candy bars, chips or a microwaved "twin bratwurst dog" for $1.75. For the more adventurous, there is a fried chicken restaurant across the street.

Although "The John Larroquette Show" is a situation comedy, it has a darker-than-usual side.

"Those kids shot the ice cream man because he said the wrong thing," says Dexter (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell), who runs the snack bar on the show. …

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