At the bar, just inside the Main Street doors to the M&M Cigar Store, I stood, downing Budweisers and talking with my pals Matt Vincent and Tom Malloy.
We talked and talked until suddenly the two front doors opened up, old west style, and an angry man emerged.
This guy normally would not scare anybody because he probably weighed 140 pounds, soaking wet. But he had a crazed, intense look in his eyes as he stared at the man standing next to Malloy.
It appeared we had a fight on you hands as the intense little man slowly approached the guy he had been looking for. Instead of fists, though, the guy at the bar ordered a couple of shots. The two men clinked their glasses and down the shots.
Every person in the M&M, including me, raised his or her drink, and we all did the St. Patrick’s Day cheer as the fisticuffs were, at least momentarily, averted.
If this sounds like a scene out of a very bad movie, well, that is because it was.
Not only was I drinking Buds and shooting the breeze with two of my good friends, I was also acting. We were extras on a movie, that as far as I can tell was a 2005 flick called “Who Killed Cock Robin?”
Here is the movie description from IMDB: “In depressed Butte, Montana, young men struggle to forge modest lives and make sense of it all.”
It was a very low-budget movie.
My scene was filmed one afternoon shortly after the M&M closed its doors for the first time in more than a century in April of 2003. It was before a new owner tried to rekindle the magic of the old bar and restaurant.
Vinny called to tell me we have one more chance to hang out in the M&M, and I jumped at it.
We signed the release to be on camera, and we gladly downed the free beers as fast as they could serve them up. We hung out for several hours as the director reshot the scene over and over.
After six or seven takes, Malloy suggested that the actors take shots of juice instead of booze. It was great advice, but it was way too late. The little guy was hammered.
The M&M was a perfect place for Hollywood because the place was almost too good to be true.
While I will not buy into the hyperbole that the M&M was the heart of the Mining City, as so many have said following the tragic burning of the iconic Butte building. But no building and no business has defined my hometown like the M&M.
In his beautiful song “St. Patrick’s Day at the M&M,” Chad Okrush sings that “there’s something about that mining town a mile above the sea.”
There was something about the M&M, too.
It was the only place in the world where you could belly up to the lunch counter and sit with a hobo to your left and a District Court judge to your right.
Depending on the era, you might also be also be sitting next to prostitute, a miner or a future Major League Baseball player.
During the 1982 baseball season, Butte Copper King star Cecil Fielder took advantage of a promotion that gave every Butte player a free steak dinner for each home run he hit.
Fielder hit 20 home runs in 69 games that year. Between the M&M and Pork Chop John’s, Fielder nearly ate his way out of baseball before his professional career really began.
Players from the Copper Kings and the opposing teams would often be found at the M&M, eating a meal after bar closing time.
Rob Dibble and Kevin Kennedy used to host a show on the MLB channel on satellite radio. One day they were reminiscing about their days in the minors, and Butte came up. Both players vividly remembered two things about the Mining City, the Capri Motel and the M&M.
If you knew what was good for you, you were always on your best behavior at the M&M, too. There was no way you wanted to get on the bad side of Elsie Delmoe, the feisty waitress who embodied the spirit of the place.
If Elsie did not like you, you had better go try the Gold Rush Casino for your after-hours meal. If Elsie liked you, and for some reason she liked me, there was no better place to be.
Just before St. Patrick’s Day in 1997, I took my college roommate, who is from Boston, to the M&M after 2 a.m.
I really hyped up the ground round cheese burger with gravy on the fries as closing time approached. I used to order that so much that Elsie never even had asked me what I wanted.
This night, though, just so happened to be T-bone night at the M&M. We got seats across from where I would later star in a move, and Elsie said, “High there, hun. Whatilit be?”
“Hi Else,” I said. “Any chance we can get a burger?”
“Nope,” Elsie said. “All we have is T-bones. Whatilit be?”
“Well, I guess we’ll go with T-bones.”
The next day, I heard my friend on the phone with his mother.
“There’s a place in Butte, Montana where they only serve T-bone steaks.”
Unfortunately, he never got back to know that I was telling the truth about the ground round cheese burger with gravy on the fries.
The M&M was not really the M&M after it closed in 2003. After the renovations, it was a much nicer place. The food was still good, you could still buy pull tabs, and it was always a place I would recommend to people wanting to experience Butte.
But they kicked you out at closing time, and they never served beer under the bar after 2 a.m.
It was no longer the place Pat Ryan defended so eloquently when someone in the Montana Standard newsroom was running down the M&M, complaining about the food or something, not long before it closed in 2003.
“Wait just a minute,” PR said, with patriotic music seemingly playing behind him. “The M&M is the only place in the world where you can go at 5 in the morning, cash a three-party check, and buy a fifth of vodka and a case of beer. Oh yeah, they serve food, too.”
Without question, the M&M was part of the fabric of the Mining City, even if it was impossible to be the place it used to be. The building, the business and the memories will be missed like no bar and restaurant has been missed before.
Hollywood will miss it, too.
I never did see “Who Killed Cock Robin?” I do not even know where I would even try. I just know it has to be better than that 2 hour, 2 minute piece of manure that was “Don’t Come Knocking,” a movie that also included a scene filmed in the M&M and released the same year.
The only review of my movie I have read, though, says I am not missing much, even if it was part of the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
The headline on the review said “very boring, no talent, awful movie.”
“The best moment of this movie was when it is over and you can go home,” the reviewer wrote of “Who Killed Cock Robin?”
I guess we can only assume that they cut out the M&M scene.
— Bill Foley, who is just another pretty face on the cutting room floor, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74