I think it’s fair to say, you may never meet anyone quite like the infamous Tracy Westmoreland, boisterous actor and past owner of two notoriously free form bars under the same moniker: Siberia.

While many bars and lounges today are created with a theme or two in mind, Westmoreland never even thought of the word “theme” because he was much more intently focused on creating a scene, one that would make people happy. A scene for conversations, a place for people to hang, drink a lot, dance a lot, smoke, and more specifically — be cool. It was a philosophy; a different way of perceptions and interpersonal contact in the nightlife. If you had the opportunity to experience evenings or early mornings at one of Westmoreland’s joints, you might have a better idea of how he kicked the “life” back to the nightlife.

There was never a clock and certainly never a television. Sometimes there was a pinball machine. In Siberia II there was a red motorcycle waiting to be moved on, down the road. There was always a jukebox decked out with plenty of Siberia slanted rock ‘n’ roll, which included a moving mix of independent releases like the Red Elvises (Russian American), along with classics running on the wild side like the Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones.

Often there were live bands. In both versions of Siberia there was a separate bar spot and a live music one, so that ears could be taken on holiday as needed and conversations could be rescued. But as important as the things the Siberias did have, perhaps even more important were the intangibles: freedom, abandon and a sense of rebellion, channeled through the alcohol and rock ‘n’ roll.

Physically, Westmoreland is a big guy, and if you don’t know him, he might come off a tad bit on the intimidating side (which served him well when he was a bouncer at Studio 54), but his heart is also big and encompasses a life much larger and complex than any establishment he has come up against or been entangled with.

He also embodies a spirit, which has been distilled through the decades, but has its roots in the Dionysian behavior and philosophies of people like Jim Morrison and early Elvis — people who were not afraid to walk on thin ice even with the knowledge that their weight would surely break it into pieces. These ingredients are just a part of the recipe that makes up Tracy Westmoreland – the man of many dreams.

GALO: What is your fascination with bars?

Tracy Westmoreland: [Laughs] there’s women, there’s booze, there’s lights, there’s ice, there’s booze, there’s women. What’s the problem?

GALO: Can you give us the lowdown on how the original Siberia bar came to be, how it was closed, and how the move to the 40th street location came about?

TW: We got it because Jim McManus helped me. He’s a (Democratic) district leader and he knew Dennis Reese, so they gave me the place and it was in the subway. That’s how we got there. We got thrown out because Mitsubishi turned out to be the evil landlord and we got kicked out, but then directly that night, we went over to Siberia on 40th Street and 9th avenue.

GALO: The same night the subway Siberia closed?

TW: The same night, yeah, we never missed a day. It was very cool.

GALO: So what was the vibe like at the subway Siberia bar?

TW: Siberia was just crazy. It was nine feet wide. Next time you’re in a room, look at nine feet, and put a bar in there and people. I didn’t put any rails, and they made the bar real thin, so it made people have to face each other, which was great because people don’t usually face each other. It was more of a natural thing, so there was a lot of interpersonal stuff. And everybody was vetted, because if I didn’t like somebody, I didn’t let them in. So when they got there, they were okay to talk to each other. Everybody was a force in Siberia.

GALO: Even though small in size, there were two rooms in the original Siberia. Was it your idea to put live music in the other room?

TW: Well, we had a lot of people there and everything happened so fast, I mean we didn’t have to talk about it that was just where the band was going to play. Because [laughs] that’s the only place they could play. This wasn’t Socrates playing Plato in soccer. This was not Monty Python. This was another sort of more meaty American comedy.

GALO: What ever happened with the film, Life After Dark: The Story of Siberia Bar, and what did you think of it?

TW: That’s Jack Bryan’s film and everybody should see it. Not because it’s about me, it’s about how cool Jack Bryan is. If he can make me look good, he’s a fucking genius. And he did. He really nailed it.

GALO: What story did he tell?

TW: Everybody should see the documentary. He told a very succinct and accurate version of it that is entertaining, I think, to everybody. So everybody should see Jack’s film.

GALO: How’s the acting career going?

TW: It’s good. The weird thing with me is I’ve developed this character, this guy I’ve turned into, and a lot of people know this guy, so I think it’s a matter of time until something really clicks with that. But I really think the book is gonna be the deal. The book is gonna make everything happen.

GALO: Tell me about the book.

TW: Well, the book is not about me, it’s about Siberia and the experiences people have had there. And there are a lot — a lot of interesting characters that are there. I mean they are real people. They’ve consented to have their story told. And they’re amazing people, some of the smartest people in the country. But they’re all sort of like savants; they only can do exactly what they can do. But they can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. [Laughs]

GALO: Do they like to get drunk?

TW: A lot of them can’t anymore. A lot of them don’t drink anymore for whatever reasons, but they’re still freaks.

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