Ivan Faske

Ivan Faske as he appeared in a local newspaper article during his heyday in Athens.

One of the biggest events of Athens’ summer calendar arrives on Saturday with a celebration of the life of the late Ivan Faske, operator of the legendary uptown Athens bar Swanky’s.

The event starts at 6 p.m. at the Union Bar, a block from the South Court Street site of the long-defunct Swanky’s. Among the bands and musicians scheduled to perform are some who actually played in Athens during the Swanky’s decade (1972-82).

Mike Small and Michael Scott are the main organizers of the memorial to Faske, who passed away last September. Small’s wife Kathie Chapman also provided a lot of help, Small said.

A proclamation written by Small that Athens Mayor Steve Patterson is expected to read at the event Saturday, includes the following…

“Whereas… Ivan gave birth to the legendary bar Swanky’s in 1972. Over the following years, it was the go-to place for meeting people, late-night partying and wild dancing. The bar, always packed with interesting, eccentric and crazed people who came to see the party of all parties that Ivan hosted nightly. Ivan also created the infamous Swanky’s events such as The Gong Show and Toga Parties held in the basement.”

The proclamation shifts focus at this point, noting that Ivan Faske closed the bar in 1982, then “faced and overcame a serious drug addiction.

“He went on to volunteering his time reaching out to Athens schools educating students about drug awareness and addictions while he worked as a counselor with Bassett House. He dedicated his time to educate the young people about the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction.”

After leaving Athens for Cincinnati, the proclamation continues, Faske co-founded the Serenity House for men fighting addiction and later opened the House of Freedom and Miracles for Women. “It was due to Ivan’s hard work that these organizations were successful,” the proclamation states.

In January 2015, The Athens NEWS ran a short column about Swanky’s by yours truly (the author of this article), recalling my experiences at Swanky’s during the mid-’70s. 

This is an excerpt: “During my four years as an OU student in the mid-’70s, Swanky’s was the go-to meeting place for late-night partying and dancing. While you may have watched a band or partied elsewhere earlier in the evening, by midnight or so, if you wanted to find friends or hook up, you’d head to Swank’s for a few Rolling Rocks (the ‘70s beer of choice among OU students).

“Always packed, always crazy, the bar had a slippery dance floor in the very back, and I recall ‘doing the bump’ and my lame-O loose-limbed Ohio swing dance there on many occasions.

“My last few years at OU, Swank’s instituted a ‘Swanky’s Card’ program, awarding the cards to anyone who was sufficiently cool to merit one. It allowed the holder of said card immediate entry past the usually long lines. I never had a Swanky’s card, which should tell you something.”

The celebration of Ivan Faske’s life this Saturday will feature Hotcakes and Aces & Eights, bands from the Swanky’s era in Athens, in addition to the Come On Come Ons and the Wingnuts. Special guests Mimi Hart, Dave Morrison, J.D. Hutchison and Gay Dalzell also will make an appearance on stage.

The event, which is a fundraiser for Health Recovery Services’ Bassett House, will include a silent auction, 50/50 tickets and Swanky’s cards and T-shirts for sale. It will have a cash bar and snacks.

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