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The Instant Replay, with its red straight-back chairs, large front windows and homey, have-a-hamburger atmosphere, looks more like a lunch counter than a bar, which is the way Bennett wants it. As a schoolteacher he retains a slightly puritanical approach to his new business, preferring to call the Replay a "restaurant," although the fare is largely limited to hamburgers. He serves only wine and beer, primarily because he thinks male jocks are beer drinkers and female jocks are wine drinkers, but also because he doesn't want to assume the responsibility hard liquor involves. Still, an occasional drunk will wander into the place by mistake, momentarily despoiling the locker-room ambience Bennett so assiduously cultivates.
Such occurrences are rare, however. The Replay is so jockish in conversation, entertainment and decor—the walls are adorned with action photographs of myriad Santa Barbara sports events—that patrons accustomed to more conventional watering holes become quickly disoriented, especially when they perceive that the game on the back-wall screen isn't the Rams and the Cowboys but the Sockers and Nick's Chicks.
Or, perhaps even lawn bowlers. On a recent afternoon Bennett packed up his camera and portable tape machine and headed for a tournament at the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowling Club a block away. It was, of course, a sunny day, and the setting was as pastoral and serene as a painting by Renoir. The bowling green was marble smooth and shaded by a profusion of trees—palms and eucalypti and a gigantic Moreton Bay fig whose branches spread protectively over the elderly bowlers. The Spanish towers of the old Arlington Theater rose in the distance, framed against the hazy blue peaks of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The bowlers wore white, and because many of them were British expatriates, they seemed to have been transported to Santa Barbara from another century.
Into this gauzy scene strode the lantern-jawed Bennett in his yellow shirt, camera perched on his shoulder, bustling among the bowlers as if he were filming the Game of the Week. He was, predictably, the object of much curiosity. "You mean he's photographing us for television?" a woman in an umbrella hat inquired. "Incredible." Simply by being there, Bennett was drumming up business for the Replay, although it did occur to him that the elegant old lawn bowlers were hardly the sort of people who would lose an afternoon watching TV in a bar. Still, they were gratified to learn that they could see themselves that very afternoon if they wished, at a place so nearby. "As I understand it, you will give me a replay for a beer," a gray-haired woman said in a cultivated British accent.
Bennett moved on, focusing his camera on a portly septuagenarian in white shorts and a pith helmet. "I'm planning to do four hours on lawn bowling," he said. "These people say they'll come to watch." But he knew that lawn bowling was a gamble. Rugby, his subject later in the day, wasn't. "I like rugby players because they're good beer drinkers and they're big eaters, too."
Ruggers, softballers, lawn bowlers, women soccer players, volleyballers—all come to the Instant Replay, a bar that truly makes a statement on the human condition. "It's thrilling to see yourself score," says Replay customer Alissa Arp, a center forward for the Sockers and a graduate student in marine biology at U.C.- Santa Barbara. "I played football through the college level," says rugger Rizzo, "and we always had films. But they were used so the coaches could get on you. Here, you just have a few beers and enjoy yourself. You can see for yourself what you're doing wrong and there's nobody to get on you."
So far the Bennetts haven't gotten rich operating their unusual tavern, but they're staying afloat and they're having as much fun, for all of the labor, as their customers. "Basically, we're an athletic family, a crazy family, not a normal family," says Oleta, who quit her job as a counselor for the Santa Barbara County Probation Department to help out at the Replay. "I listen to the conversations in here, and it seems to me that a lot of these jocks can't really have a close relationship with one another except through sports. They rarely look deeply into themselves. Maybe that's why they like to see themselves up there."
Non-jocks have also tried to get in on Bennett's act. He did agree to tape a rock concert rehearsal and he has filmed a wedding reception that was held, conveniently, in the Replay, but he rejected a suggestion from a known porno operator that he enliven his format with X-rated material. These are mere aberrations, though. Bennett holds firm to his original scheme. "This," he says, with determination, "is a jock bar."
Bennett enjoys telling of the night an attractive young woman dropped in, obviously noticing that the Replay was populated with fit young men. She sat unattended at the bar as, to her amazement, the men spent their time shouting at their images on the screen. After some minutes of this, she turned to Bennett and asked, "Say, what kind of a place is this, anyway?" She couldn't have known what a good question that was.