- Walter Novak
- Scott Nunnari (No. 32), the Mother Teresa of Intoxicants.
It's Sunday, 11 a.m., and Scott Nunnari wears a serene smile stuffed with a stogie as he presides over his kingdom, otherwise known as the Muni Lot off East 9th Street. He's been up since dawn, cooking steak and shrimp, tapping the keg, and stealing the virginity of an immense bottle of Jack Daniel's, which lurks as nefariously as a German U-boat.
There are more famous celebrities to inhabit this lot, where the old-school Browns fans come to tailgate. There's the Bone Lady, who appears to have escaped from a John Waters film and comes equipped with a two-foot headdress and the words "Bone It" lettering her buxom chest. There's the Fruit Man, who dispenses pineapple soaked in Everclear to the needy. Even the Hoggettes are here, the renowned disciples of the Washington Redskins, who wear dresses and pig noses as testament to their devotion.
Nunnari, by contrast, is an inconspicuous man. His uniform is a Jim Brown jersey and a salt-and-pepper beard. But his calling is not flamboyance; it's charity. Think of him as the Mother Teresa of Intoxicants.
You'll find him here before every home game, with wife Carolyn and son Rocco, stationed in an old school bus. It's a raggedy-looking machine, perhaps a fitting retirement home for some adventurous West Virginians. Yet Nunnari is a pragmatist. "Why put anything into the paint job when you can put it into the bar?"
Ah, yes, the bar. Inside, you'll find DirecTV, a computerized sound system, a built-in tap for the pouring of sacramental brewskies, and, of course, The Bar. It runs nearly the length of the bus and is filled with people who've come to wet their beaks on the kindness of the Nunnaris. It's as if a West Park tavern has suddenly appeared in a downtown parking lot.
A steady stream of strangers filters through the back door to witness this mobile piece of heaven -- or at least what they hope awaits them in the hereafter. Admiration is the order of the day. "This is awesome!" shouts one guy in a Browns stocking cap, summing up visitor sentiment. "This is tubular!"
They are invited to visit the tap, pour themselves some Jack, gnaw on a piece of cold steak. Everyone is welcome. "Scott never turns anyone down who wants to come down and get juiced," says his friend, Dave "Artie" Austin, a wireman with IBEW Local 38. "Eighty bucks for a keg is a cheap way to buy a lot of happiness."
Adds another man in an "I Fear No Beer" tank top: "Scott'll give you the shirt off his back."
Of course, all this is technically illegal. A few years ago, Mayor Jane Campbell endured a schoolmarm moment and banned alcohol from city parking lots. This presented something of a problem: Of the 73,300 fans who show up at Browns Stadium each week, approximately 73,299 are really, really hammered. Later in the day, the Browns will present their coveted "Designated Driver of the Game" award, given to the one guy who showed up sober.
Yet the cops see the truth: This is not a dangerous horde; this is Cleveland's family picnic. So they keep their distance, courteously stopping the inebriated from wandering onto the Shoreway and high-fiving men with orange-dyed hair, who look as though strange woodland creatures have nested atop their heads. One patrolman allows a woman to use the loudspeaker in his squad. She launches into the hallowed battle cry -- "Here we go, Browns . . ." -- and then pecks him on the cheek. The crowd goes wild.
To Nunnari, it's all very beautiful. His mistress is the party, and he treats her lavishly. At 44, he's wisely decided that adulthood can wait till much, much later.
His 27 acres in Columbia Station are home to concerts, a three-hole golf course, a lighted horseshoe pit, and an old boat, beached next to a pond, that may not have an engine, but is sure to be stocked with beer. He is a renaissance man of sorts: software salesman by day, ringmaster of festivities by night, and holy man to friends who wish to marry. He did his seminary work on the internet, where he purchased deaconhood in the Universal Life Church. Fourteen couples have wed with his blessing -- "Not one of them's been divorced," he'll tell you often.
Yet his obvious passion is the bus, his portable friendmaker. "That's what's fun about having this bus. You meet people every week that you'd never meet."
Once, he was invited to the Autorama show at the convention center. Naturally, he came armed with beer. "We snuck a keg in," he says. "Next thing you know, there's 25 people on the bus, the place is closed, and we don't know it."
Back at the Muni Lot, joy carries the day. The Browns have defeated Washington in the ugliest of games. No matter. Strangers arrive at the bus to grab beer and shout streams of expletives in praise of the home team. A woman flashes her handsome wares from the second deck of an adjoining parking garage. Redskins fans stop by for a shot of Jack and a round of trash talk. A glazier and an electrician argue about who has the sissier job.
As the sun begins to set, there are casualties: One man, who has twice fallen down the bus steps, now limps to the portable john while leaning on Nunnari. The lot is littered with debris and drunks. Seagulls circle the buffet awaiting them on the asphalt.
You sit with a view of the sunswept freeway and find yourself agreeing with Nunnari: Yes, it is a beautiful day in Cleveland.