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Old Glasgow Pubs by john gorevan


Muscular Arms.

West Nile Street, corner of West George Street, Glasgow.

Muscular Arms interior 1970

Spot the Dummy - on the left is artist designer Edmund Smith, in the centre the Prof; on the right John Kraska. 1970.

I am standing in this boozer with the joiners and plumbers when one of the bowler hat brigade pokes his head in the door. His chin connects with a medal knuckle Sandwich from a suspended Superman and his eyes light on Desperate Dan brooding over a meal in the corner.

The bowler hat pales visibly. "Sorry," he says. "I thought Lang's was re-opening..."

Well, in a way it is. Lang's was one of Glasgow's famous eating houses. You kept your bowler on, stood while you ate your pie and pint, and told rugby stories in the full knowledge that women weren't even allowed in the place. Well, Lang's closed down. With no women in the place, what else? It opens again next week if all goes to schedule - and it will undoubtedly be Britain's most unusual pub. It's under new management and under a new name - it's The Muscular Arms.

Muscular Arms interior

The Starlite Room's. Exotic decor included giant fruit and a waterfall cascading to the tables. 1972.

New Style

Disco king Frank Lynch, who id the boss, told me - "Max Lansdown, who runs the White Elephant, and I were turning over some ideas for an entirely new style of public house when we thought of a Pop Art Pub. "We passed the theme on to a couple of Glasgow artist-designers - and the Muscular Arms is the result."

Pop art is the word for it. Superman and Batman and Captain Marvels leap at you from the walls; and if you ask one of the waiters for a drink all you'll get is a blank look because he's the original dumb waiter. AS Dummy. John Kraska (22) and Edmund ASmith (27), a pair of fugitives from the Glasgow School of Art, are the designers.

Starlight Room's advert 1970

The Starlite Room at the Muscular Arms. 1970 Advert.

Broad Theme

"They gave us a broad theme," they said, "so we went to town. We like dummies - they don't answer back. So there's Desperate Dan and his girlfriend complete with their own waiter... who's quite a character. His face is modelled on a friend of ours. We won't say who it is , but it you happen to think he looks like a certain professor, well..."

All Art...

There are Pop Art shapes, and, of course, the Muscular Arms themselves, part of an all-American boy who stands off the bar with a couple of birds. There's even a 1936 Chrysler car - or, at least, a 2ft deep section of it. "It's all art," said John "whether we did it with a paint brush, an acetylene cutter, or 16,000 liquorice allsorts - which form part of a rainbow."

Muscular Arms Advert 1970

Advert from 1970's.


News in 1971...

Mickey and his pals may be banned in new pub

Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters may be "banned" from a new pub to be opened on the site of the former Lang's restaurant in Glasgow. Mickey, along with colleagues Tom and Jerry and Rupert the Bear, have been gracing the windows of the building at the junction of West George Street and West Nile Street.

The pub is to be called "The Muscular Arms." City planners made it clear yesterday that the external decor of the building was not to their liking. The upper storeys have been painted brick red. The cartoon characters are on blue panels in the windows. Mr. Frank Lynch, the man behind the idea, replied - "The building has been lying empty for quite a period and with the flaking black paint and torn posters. It was a bit of a mess. "I felt that by putting these humorous characters in the windows and painting the building would cheer up the citizens of Glasgow in those difficult and depressing times."

Mr. Lynch is worried that he has offended the city's businesses community by his "innocent" act." "I had sincerely hoped that business people would be among my clientèle and the last thing I wanted to do was to offend them. If it's offending the powers that be, we may have to reconsider the scheme for external decoration."

A new company called Unicorn Leisure Ltd. has been formed to run the venture and Mr. Lynch, who owns the Electric Garden Discotheque in Sauchiehall Street is managing director.


News in 1972...

Patrons and those who gave up struggle to fight their way to the bar of the highly successful Muscular Arms, Glasgow's Pop Art Pub in West George Street, will be happy to know that a sequel to the downstairs bar is now showing upstairs, thus doubling the floor-space of the entire pub. In the form of a Hollywood extravaganza, featuring such stars as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, Carmen Miranda and Jean Harlow, Douglas Fairbanks junior, Cagney in a kilt, King Kong and a stuffed parrot, the new upstairs restaurant and lounge is not, however, called Son of Muscular Arms but just the Starlite Room. This after all is probably more reminiscent of the Hollywood Thirties anyway.

And they do have cut out stars on the ceiling. Alongside the palm trees bearing three foot banana and other exotic fruits of the jungle - like Carmen Miranda and the "waterfall" which falls on a table, and the piece de resistance which is Fred and Ginger dancing down a flight of stairs to the tune of "Isn't it Romantic."

But it all that sounds rather more like something in Tangler than something in Glasgow, you're absolutely right. Nevertheless the all over effect is of peace and quiet a good place for a business man's lunch or a quite drink, and if the deeply padded upholstery happens to be heart shaped. It's none the less comfortable for that.

Inexpensive menu

Having feasted the eyes it only remains to feast the inner man on Mike Kenna's excellent and inexpensive lunch menu. There are three choices of soup, served with hot French bread, and then you can choose from a selection of cold meals, prawns, cheese and grapefruit, gammon, and peaches. Accompaniments are salads such as coleslaw, red cabbage, pickles, potato salad, tomato, and cucumber salad. - or there are farmhouse jacket potatoes piping hot with a knob of fresh butter which are served with grilled ham and cheese, prawns, pate, or if you like there are sandwiches - seven different fillings with French, brown or white bread, served hot and unlike many pubs, coffee afterwards.

The restaurant which seats 150 is also open in the evenings from five to seven, after which it reverts to being purely a lounge bar again. These early evening meals are extremely popular with people going on to the cinema or the theatre.

"Perhaps," says Frank Lynch, whose company, Unicorn Leisure Ltd., owns the Muscular Arms, "We should have completed the whole pub right at the start, but there was really no precedent for the place and we wanted to make sure it would turn out to be the kind of place we wanted, with the kind of people we wanted. "It's settling down nicely in the right pattern now, but one result of the Muscular Arms's immense popularity has been lack of space - with customers unable to get near the bar at weekends.

"By opening up the Starlite Room we have doubted the floorspace and on-one need worry about crowding or lack of service now."

Ingenious designs

There are no meals served downstairs since the opening of the upstairs restaurant - it's now solely a bar. Like the rest of the Muscular Arms, the Starlite Room was designed by John Kraska and Marius Vandergrof, whose ingenious designs have earned the Muscular Arms some fame outside Scotland by the way of such august publications as "The Times" and the "Guardian" as well as "Design Magazines" and BBC's "Scope" programme.

As with the original lounge there are jokes inherent in the design like putting your glass down on Marilyn Monroe's lap, which forms a wall-shelf or the quite cuddly fur fabric King Kong, who is holding up a blown-up photograph of the Muscular Arms building cracked in the middle and emitting red splotches.

The Bar is faced with the mirror glass mosaic of the thirties and framed in the rainbow arches which form a design link with the downstairs bar are old movie stars and enlarged representations of actual film, with sprocket holes at the sides. What makes the atmosphere surprisingly restful is probably the background colour, an unusual deep blue for the walls and deep purple carpeting.

Apart from the unobtrusive background music, the only noise is the time-up signal - a klaxon horn, but used discreetly.

Other floors were added through time including the Single End complete with washing lines across the ceiling and windae sills.

Names in the Muscular Arms... Pop Art Bar, Edmund Smith, John Kraska, Irene Keenan, Frank Lynch, Charlie Lawther, Harry Thompson, Marius Vandergrof.


December 1978 News...

Muscular Arms Changes Hands!

The latest business deal to come to my notice sounds more like a sensational transplant operation - Muscular Arms changes hands!

Frank Lynch who created Glasgow's first pub for trendies has decided to give up the lease on the West George Street premises. Now after weeks of wheeling and dealing, rumours and counter-rumours, the owner of the premises, millionaire hotelier, peter Fox, has fixed the terms of a new lease.

The new tenants take over at the weekend. They are haulage contractor Charlie Lawther, a Glasgow boy made good who now lives in Renfrew, and Harry Thompson, who learned the drinks trade with Reo Stakis in days gone by. I understand that the off-beat fixtures installed by Lynch to woo the trendies are part of the new deal but there will be some changes.

By the way, Mr. Moneybags Peter Fox is a difficult guy to get hold of. He spends his time floating from his properties which include the George Hotel, the Adelphi Hotel, the Commercial Hotel and the Park View Hotel.

The Muscular Arms ended up catering for the Gay Scene and closed down in the 80s. It now houses a popular eating house the Pizza Hut.


In the News 1974...

Muscular Arms 1974

When the National Muscular Drystrophy announced a fund raising competition among public houses. "The Muscular Arms," a trendy Glasgow centre public house in West George Street, was naturally an early entrant.

Their activities have included mini Highland Games and spaghetti eating and potato crisps eating competitions, organised by Mr. Ronnie Manson, manager.

Recently, in conjunction with Skol International, a "Miss Muscular Arms" contest was organised. The winner, Anne Logan, received a Skol trophy and £25. Skol also donated £25 to the total of £100 raised as a result of the event.

In the picture are (left to right) Mr. Steve West (Ind Coope); Anne Logan ("Miss Muscular Arms"); Harry Hood (Celtic F.C.); Caroline Meade (Miss Scotland); Ronnie Shade (Scottish international golfer and former Scottish amateur champion): and Alex Jackson (Ind Coope). 1974.

When the National Muscular Drystrophy Group announced a fund raising competition.

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