2005-01-14 16:17:09 UTC
Posted on Fri, Jan. 14, 2005
By JOHN F. MORRISON (Philadelphia Daily News)
MANY bartenders take on the role of amateur psychologist when a
customer starts bawling in his beer.
But John M. McManus was no amateur. He might not have been a licensed
counselor, but he was at home with terms like "biogenetic
structuralism," and was an expert on the writings of eminent
psychologist Jean Piaget and the philosopher C.G. Jung.
His contributions to psychology, anthropology and the social sciences
through a number of books he co-authored are known to academics around
Dr. Charles Laughlin, a Canadian anthropologist and longtime friend,
said McManus possessed "a unique mind, whose capacity for clarity and
understanding of psychological processes was unmatched in my
But wait a minute.
He was a bartender, right?
Right. McManus lived in the Fairmount section for about 30 years,
tending bar and managing several popular drinking and dining spots.
His secret life was unknown to most of his customers, but he would take
off to Canada for periodic writing binges with Laughlin and other
scientists, co-writing some pretty heavy psychological texts.
He also often acted as a kind of guru or shrink to customers who needed
his help and advice.
McManus, described as a "neighborhood institution" in the Fairmount
section, a close buddy of the late Phillies pitching great, Tug McGraw,
and a high-spirited, fun-loving guy who enjoyed a good joke, died Dec.
20 of complications of emphysema and pneumonia. He was 62.
His last job was with Rembrandt's, at 23rd and Aspen streets.
A lifetime heavy smoker, McManus was growing weaker over the past
months as his emphysema worsened, but Jan Zarkin, owner of Rembrandt's,
used him to do inventory control and answer the phone.
"He was quite valuable to me," Zarkin said. "He was a sweet guy, part
of the fabric of Fairmount."
McManus had bartended at Rembrandt's, and also worked for the London
Grille, Brigid's and the Electric Factory, either as bartender or
He also managed musical groups in the city, getting them gigs at local
As an example of his popularity, he collapsed in Rembrandt's in
December when stricken with pneumonia and was rushed to the hospital.
"Most of the staff put on their coats and went with him," said a
customer who was there at the time.
Forget the restaurant; John needed them.
He had served a similar role for McGraw, when the former pitcher was
stricken during spring training in Clearwater, Fla., in March 2003.
He helped get McGraw to a hospital and basically saved his life.
Tug was a neighbor of Rembrandt's and frequently stopped in. He and
McManus hit it off and they became inseparable."
"Where you saw Tug, you saw John," Zarkin said.
Another frequent visitor was McGraw's son, the popular country music
singer, Tim McGraw.
In his book, "Ya Gotta Believe," Tug McGraw described McManus as "a
great sidekick, as he knows something about everything.
"He's led an interesting life. He can tell you about the most obscure
music and talent acts that have performed in Philadelphia.
"He'll spin a stream-of-consciousness monologue, and if you listen in
you'll often find he is really saying something thoughtful and
"He's one of the best and most loyal friends I've ever had. Despite our
big egos, somehow we're a good match."
McManus joined McGraw and other pals on a cross-country jaunt in an RV,
which McGraw said he saw "as a kind of last hurrah, one final fling
before I bit it."
Diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, McGraw, whose strikeout of
Kansas City's Willie Wilson to win the 1980 World Series for the
Phillies was a legendary moment in Philadelphia sports history, died on
Jan. 5, 2004.
McManus was a native of Syracuse, N.Y. He earned bachelor's and
master's degrees in social psychology from Syracuse University before
moving to Philadelphia in 1971.
He worked at a mental health clinic affiliated with Temple University
in the '70s.
Laughlin, emeritus professor of anthropology at Carleton University, in
Ottawa, said he met McManus in 1973 when Laughlin came to Philadelphia
for a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania.
He said he and the late Dr. Gene d'Aquili were working on the
manuscript for their book, "Biogenetic Structuralism." They showed it
to McManus and he gave them a "stinging critique."
They decided to give McManus a role in the book. Later, Laughlin and
McManus collaborated on such books as "The Spectrum of Ritual,"
"Science As Cognitive Process," and "Brain, Symbol and Experience."
"John taught us that the brain systems that produce our conscious and
unconscious minds in fact grow and mature and change over the course of
life," Laughlin said.
"I can assure you that even today there are young graduate students
from here to Western Australia who know his name and study his
In Philadelphia, McManus was the bartender who "served spirits, humor
and impeccable stories to Fairmount denizens... John endeared himself
to generations with his wit and bohemian exuberance," said a friend.
He had no immediate survivors.
A memorial service is set for 7 p.m. Monday at Rembrandt's. Proceeds
from the evening will go toward purchasing a bench in his honor in
Fairmount Park and toward the Tug McGraw Foundation, 217 Parkside Lane,
Glenside, PA 19038.