CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- He's the quintessential man about town, Charleston's high-profile third-term mayor, Danny Jones.
He's intense, forceful, exceedingly candid and frequently controversial, a maverick of sorts. And, at 61, he still disarms with flashes of boyish charm.
A free spirit unfettered by his affluent South Hills upbringing, he learned about life in pool halls and bars, working at a gas station and residing at the legendary Holley Hotel.
He graduated last in his class at George Washington High School, worked as a bartender, bouncer and gravedigger, for starters, and served in Vietnam.
He made a household name for himself as a rib-specialist restaurateur, a former sheriff, legislator, radio talk show host and community theater performer. He collects antique radios and owns four classic cars.
The recent cancer diagnosis overshadows all of that. Two young sons make survival mandatory.
He looks ahead to a fourth run for mayor.
"I identify with the rich and poor. It doesn't matter. But I learned early on that the power is in the money. My mother would get in the car, and I would turn on 950 AM. She would flip it off and turn on 1240, the beautiful music station. Because it was her car and her radio paid for with her money.
"That's when I decided I was going to get my own car paid for with my own money and listen to whatever damn radio station I wanted to.
"I lived at 1202 Virginia St., the old Lawrence Frankel Institute, for a couple of years. About 1954, we bought the old Clark house. When Mrs. Clark got murdered there, nobody in the family bought the house, so we ended up with it.
"There was a big garden out back. My mother wanted to put a patio out there. They cleared out the garden and this gentleman named Monroe came up to do the patio. With him was a 14-year-old boy named Otis Laury. And that's how we got to know each other. He taught me how to do the twist and the mashed potatoes. He taught me a lot of stuff.
"There were kids to play with but not like over on Oakmont Road. I was envious of those kids because there was a Little League ball field over there. I'd rather all of us had been over on Oakmont where all the action was.
"Mom had her store, the Hilltop Shop, in South Hills. My dad sold insurance. He may be the smartest person I ever knew. He went to Wharton and had a law degree. He could answer questions about everything.
"In 1986, I played the prosecutor in 'The Trial of Lizzie Borden.' He proceeded to tell me everything you wanted to know about that case. He was most well read person I knew.
"In the seventh grade, I went to Greenbrier Military School. It was my idea. I wanted to get away. Military school was great. In the summers, I went Camp Shaw-Mi-Del-Eca, which was owned by Greenbrier Military School. I spent seven weeks there every summer for five summers.
"I liked being away. I liked the structure of military school even though I got smacked around quite a bit. I had quite a mouth on me.
"The ninth grade was not a good year for me, and my mother said I was coming home. That is a decision she came to regret. I was 15 and learning the ways of the streets and hanging out in Charleston.
"By that November, she said I could go back to Greenbrier, but by that time, I had seen the legs. When you go to a school where there are no girls, you don't miss them until you walk in commons area at George Washington High and all you see are miniskirts. And I thought, 'Oh my goodness!'
"GW was completely unstructured. It was practically run by the students. This was the school's first full year. If you didn't want to go, you didn't go. In my junior year, we went downtown every day. I'd go to homeroom and go to the Hub and play the pinball machines.
"People under 18 weren't supposed to be back in the Hub poolroom. Every once in a while, they would run us out. If you wanted some bootleg liquor, there was a guy named Harvey and an ABC store next door. It was home.
"There were 331 students in the GW Class of 1968, and you are talking to No. 331. I had to go to summer school to get my diploma.
"I got a work credit for working at the Sterling. At military school, I was a waiter, and when I was 15, I got a job at the Sterling for the summer.
"I had two really good friends, Richard Butler and George Jarrett. A guy who played pool at the Hub was somehow connected to the Roaring Twenties. His nickname was Minnesota Fats and he looked like Minnesota Fats.
"He hired Richard to wash glasses there for $10 a night. Next thing you know, Richard is a bartender and George is washing glasses. Those guys could pass. I couldn't. I looked too young. So I went back to the Sterling and worked there the rest of high school. A person willing to work can always get a job in a restaurant. It has always been there for me.
"I moved from busboy to the kitchen. I really felt like I was the man. I was working the line, cooking food from 9 at night until 6 in the morning on weekends and in the summers.
"Those were the bootleg days. There was no legal liquor served, so there were no governing rules. The clubs stayed open all night. We didn't get hit until about 4 in the morning when huge parties of people would come in. That's where I really learned to cook.
"At the same time, I was working up on the hill at the filling station. Don Harless -- we called him Doc -- was my boss. I learned more from Doc about how to deal with customers. And he knew more about cars than anybody. He also owned motorcycle shops.
"I was building race cars and drag-racing in Winfield. I won six trophies. In April of '69, I was running this guy, and he got killed. I finished ahead of him. His car turned over, and I could see him rolling around there. There were no seat belts, nothing. Here I was with a seat belt and helmet and all that, and they thought I was nuts. The next week everybody had them.
"In September of '69, I got drafted. On Nov. 4, I left. They picked me to go into the Marine Corps. I just wanted to get it over with. I had the military experiences in military school, so it helped me on Parris Island. They didn't have to teach me to do the movements and drills. I already knew all that.
"I ended up driving a truck in Vietnam and Okinawa. My units were MAGS 11 and MABS 11.
"Dope was everywhere. At 7 o'clock at night, the smell would overwhelm the complex. I wasn't into that. I just wanted to get done and not get in any trouble. When we pulled out of Vietnam, we came back to California. I got out in August 1971.
"All that business about spitting on veterans, I didn't go through any of that. What I remember about getting back from Vietnam was pure, complete apathy. People just didn't care and didn't want to hear about it. They were tired of the war.
"I had read where you could get out of the service 90 days early if you go to college. I was in Okinawa, and I was looking at the paper, the Stars and Stripes, and they had this big story about a plane wreck back here where the whole football team died. I thought, 'I can go there, to Marshall.'
"They didn't want to let me in. They said, 'Look at your high school records.' I said, 'I'm a war veteran. You can't turn me down.' I went there a year and did all right.
"I started hanging around clubs and working at No. 8. Ross Tuckwiller and Carl Carothers had it. I was digging graves up at the cemetery in the daytime for the city and started working at No. 8 at night as a bouncer.
"I couldn't make much money, so I went to the Athletic Club as a bartender, then to the 1791 Tavern at the Daniel Boone. When the management changed, I knew I didn't fit. I decided I either had to get a legitimate job or buy a place. So I bought No. 8.