Young and Hungry

Longtime Mr. Henry’s Bartender Rudi Appl Has Died

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Rudi Appl, a bartender at Mr. Henry's in Capitol Hill for nearly five decades, died early this morning. He was "just sitting in his chair," says Mr. Henry's owner Alvin Ross. "He really had not been well. He had a pacemaker and had heart issues." Appl worked his last shift about a month ago to celebrate his 80th birthday.

Appl was the subject of a recent City Paper cover story written by local bar and real estate owner Joe Englert, which is worth a reread. Even long before he became a local institution, Appl had a life worthy of a Hollywood script: Born in Czechoslovakia, Appl escaped World War II after a family friend drove him all the way to Beirut, Lebanon, when he was 9 years old. (His father feared for his youngest son in the war, even though the family was Catholic.) After the war, his family reconvened in Frankfurt, Germany, then headed to the Canadian Rockies, where Appl worked in oil fields as a young man. Eventually, he traveled to Nassau in the Bahamas to work for Paradise Island, a resort catering to the rich and famous which was owned by A&P supermarket heir and filmmaker Huntington Hartford. Appl became Hartford’s drinking buddy and assistant during the off months, which, after a trip to Hollywood, led him to work as a stand-in for Marlon Brando and Robert Stack. "But these were the days of the studio system,” Appl told Englert. “I didn’t want the contracts or the obligations.” He permanently settled in D.C. in 1966.

"So disarming and friendly, Rudi sucks you in," Englert wrote in his cover story. "You want to be cast in his little Mitteleuropäischer drama. He immediately transports you into a more civilized world and time."

Ross says he doesn't have any information about a memorial service yet, but he hopes to do something at Mr. Henry's to remember Appl.

If you have any memories of Appl you'd like to share, email us at hungry@washingtoncitypaper.com.

UPDATE: Englert shared some more thoughts on Appl after hearing the news of his passing:

"Rudi truly exuded two things: smoothness and Old World elegance.   But while he was polished and refined, he didn’t have a whiff of pretentiousness about him. Rudi knew how to connect to people no matter their race, creed or station in life.  Truly this was a man comfortable in his own skin who never stopped an unquenchable yearning to learn more about other people and how they ticked.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Steve

    I regret not having any memories. I was touched by the WCP profile. Perhaps there is a charity he supported.

  • Shanana Jenkins

    This such sad news to hear about Rudi. He was such a nice person with a great sense of humor.

  • jesus duran

    Such a great guy and friend we will miss him

  • Howard & Doris

    Our hearts are very sad . . . our friend since the early days of Roberta Flack at Mr. Henry's . . . He was so much apart of our lives and many others . . . Can't believe we we never again hear that very special sound of his voice . . . we will miss him very much! Rest in peace sweet Rudi!

  • Ally

    Rudi was such a joy. We knew him in his later years when he worked as a bartender at Thai Roma. He was always quick with a story, none of which were ever dull. He'll be sorely missed by many.

  • Tony Pate

    Rudi was an amazing man, full of zest for life, enfused with compassion, gentle to his core, with a heart, that, although it ultimately failed him, never failed to embrace anyone in need. As Robert Kennedy said about his brother John, when I think of Rudi,I think of what Shakespeare said in Romeo and Juliet:

    "When he shall die take him and cut him out into stars and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun."

    God bless you Rudi. We shall always love you. And we will never forget you.

  • John Duvall

    I am so sorry to hear about Rudi. He was a wonderful man, full of energy, and had a great sense of humor. I probably new him close to 40 years. I started going to Mr. Henry's in the early 70's. I grew up with a woman who worked at Mr. Henry's around 1966, and was very close to him.

    Rudi will be missed.

    John Duvall

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