By Pat Sherman / Photos by Rob Hammer
?During his tenure behind the bar at various beach-area venues, Woody Donahue has poured plenty of liquid anesthetic for those whose passions have been reduced to ash.
Immortalizing love’s frequent aches, he created his BLKHRT logo. Pronounced “black heart,” the acronym stands for “because love knows how to ruin things.”
“When you feel really down and out and you’re just thinking of giving up on love, that’s definitely what that symbol stands for,” Donahue says. “I don’t think you always need to be on the happy side of love. There’s definitely a time where you need to look out for yourself.”
Donahue, 37, tends bar at Thrusters Lounge and other P.B. watering holes on a rotating basis. He helps the downtrodden lick their emotional wounds with simple elixirs, such as a shot of Jameson whiskey and a cold beer. It’s a different story for the perpetrators of the pain.
“If they’re the ones that have done the jilting, then they get a shot of well gin that’s been warmed up in the microwave,” he says with a laugh.
In 1991, Donahue moved from L.A. to Mission Beach, where he spent 10 years before making the short trek north to P.B. For this part of town, he’s something of an old-timer.
“If you don’t know my name, you’ve definitely seen my face,” he says. “I’m just more of a laidback, old-school bartender. I know your name, I know what you drink. Chances are, I know all your friends too.”
Donahue got his start in design work as a skateboard enthusiast. His friends caught him playing with the BLKHRT logo on his computer one day and encouraged him to start marketing it.
The logo has since become an underground sensation, appearing on hats, sterling silver key chains and many more items Donahue sells via his website. To date, at least 11 people have gotten tattoos of the BLKHRT logo.
“I have people who call me from New York and say, ‘I cannot believe it. I’m all the way in New York in some bathroom, in some dive bar, and there are stickers of yours here,’” Donahue says. “My friend that owns the skateboard shop was in Bali, and everywhere he went he saw some...but I’ve never even been to Bali.”
Since creating BLKRT, Donahue has used his self-taught design skills to create logos and promotional apparel and other materials for Thrusters, Firehouse, Vin De Syrah, Miller’s Field, Emerald City Surf and Soul Grind Skateboard Shop. His clients often let him add his BLKHRT logo to the work they commission from him, further boosting the heart’s presence and brand mystique.
Asked if he seeks refreshment for artistic inspiration, Donahue laughs.
Favorite local band: Rocket from the Crypt
Hometown: Los Angeles
Current neighborhood: Pacific Beach
Hangouts: London’s West End Pub, PB Pub, Silver Fox, Thrusters
Live music venues: Casbah, Tiki House in P.B. (“as long as the band’s not too hippie”)
Eats: Carne asada chips at Taco Surf in P.B.