Story by Danny Rivera
Photo by Dina Azzam
Story by Danny Rivera
Photo by Dina Azzam
Bars. Taverns. Lounges. Pubs: Gathering spots for social interaction for hundreds of years. The sacred
institutions where courage, wisdom, hilarity and stupidity are issued in ounce-and-a-half allotments.
Literary masterpieces were written in some. Revolutions and uprisings were started in others, and chances are, a few of you were conceived in one as well.
And like Gabriel spread the Word to various mortals, bartenders spread the gospel of spirits to the masses.
In a sense, bartenders are both the conduit for inspiration and the guardians of over-intoxication. Professionals who spend their weeknights, weekends, and (very) early mornings making sure you’re able to forget about your Monday thru Friday grind.
While the pay can suck, the hours long, the bosses shady, and the clientele can be obnoxious, most bartenders work their chosen careers for the love of interacting with the public on both a personal and direct basis.
But mostly, it’s for the great stories you get from getting people drunk for so long.
“Like the time I was trying to close Oliver Stone out and our cheap ass second-hand [register] wouldn’t work, or the time Johnny Knoxville met Karen O at my bar while he was filming Jackass and showed up in a sailor suit and I couldn’t stop laughing,” said Mike Bouchard, owner of Gasser Lounge in Redondo Beach, Calif. Bouchard spent his formative years working at bars and nightclubs in Hollywood before opening the Gasser in 2009.
His stories are considered legendary to his friends and customers. But to Bouchard, these seem tame and run-of-the-mill.
He starts rattling off snippets of stories like synopsis headers on tweets. “Or the time Keanu Reeves came in and talked exactly like Neo the whole time, or the time Charlie Sheen’s ex-wife (he won’t say which one) came in and ordered a glass of cocaine?”
He finally expanded on one legendary story that cracks him up to this day.
“One time, the club I worked at wouldn’t let Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy, American Dad and director of the movie Ted) in on their ‘super hip’ night,” he said with significant amounts of sarcasm.
“The promoter wouldn’t let him in, so on our next super busy night he had easily a hundred grand in the most incredible, humongous floral arrangements delivered right when we were slammed.”
“It was fucking brilliant,” he said while trying to contain his laughter. “[The arrangements] blocked the sidewalk, the alley, the entrance. Nobody could get in.”
But while these Hollywood stories make for great tabloid fodder, the stories about regular folks acting the fool are just as hilarious.
“Drunks are the worst pickup artists,” said Patricia Pineda of O’Hearn’s Pub in Harbor City, Calif. “but watching them do it still makes me laugh after all these years behind the bar.”
Pineda works at a neighborhood bar (sometimes referred to as a “dive” bar), whose customers tend to be more blue-collar and rougher than other drinking establishments.
“One time, a very large biker tried to make moves on me in front of his friends,” she said over a beer during one of her shifts. “The look on his face when my fiancé (who was sitting next to the biker) said she was taken was great.”
Still, other bartenders make it a point of pride to teach patrons on how to behave at their establishment.
“We would get to know some of the bartenders in town and and hear all the shitty stories from their day,” said Kyle Ennis, a six-year bartender at Johnny’s Saloon in Huntington Beach, Calif. He and his friend and co-worker James Kutscher started an Instagram page called Behind The Stick to help bartenders laugh at the shitty parts about their job while also educating the public on proper bar etiquette.
In their combined 28 years experience, the pair noticed that their tales of intoxicated stupidity seemed to happen to their fellow tenders on a regular basis.
“Good bartenders aren’t there to just get people fucked up,” said Ennis. “We’re there to help you have a good time but know what makes for good drinking.”
“And we get good stories out of the shit they spout off while they’re sitting at the bar,” said Kutscher.
“Ha, yeah,” said Ennis, laughing. “Your boyfriend gave you herpes? We heard you tell your friend that.”
While Ennis and Kutscher have their customer stories, they both say that the best stories come from working with inexperienced bartenders themselves.
“You think these are bad? Try dealing with 21-year-old bartenders,” said Kutscher.