Whoever says bartending is easy is nuts.
I can say this with relative conviction after giving it a whirl on Sunday when my hubby, Ed, and I took our shift behind the bar at A restaurant during an entertaining fundraiser in support of Serving People in Need (SPIN). Along with fellow first-shift bartenders Alison and Kimo McCormick, our job was to serve guests with a smile and rack up the tips, all of which were donated to SPIN,
As we took our places behind the bar, Jay, the “real” bartender in charge of training the minions, gave us the lay of the land and the detail was enough to, well, drive one to drink. Between having to know the difference between single and blended malt scotches, various wine selections and the finer points of making the perfect mojito, I was getting a headache. The soda gun alone made no sense whatsoever. Ed’s skills were pretty much limited to his talent for opening bottles of beer and pouring wine, so I could see I had my work cut out for me.
Thankfully, most of the guests were drinking wine or martinis and by the time it was all over, I had the cocktail shaker rattling high over my shoulder just like a pro.
Just as I got the soda gun wired, it was time for the second shift – made up of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” co-star Alexis Bellino and her husband, Jim, Peggy Goldwater Clay and husband, Bob Clay, and Barbara and Kyle Eidson – to take the helm. We joined our friends and other partygoers back on the more familiar side of the bar and watched as they hit the ground running.
Dang, they must have practiced.
There are those who make being a barkeep look like second nature. They are the Baryshnikovs of the bar scene. Close your eyes and imagine Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” twirling bottles, shaking it up for the ladies, even making up a poem about the potions he poured.
Surely bartending, not politics, must be the second-oldest profession.
I suppose it was apropos that the event took place at an establishment owned by a co-op of Hollywood who’s-who including McG, who grew up in Newport, because from behind the bar, the cornucopia of customers began to look strikingly like a compilation of movie scenes. No wonder so many out-of-work actors and playwrights work at bars and restaurants – the material one can gather while at work is priceless.
It was a well-heeled crowd on Sunday, and I half expected John Wayne or James Cagney to stroll in with all the other notables from around town. And as I perused the sea of faces from my “professional” perch, I began to notice a variety of personalities taking shape.
There was a handsomer version of Mickey Rourke’s character in “Barfly” in the corner slowly swigging a beer with a shot on the side. At the end of the bar a gaggle of giddy gals had me recalling “Coyote Ugly.” Then there was the group of guys sitting in a booth, a la “Swingers” trying to get up (or drink up) the guts to talk to the Coyote Ugly gals who by this time were pretending not to notice them back. By the end of the evening, their booth had filled and I could swear I heard one of the guys tell his buddy, “You are so money!”
Meanwhile, behind the bar, things started to get busier and I kept wondering what it would be like to make it through an eight-hour shift at this popular watering hole. With a thirsty crowd watching us like hawks, a Salty Pear, Dirty Martini and Vanilla Cosmo (light on the cranberry) order swirling in my head, the cantina scene in Star Wars was becoming increasingly tame in comparison. And our shift was only an hour and a half! But we kept up the pace, everyone including us having a great time, and the tips for SPIN kept flowing.
The sold-out event was spearheaded by philanthropic Newport Beach couple Karen and Dick Nichol and SPIN’s board of directors. In addition to placing the homeless in housing, SPIN serves a sector of citizens struggling with substance abuse. In 2010, volunteers and staff provided more than 23,380 meals to people living on the street.
With the numbers of these populations in need rising throughout Orange County, every dollar counts. So every time someone tipped me $20 for pouring them a glass of wine or Ed for a beer, it was great to know someone less fortunate was going to benefit. And the best part is that because SPIN is made up of mostly hands-on volunteers, 95 percent of every dollar raised goes to work aiding those they serve.
If you would like to get involved or donate to SPIN, you can visit their website at www.spinoc.org. And for all you golfers out there, mark your calendars for SPIN’s 6th Annual Golf Tournament coming up on Monday, May 6.
Now that I’m a pro, maybe they’ll ask me back to serve drinks at the 19th hole …
Lynn Selich is an amateur volunteer bartender residing in Newport Beach. Her real job is that of marketing communications and public relations consultant. She can be reached at [email protected].