Your friendly bartender made his usual stop late last night after work… his Friday night spot where he likes to unwind from his busiest night of the week… where a friend of his pours very late and does it with gusto. Yes, where I’m at that hour almost dead on my feet and ready to slip into occupational coma (I know, I know, pass me a shawl and a rocking chair!) this guy’s still pretty fresh and still going strong. Even though a one hour drive awaits him after closing. Which I find amazing. And commendable. Though I will say that late night tippers as a rule, especially bartender tippers, make his late night vigil more than worthwhile. He’s not Mother Teresa!!
And so speaking of late night visits from off duty bartenders, I was joined last night by a mini legend from our ranks. His name is Tommy. Tommy’s, as the saying goes, tough as nails, he reminds me of James Gandolfini, and he has this way of speaking that just makes me smile. (“These Wall Street guys are like bananas, they never just come in twos they come in freakin’ bunches!”) He’s also a really good guy, this Tommy, a longtime friend who would do for you just about anything. So between Tommy and me and the guy behind the bar it wasn’t too long before war stories started to emerge… you know, our shop talk. I had a story, Tommy had a story, our friend behind the bar had another, and on it went til at least three thirty in the morning. And I loved every minute of it. But it also got me to thinking when I sat down to write this morning. And here’s what I thought…
Starting with the premise that you often hear about bartenders being great story tellers, which in many cases is true I guess but not because they’re bartenders (it’s not any pre-requisite for the job like med students taking their Orals!), if you take that premise to its lofty end, wouldn’t a chance to showcase that gift be interesting? As in a TV show? Well here’s what made me think that maybe it would.
There used to be a show in the 80′s and 90′s called “The Sportswriters on TV”, which I watched with regularity and couldn’t get enough of. It was just four guys sitting around a big round table like Charlie Rose”s “this table” (which Charlie pronounces as though it were the sacred Rosetta Stone), and the background was also like Charlie Rose’s, a no-nonsense, black as night non-light, with cigar smoke spiraling from ash trays suggestive of a poker game. And what I really liked about watching this show was the men never looked at the camera or sought its red light, they just talked to each other. And you as the viewer were eavesdropping on these experts. The usual four experts at the table were Bill Jaus, Bill Gleason, Ben Bently and the celebrated Rick Telander, all I think out of Chicago which was where the show was shot. And the thing was a hit!
So given how much I enjoyed that format and how much it lends to this premise, wouldn’t it be a terrific show, or at least one of loyal niche interest, to have a similar show featuring four New York bartenders? Or Boston bartenders, Chicago bartenders (pick a different city each week), with male and female professional barkeeps taking a seat after hours at a bar or “this table”, and telling their tales of the day or their all time classics? Call it “Bartenders After Dark”. Why if cast well I think it could be terrific! Especially with this thirst for reality TV whose quenching has just about run out of any fresh spring water, and where just about every snake has been ripped from his snake hole. And made famous. Or infamous in most cases when they get to be famous.
Anyway, even the great David Susskind, legendary host of a long ago talk show which bore his name from the 50′s well into the 70′s, thought enough of this concept to use it as an episode. He invited three New York bartenders on his show, one of whom was the late, great Paddy Quinn (is that a bartender’s name or what?) who at Mr. Susskind’s behest just told their best bar stories. Or shared some behind the scenes stuff which was really unknown back then. And it worked. And was funny. Because everyone loves a good bar story, (no?), and who any better to tell that story than a bartender?
In fact, take this little gem Tommy recounted last night. (One that maybe I’ve mentioned before in a post.)
“I get this English couple one day and the woman’s a real ball buster. Her husband orders a gin and tonic, she just has a Coke, and she keeps this expression on her face like she’s freakin’ royalty. But they only have the one, these bums, I guess we weren’t their kinda’ place, and when they call for the check this woman gets even snootier. ‘Ten dollars’ she goes, ‘just for that? A Coke and a gin?’ ‘Yeah, ten dollars,’ I go, ‘seven for the gin and tonic and three for the Coke. That’s the price, lady.’ So she slams a bill on the bar and they head for the door. But right before she opens the door she turns to see my expression at being stiffed. So I pick up what she thinks is a ten dollar bill and wave it above my head and yell, ‘Ta-ta!’. The dumb shit left me a hundy and never knew the diff!”
So wouldn’t it be an entertaining hour, a show about barroom stories from the people who live them? Hell yes! And not just because I’m one of those guys who knows a gang of those stories, and who knows a lot of other guys who know even more, but because it beats the hell out of Hoarders and Swamp People! And whatever else is out there stinking up the air waves.
Are you listening, all you TV types who are out there??? I’m just sayin’! In the meantime… while you’re sitting down with your focus group deciding whether or not this show is a “go”, I’ll be sitting in my trailer in “hair and make-up”!
See you next week-end, dear reader, have yourself a good one!
PS: Looks like (someone else) likes the idea. Thanks, Mr. W.!