There are moments in life when it pays to be cute. In fact, that’s how I landed my first bartending gig. It all started at a local establishment in the dead center of Tampa’s club mecca – Ybor City. I met this really, really cute girl (we’ll call her Kate) and she was adorable. I had met her before but never really got anywhere. She was pretty busy making drinks and I was busy drinking them, but I was sure glad to see her the following Saturday night after my lesbian epiphany. It’s always helpful to see one familiar face in a crowd, especially when one is on a mission. We started talking, mostly about nothing, and finally about how one would go about breaking into the bartending biz.
As we kept talking, I started imagining how cool I would be behind the bar…sexy, mysterious, flirtatious, maybe even a bit bitchy like what’s her name in Coyote Ugly. Yeah, that would be fabulous. Kate mentioned that someone did leave and they might need someone to fill in on the weekends. It couldn’t get any better than that. Kate gave me her number and she would let me know for sure. In the meantime, I should come see her Sunday night at this other gig she works in Clearwater, just across the bridge. Hmmm, it turned out to be a winning night for me.
I didn’t start tending bar right away. Instead, I started tending Kate. Noooo, nothing too serious. Over the next couple of weeks we went out to dinner, hung out at her house and I visited her out in Clearwater on Sundays. It was very casual and she was adorable, but I wasn’t sure if it was destined for anything great. She seemed a bit distant, guarded and pre-occupied. Who could blame her? And then she told me she was bisexual. Damn. There’s always something. Ha. Too bad we didn’t keep in touch. I think her and I could have been great friends. But hanging out with her did help.
I got my first bartending job. They agreed to train me and I agreed to work for free. Yeah, for free. I think it was even obvious to them I was desperate to feel like I had a social life. FYI: this wouldn’t be the first time I worked for free in an attempt to motivate change in my life. Some would even say that I was being taken advantage of, but I disagree. Some experiences are worth more than money.
I have to admit, I was nervous. It was my first night and I had no clue what I was doing. Luckily, there were several butch women who had no problem telling me. Ice, set up the bottles, count the money, more ice, set out the napkins, cups, chop up lemons, limes, set up the salt and sugar trays, get more ice, put out the trash bins, set up chairs and tables, get behind the bar – I’ll be right back. What? All of a sudden everything screeched to a halt as everyone disappeared. We had just unlocked the doors and here I was, by myself, behind the entry bar. I’ll explain the layout: our club occupied the upper floor, separated into three main rooms. The entrance was downstairs, with a pretty nice staircase leading up and into the main hall. And this is where my bar, the smaller of the two, was located and the first bar anyone sees.
I was by myself and praying for no one to show up before my bar coach got back. Of course, someone starts their way up the stairs. I see the top of his head and I just knew he’d be coming for me and I knew nothing about drinks yet. I was hoping the ‘he’ was just an extremely butch lesbian and would order a beer, naturally. Go figure my first customer in a lesbian bar would be a man. I remember he was very peppy and he had a friend with him who kind of stood behind him, unsure she was in a place she really wanted to be. He sat down and knew exactly what he wanted: ‘Crown straight up, coke back.’ Okay, it took me a minute. Especially because they were the only customers and there was nothing else to look at but me. Unless I know that I know I know what I’m doing, I don’t like to be watched.
Step 1: Locate the Crown Royal. Thankfully, I knew what a Crown Royal bottle looked like. They make it quite easy with the little crown on the top.
Step 2: Pour it into a shot glass. It sounds simple, but let me clue you in on something: it’s not as easy as it looks, especially when your hands are shaking and two sets of eyes are boring holes into you. Liquor bottles are pretty heavy one-handed if you don’t know what to expect. That little glass seemed to take forever to fill up. I couldn’t quite tip it high enough…and then I couldn’t tip it back enough to stop pouring so some CR got wasted. Whoops. It was so obvious I was an amateur.
Step 3: Get the coke back. Again. Simple, right? Well, I aimed the gun into the cup, feeling pretty professional already, filled it up and set it next to the shot. They took a second, looking at me. I thought I had done something wrong, then finally he gulped it down. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that a. I forgot the ice for the coke, but then b. a coke back is just a little bit of coke, not a full cup. In my defense, it was my first night…
I started to get the hang of things pretty quickly once more people arrived, I got familiar with where things were and I adopted a new personal tag line: “Hi, I’m #$%^& and I’m a virgin bartender, so be gentle.” I kid you not, it worked every time. I had the kiddies laughing, drinking and drooling…it was a good time.
I wanted to bartend 4ever. I had daydreams of flipping and tossing bottles, flaming some dr. pepper’s and, of course, dancing on the bar being the center of attention. All this with my clothes on. Who knew? And then reality hit. I realized the answer to my question in my previous entry: would a lesbian strip club be as lucrative as its heterosexual counterpart? The answer is hell no. Strippers in a lesbian club would starve to death, I’m sorry to say. Lesbians are cheap,. Okay, before you curse me, hear me out. I have never, ever, in my days of working for tips, received a quarter as a tip until working in a lesbian bar. Who does that? And I can’t even be mad at them because when I started working in a black club, there were people who picked that quarter up and took it with them. Who the hell does that?
It baffled me to no end that people don’t tip people who work on…wait for it…TIPS! If you can’t afford to include a tip as part of your entertainment, then stay home. I hate to say it. And this is all not to say that there haven’t been straight men or white people who have walked away without tipping after receiving great service. (I always kill them with kindness. Even when they come back for more. I believe in karma.) It’s just that the ratio of tippers to non-tippers is quite substantial and I am allowed to comment on the differences because I’ve worked in all of these establishments. If you haven’t, then you’re probably shaking your head in disbelief at my audacity, but trust me – I speak from experience.
When bartending or beer tubbing (I’ll share more on that later), you don’t choose who comes to you. Therefore, you lose your opportunity to make choices as to where you think you’re going to profit the most. As an exotic entertainer, it’s exactly the opposite.
If you’re appalled at my candor now, wait until you hear my rating system developed under my ‘Time is Money’ mantra. Visualize a screen shot from ‘Terminator’ where the cyborg assesses the scene: threats, non-threats, mission, etc. Except now, do it from a stripper perspective – go ahead and give it a shot.