BEHIND BARS by Ty Wenzel


The Straight-Up Tales of a Big-City Bartender
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A former “spineless, frustrated Islamic New Jersey girl” chronicles her decade-long bartending stint at Marion’s, a “kitschy fifties knockoff” in Manhattan.

Wenzel was in it for the money, like most bartenders. That woman behind the counter batting her eyelashes isn’t in love with you, the author explains; she’s in love with your tip, and it better be decent or your night is going to be a thirsty one. Bars are the stomping ground of outrageous behavior, and Wenzel has plenty of stories about mean and stupid drunks, about men who simply urinate where they stand or sit (“You ever hear of Depends diapers?” she asks), about sex (“Dry humping and heavy necking are de rigueur at the bar, but outright fornication does transpire on occasion. . . . Ah, if restaurant bathrooms could talk!”), about squirting Visine into drinks of the truly loathed, about managers stealing bartenders’ tips. “Girly drinks” are undermining the nation’s foundations, she tells us, and “taking tobacco out of the environs of a bar is like taking the bubbles out of champagne.” Now and again as she lays out the dos and don’ts of bar behavior, Wenzel's vibe gets a little thick: “My wet dream is serving other bartenders. . . . I know they are going to take care of me and I am certainly going to do anything they want short of bending over.” But the vibe in most bars is also thick, she reminds us: “Let's face it, God invented bars so people could get laid.” For those with a serious bar fixation, here’s a look into the barkeep’s not-always-enviable world. For those who never seem to be able to get the mixer’s attention at a packed bar, here’s a helpful hint: you pay for it.

Enough jaundice to turn the paper yellow, but also enough pep and advice on bar etiquette to get you on the barstool for a test drive.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-31102-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2003


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