Ok, I don’t know that… YET. But as I was finishing up this recap, news reports started swirling that a prep cook with the company may have exposed people to the virus at a bunch of events earlier this month. When I filled out my Oscars paperwork a few weeks ago, I took with me a turkey sandwich and a salad- both of which fall into the category of raw food the employee supposedly handled. Information sent by the health department says there is only a two week window in which vaccinations for the virus can be given so I fall outside that window. But since the employee apparently did not prepare food for the Oscars, it strongly suggests to me that his or her condition was known prior to the event and we weren’t notified about this until yesterday. It makes me wonder if pre-Oscars publicity took precedence over public health concerns. Anyway, in light of all this it makes a food situation I wrote about later in this post even more ridiculous.
A long-ass post following a long-ass day working the Oscars. I was so exhausted afterward I needed two days to decompress but now the bitchfest shall commence…
Things got off to a bad start the day before when I pinched a nerve in my back. I’m pretty fortunate that I don’t experience ailments too often but when you throw out your back simply from putting on a shirt, you can’t help but feel old. For my 13-hour workday, I had to contort my body into all sorts of weird positions to compensate for my back, leaving my entire midsection so sore the next day I could barely move.
The first change this year was that they would not allow us to drive or walk into Hollywood and Highland so we had to park in a lot about a mile away and ride a shuttle over. So my seven minute walk turned into a 25 minute drive with a transfer. I figured they were really tightening up security this year but that theory flew out the window when I walked through the metal detector to enter the Kodak. Instead of the half-assed bag search they’ve done in the past, security didn’t even bother to open my big bag. Really, what’s the point of having metal detectors if they’re not even going to check the contents of large bags?
This was a particularly miserable Oscars to work and I have a lot of griping to do so here’s tangent #1… The uniform for the Oscars is always a white shirt, black tuxedo pants and black tie. No woman should ever be required to wear a tie. It’s just a horrible, horrible look. For that matter, I don’t think men should ever be required to wear a tie either. It’s a silly mindset adopted by millions that a tight knot around a man’s throat is somehow more professional than an open collar. The world should take notes from Hawaii where aloha shirts are the norm. A comfortable employee is a better employee. Then there’s the white shirt. I don’t know who the genius was who first decided that people handling food and drinks should wear white but I do know there have been countless idiots who followed who apparently think stains all over a white shirt is a good look. We hadn’t even boarded the shuttle to the Kodak and people were already comparing dirt marks. By the end of the shift we all looked like Keith Haring paintings. If you’re ever in line for a bartender who doesn’t have cranberry juice all over his or her sleeves, go to the one who does- I promise you, that’s a much faster bartender. And remember, the boss who makes his restaurant staff wear white is an idiot.
Back to the Oscars… When I arrived at the theatre I got a little bit of good news- it would be a cash bar again after the ceremony started. And a little bad news- no commemorative Diet Cokes. Then some bad news disguised as good- it would be a “green” Oscars, complete with flimsy recycled napkins and separate trash cans for recycling. My back already had me working at half speed, now I had to yell out every five minutes, “Hey Al, which trash can does the cardboard/plastic/dirty napkins go in?” I know newspapers and aluminum cans- everything else is trash to me. Then I got some suckier news- some guy came around and took away the bartenders’ Governors Ball pins (a great eBay item), saying that because we weren’t working the Governors Ball, we didn’t need them. Since the pins also function as our access pass, I asked the guy if we’d still be able to walk to other parts of the building and he assured me we would. Silly me, I still believe people actually know what they’re talking about. With two hours to kill, I decided to go outside and try to stretch out my back. The guard at door #1 told me that if I stepped even two feet outside, he couldn’t let me back in. So I figured I’d try the roof. I rode the elevator to the top, went outside and stretched for a bit. When I returned to hit the elevator call button, it occurred to me that the elevator had been operated manually by an usher. Would she think to check back on the chick who exited on the roof? No such luck. I scurried around the rooftop maze trying to find an entrance, wondering if one of the nearby snipers would take me down. The lame white shirt and black tie probably saved my life. I finally found a stairwell door that hadn’t been fully closed and made my way down to my bar. Half an hour I was gone and nobody even noticed. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d just stayed up there the whole day.
The main drink sponsor for the event was Patron tequila and they gave us a list of drink specials to serve, one of which was to be garnished with a raspberry. So they gave us each a pack of moldy raspberries. When this was pointed out by the bartenders, we were instructed to “pick out the bad ones.” On closer inspection, I could see that they all had mold on them. While the other bartenders seemed satisfied with the semi-moldy berries they’d picked, I wasn’t and informed the distributor that I couldn’t serve those, that there was no picking out the bad ones because they were all bad. After some discussion, he finally relented, “Fine, the others can use raspberries and you can serve cherries.” I thought that had resolved the situation. Then a few minutes later a catering captain came over and asked, “What’s this about you not serving raspberries?” I showed him the raspberries and said there was no way I was serving any that had mold on them. He took a tone with me as if I was merely being difficult. For the record, I have nothing against raspberries. I’m not a card-carrying member of the “Say no to raspberries” campaign. But I wouldn’t server moldy food to a homeless person, much less to someone who could puke from it in front of 39 million viewers (unless it was George Dubya- I would totally do that). I told him if he could find some fresh berries I’d serve them but he said there weren’t any more. He then puffed up his chest and ordered, “You will serve raspberries.”
The whole fiasco was unbelievable to me. I don’t know what was more disturbing: the fact that he argued about it for even a second or the fact that at least five other bartenders were willing to serve food with visible mold on it! Has everybody gone mad??? Tangent #2 on the captain… management in the food and beverage industry work longer hours and make a lot less money than servers. So the people who get into management usually do it for the power trip. And this was a perfect example of someone more concerned with asserting his authority than asserting a little common sense. Well, despite the fact that there supposedly weren’t any more raspberries he somehow found a pack of fresh ones, which he handed to me as if I’d made some unreasonable request that he was forced to take care of. And for all that? I served exactly three of those drinks. If I work this next year, I hope the sponsor is Heineken.
Wrapping up my lovely day at the Academy Awards… At the end of the night, we were breaking down boxes and I learned that another bartender had worked at the same place where I had worked for several years. She, too, had been fired from the place and we compared stories. Tangent #3… I’ve joked before here about the fact that I’ve been fired from several jobs (four? five? I’ve lost count). Whatever the official reasons for my firings, at each of those places I’d had a history of butting heads with management, usually due to unfair or illegal business practices. At two of the establishments problems started at the first staff meeting I attended when I went to clock in. Both times I was told that the meetings were unpaid and I politely informed them that by law, we were to be paid for mandatory meetings. Bosses tend to get a little cranky when they discover they have to fork out hourly wages to 20-30 people. I say “discover” as if they didn’t already know they were required to do so. More accurate is that bosses tend to get a little cranky when they discover they’ve hired somebody who knows food and beverage industry laws inside and out (you learn that stuff the first time you get fired and want to stick it to them for every penny you can). There were always other issues like paycheck discrepancies, paying for customer walkouts, diversion of tips, etc. that nobody else would ever pipe up about so they were always left on my shoulders and that naturally made me unpopular with my superiors. Yes, sometimes I fight battles that aren’t worth fighting but that’s what I do when the little guy (usually me) is getting screwed.
So why do I mention all this? The day was finally done and we checked out with a manager on the first floor. We were then told we had to go to the fifth floor and wait in line to check out with someone else. From there, we would go back down to the first floor to catch a shuttle to the lot where we’d parked. Clearly, they had an excellent system in place. I checked out with the first guy at 11:40 then reached the second guy a few minutes later. Basically, it would be an extra 15 minutes at least from the first check out until I arrived at my car. I asked the second guy if our sign out time would include our travel to the parking lot, since that’s where we were required to meet. He gave me a “That’s ridiculous” smirk and said, “No.” I also saw that he’d signed me out at 11:40 pm even though it was then 11:45 and I asked him about that. He said our sign out time was the time we signed out with the first manager. WTF???
Some may say, “What’s 15 minutes?” I’ll tell you: to the employees who may be struggling to make ends meet, that’s an extra $10 in their pockets- enough to buy a stiff cocktail after a long day’s work, possibly even enough to pay for a Hepatitis A vaccine. To the company that had about 200 people working for them, that’s $2000 in wages so I’m sure it wasn’t merely an oversight that had us checking out at a different place from where we’d checked in. Regardless, it doesn’t matter to me if the difference is $100 or $1, any second an employee is doing something required by the company should be a paid second. I didn’t put up much of a protest though because I was exhausted and in pain and of course I wasn’t getting any support from all the other staff members within earshot so I let it go. I just hate it when the ones with the deep pockets are shady like that.
At the end of it all, I ended up with just two programs for eBay. I mentioned a few days ago that eBay is some sort of idiot bait and that goes for the sellers as well. I always get my Academy Awards items up quickly and they do some decent business until some fool comes along and puts up 10 of the same item with a starting bid of $.99. These aren’t newbies who do this either, they’re people with hundreds of eBay sales but apparently they just don’t grasp the nature of collectors items and the concept of bidding wars. Luckily they’re also dumb enough to make the auctions 7-day listings so their 10 items will probably pull in the same amount as my first one.
I don’t imagine anybody has even read this far- even I’m bored- but now that I’ve gotten it all off my chest I actually do feel a little better. Hollywood’s most glamorous night is anything but that from my end of the bar.
(Last year’s Academy Awards recaps)
My Oscars recap just keeps getting longer and longer so I decided I’ll finish that later and get to what little good stuff I have to share on this year’s ceremony. So here it is,
Favorite Academy Awards bar quotes: “Can I just get tap water? I don’t have any money” and “Do you have Jessica Biel’s credit card?” I don’t know why, but for some reason that just sounded funny being asked that.
Best tipper: Steve Carrell (Diet Coke). BTW- he was accompanied by the woman who recently played his girlfriend on “The Office” (the one who broke up with him after he sent out a Christmas card in which he’d Photoshopped his face over her ex-husband’s on a ski trip with her and her two kids- I chuckle again just remembering it). Apparently she’s his real wife. They make a much better looking couple when he isn’t playing such a dufus.
Ghastliest outfit: Meryl Streep (gin tonic). She came to the bar just as we were shutting down for the start of the ceremony. We had to move to the front of the bar to turn away latecomers so I used the opportunity to get a close-up look. Her Flavor Flav-sized orange necklace appeared to be some sort of hideous junior high school shop class creation. I think the outfit was taffeta and looked like culottes. I guess when you’ve been nominated as many times as she has, you don’t mind going straight to the Oscars from Tae Kwan Do class. Runner up: Nicole Kidman. I mentioned previously that a few years ago I realized I’d entered with a bar knife in my bag and at the time thought, “I could stab Nicole Kidman right now if I wanted to.” I would have liked to have taken that knife to that goiter on her neck this year.
Thirstiest nominee: Clint Eastwood. Right after we closed his wife literally ran up to the bar begging for “A glass of champagne for Clint Eastwood.” I told her we were closed for the time being and I couldn’t serve anything (which is bartender code for “Show me a big bill.” She didn’t). But since it was Clint and since there happened to be a manager nearby I deferred to him. I think he walked away without giving her a “Hang on” and by the time he’d covertly arranged for a glass, they had disappeared inside.
Most in need of a sandwich: Cate Blanchett. She walked in with both hands hanging on to some woman’s arm, probably because she couldn’t hold herself up on her own. Runner up: Portia DeRossi (white wine). She looked great otherwise, but she was just skin and bones and stood with her shoulders so hunched over that even with my back pain (more on that later), I couldn’t help but stand up straighter every time I looked at her.
Biggest size surprise: Sascha Baron Cohen. The guy has to be at least 6’4″ (while his fiance probably can’t even ride the teacups at Disneyland).
Lobby sound alerts: Biggest gasp went to the supporting actor announcement, biggest cheers went to Scorsese (followed closely by Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson), biggest silence went to Helen Mirren. I don’t think anybody even bothered to look up when the announcement was made. As attendees made their way from the theatre to the Governors Ball, Al Gore received a round of applause.
Wealthiest star working free drinks: Kirsten Dunst (Coke). Well, I don’t know if she was working it, she might have known the guy. But it sounded to me like he was gushing, then she sounded way too appreciative of a simple Coke then she threw out the “I have to get back to my seat” line. Excellent drink ‘em and ditch ‘em style on her part.
Oldest star who’s still got it: Faye Dunaway. The very long, very blond hair she was sporting was probably too young for her but it somehow worked and certainly got the attention of at least one much-younger guy who tried flirting with her.
Oldest star who may have lost it: Peter O’Toole who was sort of wandering around the end of the bar alone not long before the Best Actor announcement.
Biggest let-down: No George Clooney sightings- AGAIN. And I wasn’t the only one looking. One guy said he was on George Clooney alert for his wife. Now that’s a good husband.
(Last year’s Academy Awards recaps)
Prior to last year’s Academy Awards I wondered if that would be the final one I’d work. Then I arrived at the Kodak to learn it was a cash bar and Diet Coke had made some commemorative bottles and right then I knew I’d do it again. Since we only served about six bottles of the 50+ cases we had, I saved a few from the trash dumpster and put them on eBay. I expected them to do well- maybe $25-40 for a six pack- but I was flabbergasted when the first few sold for upwards of $150 each. Yes, there are suckers who will pay more than $30 a bottle for soda simply because it has a special label on it. I don’t think the Oscar itself is even worth $150. I complain a lot about idiots but when I can profit from them, I’m all for them and eBay seems to be some sort of idiot bait. I managed to unload several more six-packs before Coke added the Academy Awards bottles to their little rewards program and people were able to acquire them for something like $2 and 20 bottle caps. I’m not expecting another perk like that to be available this year but I do have one case left that I’ll put back up on eBay in the hopes that there will be a few idiots who don’t notice they’re from 2006. I’m sure there will be.
I was over at Hollywood and Highland a few days ago and the red carpet was already laid out covered with plastic. The plastic had a bunch of bubbles in it that popped when you walked on it and I thought they should mix things up this year and leave it on for the ceremony. It would be pretty funny to see these stars talking to Joan Rivers: “Who are you wearing?” “Armani” pop pop pop. Naturally the tourists were salivating at walking on the carpet so I’m surprised the Kodak doesn’t charge people to do so. They already charge something like $15-20 for short tours of the theatre to the fools who don’t realize that for a couple bucks more, they could just see a show there. They could easily score 50 bucks a pop for walking on the carpet.
Being an Academy Awards bartender who hasn’t seen any of the nominated films, naturally I feel that makes me qualified to comment on the nominations:
I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow but hopefully I’ll get the Second Annual Oscar Barkeep Awards up in the next day or two.
(Last year’s Academy Awards recaps)
Saw this title on my homepage:
“Britney Spears, shaved bald, gets a new tattoo.”
I guess when you’ve got no rug, you might as well get rid of the curtains too.
Just six months after flying into space on the Discovery, a NASA astronaut drives 950 miles in a diaper in an attempt to kidnap and kill a romantic rival. To the (now unemployed, I’m sure) person who administered her psych evaluation prior to the shuttle launch, let me suggest sending your resumÃƒÂ© to the producers of The Bachelor. You sound perfect for the job.
Tonight I went to get a gift certificate for someone at his favorite hangout, Ye Rustic Inn. I wasn’t carrying my usual bag and consequently didn’t have my wallet with me. When I approached the front door, the bouncer asked for my ID and I explained that I didn’t have it and he told me he couldn’t let me in. I said, “Come on, I’m obviously over 21″ and he said, “I can’t, it’s Susan’s policy.” I tried protesting for a few minutes, probably rolling my eyes 50 times in the process but he wouldn’t budge.
I completely understand that a bar has to protect itself from minors getting in and I certainly would never have argued the point in my early 20′s but some places take it to ridiculous lengths. A 95-year-old almost-blind man could tell I’m old enough to enter, so I shouldn’t even be asked for my ID in the first place. It’s an invasion of privacy that I obliged when I was younger but why should I have to allow a stranger to know my full name, birth date, weight (well, the supermodel weight I admitted to) and address when it serves no purpose? Having been a victim of identity theft- an incredibly annoying situation to rectify- I’m a bit cautious about sharing too much information. In fact, I still use my parents’ address on my license for that reason (plus, if I ever piss off someone with access to my license and they decide to kill me in my sleep, they’ll get my parents instead. I’m always thinking ahead).
At this point, I really didn’t want to give the bar any business but since it was a gift, I said, “Fine, I want to buy a $75 gift certificate. Can you get it for me? If you could have Susan do it, I’d like to speak with her about her policy.” So he went inside to check on it, during which time four girls who were probably about 19 just strolled inside the door. Clearly, security is a top priority at Ye Rustic Inn. That’s when I realized I’d stumbled on a brilliant ploy for getting underage friends into bars- it could possibly be as effective as the old “There are two cute girls kissing each other in the parking lot” ploy. Unfortunately, it’s about 10 years past the point when I actually knew anybody underage but it would make me proud if somebody else successfully implemented this plan.
The bouncer came back several minutes later and said, “Susan said for you to return in the daytime, we’re busy right now.” I was flabbergasted. This is not an upscale Hollywood bar, it’s an $8-a-pitcher joint. I thought about all the assholes I had to be nice to over the years for their $6 purchases but then when I’m the customer, they can’t even take three minutes to accept an easy $75 that requires no immediate expense on their part. If Susan had half a brain she could have let me in and taken 30 minutes to get the gift certificate, meanwhile squeezing a few more bucks out of me for a cocktail or two while I waited.
I have no intention of purchasing that gift certificate from Ye Rustic Inn but I think I will return because I want to speak to Susan. I worked for plenty of “Susans” over the years: total idiots who had no business running a business. But as an employee, I couldn’t tell those people what I thought of them (at least, not until after they fired me). Will politely telling her she’s a shitty manager make her a better one? Probably not. But it will give me a sense of satisfaction and if I actually get around to doing it, I’ll post how it goes. I think I’ll even try to get my hands on a 22-year-old’s ID for the occasion.