I was not a great cocktail waitress.

My junior year of college, I worked at a bar called the Country Playhouse, and the very first guy I waited on ordered eight draws of beer for him and his friends. I scampered like an excited puppy up to the bar and put in my order, where the bartender loaded up my tray. I balanced it on my hand like I’d been taught, and moved carefully toward the man’s table, doing what I like to think of as the drunken-toddler walk. Relieved and over-confident that I’d made it, I said, “Here’s your beer!” and rather than setting down the tray, I tilted it as if preparing to shove a giant pie in his face. In my memory, I see it in slow motion, all 96 ounces of frosty suds cascading over him like the ocean waves over Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity. I soaked him, and soaked him good. As you might have guessed, he did not leave me a tip (not a monetary one, anyway. More like “Here’s a tip–give up cocktail waitressing!”)

An inauspicious start, but I got into the groove and stopped drenching customers. I loved my job, except for Thursday nights. We always had a packed house those nights, which would normally be a good thing, but this was not normal. This was Lord of the Flies the female version–the clientele was exclusively sweaty, screaming, seething, writhing women, because Thursday night was male nude dancer night.

Thursday nights generally amounted to volunteer work, because women don’t tip. You could always count on at least one bachelorette party on Thursdays, so it was 25 shots of Jack Daniel’s. Twenty-five Kamikazes. Twenty-five foo-foo drinks. With sugar and alcohol swirling in their lust-addled brains, these women transformed into pre-humanoid hunters, gathered around a hormone fire, using finger snaps and snarls to get the wait staff’s attention, grunting and hooting to “It’s Raining Men.”

And like I said, it would be packed, standing room only, moist and sweltering in there all year round. When I remember those nights, I see them through a haze of cigarette smoke and skank. The dancers were nicely built, no doubt about it. But they were glazed with a patina of grodiness that lacquers my psyche to this day. And they loved to torment the waitresses. There you’d be, trying to navigate the narrow alleys between tables with a tray of 25 tequila shots, 25 shriveled slivers of what might have once been limes and 25 piles of salt, and the “dancers” would jump off the stage and block your way in all their glistening, tumescent, herpes-coated glory. This was the only time in my life I threatened a man with the Lorena Bobbit treatment and truly meant it.

It was the ’80s, my friends, and back then we knew how to convolute the drinking experience. Some of the popular drinks back then were

  • Long Island Iced Tea
  • Wine spritzer
  • Fuzzy Navel
  • Sloe Comfortable Screw
  • Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers
  • Amaretto sour
  • Malt Duck
  • Sex on the Beach
  • Vodka gimlet
  • Strawberry daiquiri
  • Electric Lemonade
  • Bellagio, Riunite and Boone’s Farm wines
  • Everclear Toilet Bowl Punch
  • Cum in a Hot Tub

What drinks did I miss? Send me a comment with your ’80s beverage of choice.


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