Behind Bars: The Straight-Up Tales of a Big-City Bartender

Behind Bars: The Straight-Up Tales of a Big-City Bartender

by Ty Wenzel
     
 

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After reading Behind Bars, a no-holds-barred tell-all in the spirit of Kitchen Confidential, you'll never look at your favorite bartender the same way again.

Ty Wenzel offers a raw and clever account of slinging drinks in New York City on the Bowery before and during its renaissance. Wenzel, now thirty-six, has just thrown in the towel after a

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Overview

After reading Behind Bars, a no-holds-barred tell-all in the spirit of Kitchen Confidential, you'll never look at your favorite bartender the same way again.

Ty Wenzel offers a raw and clever account of slinging drinks in New York City on the Bowery before and during its renaissance. Wenzel, now thirty-six, has just thrown in the towel after a decade at the swank Marion's Continental Restaurant and Lounge--a gig that was supposed to be a temporary escape after corporate burnout, but instead, like with most bartenders, took over her life.

Honest, clever, and often scathingly funny, this memoir at once offers outrageous tales, the dirty little secrets of the trade, and inspired commentary on bar culture and the human condition. Wenzel's candid stories of life behind the bar covers everything: sex, money, celebrities, the tricks mixers play on you to get you to stay on that stool, how to jumpstart your own bartender fantasy, that all-important tip . . . and how "pink drinks" like the Cosmopolitan are ruining civilization.

Behind Bars is also a riveting narrative of Wenzel's life outside the bar, which is complicated by her Islamic background, her drive to save enough money and get out of "the life," and the ultimate realization that the grueling lifestyle that is driving her crazy is also something she has grown to love.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Wenzel's pulp-fiction prose can hold its own against Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential....Compulsively readable.” —Elle

“A superb memoir of urban life...sharp-witted and complex....Behind Bars delivers a subtle and mature personal narrative.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

Publishers Weekly
In this self-absorbed, mildly amusing, but ultimately uninspired memoir, Wenzel offers her bona fides-a Muslim born in Turkey who moves to New York, attends fashion school, rejects the "shallow and harsh world" of working at Cosmopolitan magazine and spends a decade tending bar in a fashionable Lower East Side club. She then spends the next 250 pages recounting what she learned there, which isn't much: bartenders use sex and flirting to get more tips; a good sexy bartender in New York City can make a lot of money from tips; many movie stars and rock stars (she lists about 30 by name) are good tippers; bartenders are usually pursuing "creative endeavors"; people who drink a lot often throw up. When she isn't recounting details of her nightlife, she often mentions her novelist husband, Kurt Wenzel, but she never really says what her own creative endeavor is outside of making "enough money to stop agonizing about bills every month." And her occasional attempts at sociological insight-"The age of Starbucks has given birth to a generation of people who can't see past their own, self-magnified needs"-are inevitably and hilariously undercut by the author's staggering self-centeredness and blissfully unaware cliches ("Alcohol is a great way to soften the blows of life") deployed throughout the book. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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 alsoenough pep and advice on bar etiquette to get you on the barstool for a test drive. Agent: Douglas Stewart/Curtis Brown

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312311032
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
01/01/2005
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.62(d)

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Meet the Author

Ty Wenzel was the fashion editor for Cosmopolitan and a fashion coordinator for Bloomingdale's before her years as a bartender. She lives in East Hampton, New York, and New York City with her novelist husband, Kurt Wenzel, and their young son.

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