Behind the Bar

Don't ask for a buyback.
photo: Corina Zappia

Twenty-seven year old Toni DeBuono talks about her first six months at Arlene's Grocery, unsavory customers, and John Stamos's enduring stud appeal.

So what Punk Rock Karaoke song has been played to death? "Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin. People trying to sound like Robert Plant.

Who's your favorite customer at Arlene's Grocery right now? There's this hairdresser that works across the street, and now I get free color and cuts through her.

What did you do before bartending? I worked at Around the Clock diner for five years. I went to F.I.T., had meant to get a job in the fashion industry—but making your money in tips was too easy. Now here I am, six years later, no fashion-industry experience, regretting it. At least I'm making my own clothes. I sell these cute '40s-style sex kitten knit dresses through Lost Shoe on Ludlow.

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Nice. What about when you're not working, any places you avoid? Somebody took me to Central Bar on Ninth Street between Third and Fourth, and it was just like a club I'd be forced to go into in my hometown: meathead jock guys looking to get laid and the female counterparts that go along with them.

Who's the vilest customer you've had? One guy would write me letters and poems on napkins. He came around to every shift for six months, and then every once in a while for a couple years. I just couldn't get rid of him. You think you're just starting a friendly customer friendship, but once they get to a certain point of drunkenness, they'll turn that corner and creep out.

Any other pretty wrong bar behavior? Yeah, don't ask for a buyback. At a certain point, some people feel entitled . . . like, oh, you're supposed to get one, every third drink. The way to get a buyback is to be nice and tip decently.

What do you hit when you get home? Beer . . . Red Stripe. Cause it goes so well with cigarettes. A nice cold beer, a cigarette, and then I watch Full House. It's become my comfort. You know, I never noticed how cute John Stamos was. The Michelle character is painful, but I like Kimmy Gibler. She's so smug.

I just saw John Stamos on TV the other day. Uncle Jesse's pretty hot without the mullet, man. I feel like even he's cringing at the cheesiness of that show, but he knew he had to do it.

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