Behind the Bar


Mishelle Meow at Hank’s Saloon is the kind of bartender we like: sassy, seeing right through your needling reporter questions, and quite intent on getting you very, very drunk. The Brooklyn native’s done it all, from bartending at the now-defunct Mother, strip-joint Pussycat Lounge, and Coyote Ugly, to a seven-year stint as a dominatrix and video-set extra. We talk to her about crappy owners, female-bartender cattiness, and why smacking ugly dudes is all too easy.

Preferred drink? Dirty, nasty Jim Beam on the rocks, or really, really nice, fancy Patron Silver.

Does a drink say something about the person? I was working during the day at this old man’s bar, and this big construction guy orders an Alien Secretion, or some variation of a melon ball—like vodka, Midori, sour mix, and pineapple juice. I was like, “You gotta be fucking kidding me.”

Maybe he just liked the drink? Who cares? C’mon, you’re like this big, burly, testosterone, “I lift heavy things for a living” guy, and you’re going to drink some pussy-ass . . . I expect some 15-year-old girl who’s out with a fake ID to drink that shit.

What about chicks? I hardly ever give chicks shit, because you really want girls to be in the bar. And that’s where some female bartenders go wrong, because they don’t cater to women. They just think like, “Oh, guys are going to stare at me and give me money.” You want girls to be in there, and you don’t want to upstage them. You want to be flirty with them too . . . I hate that girl cattiness.

Bar owners ever want you to dress a certain way? Oh yeah. I remember when I was working at Bellevue. Before my first shift, Jimmy was like, “There’s no real nice way to say this. Dress slutty.” I was like, “There’s no problem with that. I know that’s my bread and butter.” Somebody’s having a bad day, they go to the fucking bar to have a drink, and they just want to look up and see—”Oh, look, there’s some tits there. How nice.”

So you had mentioned your favorite bosses were Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell, from Mother. Any experiences happen there that wouldn’t now? At Mother, in the upstairs bathroom, anything you did was filmed. There was a sign, but if you were too drunk to notice . . . There were people doing all kinds of shit: puking, pissing, fucking. A lot of times it was broadcast to the downstairs lounge, and you could just sit and watch the bathroom cam. They taped it and showed it at other times, as entertainment.

You worked at Coyote Ugly, too, yeah? It really broke me into the doing shots all night long, that social, center-of-attention aspect of bartending, because it was really, like, an act.

Did you see the movie? Was the owner anything like the character? Ha! My resume says “Coyote Ugly (pre-movie)” . . . She reminded me of a pimp: nice at first, then cunty. You can’t work at a place like that for too long. It’s your job to get on the bar, dance around, whore yourself out, make money for the bar, and drink a lot. How long can a person really sustain that?

I enjoyed the movie. But I like really crappy high school-y movies. There was a movie we used to call the “wet boy” movie. I have a hard on for Josh Hartnett, for some reason. It was one of those cheesy, like townie/rich boy movies, and she gets cancer in the bone, and they end up being in love. It was just an awful movie. But there’s this scene, where these two boys are
fighting and they’re wet. And I was like “wet . . .boys . . . fighting . . . whoa . . . ”

Your moment? The masturbatory moment.

Nice. How was working at Pussycat Lounge? The music was horrifying—all gangster rap downstairs. The owner was a head case. In that environment, there was no way he had any kind of respect for anyone. There was one woman who had worked there for 26 years, and was really, really sweet, but would drink till she fell down every night. But I know that that was her thing, and she made them a lot of money. I made them a lot of money—for a little while there, I would make like, $500 on Fridays. You’d put up with anything if you know you’re going to make that kind of money.

Was he nice to the strippers? No . . . everyone’s disposable. Especially in the sex industry. I mean, I was a dominatrix—there are a hundred people who are going to do your job. Strippers, even more so. There’s always a fresh crop of girls who are going to come and take off their clothes.

What made you stop? Didn’t like it anymore. I was just, done. I did it a lot of the time as my sole source of income. You can make a ton of money one week, and then nothing for two. And after a while, I just wanted to see people with their clothes on. I just don’t want to see any more naked men in a room. Ugh.

Ever have the naked hot guy? Can I just tell you, rarely was there anyone who was young and good-looking, but when there were, I was uncomfortable.

Why? Cause imagine, you walk into a room, and you find this guy completely loathsome, and you have to beat his ass and make fun of him. It’s kinda easy. You have motivation. But when it’s a guy, like, “Oh shit, quite possibly if I had met you some place, I would think you were cute. But here you are, paying me to spank your ass. Can’t you get some normal chick to do this?”

What’s the ideal job? Mine now. I gotta tell you, the owners are fabulous, and it’s the first place I’ve ever worked where they’re like, “Oh, you do a great job. Thanks a lot.” It really makes a difference.

How do you chill out? I zone out in front of the television and order in pizza. I like Law and Order SVU . . . I have this thing for Chris Maloney. Or ER . . . anything that’s on TNT during the day. Except for maybe Judging Amy. Why the hell would you put that for two hours in the middle? Ruins my whole day.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 6, 2005

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