Mardi Gras Mambo – Quarter Stories 5

1979: Getting to work at Café Lafitte on the second night of Mari Gras was tough, even though 1132 Bourbon Street was only a couple of blocks away. The crowds of Mardi Gras revelers started at St. Philip, just a block from the house and it was body-to-body up Bourbon Street all the way to Lafitte’s. Then, it was in the front door and just push and shove my way through the bar, past the fireplace, and into the alleyway to get to the backroom. The jukebox was blaring “Mardi Gras Mambo.” No one had a shirt on anywhere and I was lucky to get to the back with my shirt on too. The backroom was also packed, but with bartenders and barbacks. I only knew a couple of the guys– Jason, who’d be working with me upstairs, and another guy Craig. Steve, who everyone called “the Ayatollah,” acted just like the despot he was named after. He was a good-looking, blond-haired, blue-eyed man who was very self-assured, strong and in supreme command. He began barking out orders to us like we were his guards. I stood there taking my orders.

“First off, let’s get the Corral guys ready with barbacks in line, and I want Jeff leading them upstairs by flashlight. Jason you’re in first!” He shouted. “Relieve the first station bartender and you go in serving. Bobby, you’re next after Jason. Relieve the second station and let that bartender out. Watch for anyone trying to reach in. Just keep your eyes on the crowd and your register and start serving em boys! Café boys y’ll wait til these guys get to the stairs, then you go in, single file, point first, second station next, and fireplace last. Got it? Y’all ready to give em some Mardi Gras? This is Lafitte’s boys! Now, let’s go in and GIVE ‘EM SOME PARTY!!”

I didn’t have time to think even, I stood behind Jason, who had the bank metal box. He was standing behind Jeff, who had a big ol’ flashlight, and behind me was Craig and the barback. We began our march out as the Ayatollah whispered to me, “Bobby, you did good last night, but lose the shirt. It wouldn’t last long anyway.” I took it off and threw it on the counter. He patted me on the back and we were off!

Out the door was wall-to-wall guys packed in there–drinking, making out, grabbing each other, yelling back at the music. In front, leading us was Jeff Beauregard who yelled in a tough Southern voice “COMING THROUGH!!! BARTENDERS COMING THROUGH!!!” and we pushed like some sort of battering ram into the crowds to the stairway. The stairway up to the Corral wasn’t too bad, but once at the top it was jammed and Jeff yelled his drill again, “BARTENDERS COMING THROUGH!!! MOVE IT!!!” And he pushed guys outta the way to get us to the bar. Jason went in, Jeff reached back and put his hairy arm on my chest, “Hold up, two minutes.” I liked it and thought, “This is like a baseball team taking the field–discipline and a plan.” Once Jason was in his cash register, it was my turn. Jeff was rubbing my chest as he yelled to me, “Go, Bobby!” I jumped in and quickly got the money in the drawer. Guys immediately ordering shots and beer and drinks as I lined up the cups. We didn’t miss a beat.

Jason and I got to know each other real quick and with a rhythm. He was from Oklahoma and he knew how to flirt. He’d get guys to show their cocks, he’d show them his, and he could pour some drinks. I saw him line up cups and take a bottle of Schnapps and pour six cups. Of course, two were for us. Sometimes, he’d make drinks by holding two bottles with one hand. I was learning a lot. It didn’t stop all night.

The music was pure New Orleans, nothing like I’d heard before, rambling blues, Southern rock, Mardi Gras. And loud. And the lights were set real low and the bar was almost completely dark. The covered pool table over by the door to the balcony had guys all over it. It was hot and steamy, the ceiling fans were on high, and there was no relief, just lots of sweat–everything in that bar smelled of sweat.

Jason and I were having fun. We’d try and talk in-between serving drinks. At one point, this big ‘ol southern Alabama guy who had been watching me reached over the bar and grabbed me under the arms. He decided to take me right then and there and almost did. He was cute, big, hairy, and had his tongue down my throat before I knew what was happening, as his friend cheered him on. Seeing what was happening, Jason quickly grabbed me by my belt loops and kept me from being pulled over the bar. From then on, we both made sure we had each other’s back. Clyde and Al came in, but I barely had time to have a shot with them. Al was acting kinda proud of me and Clyde was just grinnin’ ear-to-ear. “You got it, you got it! You’re in now, Bobby!” and I kinda knew it too. It felt natural, like a piece had fallen into place. I liked all these guys.

It was so wild, all the men having all this fun with each other, making out, sucking dick, “just carrying on,” as they said in New Orleans. I had never seen anything like this. I’d pour whatever they wanted, then clear the bar by throwing everything in the trash can, glasses and all. The crowd loved us. They’d yell at us and thrown their used shot cups at us. Our team was winning the game. And this was only Friday night of a weekend that would last another four more long nights.

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