The Top 10 Coolest Bartenders of All Time (Part 1)

February 27, 2008 | Lists

Barfly movie

Frank Stallone plays a thug bartender in the film Barfly

Hollywood, not surprisingly, has introduced us to some truly memorable drunks – think Billy Bob Thornton in “Bad Santa“, or, far creepier and more likely to cause you to wake yourself up screaming, Gary Busey in “Carny“.

But what of the men and women on the other side of the bar, patiently stomaching the hero’s bravado and slinging the drinks that fuel his adventures?

Bartenders are often left out of the spotlight, a point most clearly made by the fact that they are often not even given a name in film credits. Julian Lennon, for example, may have played alongside Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, but to the world he will remain “Bartender # 3 in Biker Bar”.

We have attempted here to rectify that wrong somewhat and turn the spotlight on the profession of bartending with our “Top 10 Coolest Fictional Bartenders of All Time”.

We offer this as a tip of sorts to all of the bartenders who have served us drinks in the past and been miffed when quarters were pocketed: enjoy and don’t expect much more from us anytime soon.

Here’s the first 5 Bartenders on the house (Click here for Part Two in our list of the Top 5 Bartenders):

10) Danny Trejo, bartender in From Dusk Till Dawn and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy:

Certain actors can’t help but be typecast – the guy who played the giant in Billy Crystal’s “My Giant”, for example, simply wouldn’t be believable playing the lead in a film about a meth-addicted horse jockey. Likewise, the gnarly-looking Danny Trejo, who has a tattoo of a woman wearing a sombrero emblazoned across his chest and has been on the wrong side of the Plexiglas on prison visiting day, is unlikely to be cast as the high-school gym coach in a light comedy.

Danny Trejo is the only actor on our list to get credit for playing the role of barkeep in two (hugely different) films. His hell-blazer persona was in full force when second cousin Robert Rodriguez cast him to sling drinks in “From Dusk Till Dawn”. On the other end of the spectrum, in “Anchorman”, he did what many good bartenders do – listen to a drunk’s complaints, and offer advice that is cheaper and (since it’s received while drinking) goes down better than that offered by a professional.

Quote: Bartender (Trejo): You know, times are changing. Ladies can do stuff now and you’re going to learn how to deal with it.
Ron Burgundy: What? Were you saying something? Look, I don’t speak Spanish.
Ian McShane from Deadwood

9) Ian McShane, Al Swearengen in HBO’s Deadwood:

HBO’s excellent series “Deadwood” is quite possibly one of the most drink-filled shows ever to air on television. A bottle of whiskey is present at all meetings of import and a slew of bartenders are stationed throughout town to pour out the firewater and relieve recently fortunate miners of a bit of the weight of their gold.

There’s Cy Tolliver and his flunkies over at the Bella Union, Tom Nuttall and his protégé, and of course the town centre/pub and whorehouse, The Gem Saloon, where Dan Dority and Johnny Burns serve drinks when they are not cutting throats.

Also on hand with a bottle at all times is The Gem’s owner and series star Al Swearengen. Though not strictly a bartender, Al does regularly serve drinks in his establishment, at such times as when there is business to be conducted or treachery to be furthered for example.

We picked him out of Deadwood’s huge bartender pool because, well, he has the very best lines in the show:

Quote: God rest the souls of that poor family… and pussy’s half price for the next 15 minutes.

"Lloyd from The Shining"8) Joe Turkel, Lloyd from The Shining:

Most who saw “The Shining” will remember Jack Nicholson’s unshaven mug breaking through a door to murder Shelly Duvall with a look of lunacy in his eyes. What may have went unnoticed in this one was a fine and creepy performance by Joe Turkel, who played Lloyd the pleasant bartender who helps Jack put to rest his long struggle with sobriety by getting him good and sloshed.

Lloyd the bartender is a figment of wacko Jacko’s imagination, yet astute viewers will note that the level of whiskey in Jack Torrance’s highball glass rises and falls throughout their demented conversation, and though some would say this is a continuity error, we’re likely to suggest “cool parlor trick” by Lloyd. Besides, few bartenders can pull off a crimson velvet tux.
Quote: Jack: I like you Lloyd. Lloyd, you’re the best goddamn bartender from Timbuktu to Portland Maine……or Portland Oregon…for that matter!!!
Lloyd: Thank you for saying so.

7) Jake LaMotta, The Hustler:

We’re including this one simply because it’s a cool bit of film history that Jake LaMotta, one of the greatest boxers of all time, appeared in this classic. Of course, “Raging Bull”, widely considered the best film made in the 1980s (or at least the best one in which Joe Pesci catches a beating), would later be made based on Lamotta’s life by Martin Scorsese, who would also go on to direct the (far inferior Tom Cruise-centered) sequel to this very film. (It should be noted that LaMotta at the point of his appearance in “The Hustler” was past his salad days and into the “fat De Niro” part of “Raging Bull”)

Quotes: Alas, there were no bon mots from LaMotta.

6) Frank Stallone, Eddie the bartender in Barfly:

The Charles Bukowski-penned “Barfly” put Mickey Rourke on the map (though he shortly thereafter was added to the “missing persons” file for the better part of two decades) but it’s Sly’s unheralded sibling who steals the show in this one. As entertaining as Rourke is and as nice as Faye Dunaway’s legs are to look at, it would be pretty unlikely that you’d find either of them in a down and out booze-can like the one in this film. But you would find Frank Stallone – a dead-on embodiment of the egomaniac thug bartender. If you walk into a bar and the bartender looks like Frank Stallone in “Barfly”, it’s time to find somewhere new to drink.

After administering a solid back alley thrashing to Rourke’s Chinaski, Eddie drawls, “You’d think that son-of-a-bitch would’ve learned by now to stop tryin’ me.” Well, Chinaski doesn’t learn (”I can take Eddie!”) and with some much-needed ‘fuel’ (a sandwich) proceeds to whip him good in what seems like an unlikely turn of events. Regardless, that beating he takes helps cement Sylvester and Frank’s fraternal cinematic legacy: best known for getting slugged in the kisser.

Quote: Chinaski: Hey you, you with the filthy apron.
Eddie: I hear a voice down there, but I sure as hell don’t see much. Seems like dat beatin’ I gave ya last night must’ve rattled ya bells.

[Top 5 Bartenders Here]

THE SHARK GUYS are the authors of the humor books, Tastes Like Human and The Man Who Scared a Shark to Death and Other True Tales of Drunken Debauchery (Penguin).

Buy the New E-Book Tastes Like Human


8 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. danny trejo doesn’t actually have that tatoo, i’ve seen it change from movie to movie

  2. Yes he does. He stated in an interview that it is a picture of his wife and was voted the most recognizable tattoo in the world.
    The Interview

  3. Thanks for the link Dan.

    Had kind of figured that the tattoo was authentic as he has had it in more than one film, which would mean, if it were fake, that the director of a film would have seen him sporting the tattoo in a previous film and said “Hey, get that tattoo of a woman in a sombrero back on Trejo!” Seemed likelier that he would just cover it up for certain roles.

  4. Quote: God rest the souls of that poor family… and pussy’s half price for the next 15 minutes.

    I’ve been longing to say this very thing at a funeral.

  5. Actually, Lloyd probably isn’t exactly a figment. The hotel actually changes reality multiple times by changing its architecture, plus manages to both open the storeroom door for Jack AND put fingermarks on Danny’s neck. And let’s not forget the picture that shows Jack…

    So it certainly isn’t a stretch to think it manifests Lloyd to give Jack booze.

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