Summer’s almost over, so get out to Cherry Grove one more time kick one back with Top of the Bay’s Bar Babe Robert!
Bar that I work at: Top of the Bay in Cherry Grove
How long I’ve worked there: This is my first year and I love it — the best job I’ve ever had.
What are my shifts: Friday through Monday — Sunday night is my favorite though. We have a really great piano player that night, and she creates a really calm and relaxed atmosphere.
What makes this bar great: I love all the Cherry Grove bars, but Top of the Bay is a little different. It functions as a little bit of an escape from the Fire Island insanity for us Grove locals. It’s not a dancing bar — it’s a place to sit and talk and have a moment of calmness, which can be very important out here. I can do high volume bartending, but I’m much better as a therapist bartender, and that’s the vibe I try to create here. I want people to be able to come and get away from the noise and relax and feel like they can talk and vent to me and let their shoulders down.
Best drink I make: Anyone who’s ever spent five minutes with me knows I take tequila very seriously — probably way more seriously than any other aspect of my life, for better or (mostly) worse. If you come see me on a Sunday or Monday happy hour before I get service checks coming in from the dining room, I’ll be fussy and meticulous and make you a great margarita without the sour mix and all that crap. If you ask me during the dinner rush you might get sour mix but you’ll still get a sweet smile.
In the summer I’m also a negroni drinker because I’m a 90 year-old Italian man who loves Campari, and I like to do an in and out glass rinse with Pernod or some kind of anise liquor… which might sound gross, but actually adds something really subtle and nice to the drink.
I love it when customers: Say hello to the person sitting next to them and start conversations.
I hate it when customers: Won’t look away from Grindr for a split second to make eye contact when they order from me.
Craziest thing I’ve seen here: Top of the Bay is pretty chill. I think the craziest thing I’ve seen was my own facial expression in the mirror when I was trying to behave myself and not steal chocolate cake off of a customer’s plate while they were in the bathroom. It was stressful.
Other places I’ve worked: The Ice Palace. I’ve always been a Grove Girl
My hometown: The Bronx. Born, raised, will probably haunt it long after I’m dead. Years ago, when that song was big, people used to tease me in a good natured way by calling me Robbie from the Block (I grew up near the 5 train, now I too am On the 6) — it made me inexplicably angry the way that random, stupid things do when you’re young and take yourself too seriously. Now that I’m older I think it was kind of cute, especially considering some of the other things I’ve been called in subsequent years.
Stuff I do when I’m not bartending: Reading, writing, eating. I’m generally elusive and hard to find in the Grove during the day — I love how small and close knit our community is here, but I go crazy if I can’t carve out some alone time to retreat into my own head before work. Reading was always my chosen non-alcoholic escape from reality. Then, like most obsessive book people, I tried to start writing my own. I’ve written three novels — none of which are particularly good, but I’m working on it — and I have a few stories published in various places. I’m working on a book about Fire Island that I’m hoping to finish when I get some quiet time in the fall.
Otherwise you’ll generally find me at Cherry Grove Pizza sitting alone with food for 6-8 people in front of me.
Single or Taken: There’s a couple of gentlemen that I love back home
Who/what turns me on: Gentleness. It’s easy to get hardened and cynical working in nightlife. Some of it is self-protection, and some of it is circumstantial — you tend to see a lot of the worst in people when you do this long enough. Very few of us are at our best at 4am, especially out on Fire Island where everything is so heightened and intensified. We come out here and bring a lot of our pain and our damage with us, and when you add alcohol to the mix it sometimes brings a lot of our issues to the forefront, and we end up with a lot of egos jockeying for position and we don’t always treat each other with gentleness. I’m drawn to people who aren’t necessarily martyrs and doormats the way I have a tendency to be, but people who can maintain a sense of calm and caring, who can manage to be empathetic without going crazy in the midst of the maelstrom of frenetic energy we create for ourselves out here.
Favorite music: Tori Amos and Madonna. My two fellow Leo queens.
Favorite movie or TV show: Most people who only know me casually might expect me to pick some depressing artsy thing, but in all honesty my favorite movie is Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, and my favorite TV show is Golden Girls. I can also recite every single word of every single episode from the first ten years of The Simpsons.
Favorite drag queen: I say this in 100% honesty and not as a pageant answer — I think every single one of our girls in the Grove is amazing, and each one adds something special and unique to the island. I’m not a performer of any kind and half the time I can’t even be bothered to tie my shoelaces, so I have so much respect for how hard these girls work and all the preparation and (literal) sweat and blood that goes into what they do. I will say that any time I’m not working I will ALWAYS go see Porsche at the Ice Palace — I’ve been watching her show for ten years now, and I’m constantly in awe of what she does, and I’m not just saying that because I successfully nagged her into singing a Tori Amos song for me on my birthday. This summer I’ve also fallen in love with Boudoir LeFleur — smart, funny, beautiful, and one of the best dancers I’ve ever seen. Her show with Kimmi Moore Thursday nights at Cherry’s is my absolute must see show of the season.
My drag name would be: Ricotta Salata
Favorite gogo boy: Generally I’m just nervously looking at their feet praying they won’t knock any drinks over, and then awkwardly guilt-tip them without looking up before I run away from the bar.
Favorite DJ: DJ 2Face! He’s at the Ice Palace Monday nights with Pixie Aventura and then all over the place in the city. He really understands how to create a night, a mood, a feeling out of music and is one of the hardest working people I’ve met in nightlife — seriously, go find him.
Other stuff you need to know about me: I’m obsessed with figure skating, to the point where I have almost a concerning idiot savant knowledge of it, and I finally landed my first jump this year at the age of 33. Don’t bring up Tonya and Nancy in front of me unless you’re prepared to hear a six hour dissertation, and never, EVER bring up Tara Lipinski.