Updated: April 1, 2005

Flair is growing in popularity all over the world. Bartenders as well as bar managers and the public are embracing it with open arms and wanting more. This month we visit the newest Flair bar to hit the scene. The Rockin’ Taco in Orange County, California. A State where until recently Flair was only a whisper in the park. We sat down with this next generation of Flair bartenders to get the scoop on the O.C. In this triple Interview you can read Jeff Clark’s (pictured left) answers in Black, Terri Leeseberg’s (pictured center) answers in Pink and Duane Gilbert’s (pictured right) answers in Blue. Grab one of your favorite Finest Call cocktails mixed with Skyy vodka, sit down and enjoy!

Age? 25, 21, 28.

Where are you from? Huntington Beach, CA. Kentucky, Sabina,OH.

How long have you’ve been Bartending? One and a half years. Six months. I was put behind the bar two days after turning 21 at your neighborhood bar and grill, Applebee’s.

And Flair Bartending? Practicing for one and a half years but booked my first flair job one year ago. Been Flairing for almost two years. I started Flairing in 2000 a little bit before starting at Bahama Breeze.

Duane_quote2What got you into Flair Bartending? I’m a Kindergarten teacher, and I was looking to get a night job, and bartending seemed to fit the bill.  As soon as I decided I wanted to bartend I remembered a trip I took to Vegas a couple of months prior, and remembered Kahunaville, and the bartenders there.  I picked up a Captain 750 and started throwing it around, and the rest is history. Juggling hacky sacks at the Hippychic inside the Rio.  I got to meet all the Flair bartenders and everyone of them took me under their wing to help me learn. It was a natural progression really.  I got tired of the monotony.  I needed something to spice up my time spent at work.  I was tired of just serving “rum and coke, Corona, vodka tonic, and a soda for the DD”.

How did you start out learning to Flair? I surfed all the websites, including the old version of Flairbar.com.  I invested in Scott Young’s videos, and took it one day at a time.  But I have to say the most learning I have done came after I saw and competed in my first local comp in February of 2004. Tim Morris won, and since then, I’ve been learning from the best in the world in their home environment at Carnaval and Kahunaville. I began going to the Flair park on Jones and Flamingo (Las Vegas) every thursday with the best. I started to learn Flair on my own.  I just did little things to keep myself entertained.  Once I started at Bahama Breeze, I learned a few more tricks through their training program with the Showtenders.  I can’t say that my real Flair career started until I worked at Shadow Bar in Las Vegas.  That is the point where my Flair turned from choppy and inconsistent to smooth, fluid, and more difficult.

RockinTaco_logoTell us about the Californian Flair scene and the bars out there? The California Flair scene is just budding.  There have been three  competitions in the last year. That has sparked some interest.  There are bartenders scattered around that do various levels of Flair, but the Rockin’ Taco, where I  now work, is the only true Flair bar in  California.  I  worked at Harrah’s San Diego for a year, and there a  handful of Flair bartenders out there, and a few more at bars in San Diego, maybe a couple more in LA.

But on a side note,  J.B. Bandy the bartender that trained Tom Cruise, and was featured at Legends 7, still works one shift a week at a bar somewhere in LA.  
Far as I know there isn’t much out there.  It doesn’t even compare to the Vegas Flair scene.  I think it is more fun in California.  I don’t have to compete with anyone because I spent so much time trying to prove myself in Vegas that I became pretty good in a short time and now my level excedes many in California just because they didn’t have the influences that I had. The California Flair scene right now is non-existent.  The only “word on the street” about Flairing was Ibiza when I first moved here a year and a half ago.  It was a bar that had a few Flair bartenders.  That is what makes Rockin Taco such a big deal.  It is the first Flair bar in LA and the OC.

FBC_Video_ButtonWhy do you Flair now? I Flair now because I love it.  I make enough money to get by with my teaching job, but I love the bar scene and always have.  Being a Flair Bartender allows me to not just be working while everyone else is partying, but to be part of the party right with them.  That’s the true difference. It is a passion. I don’t think I could make a drink today without flipping or Flairing something.  It’s in my blood and it makes my job fun.  I can honestly say that I look forward to going to work because I work at a party.  A party that I help to propagate.

Describe to us your style of Flair? My style of Flair is not original at all.  Being out in California, where the Flair scene has been slim to none, I’ve taken every chance I could get to film and learn from the Vegas veterans.  I do primarily working Flair, even in competitions, and have been heavily inspired by Tim “Flippy” Morris.  He won the first comp I ever saw, when I was still very green, so he has been a big inspiration who I’ve tried to model myself after.  However in the last few months I’ve tried not to film or watch anyone, as to force myself to develop some of my own moves.  So hopefully I’m developing some new stuff, but it is still in “Flippy” style, as that is my foundation. At first it was a little bit of everybody because like I said everyone was willing to teach me.  Now I am branching out and coming up with my own new moves, but I don’t think I have a distinct style yet.  Time will tell. My Flair has a lot of Argentinean influence.  Christian Olden and Juan Llorente helped me to hone my bottle flipping abilities so my style has come from them.  Zack McKinney and Francesco Leoni have also been influential in the development of my style.

Trio_2What makes you stand out from other Flair Bartenders? I don’t feel I stand out yet.  I still have too much standard Flair that everyone else has, and not enough true originality to stand out.  My style is also borrowed, so I owe that to someone else as well.  Ask me that again in another year, and hopefully I’ll be able to come up with something better… ;-) . I am one of few females.  Far as I know i am the only one in California now. I am also one of the youngest doing it if not the youngest due to the fact in most states you have to be 21 to bartend, but I know there are younger people learning and I hope they stick with it. I stand out because of the party I bring to the bar.  My Flair may not be putting me on the leader board in the competition circuit, but people come to see me to have a good time, get great service, and see a great show.  I focus on being a great all-around bartender.

What do you hope to get out of Flair? I’ve gotten more than I ever wanted out of Flair.  I have an amazing job, that I love to go to.  I have a new favorite vacation destination for a few weeks a year.  I have a hobby that I get paid to do.  And I have something to do with all my free time as a teacher.  I am absolutely extatic about where Flair has taken me, and excited to see what opportunities arise at The Rockin’ Taco. Many new friends all over the world and to be able to keep the passion that I had when I first began. I already have.  The networking and connection I have made with Flair and those who do it is incredible.  All of us are dedicated to improving our lives by going the extra mile to makes things enjoyable.  In our case, it’s not just us, but the customers as well.  Flair bartenders all understand that we are a different breed, so we stick together, teach each other, and compete with each other to maintain that edge.
Jeff_qoute1What is your favorite Flair Bartending competition? I’m going to pick a very small and local comp that was thrown this last year in September in LA.  Cali’s Best Bartender Challenge.  It was only open to California bartenders, so it was a given that the competition was less than the big ones in Vegas, but it also encouraged quite a few guys who wouldn’t have competed before to compete.  I was shocked and honored to pull away 1st Place, and so I hope to defend next year. King of the Ring. Legends, of course.  Ken Hall has done great job of creating a “SuperBowl” for Flair.  Every year, when you think that you have seen it all, someone comes to legends with some crazy moves that they have been saving just for Legends.  I don’t know how many guys have said to me “I’m saving this move for Legends”.
Who do you look up to in this Sport?  Tim Morris, for his overall crowd interaction and control.  Benham Gerami, for his originality and smoothness.  Christian Delpech, for his complete domination for the last half decade.  Vache Manoukian, for his big moves and big pimpin’ style! That answer will always be the same. Tim Morris.  He is one of the hardest working Flair competitors I have ever met and he does a great job satisfying his guests at his bar.  He is also a good friend. I have to look back to my roots.  Christian Olden and Juan Llorente have been a huge influence in where I am today. Francesco Leoni for his old style.  The European style has always added a different flavor to Flair.  And of course Christian Delpech for his ability to be so smooth and fluid.  That is the true proof of practice.
bar_scene2Tell us about your bar, “The Rockin Taco”? The Rockin’ Taco opened its doors in 1997, and was Orange County’s original dueling piano show.  Another dueling piano place came and went, but the Rockin’ Taco is still Rockin’.  Under new ownership since December of 2004, Joe, Jennifer, and Nancy had the vision to take this party bar to the next level.  I’m really looking forward to seeing where we can go with our interaction with the pianos.  Because of their literally close proximity, we’re developing interaction between them and us to hopefully add even more excitement to an already electrically charged environment.
Awesome!  I found my dream job.  No need to look further. Rockin Taco has it all.  We have dueling pianos on the weekends, of course Flair, Flair, and more Flair, battle of the bands, great drink specials, beautiful people (wink, wink), and all in a great location.  When the word gets out about this place, everyone will want to check it out.
Terri_qoute1Most of you are moving to a new location to work in a place where their isn’t much Flair, Tell us your thoughts on that?   I think it is awesome.  I have lived in Vegas for so long where Flair is huge.  Because of that the competition for jobs is outrageous and people can sometimes be cruel where competition is that big.  In California Flair is new.  There are only a few of us that are doing it and I am one of the teachers now.  It is giving me a new passion for Flair.  But most importantly, girls that flip bottles are hot (so I am told) and I am the only one in Cali. I had actually moved here to go to school and when I heard that they were having auditions, it couldn’t have been more perfect.  As I said before, this is the first of its kind.  Rockin’ Taco has an important role to set the standard for nightlife in the OC.  Flair has really taken off in other parts of the world due to some strong starts by places like Voodoo Lounge in Las Vegas.  I look for Rockin’ Taco to do the same here.  We need to make a great name for ourselves, but more importantly for the Flair industry.
How often do you practice? I practice every day.  When I get home, I flip on the TV, and pick up my bottles.  I practice in 20-30 minute intervals while watching TV, then flop on the couch, and do it again all night.  I usually practice barefoot, which is incentive not to drop!  If you look in the trunks of my cars, I have two tins and a SKYY Flairco and find that if I have to wait anywhere, I’m flippin’ bottles. Not so much lately. Driving back and forth between Vegas and Cali is happening too often.  After King of the Ring is over I will be living in Cali permanently so I will have more time to practice.  I am very excited.  I am aching to learn to moves. Not nearly as much as I would like to.  I probably practice about an hour a day.  In addition to that, I like to flip bottles as study breaks from my homework.  It helps me relax.
Trio_3What are your expectations for one of California’s first Flair bars, The Rockin Taco? I expect us to take this bar to the next level.  Currently we have four big nights a week, and are looking to take that to six and then hopefully even open up for the seventh.  Our owners are very aggressive with promotions, and have quite a vision for the future, which hopefully won’t limit us to just Orange County. It is going to grow.  There is no question in my mind about that.  The people working there are so new to Flair that I can see how dedicated to learning they are.  The people running the place are great too.  They are willing to do anything to make us happy. The owner, Joe Juarez, has really taken a big step to be one of the first Flair bars in California.  I think he knows as well as we do that this has the potential to be something really big.  So that is what I expect… BIG!!!  I want people to hear about this place and check it out.  Once there, they will be hooked.
What are your plans now? I just got off shift and am writing this at 4:45am, so I’m going to bed. I just talked to the owner and he agreed that to help promote the first all Flair bar in California to the rest of the Flair community, that FBA members can use their FBA card as VIP line passes.  We currently don’t have a cover, but do have quite a line on Tues, Friday, and Sat nights. I finally have a job where I have a blast, and I actually make money, but never enough!   I can start saving up so I can finally begin traveling to compete. My plans for right now are to get through the transition at Rockin’ Taco.  Right now we have an extensive training program taught by Rick Barcode to teach the newer bartenders the essentials as well as teach the veterans how to be great at what they do in every discipline of bartending. Once this place is firing on all cylinders, it will be hard to contain the energy.  The bar was really good before they decided to go Flair.  Other than that… I hope to practice more, come up with sick new moves, and represent Rockin’ Taco in some competitions in the future.
Jeff_quote2Tell us about your first Flair Competition and your experiences there, what were you feeling, did everything go as planned? My first Flair comp was Flair Bowl 1, in Feb. 2004.  I’d never been to one, or even seen one on video.  Five competitors showed up, four from Vegas, and me.  So graciously they allowed me to go first, otherwise I think I would have chickened out for sure.  They were all super encouraging, which I’ve come to realize is consistent throughout the Flair community.  My music got dropped behind the DJ booth so I went on with the Beastie Boys or something, I didn’t know what working Flair was, so I roostered through that drink. And, no one told me that it wasn’t a good idea to use a Grey Goose Liter as my vodka bottle.  I just thought it was the thickest bottle I could find so WHEN it crashed to the floor it wouldn’t break.  Needless to say, I took last in that comp, but I was bitten by the bug.
My first competition was King of the RingRuggs paid my way in when I didn’t even want to do it so I was sort of forced, but I worked hard and had a lot of fun. I came in seventh in semi-pro.  Everything about that experience was great except trying to claim my money at the end.  I was only twenty years old so I was unable to get money from the casino, but it all worked out in the end and I was hooked on Flair. My First Flair competition was the very first Flips for Tips competition at Kahunaville in Las Vegas.  I somehow got persuaded by a couple of my coworkers to enter at the last minute because they didn’t have all of the spots for the comp filled.  Not exactly the way I had planned my first competition.  I think the phrase “off the cuff” sums up my routine.  My adrenaline was pumping and my nerves were on fire.  A couple of spills, some drops, at least I didn’t break anything.  At any rate, I was happy that I didn’t finish last.  There is something to be said about competitions.  Those who enter them become addicts.  It is exhilarating.  Bartenders love to be the center of attention and competitions make you the absolute center on a stage with lights and music.  Those who haven’t ever entered a competition, I highly recommend trying one.  Even if it is just for fun you will be glad you did.  It is an amazing experience.  I have to say, if I didn’t enter that competition at Kahunaville, I probably never would have competed.  I don’t’ want that to happen to anybody.  It is awesome to compete and once you try it you will never look back.
bar_sceneTell us what it is like working and training at your new Flair bar? Working at the bar is great.  It’s already a busy bar, so we aren’t bored by any means.  The bar gets more Flair friendly every week.  Rick Barcode is the consultant hired by our owners, and in our weekly training we are learning everything from the basics of proper free pouring, to more advance working Flair.  He even makes us bring a fresh joke every week!  The biggest obstacle the first shift I worked were the pour spouts.
We had the clear square ones with the strainer built in.  I went to throw the bottle flat behind the back and the spout came off in my hand and the bottle flew through the air spoutless.  Fortunately it didn’t hit the ground, and fortunately we now have Spill-Stop 285-50s.  750′s are in the works…

Duane_quote3At Rockin’ Taco there is a big main bar and a little side bar.  there are three bartenders on the main bar and one on the little bar.  I am the designated bartender for the little bar.  I love it.  I get to do my own thing there.  I get my own crowd that stays by my side all night and people know to go straight there if they want to see me.  I never worked a high volume place before and to tell the truth, I don’t think I will ever work somewhere that isn’t high volume ever again.  It is fun to make drinks non-stop during my whole shift. 

As for the training.  Rick Barcode comes every Monday to train us to be better bartenders.  I love those sessions.  I learned how to pour correctly, which I was very excited about.  No offense to the first person who taught me, but we all know that “Flippy” isn’t the best at pour tests and speed rounds.  Learning to pour correctly will help me in future Ken Hall competitions that I am going to do this year.  I also keep learning new tips to control the crowd and keep everyone smiling.  I really appreciate those training clases because I don’t want to be the bartender that just flips bottles.

Rick Barcode is doing a great job.  It is the focus of our training to be great all around bartenders.  Some of us are better at Flair than others, some of us are faster, others are better at keeping the crowd going, etc. etc.  We are trying to make each bartender an expert at all of the above.  All of the guys I work with are great.  They are all eager to teach and be taught.  We all have something to bring to the table and that is what will make the bar great.  It is only a matter of time until all the kinks are worked out and the bar can’t be contained anymore.  It runs great now, I shudder to think of what it will be like in a few more weeks.




bar_scene3What are your predictions for King of the Ring this Year? My prediction is that I won’t take last (like I did at KOTR 1) or first place.  I’ll leave those for someone else this year.  But on a more serious note… I’ll be looking beyond the latest juggling patterns and to see what creative concepts people come up with that can actually be adapted to use at work. It is a competition based on fun.  Hopefully it will grow.  It is nice to be able to watch a competition that isn’t so serious because you get to see some crazy things that people can pull off that they wouldn’t dare try in another competition in which drops and spills count.  Hopefully it will keep growing.
How has the first two weeks at ‘The Rockin Taco” been? The first two weeks have been great. I’ve gone from selling $600 a shift down at Harrah’s to $2000 a shift at the Rockin’ Taco.  I’m finally actually tired when I make it home!  On Tuesdays we run our Taco Tuesday special… $2 Coronas and 50 cent tacos.  We go through close to a thousand Corona’s that night alone.  That night is crazy busy.  The rest are busy as well, but $2 Coronas brings everyone out of their holes. Excellent!  I have never had so much fun at work with the people I work with as well as all the guests I get to entertain.  I also have made new friends outside of the Flair world. An absolute party.  Every week something new is being added to the bar.  Our skills are beginning to come together and the energy here has increased exponentially.

Terri_quote2What is your favorite drink? I recently had the best Bloody Mary I have ever had, and it was at Carnaval Court!  It was the Wednesday after Legends, and I stumbled in at noon.  Robyn Closson, mixed me up the tastiest Bloody Mary ever.  She told me her secret, but I’ll leave it to you to give her a visit sometime and ask for her secret.

That is a tough one.  I’m not much of a drinker.  I just recently began having at least one drink when I go out so I know what it is I am making people.  I figure knowing what things taste like will help me be a better bartender.  I have many to try and I have not yet found the one that tempts me to become a drinker of anything other than cranberry juice, so for now, I will have to say cranberry juice.

Cirroc on the Rocks with a twist.  Clean, crisp, and refreshing.









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