LONG LIVE A LEGEND – Bill Long Interviewed

Updated: June 1, 2006
One of the early pioneers of Flair bartending… Mr. Bill Long. Winning some of our sports most prestigious Flair competitions and helping pave the way for the rest of us today, Bill has helped the Flair community in many ways. From competing to organizing and judging, he has been involved in almost every aspect of our sport. Did I mention the two bottle double over the shoulder to a stall? Yeah he made that move famous. Without him, who would the Argentineans have watched…?

Age? 40.

Where are you from? Marlboro, MA.

How Long have you’ve been Bartending? I poured my first drink in 1988.

And Flair Bartending? I put the first bump on my head with Bacardi bottle before I got out of bartenders school. The movie Cocktail was out and I wanted in. Needless to say I didn’t get very far. It took a few years until I really put some time into it.

Where do you work? When I retired from competitions I also retired from bartending and have not had a bar job in 5-6 years. I did work 1 shift about a year ago, the night couldn’t have ended soon enough. It was not easy to come to grip with the fact that I am a has been. Actually I am a plumber by trade and own a Plumbing/Solar company and a Swimming pool/spa company. It’s not as flashy as Flair bartending but it pays the bills.

What got you into Flair Bartending? I had been tinkering with it for a few years, tin spins, over the back toss, spills while flipping into a pour, pissing the boss off… the basics. In 1994 while working in Bonita Springs ,FL A radio station was advertising a bartending contest in Ft Myers, Fl. I called to enter and was told it was too late they were full. I went up to watch, good thing I was only watching, I would have embarrassed myself. It was that night, I was was bitten by the Flair bug.

How did you start out learning to Flair? The hard way, it was a long slow process. There were no videos and know one to show me anything. When you have to invent all your moves it takes time. In the early 90s the local scene was not very friendly. The guys doing Flair worked in the big clubs. I worked in a small but extremely lucrative hole in the wall about 20 miles away. Needless to say I was on the outside looking in.

Do you still practice Flair now? NO, but I still think about it.

Bill_sideDescribe to us your style of Flair? I have no rhythm what’s so ever and dancing is totally out of the question. I just enjoyed being on stage with some hard rocking tunes while trying to hit some good moves.

Tell us about the Flair scene when you first got involved compared to where it is now… How has it changed and for the better or worst? The past few years my only contact with Flair has been the Keys contest and watching some videos. Commenting is tough because I am little out of touch. How Flair has evolved is amazing, I never would have imagined. I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to be part of it. The practical or working part of Flair has probably changed the most. It has gone from bartenders doing some Flair, to Flair bartending.


In my eyes it is true professional category. I guess most of us would have to look in the mirror to see which category we fit in. On the competitions I don’t think the scene is better or worse, just different. The quality and the depth of the field is unbelievably better. There was a time when very little to no video from events was available. Every local area had there own style. (Usually everyone clones or copies the best guy or gal). Once a year at Quest, The big fish from all the small ponds came to compete. The styles were quite different, it was very exciting. Even if someone wasn’t very good they brought something to the party. Today with the Internet and all of the video from all over the world available, the styles seem to blend allot more.

What did you hope to get out of Flair and did you get it?  I thought my bartending skills were top notch and wanted to be considered as one of the best bartenders around. But chicks with short tight shorts and a nice rack were considered the great bartenders, they got the good gigs. It really pissed me off. I figured that Flair could be my niche. Much to my surprise, As I started to compete I realized that some of my bartending skills were not as good as I thought. Competing and practicing opened my eyes. I would like to think that I became a great bartender.

What is your favorite Flair Bartending competition and why? Quest. For me it’s were it all began.




Bill_quote3Who do you look up to in this Sport?
1) Anyone who has run a contest. It takes balls to put your time, money and reputation on the line.
2) JD Spradlin – The man who helps us all look good, even when we are not .
3) Alan Mays – He set the bar and carried himself as a true professional in a time when many of us were not.
4) Dean Sernels- He and his Flair bottle have more to do with the high level of Flair than any one person.
5) Todd Connell, Ken Hall, Alan Mays and Steve Busher. Anyone who is doing Flair in Vegas (the Flair capital of the world) should thank them.
Last but not least Ken Hall – How about Legends, Nations, Quest, Best in the west. The ultimate competitor. In 1996 Ken and I chatted quite a bit on the phone, I think we both new, that Quest was going to come down to the two of us. I was complaining that I couldn’t find Bols bottles. A few days later I received a package that was marked from “The Bottle Fairy”. He explained that he was going to beat me and didn’t want any excuses, he was a man of his word.




Bill_Eileen_JdWhat is Bartenders Bash and tell us about the Bartenders Skills competition? It started out many, many years ago, it was called “Bartenders in Paradise”. The event boarder lined being out of control. Free booze half naked chicks, free booze, totally naked chicks. Man, was it a great time… About 4-5 years ago it was toned down by only allowing only people “In the Biz” in. The event was renamed “Hospitality Expo“. The skills comp is something that started 11 years ago. The first contest had only 5 contestants. Ken, Alan, Rob, Myself and Big Ron. Two years later JD and I took it over, this was our 9th year. To those who have never been to the keys, it is a life style of it’s own. The contest premise was all about having a good time. It was far from perfect, but that’s what the Keys is all about.


How did you get involved in running the Bartenders Skills competition at Bartenders Bash? One word – Networking.

What are your thoughts on owning a particular move and someone stealing your move, Is it a compliment or a bad thing? Anyone who thinks they own a move just doesn’t get it. If you watch skate boarders, motorcycle trick riders or figure skaters, some moves, flips or twists just become part of every routine. If the first trick rider that did a flip owned it, the sport would have stalled right then. How about the first player to dunk a basketball. No DR J, no Magic, no Jordan. Skills of any sport evolve from watching others. I think that if someone puts in the time to master and even make the move better it is the ultimate complement.

Bill_quote4What is your advice to some of the new people wanting start competing, any helpful hints? Flair can open up doors that regular bartenders will only dream about. It can take you as far as you want to take it. If you ever have the opportunity to practice with a top of the line competitive bartender. Watch and listen, you won’t get much from it if you don’t. The great one’s watch and listen all the time. Some times they will learn more from you than you will from them. Some of the best moves have evolved from very unassuming characters. Three words of advice. Practice, patience, perseverance.





Bill_2bottlesTell us about your first Flair Competition and your experiences there, What were you feeling, Did everything go as planned? Looking back the first one was the funniest of all time. It was a local Quest qualifier, we rented a trolley and had a keg of beer, everyone from the bar came to cheer me on. The portable bar was on the dance floor. No mats, no barbacks, no extra bottles, did I mention no mats? Only 2 of us didn’t chicken out. During the speed round a bottle slipped out of the other guys (polo Stabler) hand, it slid across the dance floor and went under a table. He had to crawl on his hands and knees to retrieve it. What a mess!







Describe to us what your ultimate Flair competition would consist of? Old school 95, 96, 97 retired Quest alumni…Mannequins dance palace. The opportunity to hang and compete with Alan, Ken, Storm, Billy Suds, Todd, Tin Man, Nathan and more. No prize money, just good times. I wouldn’t mind another shot at Ken In the speed round (3 seconds)… Bastard.

What are your predictions for Bartenders Bash for next year? Only time will tell.

Tell us about your relationship with your family and how Flair bartending affected that? Time, my family made a big sacrifice. While competing I had to juggle (no pun intended) A wife, 3 kids, A full time day job, 3 nights behind the bar and time to practice. Back then there were no Flair bottles, just piles of broken bottles. (anyone remember duct tape). My recycle bin was bigger than all of my neighbor’s combined. My daughter now 21, had friends that weren’t allowed to come over, because we were “evil drunkards”. She now works as a waitress and cracks up that some of the young bartenders are amazed who her dad is. My 17 year old son competes regularly in skate board comps, 3 local wins under his belt. He learned allot about the time and dedication it takes to reach the top. I am trying to convert him from boards to bottles.

Bill_extraWhat was your most memorable Flair bartending competition win and why? 2000 Legends was by far the most memorable. I had prepared so thoroughly that when we arrived in Vegas I was able to actually enjoy myself. There was no doubt in my mind that I was ready. That comfort level allowed me to take it all in. Sometimes we get so stressed that we forget to enjoy the moment. Winning was extra sweet, because it wasn’t my Flair that carried me. In the past the pour and working Flair rounds had hurt me, sometimes pretty bad (I’m sure a few of you can relate). To have my weak points become my strongest, taught me that you can do whatever you set your mind to.

Why did you retire from competing in Flair Bartending competitions? The desire to spend hours practicing was gone. It’s was time for me to focus on my business ventures.







Bill_NicoIf you could go back and accomplish one more thing involved with Flair bartending, what would it be and why? I never look back and think what if. I accomplished more in Flair bartending than I ever would have imagined. Along the way I met great people from all over and have had opportunities that most people only dream of. Not many can look back and say that I was the champion of the world.

If a “Masters division” for Flair bartending competitions ever came about would you compete in it and why? See my answer above…


What are your thoughts on being a pioneer of Flair bartending and paving the road for the rest of the Flair bartenders of today… Is it an honor or a curse? I don’t think of myself as a pioneer. But if someone wants to think of me that way. I’ll consider it an Honor with a capital H. There are a lot of other guys that had just as much to do with paving the way. Years ago there was only one major event, Quest for the Best (at least to those of us in the USA). We all know that Ken and Alan each won a few times. but we should not forget that in the early days Roger Keller and Rick Fogel also won the crown. They helped pave they way for me to have the opportunities that I did.

Little story at Quest in 99, I was staying at one of Disney’s hotels. the doors to the rooms were angle towards each other. I was carrying my bags in. The door to the room next to me was open, the room was filled with people, guys and gals. They started saying Bill, Bill and came out and started hugging me, the guys to. I am thinking who the hell are these crazy people. They spoke very little english and were trying to get me to autograph there shirts. I am thinking no way, Someone must be setting me up. I thought where’s Alan Funt and Candid Camera. For those who don’t know it was like Austin Kutcher’s Punk’d. It Turned out to be the beginning of the Argentinean Invasion. Looking back it was an honor to be there and was truly a day that I will never forget.

What are your plans now? Fishing; My favorite place, on the water in the Florida Keys. The saying that a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day of work. Really sounds like a plan. A business plan that is. I bought a new 18ft flats boat, 150hp fishing machine. Tarpon, Permit, bonefish, Islamorada here I come.

What is your favorite drink? BEER!



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