Celebrity Close Encounters of the Bartender Kind! (Part I)

LOS ANGELES - Standing Room Only contributing writer and co-owner of The Bar Professional, Kyle Branche, has tended bar at several up scale establishments and exclusive private parties over the years, rubbing elbows with countless musicians, athletes and actors alike. Recently, Kyle decided to document some of these cool, one-of-a-kind encounters that he's experienced over time, which SRO will now feature in a three-part, column-series. From the Editor

Article by Kyle Branche * photo by Paul de Leon

Clint Eastwood: He was standing at the bar having a glass of red wine with producer, Bud Yorkin, from a bottle that Bud had brought in from his wine cellar at home, for me to have behind the bar ready just for the two of them. Clint is just as cool in person as he is on-screen. Plus he has a son named Kyle, so that helped. When you’re serving drinks to a legend, an icon of the cinema, you wish you had a seatbelt on.

Joe Namath: What a dream come true. I read Joe’s first book when I was in high school. I was tending bar at Lakeside Golf Club. He had just finished the course as part of an annual sports invitational. He wasn’t a member. I had just started my shift. After a few minutes, I looked over at a table in the distance of the Men’s lounge, and it was him. He looks back, and within a couple seconds he walks up to the bar, orders a drink and we end up chatting one-on-one for 15 minutes. The
idol of my Dad and I when he was with the New York Jets. What a great guy!

Heather Locklear: I was asked to work the bar at a private party in her home. It was for Jack Wagner’s birthday. This is all after her split from Richie Sambora. She was very nice, hanging out, and soon took her heels off and walked around barefoot the rest of the evening. There was a pianist and a singer next to the bar performing crooning tunes from the American songbook. The stemware for the wine was so sensitive that I had to be on high alert the whole time for fear of
smash! 25 years previous I was at a club in Hollywood to see a band perform. She was there. This was just after T.J. Hooker ended its run on TV and a year into her relationship with Tommy Lee. I was there alone. For some reason, she walked right over to me, smiled and said hello on the way to the bar.

Mike Scioscia: How often do you get the chance to talk baseball with a baseball player? I was Mike’s bartender for his post-season private parties at his home for a few years straight, and the next day there would be a charity golf tournament. It was great fun hanging with him and the family. He was cool, and is a very generous guy. I overheard someone ask him about the Dodgers, and he said “Wow, it feels like a lifetime ago”. Other players I remember serving there were Mickey Hatcher and Bobby Grich.

Steve Perry of Journey: I was taking the place of a bartender at Stanley’s Bar & Grill in Sherman Oaks, as a fill-in for a period of time, as he was out shooting a movie as an actor. I looked to the right and out the window a yellow corvette pulls up. It was Steve Perry and a friend of his. This was around 1990. They sat at the bar while waiting a few minutes for a table. It was lunchtime. They had an iced tea and a club soda. I brought over a thin paper dinner placement and an
okay pen. It’s all there was at the spur of the moment. I usually never do this, but for my girlfriend as a surprise, I lounged back over toward him during an open moment, and asked for his autograph. I let him know who it was for, and he asked “Can I write “With Love?” How kind and considerate of him. “Yes, you can”, I said, “She would love that . . . and thank you so much.”

Salma Hayek: I was called to work a private birthday party on the rooftop of a tall condo building in Hollywood off of Doheny and Sunset for Salma Hayek’s assistant. It was a very cool set-up and overlook for the night. A DJ was blasting in the open air. Eventually Salma showed up and gave the event a new spark of beauty and energy.

Prairie Prince (The Tubes): I was working the bar at Nite Rock Club & Café where we had a stage for bands to perform on occasion. Concrete Blonde did a show there, and so did The Tubes, of which Prairie Prince was their drummer. After the show, they came up to my bar and ordered drinks. It was then that I got to ask him about playing on a solo album of one of my favorite guitarists of all time, Tommy Bolin. I’m a rocker at heart!

Jim Carrey: Two occasions. The first was at The Hollywood Palladium during a Smashmouth concert in the VIP section, where Renee Zellweger also showed up. The second was at a private backyard fundraiser for Autism in Pacific Palisades, where Roger Daltrey performed a show with his solo band. He’s kind of quiet when he’s out, though. Jenny McCarthy was with him that night. And he was in full beard.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler: Was called to work an end-of-season wrap party on the lot of Universal Studios, in the production offices for the show “Guys with Kids”. I was bringing up some bar kit stuff and ran into Jamie-Lynn on the staircase where she was checking messages. Later she was at the bar, along with Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford, Tempest Bledsoe, and well, basically everybody from the show that was created by Jimmy Fallon. I got to hang out in their creative element where they have giant pillows, beanbags, and dartboards. It was very cool!

Sam Cassell: Snoop Dogg held a concert fund raiser at an old church in downtown Los Angeles where only 1,000 people were invited. I was asked to work the bar of the roped-off private VIP section just to the right of the stage. Many celebs were there that evening, and Sam Cassell came to the bar with Shaun Livingston, back when they were both playing for the Clippers. It was loud, as the speakers were right above me. Sign language helped, along with smiles and understanding.

David Krumholtz: The star of the show “Numbers”. I was working as Patron Tequila’s main bartender for many of their private sponsored events around town here in L.A., and I got the call to work David’s birthday party at his home. I always enjoy working with brands when I get the chance, and both David and Vanessa were very cool. He has a drum kit in his garage. I wish I would have had a musical space like that when I was growing up. It was a fun get-together with friends and colleagues, and I worked a couple other parties after that for them too.

Valerie Bertinelli: Back when I was working at Lakeside Golf Club from 99' - 02', there were and have always been a lot of celebrity sightings, as this is originally how the private golf club was formed back in the 1920's. Ed Van Halen was a member there at the time, so in the Summer months during Volleyball season Wednesdays, Valerie would come in often and bring their son, Wolfie, with her, so he could play with other kids his age within the safe confines of the property while she mingled with other member friends. She was always super nice, and I would always try and remember to have ice-cold bottles of IBC Rootbeer behind the lounge bar, as that was Wolfie's favorite. He was only 11 years old back then. Look at him now, playing bass for his dad's band. Pretty cool position to have.