A Guy Walks Into a Bar…

Wasting away again in Margaritaville…

So the next week I went down to Margaritaville for the first time to meet Mr. Hock’s sons Bob and Jimmy who owned the place. It was one of the better known bars in the south side and it had a lot of regulars. If ever there was a bar that was like Cheers in Pittsburgh, it is my opinion that Margaritaville was it. As bad an artist as I was at the time, they were happy to have me and the regulars were extremely friendly and generous when I started working there. The bartenders were super nice too. It was a great fit for me and there were lots of other bars nearby that I ended up drawing in as well. And so as it happened, I was going to end up drawing at Margaritaville pretty much every night for the next 5+ years.

Michelle, the kinda sexy/salty bartender in the front used to give me shit every night about this or that but I gave it right back and it was very well received. Little did I know that this prepared me for the countless hecklings I got over the years from customers… Dena, the gorgeous bartender in the front used to stand behind me while I drew and make faces at the people I was drawing. She thought the faces I made were funny so she would imitate me. She was funny and cute and I think everyone in the bar had a crush on her… She was married to a cop and all of his friends used to stop in and get caricatures too while they were there. When I was a bike messenger I would see some of them downtown while I was riding and it was pretty cool to actually stop and talk to them at lunch sometimes, which made most of my bike messenger buddies suspicious, lol.

One of the police officers was a motorcycle cop who lived in East Liberty. I remember him well. Nice guy (for a motorcycle cop anyways, it takes a certain type of sociopath to become a motorcycle cop IMO but he was pretty cool.) He had wanted a drawing as soon as I walked in the door one night and while I was drawing him, he got a call on his cell phone from someone in his precinct telling him that there was something going on at his house. There was a breakin at his house and his daughter was there alone. He left immediately and as it turns out he was being set up by one of the gangs in his district. He was a victim of some gang member initiation with the intent to kill a police officer. He was shot 16 times. I’ll never forget that. Very sad.

One of the other bartenders used to live in Key West and he told me all kinds of stories about the places he used to go down there. Sounded like a fun place!  He was a fun guy who loved a few bands that would come to the Ville on the weekends. His favorite was Brownie Mary. There were a lot of bands that would come there. Mark Eddie was a comedian who I have seen on TV since. He used to do a song called Marajuanaville that was hilarious and he added another verse to the Eric Clapton song, You Look Wonderful Tonight where the last verse ends in audible gurgling sounds. Use your imagination, lol! There was a light skinned black girl named Wendy who looked a lot like the singer Brandi. She called herself Honey Brown and her voice sounded so damned sweet and smooth. Like maple syrup. I saw a lot of blues bands too and heard Mustang Sally well past the legal limit. I completely wrecked my hearing and I am seriously going deaf! It may not be common knowledge, but Pittsburgh has quite a reputation for great blues.

It helps to flirt a lot when drawing caricatures in a bar and so it is also a pretty good way to meet the ladies as it turns out! I dated pretty frequently but the lifestyle of working in a bar and drinking lots of beer every night kinda ran it’s predictable course with all of the nice girls I brought home. The couple of relationships that held in there were lots of fun but probably not the kind you discuss in polite company and very few that you’d bring home to meet Mom… As anyone knows, flirting goes both ways and I got flashed and groped and treated like a piece of meat pretty often …and I loved every minute of it!

I noticed after a few weeks that there were some regular girls who came around a lot too and they always got a caricature. So often that after a few weeks I would just draw them for fun. We hung out after the bar closed sometimes and even though we just saw each other when I was working I considered them to be my good friends. I worked about every night of the week sometimes so it was like I saw them every day. I remember using peanut butter to get gum out of one the girl’s hair one night after she looked at the wrong girl’s boyfriend. Lol! I hung out with the kitchen staff and saw all of the shenanigan’s that happens behind the scenes at a restaurant. Used to play pool with a few of the regular guys too. Though guys my age that went to bars back then were kinda suspected of being douches and for the most part those suspicions were accurate. Lol!

Bob and Jimmy had a lot of friends who would come to the bar and visit. They were big into the Jimmy Buffet stuff so I learned a LOT of Jimmy Buffet music and about the “Parrot Head” lifestyle. The jukebox was full of it. They had a lot of oldies and classic rock. Very cool for the time. I used to put at least $10 a night into that jukebox when I was working.

Other than the times when I was working a day job like bike messengering, I used to drink till drunk every night as well. Not the thing I’m proudest of but I was having fun and making money, which was the most important thing in the world at the time… My drawings got better after a couple of beers. Everybody that knew how I normally drew commented on it actually. Which of course, firmly reinforced my bad habit. After a few though, things went downhill fast. I still somehow ended up closing the bar down about every night and working till the chairs were on the bar. I learned (and then promptly forgot) a lot about a lot of things, people, drawing, caricature in general, girls, guys, music, beer, etc… I realized at some point that it wasn’t the quality of my drawings that people tipped me for, it was the fact that I was doing them and that they were in the pictures I drew. This further reinforced my laziness and other bad habits, I would probably even have admitted this at the time. I was indifferent. Going through the motions… Stuck in a rut. 

For a time, I lived on a street where many of my friends had migrated. It wasn’t much but when I came home from work at 3am my roommate was always up to something fun and there were always at least several people hanging out playing pool, foosball, video games and music in my house or one of the houses next door where my friends lived and we partied all night till the sun came up just about every day. I shot the shit and got into the culture and even had spending money for the first time in a long time. I was popular and having the time of my life and I was receiving the social education that I had not gotten in high school. Which also reinforced that habit.

As is common with many people, my habits changed when I turned 21, then they changed again when most of my friends could get into bars. Maybe not as common, my habits changed again when a few of those friends moved on to new habits and I didn’t. I saw where that was going and I grew up a little. Instead of going to parties, we threw them. We had the parties that people wanted to go to. Small parties where everybody knew everybody. We were the big kids now. We were choosy, safe and kept out of trouble.

I’m not under the impression that this is necessarily a bad thing or uncommon at my age at the time, but it’s not what I had intended to do with my life after graduating from college. It was the lifestyle of several of the bartenders, musicians, doormen, waitresses and even many of the people who tipped me in the bars I worked at every day, true, but I freely admit that it was my goal at the time to take it to the extreme… Because I was young and I could and that’s what I though was cool. 

I realize that it was irresponsible and not good for me or anyone else. I wasted a few good years living like this. I was hard working and functional. I kept out of trouble, had a good time and lots of friends. Even a real girlfriend once in a while… I’m not proud of it, but I did learn from it and I moved on… I have even vacillated on whether or not to mention it here at all, but as it does come up a time or two and alcohol is such an integral part of my story it is worth mentioning. So there you go.

At some point in the first couple of years I worked in the south side I started getting the idea that if I really applied myself and tried to do better drawings I could do caricatures in bars for a living and make an actual business out of what I was doing. More about that next time! 😉

Copyright Adam Pate, 2013 All rights reserved.

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A Guy Walks Into a Bar… Continued

POOLS AND STREAMS

There are many different kinds of places where it is possible to do caricatures and busk other forms of novelties for tips, but the movement of the crowd almost always breaks down into 2 basic designs, -what I like to call streams and pools. A stream is a “kinetic” location where there is movement, like a busy sidewalk or a hallway of some kind when people are passing by. It is harder to approach people in a stream (from my experience) as they are moving and sometimes have their minds set on a destination, meaning you have to be eye catching or cat call to people, but it does not mean it’s impossible. It is possible sometimes to move with the crowd, get somebody interested and then stand in the flow of traffic. This is an opportunity to create what I call a “hot spot” if people slow down long enough to watch you work. (More on hot spots later.)

The most successful I have been in a stream situation is at a festival or a carnival area where I have been paid by the venue to stroll and busk for entertainment (and of course accept tips). The reason for this success I attributed to the fact that people weren’t really GOING anywhere. They were just wandering aimlessly from vender to vendor or maybe to a bathroom or beer tent. It was a captive audience of sorts. As a successful PUBLIC PROPERTY example: I have done this on Bourbon and Royal in New Orleans during Halloween (and seen other novelty artists doing so as well) and it was very well received it was also not as kinetic as some crowds (streams) as there were a lot of guests standing around looking at boobies or drinking beer because that’s what they were there for. This is ideal.

A Pool is a “stagnant” area where people are just sitting, standing or generally milling around and there is little or no reason for them to move anywhere. Cocktail parties, dinners, concerts, dance floors, food court areas, bars and nightclubs are pools. These work best because it is easy to approach people and they are more likely to be interested in some entertainment to keep the conversation lively. (For this same reason, sports bars with lots of TV’s, games like pool, golf, darts, etc… and game bars like Dave and Busters or Chuckie Cheeze aren’t as good because there’s so much going on and that’s what people are there for) It’s easy to just approach the group or individual and ask if they would like a drawing or whathaveyou in this environment. 

When scouting a private property busking location keep this in mind. Also keep in mind that if you have gone through the crowd in one location and there are no new faces, it is helpful to have a couple of alternative locations within short walking distance that you can move to and make a small route of places to visit. This will keep you busy for as long as you feel like busking especially if there is a variety of different types of establishments. If there are 2 irish bars next to one another they will probably have the same clientele and busy times, however if there is a sports bar, an upper class wine bar and a dance club on the same street they will each have a different crowd and be busy at different times of the night.

People will likely visit several establishments (bar hopping) throughout the evening, which means you have discovered your own private gigantic pool to fish from and the current of movement from place to place keeps the location lively!

A Guy Walks Into a Bar, continued…

STANDING YOUR GROUND AND ACCEPTED FORMS OF PAYMENT FOR A BUSKER

When you ask for permission from the establishment’s management, be as brief as possible. Say you would like to entertain guests/visitors with caricatures for tips only. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LET THEM TALK YOU INTO GIVING THEM A CUT OF YOUR EARNINGS OR MAKING AN EXCLUSIVE AGREEMENT TO ONLY BUSK IN THEIR BUSIINESS (EVEN IF THEY OFFER TO PAY YOU). You are performing an entertaining service to their customers/guests/visitors. Free free for you, free for the bar and you’re free to roam if you want to. They don’t need to pay you and you don’t need to pay them.

Sometimes they will be concerned that you might take money from their earnings or those of the staff, but if they have an ATM machine you might point it out if they suggest that you might be cutting into their profits. Customers will simply use the ATM or a credit card at their establishment if they run out of cash. Cash is necessary for you to accept tips, though it is possible for you to accept credit cards.

Square Up, PayPal and there are many other smart phone apps that are much easier to use in public than you would suspect and the fees are minimal as long as you don’t use them excessively. They have done an excellent job marketing them so that even the crustiest old southern bikers have heard of it and know that it’s legit. Just remember to keep a record of it so A. You will remember how much you actually made that day and B. the Tax Man will need to know. This is certainly another advantage that the one-on-one busker has over the street performer entertaining large groups of people and passing around a hat at the end.

Oh, that reminds me! IF YOU LIKE THE BUSKING BLOG, HAVE LEARNED SOMETHING THAT YOU CONSIDER VALUABLE AND WOULD LIKE TO ‘TIP’ ME, YOU CAN DO THAT BY GOING TO http://www.adampate.com/connect and clicking on the pay pal link. 😉

Adam Pate 2013 All rights reserved.

A Guy Walks Into a Bar, Continued…

WALKING INTO THE BAR!

Note to reader: Here we are. Finally arriving at the first step of busking in bars. Starting out, you might want to start with a neighborhood type bar to cut your teeth. Regulars, cheap beer, people who aren’t expecting much. Fun, easy, no stress… Later on I will give you some pointers on how to make it into a major operation but you gotta start somewhere and it’s better to learn to swim in the shallow end instead of jumping head on into the deep end of the pool!

LOCATION

First- Ask for permission from the general management (GM) or owner if you will be on private property. (This includes asking the nearby shop owners if you will be on a sidewalk near the shop’s entrance.) It is (in my opinion anyways) important to be on everybody’s good side if it’s at all possible. It will make it much easier for you to be sure. This includes police and security guards if possible. Look at it this way, whether they give you their permission or not, they may be pleased you came in to ask and they will know who you are and what you are doing which goes a long way towards avoiding problems in the future. Give them a card if you have one. If not, make one. It is a little thing but a card shows that you take yourself seriously and that you are established enough to have one. You can get them as low as $50 for 500, so what is the deal with home printed/perforated edge ones? Get a real card if you are a for real business! This is TOTALLY something worth judging someone on. That is the point. Color copies are a good alternative if you want to keep it low cost and add a lot of info. You might consider making a lot of these to hand out to customers if you are in an area where you might get residual income gigs. TOTALLY worth it in my opinion. Don’t do the “make your own’ business card thing if you want to be taken seriously! If they give you permission, offer them a sketch. If they don’t want one, offer to draw somebody else for them. This allows them to see first hand what you’re doing and establishes a positive rapport.

When you get to an establishment ask a staff person their name tell them yours. Ask them how they are, be nice and try to get them to smile by smiling at them. The idea is that your pleasant attitude will rub off on them. Ask them if the GM or owner is around and make sure they are not busy. (Asking for permission at a busy time is almost certain to get you the brush off.) If they are busy, ask when a good time to catch them will be and then come back. If it is in the morning sometime during the week, come early because they usually leave early. If they tell you to come back later ask if you can leave a card and draw the staff member so that the GM can see what you do. This goes a long way toward making a good impression. Hopefully the pleasant attitude of the staff member will be noticed by the GM, they will enjoy your artwork and maybe they will even look forward to meeting you when you stop by later! – All because you made a good impression on the staff member who relayed the message. DO NOT HAVE THE STAFF MEMBER ASK THEM IF YOU CAN COME IN AND DRAW.

Make sure there is NO DRAMA in your first encounter with the GM. Please keep in mind that to most GM’s, what you will be doing is merely an afterthought. They will go with their impulses. If they sense the slightest hint of trouble, they will give you the thumbs downs indefinitely. If you have already gotten permission from other local establishments, let them know you will be going to those places as well when you introduce yourself. This will show that what you are doing has already been accepted by at least one of their peers, which may also make it easier for them to go along with it.

More on meeting with the staff and manager next post.

Copyright Adam Pate, 2013 All rights reserved.

A Guy Walks Into A Bar -Continued…

STROLLING CARICATURES IN BARS… -THE SUBJECT AT HAND-. GETTING STARTED.

I WANT TO TEACH YOU ALL WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT STROLLING, aka, WALKAROUND BUSKING- the variety of venues available to do this in, tricks to help you improve your take once you have decided to give it a try, and the details of the successful methods that have worked with me and the artists that have worked with me in the past while doing this under my tutelage… SPECIFICALLY- busking creative performance entertainment (in my case caricatures) in bars.

Strolling busking is just what it sounds like and what I have described before, except you are roaming and barking at people and doing your thing without a net in large crowds of stupid people. It is “extreme busking”, “guerilla busking” or “Para-busking” because you are taking a huge risk doing it!! You are getting out there in front of God and everybody and having a blast, doing something fun and unique among other people who are having fun and still getting paid to do it! The “pitch” may be a bar, a restaurant, a mall, a cocktail party, a parking lot tailgate party, an outdoor concert, a street development promotion, a boardwalk, an intersection, a crowd of people, etc… mostly on private property, sometimes on public, most of the time when there is SOMETHING going on, but still totally fantastic… Strolling artists can go pretty much anywhere, any time and sometimes they get PAID FULL PRICE to work at a gig where they can also BUSK. Hows that for an incentive to do the best artwork you can??!!

Specifically this book is geared toward doing caricatures or quick sketch cartoons of people for tips but it may also be useful as a jumping off point for doing other novelty type “performances”, one on one, close up entertainment services where a creative souvenir is exchanged -including face/body painting, balloon twisting, hair wraps and henna tattoos (and FTR, I would love to hear what other types of performers it has successfully given aid to).

This manual may also be helpful to those full time gig entertainers who are already comfortable strolling in cafes and restaurants doing close up caricatures, magic, balloons, comedy, hypnosis, etc… to try to pick up extra gigs during the week. As is the case with most ingenious art forms, creativity breeds strange animals that are not easy to categorize. If this is the case of your particular act, let me say that this manual may be helpful if you A) have a minimum of props/tools that you need to perform your act and B) if your act is performed close up, one on one or smaller groups and C) you ask for an individual or group tip at the completion of the act and lastly D) if your act is appropriate and safe to perform in close quarters or large crowds of moving people on public or private property inside or out, day or night, adult or family friendly. Yup. This is a niche that covers a lot of territory, so put your thing down and give this opportunity a run for the money. I’ d love to hear how this info has been transformative to my readers. (and how it has effected your success in gathering loot)

There are definite tricks, hustles, dos and don’ts that are generally practiced by most buskers world wide. In this book I will describe in great detail how to maximize your freedom, income, time and fun while keeping safe and out of trouble in the USA! I hope you find it useful! Here goes!!

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (Continued)

STROLLING CAFE BUSKING

Café busking is a little like walk by busking but on private property. Generally you set up in a corner of a bar, restaurant or outdoor mall type area after getting permission from the business/property owner and you wait for people to come up to you to get drawn. (musicians can play and hope that somebody comes up to tip them for a request, like an open mic night). This is a popular request also from the establishment owner so they may seek you out and actually offer you an hourly wage or stipend if you’re lucky- or rather if you INSIST on it…

Most of the birthday party type entertainers I know in my local area drum up about 60% of their business by cafe busking. The management pays them a low weekly rate (about a quarter of their hourly rate) plus whatever tips they can make and a free meal (free is good), to come into the establishment on a regular basis and go table to table to entertain kids. It is a commitment however. the establishment may advertise your appearances and you may leave promotional information laying around. It may be a problem if it would be difficult for you to do it every week on the same night and time. For one thing, you may be giving up some work you can charge full price for in order to honor your commitment. If that were the case, you may have to have another entertainer to cover you sometimes, and pay them what they want in order to keep the commitment to the establishment. Remember, the other entertainer does not have an agreement to work for 25% of their hourly rate for a set amount of time so after a few times of doing this it might be hard to find a make up entertainer.

The idea is to bring the walk-by busker into the establishment to add atmosphere to the room. While this certainly does add charm to the establishment, it often happens that it is at the expense of the busker as traditional barking to get people to come sit for you would be inappropriate in this situation, for what the management has in mind, so if you’re not busy then you’re stuck there in a corner of a boring bar doing nothing and you’d be stuck in that one location.

If it’s OK with the management, you might try going from table to table and asking people to come sit for you in the corner if you sit there for too long. This starts my next topic though… You might be able to dress up a little and have a drink or two and you will for sure make way better tips than you would have on the street and not have to worry about as many of the “hassles” that they go through, but it is still very difficult to keep busy and make money this way. You are at the mercy of the bar. If you haven’t played your hand right, the bar owner may also want you to give him a cut of your earnings and also require you to not go to any competing establishments which is the last thing you want. Most of the positives cross over into the next section- STROLLING!

I WANT TO TEACH YOU ABOUT STROLLING, aka, WALKAROUND BUSKING, specifically in bars and restaurants. Strolling busking is just what it sounds like. YOU ARE MOBILE. The “pitch” may be a bar, a restaurant, a mall, a cocktail party, a parking lot, an outdoor concert, a street, a boardwalk, an intersection, a crowd of people anywhere, etc… mosltly on private property, sometimes on public. Strolling artists can go pretty much anywhere and sometimes they get PAID FULL PRICE to work at a gig where they are very likely to get tipped well!!

(Copyright, Adam Pate 2013. All rights reserved)

A Guy Walks Into a Bar (as I did tonight)

Back in the saddle again!

Felt GOOD! Wasn’t all that busy, surprisingly but I did well enough. No complaints! People were nice too. The first person I saw yelled across the bar to me because he recognized me from up at Put In Bay and came over to tell his friends to get a caricature. Yep! Jumped right in!! Took a few photos. None turned out great but Here are two that weren’t horrible. The first photo does neither the girl or the drawing justice. The flash messed it all up. (and completely washed out the other drawings I took photos of tonight) The second one is of a guy with 2 girl’s butts. The one on the left was LOVING the way I drew her pooper in the drawing. The girl on the right, not so much. It was fun and I thought the girl’s reactions were hysterical. I guess this is why the “Butt Sketch TM” guy’s picture’s are so corny and lame, lol! Who cares? Anyways, got to use my new credit card swiping thing to collect a tip tonight which was awesome! I’m really glad it has become so main stream too. Can’t imagine trying to convince someone it’s legit. I did have some dipshit ask me to show him samples before he would get a caricature as if I was at a freaking job interview. That one still creeps me out. I would just assume that anyone who doesn’t understand that I don’t keep them -I give them away- and don’t carry around samples for people like him to judge me on wouldn’t appreciate a caricature in the first place so fuck em. Anyhow, it’s late and it’s gonna be a long weekend. Have fun, be safe and try not to get arrested!

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Made a new busking sign that says I accept credit cards too! YIPPEE!!

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