Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Don't Expect This to Become a Habit


The South Fork
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

Saturday, after snagging an interview with Willie Wagner of Honky Tonk BBQ, I dropped in at Skylark to see how Brian was doing. He had just landed a job there tending bar on Saturdays after about six months without a job, opening from 4-8 p.m. It isn't the best shift and doesn't take advantage of the full range of his managerial skills, but it's a foot in the door. A baby step, but still something.

Sitting at the bar were some old friends from HotHouse: Pierce, who used to run sound there, and Alton, who worked maintenance before he went full-time into social work. As is the case whenever four people with a shared history of employment gather in the same place, things eventually turned to HotHouse. In fairness, it would have anyway, but Brian is an obsessive type so the subject was broached rather quickly.

Brian came to HotHouse after a much-publicized firing from his old job, the California Clipper. This was back when the Clipper was a really cool place to hang, and Brian was a large reason why. I don't know the details of how he came to our attention, but he was well organized and able to walk softly while carrying a big stick while making the bar and wait staff a more professional group on the job. This was in stark contrast to the other managers we had, who often got drunk on the job or let their coke fiend friends have at the liquor inventory after a show.

However, almost from the start Brian and Marguerite were like oil and water. He'd try to implement some best practices for the staff, and she'd put the kibosh on it because it wasn't her idea of "best practices." She'd recommend friends of hers for a job on the floor or behind the bar (and by "recommend" I mean "she'd tell Brian to hire these people"). He couldn't bring himself to do it. He'd interview them, determine that they were already promised a gig by Marguerite - which effectively undermined his authority - but couldn't bring himself to actually hire them because they were "flaky."

Brian would bring in bartenders, waitresses, security and box office staff who "got" what HotHouse was about largely by telling them the truth: that they'd work for little pay and recognition for a boss who marched to the beat of her own drummer; but they'd get to hear some killer music they wouldn't find anywhere else in the city and work with people who were likable and somewhat professional. The instilling of a family dynamic into the front-of-house staff was almost all Brian's doing.

And I don't think Marguerite liked it one bit. Brian was a favorite whipping boy of hers, and she'd emasculate him at every possible opportunity. I mean, sometimes she's just castrate him in front of guests or people of influence who might have wanted to help the organization's non-profit mission. So, it wasn't surprising that, once the board of directors voted to suspend Marguerite, Brian was one of the first dancing on the grave. As the final note from that stage faded into the ether, Brian still believed that, even though the board made their share of mistakes, they got that decision right.

When we do talk, the conversation invariably comes around to HotHouse, then Marguerite. We've both been on the receiving end of her diatribes. Eventually, I learned to shake it off and get back to work. Like I keep saying, I don't hate the woman, in spite of it all. But with Brian, it's a personal matter, one that I'm not certain he can let go. It's almost like post traumatic stress disorder.

Get the two of us together and it does make for an interesting evening of war stories.

1 comment:

Brian Page said...

Thanks CC for the good words and for gracing the bar. Work at the HotHouse taught me many lessons. I have to say that what made me stick with it despite the crap was that the HotHouse was a great place and the staff was worth supporting. Update: I also now work Thursday from 4-8. More tater tots!