“Bar Month” at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round! The whole month of February, we’re serving up intoxicatingly fun bars and club articles -- including guides, bartender profiles, drink recipes and even a little Brew City bar history. Cheers!
Dick Doucette is the picture of a bartender. A strapping guy that few might opt to mess with, but with a heart of gold and a "let me tell you something" storytelling style. He's a good talker and he can mix a mean drink.
Add to that his skills as a drummer -- with local blues outfit Mystery Train, mostly, in recent years -- and it's a given that Doucette has spent more than a few nights in area taverns.
Now that he's a father of three, he spends less time on either side of the bar, but he's got nearly a quarter-century of bartending experience, so who are we to deny him his moment in the sun, his OnMilwaukee.com bartender profile?
OMC: How long have you been a bartender?
DD: Officially, I have been bartending on and off for 24 years, starting in 1984 at The Gym on 16th and Wells Street. Before that, my first experiences bartending occured while working a friend's family-owned food and beverage stand on the Wisconsin State Fair grounds, from roughly 1978 through 1984.
Among the establishments I have bartended for are The Gym, R.C. 's, The Backstage, The Metro Cafe, 4th Base, Buck Bradley's, The Stepping Stone, The Golden Nugget, Jack Pandl's Whitefish Bay Inn, The Sheridan Inn on Port Washington Road, Midway Motor Lodge on Moorland Road, The Silver Spur Saloon, North Hills Country Club ...
I can truthfully say I have worked everything from high-volume college bars to corner taverns, and have served all types, ranging from bikers to the country clubbers. Throughout the years, the common thread has been my love of the people contact. In my opinion, bartending is the quintessential job for honing one's people skills. You truly do meet them all, and the stories they tell go on forever.
OMC: What is your specialty/signature drink?
DD: I love to mix the "perfect" Bloody Mary.
OMC: Which is...?
DD: If I told ya, I'd have to kill ya.
OMC: What is the most ridiculous thing you've seen a drunk patron do?
DD: Well, let's see, on the funny side, I've seen a patron surf down 20 plus stairs while standing on the back of yet another patron acting as the surf board. And on the not so funny side, I've witnessed one patron swing a ball-peen hammer at another patron's head.
OMC: Ever break up any bar fights? If yes, please elaborate...
DD: As a young man, I used to jump over the bar to stop fights, but I quickly learned such heroics proved unrewarding. Seems you always get hit over the head with a beer bottle, from some idiot charging from the far side of the room, not even involved in the original dispute. Besides, does it really matter whose quarter is next on the damned pool table?
OMC: What are the best and worst pick-up lines you've heard used in a bar?
DD: Come on guys, I'm a highly trained professional bartender. I see nothing, I hear nothing, I say nothing.
OMC: What are the best and worst parts of being a bartender?
DD: The best part of bartending is making money Uncle Sam can't tax. The worst part of bartending is working for the average depressed, schizophrenic, paranoid, burnt out, intellectually challenged owner, suffering unending fits with his "God Complex" (laughs). Seriously, the group picture of every barkeep I have worked for, would have served well as the promotional poster for "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." A special group, indeed.
OMC: Do you go out to bars when you're not working? Do you have a favorite bartender?
DD: I still enjoy the taverns immensely, but being 45 and married with young children does not often allow me the privilege. My favorite bartender today would have to be Jamie O'Donaghue out in Elm Grove. An old warhorse who knows my name, notices when my glass is empty and thanks me when I leave. Oh, and did I mention he's fatter than me? Who loves ya, Jamie?
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.