By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Aug 29, 2008 at 5:29 AM

Paul Kennedy is among the last of a dying breed of old-school, professional bartenders in Milwaukee. Kennedy, 47, sports a long resume around town, having served as bar manager at mainstays like Lulu, Brew City Barbeque, The Brown Bottle and Slim McGinn's.

Currently, PK, as his customers call him, tends bar at the Newport, 939 E. Conway St., and serves as a manager at Brocach, 1850 N. Water St.

Quick with a joke from his seemingly endless repertoire, always delivered dryly in his slight New York accent, Kennedy isn't just moonlighting as a bartender -- this is his career.

PK came to Milwaukee after visiting some friends at Marquette, and despite his travels, kept coming back for more: "Everyone's just so cool here," he says.

A tall and visually imposing guy, he's a gentle giant -- and just who you want taking care of you on the other side of the bar.

Kennedy says he loves working at the Newport, but not because he's pouring $10 martinis all night at this "shot and a beer" bar: "(Owner) Frankie is just the best to work for. I love the customers and the crowd here."

We caught up with PK on a Friday afternoon at the Newport. Like always, the bar had its share of "day drinkers," and Kennedy mixed the interview and drinks for his customers -- both without missing a beat. How long have you been a bartender?

Paul Kennedy: Off and on for about 20 years. I started when I moved here from New York in 1981. I sold liquor for about eight years. I guess you could say I've got alcohol in my blood.

OMC: Is it safe to say that you're among the last of a dying breed of professional bartenders?

PK: I think of the old-school guys, yeah. There are a handful of us left in town, the guys who really appreciate how things used to be done.

OMC: What's your signature drink?

PK: I think the Sidecar. I used to make them all the time when I was at Bjonda and Lulu. I'd make them with Metaxa -- a Greek brandy -- Cointreau, fresh-squeezed lime juice, with a sugar-rim and an orange slice, up.

OMC: Is that a popular drink at the Newport?

PK: Oh, no. Here, we're a shot and a beer place.

OMC: What's your least favorite drink to make?

PK: Bloody Marys, hands down, man. I've always said that if you're gonna drink in the morning, be a man and drink whiskey.

OMC: What's the most ridiculous thing you've seen a bar patron do?

PK: When I was the beverage manager at the W Hotel in Seattle, we used to get a lot of celebrities. Quentin Tarantino was in one time, and the server brought back his Cosmopolitan and said, "Mr. Tarantino says his Cosmopolitan is not cold enough. He wants his $7.50 back."

I had just started my job there, so I said to the server, "Tell Mr. Tarantino that I saw 'Jackie Brown' and I want my $7.50 back." The server decided to say that to Tarantino, and I almost lost my job the first week I was there.

OMC: So I guess you've served some celebrities in your time.

PK: A few. Here in Milwaukee, the biggest celebrity I've served is Billy Rouleau.

OMC: Have you ever had to break up any bar fights?

PK: A few when I was younger. That's one of the reasons I like it here. We don't have any trouble, whatsoever. For a little corner gin mill, no problems. I had to throw some guys out of Slim McGinn's one time because they were actually eating out of the soup pot. I had to ask them to leave, and they got a little physical.

OMC: Do pick-up lines work?

PK: Pick-up lines always work! My favorite one is, "Hey, do you want to make a really big mistake?"

OMC: Who are better tippers, men or women?

PK: It depends on the person. If the person is in the service industry, they are always going to tip well. Rule of thumb, it's usually guys.

OMC: What bars do you go when you're not working?

PK: I try to hit the people who come down to see me. I visit a lot of friends from the neighborhood, from Burnhearts to Roman's to Slim McGinn's, Lulu, Palomino ... all those cats.

OMC: What's the best part about bartending?

PK: Drunk women and free peanuts.

OMC: What do you like least about it?

PK: When you're dealing with people who are rude, who come in and think you're their servant. We'll always take really good care of people, but be polite.

OMC: Do you drink when you bartend?

PK: Absolutely. It's in my contract with Frankie.

OMC: Does it make the job harder or easier?

PK: A lot easier. Everyone calls me "PK" when I'm behind the bar, which stands for "product knowledge."

OMC: I've never met someone with such a wide repertoire of jokes. Ballpark, how many do you have available off the top of your head?

PK: I'd say somewhere around 8,914. Ballpark. "Ish."

OMC: You've got a pretty good delivery, too. Dry, with good timing. Toot your horn for a minute, Paul. What's your secret?

PK: I don't know, something just pops in my head. I don't think my mother took really good care of me when I was a youngster. I'm a little damaged, I think.

OMC: Damaged, but funny.

PK: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.