Ah, To Be a Barback Again: Lent in Casablanca, Night 30

When I was a college Freshman, I worked as a barback in one of the trendier nightclubs in town.

Keep in mind, this was Greenville, SC, not New York, but the club was pretty glam for its time.

A barback basically backs up the bartender, kind of like a roadie. I made sure the beer cooler was stocked, the mixer bottles full, and if limes needed to be cut up, then by Bacchus, I was a-cuttin’.  That’s basically it…on paper.

I also covered when the bartender and the GM went into the beer cooler to snort coke. I smoked a lot, made sure there were plenty of little square napkins stacked neatly, and I got hit-on by drunk women.  I snuck a shot of Rumplemintze here and there. Mostly, though, I people-watched.

That’s the view we get in Rick’s Cafe Americaine.  The opening scene with the marketplace, the Free French guy getting shot, and the airport welcome of Major Strasser…this is all just window dressing.

When we first see Rick’s at night, the door is open, and well-dressed couples are bowed inside. Abdul holds the door open for us, but there’s no falsely bright smile. The maitre’d looks at us.

Then we walk around the cafe’s perimeter. We’re in the shadows, behind the patrons’ tables, behind the orchestra. 

Much of Casablanca is shot using fairly long shots. Sure, there are closeups, but frequently, we see all the participants in a conversation, moreso than in most films.

This effectively places us in the scene, but in the background, almost like we work there… 

Scheiße, it sucks Ugarte gets arrested. He was an odd little guy, but he tipped well. God, Sascha is almost out of lime wedges, and that table of Brits is sucking down some Tanqueray & tonic. Why can’t they drink brandy? No ice, no garnish, no mixer: alcohol, glass, period.

Rick & that hot Norwegian girl & that Laszlo guy are in some kind of triangle over champagne. The boss thinks champagne is for pussies, so he must really like this girl. Either way, the ice for the bucket won’t carry itself out of the back room. 

Oh hell’s bells, that fracking Nazi is going to order caviar. I hope to shit we still have a tin in back.

For all the grand drama and intrigue in Casablanca, tonight I’m remembering that 90% of the people in that cafe had no idea what was happening. They smoked and drank and sparkled, unaware that subterfuge and infidelity lurked at the next table.

The whole “Die Wacht Am Rhine”/”Le Marseillaise” thing was balls-out, till that cool cop Louis shut us down early.

Sweet. I can put the chairs up, mop, and make it to The Blue Parrot for a couple shots with Annie the Soapmaker and Testarossa Ferrari.  And Rick said we all stay on salary.

Schlepping ice and stocking piña colada mix isn’t the most exciting gig on earth, but the boss is cool, the tips are great, and nobody cares if I sneak a nip every now and then. And when Yvonne gets drunk and starts doing body shots with that hot stripper Kasparlynne… Life. Is. Good.

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4 Responses to “Ah, To Be a Barback Again: Lent in Casablanca, Night 30”

  1. And tonight, someone is getting a smack on the ass…

  2. I think I may like this best of all your Casablanca posts. Telling the story from the unexpected perspective, which is what I try to do, too. The working stiff who is impacted by the goings-on, but not actually part of them.

    • Thank you, Laurie. After the glamour fades a bit, we’re left with pragmatic thoughts, like “those glasses don’t wash themselves,” or “look at all the lovely clothes; there must be a flourishing dry cleaner nearby.”

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