Generous Bartender Gives Back To Kids By Spiking Shirley Temples
"Gene, you're like, a genie," giggled one 16 year-old girl at a T.G.I. Fridays in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She nearly fell off her barstool, then excused herself to go vomit in the ladies' room.
Gene Gibson, her bartender, smiled and looked on, satisfied at the difference he made in her life. Recently, Gibson revealed to local reporters that he has been, for years, spiking otherwise non-alcoholic drinks like Shirley Temples for the benefit of younger customers.
Gibson, who says his two favorite things are "booze and the laughter of children", says his unique take on non-alcoholic drinks is the secret that has made him one of the most popular bartenders in town, not only amongst the under-21 crowd, but recovering alcoholics, too.
"The secret is knowing your audience," said Gibson to reporters. "A kid who orders a Shirley Temple just wants to be like the adults, but can't really drink because the parents is watchin'. But this way, they get to feel just like Dad. Times is real tough -- everybody's got a right to feel happy, especially kids."
Tricks Gibson employs include a shot of coconut rum in virgin daiquiris ("9 out of 10 teenage girls can't tell the difference, but 10 out of 10 like the results," he says) and filling up an empty bottle of Genesee non-alcoholic with PBR, Hamm's or some other light beer.
"So many recovering alcoholics and AA members come up to me and say things like, 'I don't know what it is about this place, but I always leave feeling just like I did back in the good old days at the VFW - must be the atmosphere,'" Gibson said proudly. "That just brings a tear of happiness to your eye."
Gibson admits that his technique is hardly new, but rarely employed in the mainstream outside of guerilla, prankster-style forms. His first experience with not-so alcohol-free beverages came from his senior homecoming dance, when an unknown perpetrator mixed Everclear into the punchbowl, much to the glee of the student body.
"I don't know who that was, but if you're reading this, then know that I owe everything I am to you," said a grateful Gibson.
Gibson's charitable work has garnered him the respect and admiration of his peers. "I remember when I was in high school, if we couldn't find anyone's older brother to buy us booze, we would be forced to huff Freon, do whip-its, or rip bongs [of pot] all night," said line cook Phil Taylor. "But if someone like Gibbs [Gibson's nickname amongst the staff] had been around for us back then, maybe we could have avoided all that and learned a healthy respect for drinking alcohol that didn't involve chugging mouthwash."
Good business practices also play a part in Gibson's philosophy. His bosses and co-workers have all expressed admiration for his selfless generosity towards those less fortunate, and for the boost in revenue his largesse generates.
"It's not just the teenagers and the broken-down winos that love coming here to drink a 'sparkling grape juice' or an 'Arnold Palmer' in full view of their prohibitive families and wives -- the kids love it too," said manager Rob Baden. "Their parents know without having to ask where their kids want to go for a good time, and it ain't Chuck E. Cheese."
When asked if he fears retribution from irate parents or even the authorities, Gibson appears unconcerned.
"Could Bill Gates be arrested for his charity work? Probably," he said, pouring a healthy dose of Sailor Jerry's spiced rum into an 11 year-old's vanilla milkshake. "People like us who are just trying to make kids happy always run that risk."
He added, "I don't know about Bill, but I usually deal with it by drinking before coming to work."