It’s not at every new job that you find yourself bartending for Bono the first week, but that was exactly the case when I took a position at the five-star Hyatt Regency in Auckland, New Zealand.
I had arrived in the Land of the Long White Cloud a few weeks earlier with no job and no place to live, but plenty of spirit and even better than that: a work visa. The tourist season was just getting underway and jobs were everywhere for a smiling blond girl with oodles of experience in customer service.
I had never bartended before, but with four years of experience waitressing at Red Lobster during college (and a tiny bit of experience drinking alcohol as well), all it took was a little schmoozing to land myself a bartending job at one of Auckland’s top hotels. I started work immediately and rented a room in a flat a couple of blocks away, smack in the middle of downtown Auckland.
Pouring drinks for the uppity five-star customers was a challenge; I was constantly getting in trouble for saying “sure” instead of “certainly” in response to customers’ requests, for being too loud, laughing too much, and for acting too friendly and casual with the hotel’s upperclass clientele. In short, I was a bit too American.
After being reprimanded for using the word “yall” for the hundreth time, I had to sass back to my British manager and let him know that this loud, laughing bartender was collecting more tips for the pool than anybody. Even if I did get scolded for saying to-may-toe instead of to-mah-toe, the customers liked me. So there.
Maybe that’s how I wound up working the penthouse party room and serving U2. Anyone on earth who travels to New Zealand comes through Auckland, and with only three five-star hotels in the city, the Hyatt received its fair share of celebrities. In the months to come I would serve Dionne Warwick cappuccinos with no chocolate, beers to Josh Harnett and shots of Jagermeister to Tommy Lee in the spa (what a fucking cliché).
In New Zealand, no one gives a shit about rock stars or movie darlings. Tommy Lee would sit at my bar talking to Pammy on the phone and drinking, looking around like, “why isn’t anyone bothering me?”
U2 played two sold-out nights at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland that year; any fans out there will know that their song One Tree Hill was inspired by, uh, One Tree Hill in Auckland, a historically and culturally charged location. I couldn’t go to the concert because I had to work, but I didn’t mind- work was serving U2 and their VIPsters libations after the show.
It was my first full week at work, and I was in the penthouse twitching excitedly with all the other Hyatt waitstaff, awaiting the arrival of the band for hours. Finally, in they swooshed, with their opener Kanye West in tow and a gang of ass kissers behind them, of course. Bono was wearing a purple velvet jacket and sunglasses – standard rock star uniform- and indeed his persona filled the whole room.
I have never witnessed anyone with charisma like that; he practically glowed from within and oozed forth coolness, a byproduct of his very existance. It emanated from him, so much so that everyone in the room knew where he was at all times, without even having to look. It was truly amazing.
Three bartenders had been assigned to take care of the band and we rushed back and forth, making sure glasses of whiskey and coke were kept full and that no one wanted for anything. Working the bar and the floor, I weaved in and out of the party crowd. “Excuse me, Mr. The Edge,” I would say, hiding my laughter until I hit the kitchen behind closed doors.
I will say- for an epic rock band, this was the lamest afterparty I had ever seen. Maybe I expected too much, but I have had better parties in my car, last week alone. The party might have been forgettable, but what I will remember is the conversation that Bono and Kanye West were having at the bar about world peace. I jumped in, knowing this was my chance to chat with the superstars and forever claim name-drop dominance with my friends.
“World peace would be the shit,” I interjected.
“No doubt, girl,” said Kanye with a sly smile.
“World peace!” added Bono.
World peace indeed. It was a beautiful day.