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Confessions of a Fire Island Bartender 


Fire Island Sun interviews author Barbara Johnson


Ever wonder who your bartender is across that barrier, or what she is really thinking?

Here’s your chance!




Q)    What first attracted you to Fire Island and how did you land at Ocean Beach ? When was this?


 Having been raised in Balboa Island and  Laguna Beach California my attraction to the sea was second nature.  After hiding in the bonds of my 4th bad marriage I was introduced to Fire Island by my last husband before I left him.  I felt Fire Island had opportunities I could take advantage of, so I packed up my 3 kids and moved to Ocean Beach around 1988. Broke and naive I rented my first apt. which was a tiny 2 bedroom down the alley behind some stores and next to the garbage.  As a newcomer to the Island I accepted the terms of $125.00 a night which I was told was below the going rate which I thought was nice as it reflected the condition of the apt.
Q) Did you come to  play or work? (Were you a bartender before you came out?)

In my way of thinking work and play have to be synonymous, or I would have to live 300 yrs.  I worked 20 hours a day to insure we could survive.  Eating and drinking was a habit my little ones had developed early on in life. With my vibrant and dynamic personality and wearing a thong bathing suit with Chocolate flavored suntan lotion I went up to the busiest bar on the beach owned by a British chap named Peter who had a weakness for 6'1 Blondes with long legs and Blue eyes.  He hired me on the spot and I learned to tend bar.
Q) When you started you must have been the same age as many of your customers. How did this affect you work? Your social life?

I learned quickly with my looks back then and a lot of Hon, Sweetheart, or Babe I could serve these moneyed aristocrats enough internal stimulus to leave me a small fortune on the bar before they passed out or let some Napoleon syndrome look-a-like sweep him or her away on a 40 ft. cigarette boat with the out going tide.   As far as a Social life goes I had 3 jobs at one time just to survive thru the summer and have enough money to get us thru till the following season started as I lived here year round. My work day began in the dark and ended in the dark.  I found I had time to shower, change, and count heads.  Sleep was a luxury I quickly found out I could afford in the fall.
Q what were your earliest "learning experiences" on he job?

 I found out the hard way how you acquire a lot of unknown family members when you live on F.I. and in close proximity to the beach.  People would insist to me or anyone in hearing range that I was their sister or cousin was sadly mistaken that I was going to treat them special.  I found when they walked up to my Stick it would be easier to wipe them out in 3 drinks than to put up with their intolerable aggravation when I'm 15 deep on a Friday night.
Q) How long before you had any idea of creating a book out of your experiences ?

My friends had always said I should right a book about my life.  Having moved down to Florida by this time which made me tri-coastal (Calif. Fl. N.Y.) and  having lived on an island, a yacht, and many other unusual situations, I began to tell people my experiences which used to leave everyone laughing till they had tears in their eyes.  Then it happened.  I had an accident and found out in a matter of seconds  my life could change forever.  I could never work again!  SO here comes the lemonade part .I just sat down and started writing about all the million plus people I had come in contact with.  Least the ones that formed a memory that I could recall.
Q How long did take to get it published?

 I found after I wrote my book I didn't know how to publish it.  So I bought all the proverbial books and realized you can't publish a book without an agent. I also knew I needed a proofreader etc. so luckily I had a friend that enjoyed reading the book so much he proofread it for free.  I still couldn't get an agent without having previously published something or so I was told.  I then went on line and down loaded a template from a company called Blurb.Com and I self published my book.  I sold it on line till I had enough money to put my book in stores on the beach. 


Q) Where can we buy it?

My book is at The Mermaid Market in Ocean Beach , it will be at the Seaview Market this weekend and at Schooner Inn   Ocean Bay Park and the Market as well after Easter.  It will be in more stores as they open. I am also going to be at the book sale in the Ocean Beach Church around Memorial Day. I now have my book in Kline's and this weekend I just ordered another bulk of books to distribute, as well as my book signing May 28th at the Ocean Beach Church Book Sale
         AUTHORS NOTE:  This book is a reflection of New Yorkers, Europeans, and the occasional Canadian Tourist that come to Fire Island for the summer.  Fire Island is a fantastic place to let loose and let your hair down.  A place where you feel like you can do, say, and act however you want with no consequences.  Well this ain't Vegas and this book will give the reader a glimpse of what the people who work on the Island see.
       Did you ever wonder about those  who serve you drinks or make your entrees?  No, probably not.  But just the same we the "Locals" (People who live on the Island, working 14 hour days 7 days a week)  just to serve you have noticed and this book will describe what we see.  You may recognize some of the people I have described or you may read this book and the next time you visit Fire Island hang your head and hope no one recognizes you.  Whichever way it goes I hope the voyage is as interesting to you as it is to us "Locals" who see you coming from across the bay as we wait.  Not knowing what new antics you can come up with, but trust me, just when I think I've seen it all lo and behold.  Well never mind, just read this book and you will see.
Authors disclaimer upon request !!