Thursday, April 21, 2011

Flair Bartending — Ripple's Believe It or Not!

[post 130]

This one's already gone viral, but I just found out about it from colleague, poet, and fellow world traveler Martie LaBare.  In fact, I'd never heard the term flair bartending until a few minutes ago! Clearly I need to get out more instead of hiding at home, sad and lonely, staring into a bottle, nobody to talk to but my imaginary blog friends...

But I digress. Watch it first — pretty sure you'll be entertained — then let's say we have a short discussion, okay?

There are seven pages (so far!) of comments on YouTube debating whether this is real or fake.  I teach visual effects, so I know anything— and I do mean anything — can be faked, but my suspicion is that this is a clever mixture of serious juggling chops and sophisticated compositing skills.  Translation: some of it is real, some of it vfx. The fan neatly slicing those limes into wedges — how would a single blade do that? — is the most obvious visual effect.  Basically what the compositor can do is place a separate "clean plate" background image of the bar wall in a layer below the original footage, erase the original limes from the footage layer, then add lime wedges to the glasses in the foreground.  I downloaded the movie and studied it frame by frame. Let's just say that the movement and timing of the lime after leaving her hand and before miraculously reappearing in the glass as a perfect wedge is highly suspect.

While most Facebook commenters opined that the napkin trick had to be fake, one viewer offered this explanation: "Here's how you do the napkin trick. David Blaine does something similar with playing cards. First you prep the napkins so they're weighted on one corner — so u know where they land first. Then prepare the bar by wetting six even spaced spots. So the paper sticks. Then practice, a lot of the napkins fall evenly." I'm no magician, but it seems plausible.

Either way, the bar is real and they're very much into this stuff.  We're looking at a branch of the American chain restaurant T.G.I. Friday's ("thank God it's Friday") located in the UK in Prestwich, North Manchester.  These guys are serious about performing, as witness this video from the same bar, apparently an entry into a bartending mixology competition.

It turns out flair bartending is a big enough thing that there are even annual competitions, which you can follow on YouTube.  Here's just one sample:

Joan Schirle of the Dell Arte School of Physical Theatre has added this comment on the subject via my Facebook page: "Some of the Japanese chefs in the benihana-type restaurants do simliar flair stuff with knives and bottles."

And if you want to learn to show off like this, and I admit I do, there's even a series of video tutorials on YouTube courtesy of a gentleman  by the name of Chris "Mango" Myers.  Here's video #1:

There are 35 — count 'em, 35 — of these lessons on Chris's Bar Guide & Flair Tutor web site, so what are you waiting for? 

Finally, a note of personal trivia: my first foray into publishing was editing a special "Popular Entertainments" issue of The Drama Review (March, 1974), with authors that included Hovey Burgess, Carlo Mazzone-Clementi, Marvin Carlson, and Brooks McNamara.  I only bring it up here because the cover for that issue (photo by Diane L. Goodman) showed a carnival performer doing the old trick of flipping a bottle to a balance on the back of his hand.

Now if you take a second look at that bartender from our original video, you'll see  he's doing the same trick.

I doubt that this seems amazing to most of you, but who back then would have predicted that circus skills would eventually spawn such phenomena as parkour, trouser diving, and flair bartending? Not me.


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