The Flairest One of All

"Hey, fuckers, you ready for me to give away some free fucking shit?" Rod Ryan, not bound by the constraints of the FCC, is making a point to the crowd at the Westheimer location of Sherlock's Pub. Namely, that he curses like Richard Pryor when not being eyed closely by the Man. That is, if Pryor were afflicted with Tourette's and not MS.

"First person that brings me a fucking tampon gets a free 94.5 the Buzz T-shirt!" That's an easy one (the two prior requests being a fucking fishing license and an old-school fucking beeper), and quickly a young lady finds herself the proud new owner of an oversize addition to her wardrobe. "You got a heavy flow this month?" Ryan inquires of the blushing winner. What won't this radio rebel say!?

Ryan's morning show, I'm told by those unfortunate enough to be up at the ass-crack of dawn, is one of Houston's finest, mixing healthy doses of humor, news and, presumably, Nickelback. I'm of the opinion that "good radio morning show" is an oxymoron on par with "lovely bouquet of soiled baby diaper," but different strokes for different folks and all that fucking shit. Ryan is at Sherlock's hosting a portion of the "Quest for the Best Bartender" competition, where the nation's top pourers have gathered to compete in two categories: speed and flair.

The speed portion is self-explanatory. The flair bit consists of all those bottle-spinning acrobatics you saw Tom Cruise do in the '80s semi-hit Cocktail. It's the main attraction tonight.

And the star of the main attraction is Sherlock's own Nathan Taylor, three-time "Quest for the Best" world champion and obvious hometown favorite. Having outpoured all his cronies in the speed round by a whopping 100 points, he's the heavily favored front-runner leading into the flair round, his bread and butter.

He draws the second slot, setting an impossibly high bar for his competitors with flips, twirls and perfect pours. He's got five minutes to make the same series of drinks he poured so accurately in just over a minute in the speed portion of the contest (among them an appletini, a screwdriver, an 1800 mango rita and...a bottle of cold Rolling Rock).

Those left to follow Taylor are forced to try ridiculously hard tricks in an attempt to even the playing field. As a result, lots of bottles bounce off the rubber grate at their feet.

Don't worry; most of them are dummies, or "flair bottles" -- empty or, in some cases, weighted plastic bottles used for juggling. The phony ones are replaced with "working flair" bottles, which are a third full, when drinks are poured. The bartenders switch between the two types with dazzling sleight of hand. Competitors must bring their own fake bottles, and each carries a duffel bag full of them. After the contest ends, they look like booze-soaked tennis players making their way off the court.

They leave unsurprised. Nathan Taylor takes it in a walk.

Wrapped up in the contest, I've decided to show a little flair of my own. I'm taking all notes for the story on a cassette-tape inlay of Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. When out of space, I switch to Mötley Crüe's Too Fast for Love.

Some of the results are rather comical. Noting patrons' dress, I've written, "Quiksilver shirts and flip-flops on guys that look like they've never surfed a day in their lives," next to an ominous-looking Vince Neil and, "tampon/heavy flow" across the face of Bruce Dickinson.

Before admitting it in his memoir, Pete Rose was asked time and time again whether he bet on baseball. The interviewer generally started with softball questions about Rose's aggressive style of play and patted his back rehashing "best hitter in the game" statistics before inevitably asking the only question on everyone's mind. It should be noted: These reporters had no flair!

After the contest, I rap with Taylor about his chances of taking the gold (tonight's contest is a qualifying round).

Brian McManus, flair reporter: You work here and you won the contest. How rigged was it?

Nathan Taylor, flair bartender: Not rigged at all, brother, I was 100 points ahead before the flair round even started.

I know this, of course. I show a now agitated Taylor that I've written "100 pt lead" next to Nikki Sixx's crotch and plow on.

BMc: What's the point in bartending with flair?

NT: Better tips, better schedule, notoriety...

BMc: More pussy?

NT: I've been happily married for eight years, bro.

BMc: Do more girls hit on you, though?

NT: Any more questions, bro?

BMc: Guess not. Congratulations.

NT: (increasingly perturbed) Yeah.

"Nathan is mad," I write next to Mick Mar's kneecap.


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