I can’t be exactly sure of the year, but I am willing to bet it was 1981, maybe 1982. My friend John lived a house away where I grew up. He was the eldest one of the crew, 2-3 years older than most of us. So, he was the ringleader. He was going to have a party at his house while his parents were back in Europe visiting family. Needless to say, we were just kids, teenagers, still in high school for sure.
John never did anything small. He always had to go big. At the time, we were working at a fast food chain known as Roy Rogers. He was the production leader (a step down from the manager) and found a way to smuggle out a case of burgers. I think there were 50 in a case. One problem, he forgot to get the buns, so there we had 50 “prime” burgers but no buns. A case of burgers were a lot easier to sneak out than 50 buns, certainly that would be triple the size at the least. I don’t recall if we bought some or if we served them on white bread, but that was just the start.
At that time, he had found a bar supply store. You could not just order a few dozen paper umbrellas. You had to order like a thousand. So, he bought the minimum order which was probably around 100 dozen. They came packed in a brown cardboard box with about a dozen in each. So one day he comes over to our other friend’s house with a cocktail he devised and told us about the party and how we were going to help. We were a crew, he was the boss, and he didn’t ask, he just told us what we were going to do. He made it clear that each and every drink was going to have a paper umbrella in it. There would be a keg, so the cups of beer might not need an umbrella, but if there we had too many umbrellas “start putting umbrellas in the cups by the kegs so they get used up”.
I don’t remember how many drinks we served that night. He insisted to keep the drinks light and the crowd civil only pour one shot of spirits into each drink, and yes, it had to be measured. People caught on and started asking for double shots. He came over and told us that only one per drink, but we told him that everyone was ordering doubles, but he stood his ground. When Polly came over to me in a sarong and crop top and winked at me to make it a double shot. Well, John got overruled. You see, the other rule of the party was everyone had to be in Hawaiian attire, a tiki shirt and/or a lei to get in, or they would not be eligible for the door prize.
The night went on and it was memorable, just to see some of the girls I wanted to see in sarongs and crop tops. At the end of the night he finished a bottle of Tequila and ate the worm at the bottom. It was a rough night, not many of us remember the rest of it, but I do remember that for months, maybe even a year or two after that party, every time Johnny made drinks at home, he used a paper umbrella, as he was determined to use them all up partying, even if one drink at a time.
So Johnny, every time I use a paper umbrella in a cocktail, I will think of you, and wish you had one more year for each one to life life just a little longer. 55 is not young, but not so old either. See you soon, but not too soon.