Your Bartender the Contortionist, or What it Takes to Bartend in LA

In this town, it's almost assumed--it's an old joke--that the person pouring your drinks is a performer of some kind. You expect actor, dancer, singer. But you don't often discover that your bartender is a contortionist.

Jacqui Kreisler isn't what you'd call a typical LA bartender. Happy to pour the same mixed drink to the same chatty regular night after night at The Starlight Room--a windowless North Hollywood bar with a pool table, darts and a well-stocked jukebox--Kreisler uses her tip money to cover the financial gaps between gigs as a cirque performer.

Just a few inches taller than five feet, Kreisler is surprisingly strong for her lean frame. She has the physical strength to suspend herself in the air from metal hoops or twist around an aerial chiffon--a long hanging ribbon used by acrobatic performers to display their powerful talents. She can balance on her forearms long enough to rearrange her hair with her toes.

"You can always rely on October to be a busy month, because people love a cirque freak at their Halloween party," Kreisler says. It's the lean months as a fire dancer and contortionist that are a little harder to predict. But her part-time work at The Starlight Room has been a source of consistent income for Kreisler for four years, thanks to an understanding boss--who's a former dancer.

Uncomfortable with serving food (Kreisler says she was once ridiculed by a restaurant customer for pronouncing the "H" in "herb encrusted salmon") Kreisler prefers the simplicity of mixing cocktails. "The money is better. And people aren't nearly as picky."

When Kreisler isn't preparing regulars' drinks at Starlight, she can be seen performing multiple aerial shows at the Universal City Walk every Friday and Saturday night this summer.

The Starlight Room: 11411 Moorpark St., North Hollywood, (818) 766-5807.

Brooke Burton also writes at Foodwoolf and is the co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

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