Two of the most recognizable bartenders in South Florida, Mark Hess and Gary Wentzel always serve up great cocktails at the main bar of the famous Alibi on Wilton Drive. Along with being a dynamic duo behind the bar, they have been a bona fide couple for nearly 20 years.
In his own words, Hess’ bartending career “started in 1968, at a resort in Iowa. When I first moved to Fort Lauderdale, I landed a job at the world famous Chardee’s dinner club for several years,” he recalls.
“I loved working for Tony Dee—and some of the stories I could tell,” he adds with a mischievous smile.
Go on. “I’ll never forget the first time I met Eartha Kitt. She [came into Chardee’s wearing] a fur and a turban. She walked right up to me with something that looked like a black cat in her hand, and with her very distinctive voice said, ‘Darling are you my hairdresser?’
“What was in her hand was her wig, and there was a hairdresser—but it wasn’t me,” he finishes with a laugh. “Then there was Jennifer Holiday, back in the ‘large’ days.
She was doing two shows, and after the first, she ordered a plate of pasta and shrimp, which was large enough for three people. She devoured the entire plate, and then ordered an end cut of prime rib—which was huge. She ate the whole plate, and then did the second show. I was amazed.”
His partner, Wentzel, started bartending in the late 1980s, in Pennsylvania. “I decided to move to Fort Lauderdale for the better weather,” he remembers. “Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I miss the snow, just not the cold. I’ll take the sun and warmth anytime,” he adds.
“We met at the old Cathode Ray, the one on the canal [on East Las Olas Boulevard],” says Hess. “We became r o o m m a t e s when Gary’s ex moved back to Pennsylvania. We never had a problem relating and talking to each other, and found that we liked many of the same things.
We both loved working in the yard, and we had a penchant for classic cars,” he notes. The ‘two’ became ‘one’ during a trip with friends to Key West (where else?): “At that time we were only roommates, but we truly liked each other,” Wentzel remembers. “Then when it came time to go to bed, one friend wanted to sleep in my bed and I wanted to sleep with Mark. Well, that sort of ‘sealed the deal,’” and the rest, as they say, is history.
About working together behind the bar, Hess offers, “We are so busy at the Alibi. It’s such a high-production bar that we don’t have time to really even speak, and once we get home, we already know what our day has been like, so we don’t talk business. It’s a great life.”
“Classics” themselves, they share a previously mentioned love for classic cars. “We currently have two,” notes Hess. “One is a 1965 Bonneville convertible, and the second is a 1976 Buick Limited, but we are constantly looking and trading our classics.
We belong to the Lambda Car Club.” Stop in and see the bar-stars at the main bar at Alibi, in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors (2266 Wilton Drive), and tell them the guys from The Agenda say “hi.”