I’ve worked with my wife Carol since 1984. She helped me operate a bartending school in Tucson. It was a great school and there are plenty of occasions every day when I think how much I’d still like to be teaching there. But I was 26 when I started the school and fueled by a healthy amount of ambition, which made me want to experience something more than I was.
After a few years I started writing articles for a local trade magazine. That gig eventually got me the opportunity of writing monthly columns on bartending and bar management for the Arizona Beverage Guide. I started publishing articles on a monthly basis until I was offered a position on the editorial staff of Nightclub & Bar Magazine.
That began to open doors for me. I began presenting seminars at their annual trade show in Las Vegas. Carol and I also started combining my article into trade books. My first book was The Bartender’s Companion, A Complete Drink Guide For The Working Professional. That book was followed by Preventing Internal Theft, A Bar Owner’s Guide and soon we brought other bartending and bar management-oriented books to the market.
We started BarMedia in 1987.
Whatever became of Robert Plotkin and BarMedia? In the 80s and 90s, we read his articles on bartending and beverage management in Cheers, Tasting Panel and Nightclub & Bar Magazine, attended his management seminars at the Las Vegas Nightclub & Bar Show and the Cheers Conference, and shelved some his 16 books in our offices. Then seemingly all of a sudden he was gone from the limelight. From management guru to professional drop out in a heartbeat.
Well, it took a little longer than a heartbeat to derail my career, but not by much. Frankly, we were hit by two tsunami-sized problems that slammed us almost simultaneously.
The first was the enormous economic collapse of 2008. We like everyone else were slammed and caught unprepared. We had to lay off our staff, lost our line of credit with our printer and book bindery and our corporate clients all headed south, taking their checks with them. Soon it was just Carol, my daughter Sarah and me in a leased office space ten times larger than what we needed.
The second calamity was I contracted Parkinson’s disease in 2011. It was the fast-onset, drug-resistant strain of the disease. Soon, I was severely tremoring on both my right and left side. I shook so hard that I couldn’t sign my name, or type on a keyboard, or stand up before an audience and present my management seminars.
To be honest I became despondent. I had no idea what to do for a livelihood. With the help of a dictation program, I continued writing articles and reviewing spirits on AmericanCocktails.com. In 2005, I was invited to become a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
So I hung around on the industry’s periphery writing articles here and there. Then we converted most of our books—including the textbook Successful Beverage Management in printable format to downloadables. And here we are.