... with a twist
Lee Williams is inducted into the Bartender Hall of Fame. But
school kids know him as the 'Safety Man.'
By ANNA LISA BURGOS
The Orange County Register
ANAHEIM -- Lee Williams serves life lessons and a smile along
with his smooth Jack Daniel's Manhattans and lip-smacking Lemon
The 48-year-old bartender, known as Dr. Lee to
his customers at Disneyland's exclusive Club 33 and the high-end
Mr. Stox Restaurant, was recognized for his talent and community
service with his induction into the 140-member Bartender Hall of
Fame on Thursday. With a brief presentation at Mr. Stox,
Williams became the first bartender in Orange County to achieve
For 18 years, Williams has dispensed cheer and
alcoholic delights to wealthy, prominent individuals five days a
week. But the Moreno Valley resident takes on a different
personality off-duty, volunteering in classrooms each week to
talk to children about safety.
Williams was all thumbs when he first began
mixing drinks, combining incorrect ingredients and referring
constantly to a manual. But he eventually found his rhythm and
developed a reputation for being one of the top bartenders in
"It takes talent and your memory has to
be really good," he said. "If you've gotta make 40
drinks in a few minutes and you have to make them right and ring
them all up and balance out at the end of the night, you gotta
be quick on your feet."
Williams likens bartending to performing and
said he forgets his personal problems when at work. He wants to
ensure guests are happy.
"I might have the worst day and you
wouldn't know it," he said. "At the bar, we make you
feel wanted. It's a place to relax and unwind after a rough
And working in high-end establishments, you
have to like talking to people and knowing that customers demand
exceptional service, he added.
On busy, stressful nights, Williams said he'll
hum a tune to himself to remain mentally focused.
Only eight bartenders each year, chosen from
about 2,000 nominations, are recognized for their professional
contributions, community involvement and high standards of
performance and customer service. Williams' wife, Mary,
"Honorees are selected for being
well-rounded individuals, not their speed of making
drinks," said Ray Foley, who established the Hall of Fame
in 1989 and publishes New Jersey-based Bartender Magazine.
"We look for people who add to the professionalism of
tending a bar."
Williams began working as a ride operator at
Disneyland in December 1981 and later transferred to Club 33 as
a dishwasher and busboy.
Impressed with Williams' numerous visitor
compliments, his managers in 1982 offered him a position as a
bartender and sent him to bartending school. Seven years ago,
Williams began working part-time at Mr. Stox for extra money.
Mr. Stox owner Ronald Marshall said Williams'
bright demeanor and community service make him "not only a
Hall of Fame bartender but also a Hall of Fame person."
And it shows with Williams' commitment to
A presentation on safety 10 years ago as a
room parent developed into a weekly visit from "Mr.
Williams, the Safety Man" at various Riverside elementary
Williams volunteers every Monday, his day off,
to talk to children in four or five classrooms about safety
issues, such as not playing with guns and matches and using
"I thought my free time would be better
spent talking with kids and helping prevent accidents," he
And Williams, who has been married for nearly
20 years and has two daughters, 15 and 17, does not drink.
Despite his new Hall of Fame status, Williams
said he'll continue to perfect his craft.
"I'm constantly learning," he said.
"Sometimes I'll sit and watch other bartenders and see what
I can do to make myself better."