Is it possible to feel so much remorse over someone that has passed away, someone I have never met?
Yes, it is!
Mark Pollman: one of the greatest bartenders ever! Not only a great bartender, but a very compassionate human being. A person who cared about people.
I have been corressponding with Mark for close to 15 years, but we have never met. I first heard about Mark when I saw a copy of Top Shelf Magazine in 1993. There was a cover photo of Mark, and a great article about him in that issue. When I read the article, I noticed that he was wearing a Bartender Hall of Fame ring, in one of the photos. I am also a Bartender Hall of Fame member. I immediately sent him a congratuatory letter, in care of the Fox and Hounds Lounge in St. Louis, where he was working. Mark replied immediately, and we have been friends ever since.
Mark would call me almost every Sunday night. Wondering how things were going, and what’s new in my life.
He always had so much great advice, not only about bartending, but about life in general.
Mark always had a good joke. He said that he wanted to go out by telling a joke behind the bar, but that he would drop over dead right before the punch line!
Every bartender needs a mentor, and he was mine. Mark was about 10 years older than me. Although I have been bartending in Washington, D.C. for the past 30 plus years, I’ve always believed that one can always learn.
I remember Mark telling me:
"There’s two great books you have to get: "The Craft of the Cocktail" by Dale DeGroff", and "The Joy of Mixology" by Gary Regan". He raved about them. Naturally, I picked them up that week. Mark’s words were golden to me.
When his book "Bottled Wisdom" came out, he sent me a signed copy. I have always treasured it.
I asked Mark recently to send me a signed copy of "Bottled Wisdom" for my 80 year old dad. My dad received it about a month before Mark passed away. Dad loved it! I told dad that it was probably one of the last copies of "Bottled Wisdom" that Mark signed.
Mark would always send his customers in to see me when they traveled to D.C. On numerous occasions, someone would walk into my bar, either at the Oval Room Restaurant, or later at Signature’s Restaurant, where I worked, and hand me a card. The card was Mark’s business card, and he wrote on it: "Buy this man a drink!"
Mark and I often talked about having a big bash for all the Hall of Fame Bartenders. But Mark often wondered: "Who in the hell would tend bar?"
It’s really ironic: my mother passed away on March 12, 2007. I was very devastated. Mark sent me the most comforting email about dealing with my mother’s death. He told me that mom would not want me crying and feeling depressed. I told Mark that I was going to read a tribute to my mother at the funeral mass, but I didn’t think I could keep my composure. Mark said that mom would not want me feeling like that, but to remember how much my mother loved me. While I was on the altar reading my tribute, I remembered Mark’s words.
He really got me through it.
Mark told me that when his mother passed away, she told him: "Don’t cry, but party hearty for me"! I think my mother would have said the same thing!
But life is funny: after all the comfort Mark gave me about my mother, then he passes away on the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death.
Mark and I always talked about meeting. Either I would come to St. Louis, or he would come here to D.C. I actually had plans to make a surprise visit to St. Louis this summer. I lived in St. Louis, circa 1965.
Mark: I know you’re up there mixing cocktails. When my time comes, please have a Dewar’s on the rocks, splash of water for me.
But on second thought, since I don’t have to pay for it up there, make it a Macallan!
Thank you for your friendship! I want to meet you!
Bartender’s Hall of Fame