Day 2 – Victor Pires
My favourite animated movie of all time is Disney’s the Lion King! In the movie a bunch of hyena’s talk about a certain lion with pure reverence and fear, as if the mention of his very name alone would fill them with trepidation, never mind the thought of actually seeing him in real life.
For all purposes Victor Pires was the ‘Mufasa’ of SA Flair Bartending, “oooohhhhhh-oooooh, say it again”. I would wake up early in the morning, after having night terrors dreaming about us in competition, and go to practice out of fear that Vic would already have an hour or two head-start ahead of me.
He was a rolling, wrecking ball flair renegade, with a gearbox which consisted of only two gears - ‘park’ and ‘to infinity and beyond!’
As if in total contrast, Vic and Mike were on the opposite sides of the flair spectrum. If Mike put me in a flat panic, Vic scared the living s#*t out of me during comps. If Mike was Iceman, Vic was Maverick, not outspoken in that way but rather a quietly released dynamo who had no governing pin in place to keep his rev counter from blowing up. Cinematically speaking, I always thought of Vic as if he was in the Movie Top-Gun looking for some-one to high 5 while screaming out the words “I feel the need, the need for speed!” he competed as if he was flairing against ghosts on stage, like it was the very last thing he was going to do in life and he was going to hold absolutely nothing back. Under this guise of raw emotion, that is exactly what a flair routine executed by Vic was, emotional.
The way these competitions were laid out would often mean that Vic and I would go live just before or after one another. Very often I would hope to not qualify ahead of him because it would mean that he went live just before my set, leaving everyone else left in the warm up area to pain through the sound of Vic ripping through a 6 minute set, with the chorus of jeers sounding every couple of seconds. The louder and more frequent the crowd went crazy the worse it was for all of us left yet to flair, we all knew it was going to be a long night and let’s face it, I mean who wants to follow that!
What I loved the most about Vic, was his complete disregard for winning. The brotherhood of bartending was always more important and the concept of winning and losing was only tertiary to the cause of laying bare his character on stage and demonstrating the very best show he had to offer all of the time, the concept of ‘playing it safe’ just didn’t exist to him.
In 2006, Vic unsuccessfully defended his SA National title he had won the year before. He competed at the World Champs in Helsinki, Finland in 2005 in the shape of his life. After lying waste the bartending hopes of everyone else in SA over the course of a 4 round demolition display of flair Armageddon. He would win the SA Nationals in emphatic fashion with an unforgettable series of performances as Spiderman. A period in my life where I would say Vic was almost unbeatable.
Cut to 2006, and as the defending champ, Vic needed to coast to a solid semi-final performance and take his lead into a final round after which he would undoubtedly become the first SA Bartender to ever defend his title. A couple of breaks in his semi-final round see him off the pace for the final. He absolutely annihilates another round in true Vic style in the final but he could not catch the rising star of Alex Farnell, who held his own nerve in the thought of beating the defending champ and dethroning him for the sake of his own legacy, and win the 2006 Nationals.
Alex become the 2006 National Champ, he went to do damage at the World Champs in Thessaloniki Greece later that year and Vic missed his shot at back to back titles himself.
Every bartender goes through peaks and troughs in their career. For Vic his next peak came a couple of years later where he would go on another amazing run in the ‘Untouchables Flair series’ organised by Joe De Wet, and would win 4 out of 6 comps in succession.
After spending so much time together and competing against each other. The bonds people will form in those circumstances are for life. Vic is the type of person who has zero spite, and would delight in your own glory more so, because he didn’t take much delight in his own. Helpful to the point of such selflessness to this day I can call him for anything, and he wouldn’t hesitate to put my needs above his own. In stature, he is barely the height of a bar counter himself but, he lives to a set of values very rarely seen in most people, and because of that he set apart as a giant walking amongst men.
Vic is now the Head Beverage Innovator at Liquid Concepts. The brainchild of the Burstain Brothers Oron, Idan and Yoav. They are distributors of many different brands of beverages in SA, most popularly of the global syrup brand Monin Gourmet Syrups. The perfect place for Vic who can let his creative brilliance loose on all things beverage in a liquid play pin made for one.
To this day, I cannot go anywhere without being introduced as being a flair bartender, and to any young rookie the first thing they always ask me is – “do you know Victor Pires?”
And proudly, the answer in my head is always the same “oooooohhhh-oooooooooohhhh say it again, yes I more than know him, he is my friend!”