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Coctail Server Contest Causes A Stir

December 10, 1985

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ A contest to find the best cocktail server in this resort’s casino hotels is causing a stir, with some waitresses saying judging that includes pinches and propositions is demeaning and malicious.

But an organizer said Tuesday that the challenges put to the servers during preliminary competition last month, such as drunks and spilled drinks, merely imitated reality.

″What it was was more or less the same thing they deal with every day,″ said Trent Mathis, whose girlfriend, Joanne Marshall, came up with the idea for the first Atlantic City Best Casino Cocktail Server contest.

Miss Marshall said Monday the contest, which will hold finals Jan. 13, is a true test of servers’ mettle.

″We wanted to open the public’s eyes and show how difficult it is to be a good cocktail server, and what you go through every day,″ said Miss Marshall, who serves drinks at Trump’s Castle Hotel & Casino.

Mathis said that Miss Marshall came up with the idea for the contest as a way to boost the morale of casino workers during the off season and to give the servers the chance to earn some extra money.

Some contestants vouched for the real-life quality of the gauntlet during a Monday news conference that featured many of the 42 semifinalists.

″I’ve been pushed, punched, kicked, stepped on, burned with cigarettes,″ Russelle Patterson, a server at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino, said of her on-the-job experience. ″It comes with the territory ... If this could make the general public aware of what we go through, there was some validity to it.″ However, waitresses from the Golden Nugget casino hotel have withdrawn from the contest.

″The manner in which the judging was taking place was not professional enough for us to be involved with,″ said Muriel Harris, a spokeswoman for the gaming hall.

″It was horrible,″ said one Golden Nugget waitress, who asked that her name not be used. ″Everyone went in with the idea it was going to be fun, but it turned out to be malicious.″

Mathis said the Golden Nugget servers were mistreated like everyone else. After rounds of judging on appearance and on the servers’ ability to carry a tray bearing 10 filled champagne glasses, the servers were tested on their abilities to handle customers.

Contestants said the judges, posing as customers, cursed at them, threw drinks in their faces, knocked trays out of their hands, and offered their room keys. Milder tests included foreign-speaking customers or drunks trying to get more liquor.

Jim Lucy of Trump’s Castle, the only male server to make the finals, said female judges tried to pinch his buttocks and to give him their room keys.

″One of the judges accused me of flirting with her husband,″ said Karol Sullivan of Resorts International Casino Hotel. ″The next judge asked me if I knew of any prostitutes ... I’ve had worse hassles, believe me.″

The judges were beverage supervisors from casino hotels, Mathis said. The contest, which will award prizes of $1,000, $500 and $300 to the top three servers, is not being sponsored by the city’s 11 casino hotels, he said.

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