Counter Culture Waitress Blog

Searching for lifers…
May 13, 2009, 2:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Charlotte at The Copper Cart.  Seligman, Arizona

Charlotte at The Copper Cart. Seligman, Arizona

I got the idea for Counter Culture while I was waitressing at Blowfish Sushi in San Francisco. I sat down to count my tips after a busy Friday night and I was exhausted. I was only 31 years old, but my feet throbbed, my arms ached and I couldn’t believe how tired I was. I worked with 20-something year-old hipsters and we would sit at the back table and complain about hard waitressing was and how much our problem customers got on our nerves…and in the midst of this bitch session, I thought to myself, “how do older waitresses do this work, especially the lifers who work in coffee shops?” I was getting my Master’s degree in Visual Criticism at the California College for the Arts and I hadn’t chosen my thesis at that point and a light bulb clicked on in my head. I assumed that a lot had been written about older diner waitresses, but after a week of research I quickly learned that only a few books had been published on this particular subculture. There were books about waitressing unions, a dissertation about an East coast restaurant, and there were several books on diners, but the diner books only dedicated a few pages, if any, to the waitresses.

Lou Lou at Ed Dabevic's. Los Angeles, California

When I asked people if they knew any older diner waitresses they often re-enacted a stereotype of a haggard, beehive-wearing hash slinger with too much make-up and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. Over the next 8 years of interviewing and photographing waitresses, my mission was to document real lifers, not the cynical, gum-smacking stereotype that Hollywood invented. Although, I did meet a couple of waitresses with towering beehives, none of them chewed their gum while screaming “Adam and Eve on a Raft!” to order their eggs during the morning rush. This is not to say that I haven’t met some colorful characters over the years and I would like to meet more for my film documentary. Does anyone out there know any lively older diner waitresses who are at least 50 years old, brimming with personality and a loyal following of regular customers?


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