The GLT turns the spotlight on Mila Rivera
Dancer and bartender at Rich’s and Numbers
Published Thursday, 16-Sep-2010 in issue 1186
Upon meeting Mila people are surprised to find out she is not a wild party girl. Her passion is dancing, however she is a self described puzzle geek and somewhat of a homebody. She is surprisingly reserved and likes spending her days cooking, reading and relaxing. Her nights are reserved for her showboating alter ego, she says. A girl who lives to learn new things and who has interests that range from one extreme of the spectrum to the other makes for a really well rounded and interesting person.
“I love garlic, bats and sharks, caverns and canyons, drag shows, deep philosophical conversations and the smell of sandalwood. I enjoy studying language, archaeology, history, the arts, and science. My past jobs include working at zoos and observatories, writing for a local paper, alternative modeling, a lot of humanitarian work across the country, working as a production assistant in addition to pursuing my passion as a professional dancer in New York. Since moving to California I have tapped into my more adventurous side and I really enjoy hiking, exploring new beaches and coves, camping and just being outdoors in general.” – Mila
GLT: Where are you from and how old are you?
MR: I’m 27 and I moved to San Diego from New York City last year, but I spent my childhood in New Jersey.
GLT: When did you become a bartender and where?
MR: Eight years ago I landed my first bartending job at one of the only gay clubs in New Jersey. I fluffed my resume majorly so I could get my foot in the door, and once I got that high volume experience I returned to New York. I could make the big bucks moonlighting behind the bar, while going to school and volunteering at the zoo.
GLT: What bar do you work at now and what are your shifts?
MR: I currently work every Thursday at Rich’s for ladies night [Repent]. I have a monthly spot at Numbers on Saturdays. I will actually be behind the bar for Femme Fatale October 2nd and 9th and for the Halloween event! Come visit!
GLT: In your opinion what are the essential things to being a great bartender?
MR: I have always found it most important to have a great attitude and outgoing personality, that’s what keeps people coming back to you. Know-how is also key and that includes everything from the ability to multitask to proper bar etiquette. Of course an extensive knowledge of cocktails is also important. Thirdly I would say knowing and understanding and TALKING to your patrons is pretty important too. It really moves people when you remember their name, follow up on a prior conversation and, of course, remember their favorite drink.
GLT: What is the most rewarding thing about being a bartender?
MR: I find it really rewarding when someone tells me how much they love my drink recipes. I love cooking and my approach to bartending is very similar. I really enjoy creating tasty, balanced, unique cocktails or even just adding a special twist to classic drinks. Additionally working behind the bar gives me the opportunity to meet all sorts of people. I love that! I still remember customers from years ago who have left impressions on me, just because we shared a few minutes of storytelling.
GLT: What is your favorite drink of all time?
MR: Ketel One on the rocks + 2 limes + 1 lemon = zero hangover.
GLT: What does Rich’s and you offer that other lesbian nightlife spots do not?
MR: Rich’s ladies night and other lesbian events are all so unique, so it really depends on what kind of night you’re looking to get into. Repent Thursdays at Rich’s offers bartenders who sling drinks and perform on top of the bar throughout the night. It gets pretty wild, especially if there are quite a few birthdays in the house, since the ladies can outbid each other to get birthday dances from their favorite bartenders. Overall, it is a super fun night with great DJs like Dirty Kurty, Kiki, and Von Kiss plus hot bartenders and dancers. We have free shots and the always crowd-pleasing water show finale. It has created quite the buzz and has been drawing in all sorts of people of every age and orientation from all over California.
GLT: What was the funniest time you have ever had at work?
MR: David my bar back at Rich’s is so much fun to work with. He is hilarious...pretty much every Thursday is entertaining. One night our banter consisted solely of quotes from Paris is Burning...dance moves included.
GLT: The worst night ever at work and why?
MR: There is no night that sticks out, really. After years of bartending you get sort of used to how unpredictable nightlife can be, so if any ‘bad’ night comes along, you quickly adapt and learn to take it all in your stride.
GLT: The worst types of customers do…..?
MR: Do not realize I work for tips.
GLT: The best customers do……….?
MR: Come into the club ready to have a good time and of course, tip well.
GLT: Name three things that represent who you are.
MR: Vegan. Versatile. Nicky award winner!
GLT: Do you have any new nights in the works or other entertainment that you do?
MR: I also dance at Silk, in the Pechanga casino on Fridays and some Saturdays, in addition to working in Hillcrest and dancing at other downtown venues. I do in fact have something else in the works, but that will not come to fruition until next year. Stay tuned!
GLT: Girls night at Rich’s is known for having girls up on the bar and free pouring shots into a crowd of girl’s mouths. Do you get up on the bar too?
MR: Yes I do! Birthday girls get the ‘birdie’, my signature tequila shot...from my mouth.
GLT: Would you consider yourself an activist?
MR: Absolutely! Referring back to your previous question I would definitely say that a FOURTH fact that represents me is that I’m an anarcho-pacifist...I’m all about non violent revolution.
GLT: Is there anything else that you would like people to know about you?
MR: I love living and working in San Diego. It has really opened me up to the GLBT community. There is a ton of gay and lesbian movers and shakers and everyone supports each other. It is really impressive. In NYC everyone is out and ‘free to be’ but there’s a genuine sense of COMMUNITY that’s unique to San Diego. I really love that. I’m really thankful for the remarkable people I’ve met who’ve contributed to all of the many wonderful experiences I have had since moving here...and I know some credit is due to my time behind the bar. I love doing what I do because of you, so thank you. Oh! If you haven’t already, make sure to come and check me out at Rich’s and Numbers!
GLT: Mila, thank you very much for making San Diego’s lesbian night life more well rounded and fun! All the best from The Gay & Lesbian Times.