“JFK was the president, Bill Mazeroski had won the world series, and George was tending bars.”
Photo: George Martin, believed to be the longest regularly scheduled bartender in the country, conducts the crowd in a live rendition of “Happy Birthday” at Elks Lodge #339, where he served drinks in celebration of his birthday. By Janine Faust
By Janine Faust
George “Mr. Entertainment” Martin, now a nonagenarian, still lives up to his nickname. The weekend bartender at Allegheny Elks Lodge #339 inspired plenty of cheers while serving 92 drinks the night of Jan. 31, two days before he officially turned 92 on Feb. 2.
“Service with a smile,” he sang, setting a beer down with a flourish in front of a grinning patron.
This was Martin’s third birthday in a row counting up to his age in served drinks at Lodge #339 in Historic Deutschtown. Dozens of lodge members from across the Pittsburgh metropolitan area turned out to celebrate this year, with appearances by local celebrities and officials. Proceeds from the celebration, which was sponsored by the Northside Leadership Conference (NSLC), went to Lodge #339.
A lifelong Northside resident, Martin has been a member of Lodge #339 for 70 years. He’s held various positions, including Exalted Master, Chaplain and Entertainment Chairman.
“Every time I got on the stage [in the lodge], it was to make people laugh,” he said.
Martin has carried this mission over to his most consistent position there—volunteer weekend bartender. He’s believed to be the oldest regularly scheduled bartender in the region, if not the country, according to Mark Fatla, NSLC Director and lodge member.
“It’s hard to tell, because it’s not like anybody keeps a record. He’s certainly one of the oldest.” Fatla said. “He’s been tending the bar since about 1960. JFK was the president, Bill Mazeroski had won the world series, and George was tending bars.”
The night kicked off at 6 p.m. and seats filled quickly. While another bartender made the drinks, Martin, clad in a crisp blue suit, served. Each order was tallied on a large notepad. In between serving, he accepted cards, kissed babies and exchanged jokes with friends.
Dennis Kanouff, a member of Elks Lodge #1668 in Oakmont, came to celebrate with his wife Jan. He said plenty of members come to #339 for Martin.
“He just has an air about him that draws people to him,” Kanouff said.
Martin reached the halfway mark around 6:45 p.m., so he paused to lead patrons in a rendition of his favorite song — “God Bless America,” sung in the key of G.
Martin’s interest in music included serving a stint in the U.S. Army Band as a trumpet player. He also owned a few bars in Pittsburgh during his life, and cultivated a sense of style while working at Kaufmann’s flagship clothing store downtown, Jan Kanouff noted.
“He always dresses like he came out of [an issue of] GQ,” she said.
Several Pittsburgh celebrities and officials came to order drinks and wish Martin a happy birthday. Former District 1 Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who has known Martin for about 50 years, ordered the 92nd drink of the night—a Canadian Club and ginger ale, Martin’s favorite.
When Harris received her drink, the crowd cheered, raised their beers, and sang “Happy Birthday” to Martin, who conducted from the end of the bar.
Bobby Wilson, the current District 1 Councilman, stopped in to announce that City Council declared Feb. 2-9, 2020 “George ‘Mr. Entertainment’ Martin Week” in Pittsburgh.
“The Council of the City of Pittsburgh looks forward to future celebrations of George ‘Mr. Entertainment’ Martin’s birthdays, and wishes him many more years of happiness doing what he loves to do,” Wilson said.
Martin said he thought the celebration was “unbelievable.” He hopes to keep bartending on his birthday for many more years.
“93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, if the Good Lord permits,” he said.