I’m A Bartender & Here’s What Really Goes Down At TIFF Parties

For many of us, the Toronto International Film Festival is a chance to enjoy a night on the town, check out some buzzy movies, and hopefully have a meet-cute with Michael B. Jordan. But for the celebs, publicists, makeup artists, hair stylists, and hundreds of others hustling behind-the-scenes, the festival is a grind (albeit a fun one). We asked some of TIFF’s insiders to spill on how they spent their busiest hours.

Today: A bartender working at a Toronto hot spot frequented by celebs spends her night serving industry insiders and fending off inebriated patrons.

Saturday, Sept. 7

11 a.m. — I wake up and try to go back to sleep because I barely slept. I left work at 6 a.m. and got home around 6:45 a.m. Didn’t get to sleep until 8 a.m. I’m just trying to get any rest.

2 p.m. — I wake up fully to get ready for my shift. I make myself avocado toast at home and I get Tim Hortons on my way to work. I don’t have time to do my hair how I want to, so I shower again because I feel gross and put my hair up. I do my makeup while driving. I always listen to Megan Thee Stallion’s album on the way to work to put me in that money mindset when I’m too tired to go.

4 p.m. — I get to work and have to move some furniture around for a TIFF party. I’m a 5’2″ and 110 lbs., the tiniest person in there moving all this shit around. My body is so sore. We move a whole bunch of tables and all the chairs out of the room so there is standing room. There are two parties going on, and the super famous leads of each film used to date. The exes’ parties are in different sections of the venue so there is no risk of them running into each other.

The only note we get about celebrities is not to fan girl at all. Also, if anyone is trying to take pictures of the celebrity, to make sure you literally stand in front of the phone to block it. For me, I don’t leave the bar so I can only see who’s right in front of me and celebrities rarely order their own drinks. It’s either somebody else ordering for them or they make servers go to them because they’re in their own little section.

6:30 p.m. — The bar is rammed, and people are extremely impatient. I’m used to Toronto, non-Hollywood people who are more chill. Every single person is kind of shitty. I guess they’re travelling for work and probably not used to waiting in a six-person line at the bar, but that’s no excuse. This guy is clapping his hands in front of my face trying to get my attention. I take his drink away and I say, “I’m not standing back here texting. I’m obviously busy and moving. I see you, I would have gotten to you, but now you don’t get a drink.” He goes to management or reception and tries to get me trouble. I hear about it later, but nobody was indulging in that.

8 p.m. — Still dealing with rude costumers who I assume are American. None of them know how to use the debit machine. There are a lot of Instagram influencers here. I recognize them from my Explore page. Lots of fitness bloggers. I’m surprised. Americans are so different, they’re a totally different vibe. They’re so entitled. I get hit on relentlessly. It’s TIFF so I think maybe I can find a sugar daddy from all of this, but they’re more like Splenda daddies. They aren’t as successful as they are letting on. People who are actually doing well are more humble. I definitely prefer serving Canadians.

12 a.m. — A lady stops to do coke on my bar. This girl takes out her phone and puts it on the bar and just starts using her credit card to start mashing up a little baggy of blow right on the bar. I laugh and tell her to put the coke away. She’s getting her keys out and is about to do it right in the room, so I tell her not to do it in front of me because I’m supposed to take it away. She replies, “Oh, I just need a hard surface.” I’m so busy, and I don’t have time and it’s so loud that I just kind of allow it.

3:30 a.m. — Everyone is leaning over the bar trying to get drinks. I’m not serving this one woman because she is so fucked up. I keep choosing to serve other people over her because I don’t think this girl should have anything else to drink. She is so wasted she can barely talk. I’m not about to have the verbal confrontation about cutting her off so I keep ignoring her. About 10 minutes pass before she comes over — it’s blatantly obvious at this point that I am intentionally not serving her — and she grabs my ponytail. She says, “Hey, I want a vodka soda.” I call security for help. I think they ask her to leave.

4:30 a.m. — I’m closing out the bar, wiping down bottles and melting ice, when the clapping guy from earlier in the night comes over. This guy has been here for hours getting wasted. He says, “I’m really sorry. I use a lot of drugs. I get really intense when I do blow.” Everybody in there was so coked-out. I’m not about to say, “don’t worry about it” and give him that satisfaction so I don’t really say anything. He keeps going on and on. I say, “I hope moving forward you treat service staff with more respect” and then he gets angry again because I was rude. He starts saying how he never did anything at all, and I motion to security and he leaves of his own accord.

6 a.m. — We move the furniture back. At the end of the night, my managers offer us alcohol so I start drinking. My manager gives me a joint and we all get ready to leave. I’m too fucked up to drive so I call an Uber. It’s the only night that I’m too tired to shower, which is disgusting, but I just can’t do it and I’m so sticky. I wash my face. It doesn’t matter how fucked up I am, I will always wash my face.

8 a.m. — I fall asleep, but just when I think I’m going to get some rest, workers at the house beside me (which is under construction) start drilling at 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I pray that I can just fall asleep since I have to be back at work for another shift at 6 p.m.

This feature is meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and does not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behaviour.

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