Tropical Storm Isaac is currently churning through the Caribbean threatening Cuba, Florida and about 10,000 Republicans who might best be packing their drip dry gray suits for next week’s convention. But Isaac isn’t the first whirlwind to threaten to do some serious damage on the water.
That would be Ted Lange, the one and only Isaac the bartender on the 1980’s Saturday night ABC staple, Love Boat. Your favorite dipsomaniac might have spent a few too many weekend nights watching the Love Boat/Fantasy Island two-hour programming bloc, but his social life wasn’t as packed full as it is now. So Isaac was a certain sort of hero to me, fixing exotic drinks for B-list celebrities like Barbi Benton and Tom Wopat on the Pacific Princess as they sailed to faraway locales and solved earth-shattering problems like who was going to take Captain Stubing’s awkwardly developing teenage daughter to the dance on formal night. Hey, this was important stuff back then!
Now a successful playwright, Lange is still involved in show business, but more as a director and producer. But when he visited New Orleans last month for Tales of the Cocktail, he was still treated like a rock star by the gathering of mixologists from all over the country. Keep in mind that the holy trinity of onscreen bartenders is Isaac, Sam from Cheers and whatever the name of the douchebag character that Tom Cruise played in Cocktail. And in that order, in my opinion.
I sat down with Lange for a quick talk in between his appearances promoting liqueurs from DiSaronno and Tia Maria. They even named a drink after him at Tales, though I admit “The Isaac” was a trifle sweet for my liking. Here’s part of our conversation:
So what’s your impression of your first Tales of the Cocktail event?
I’m really impressed by the camaraderie that all these mixologists display among each other. That, and the fact that apparently these dudes never sleep.
What sort of preparation did you do for the role?
I interviewed a lot of LA bartenders. My favorite spot was a place called “Residuals,” where if you were and actor that could show them a residual check, they’d float your tab up to that amount or give you a free drink. Luckily, I’d already been on That’s My Momma and Mr. T & Tina, so I was good to go. I learned how to slice garnishes and zest a lemon, but mainly all I had to do was put umbrellas in drinks.
What was Isaac’s favorite drink?
Isaac didn’t drink.
From my research, I discovered that a lot of bartenders were recovering alcoholics, so when I was developing Isaac’s character, I decided that he didn’t drink. But I was a Stoli man back then. Now I prefer DiSaronno products.
What are you working on now?
My latest play is the third of an American History trilogy. It’s called Lady Patriot and tells the story of a slave named Mary Bowser. But I swear it’s got some funny parts.
I’m sure it does, but I’d rather have a Singapore Sling on the Lido Deck. Thanks for your time, Ted.