Sacramento’s Sam Malone
By Lovelle Harris
So a guy walks into a bar carrying a duck smoking a cigar. The bartender asks the man, “Why are you carrying a duck smoking a cigar?” If this is the joke you’ve been dying to tell, and you come into R15 for a cocktail or two after a long day at the office, you may not want to continue to the punch line if Todd Temby is behind the bar. While he enjoys most of his patron’s witty banter, he does not enjoy cheesy bar jokes. So, if you come at him with a joke that starts out with rabbi, a priest and football player, don’t bother: He won’t play along.
How do you deal with the people who come in just looking to get hammered?
If it’s really busy, then that’s the best time to have douche bags at the bar, because you’re just too busy to have to really deal with them. If it’s slow and you’ve got douche bags, you’re just trapped like a caged tiger with people throwing peanuts at you.
What is your favorite drink?
Right now, I would have to say that would be Jägermeister, but I like froufrou drinks like piña coladas and mojitos. I just have a sweet tooth; I like fruity stuff, fruity ice creams especially. I like ice creams that have some kind of a fruity swirl with some kind of graham cracker crust—something that’s got crunch to go along with that sweet, creamy goodness.
When did you start bartending?
Since 1984, I think, or 1985. I didn’t want to be a bartender; I wanted to be a waiter, and I was nagging my boss to be a waiter and he asked me if I wanted to be a bartender, and I said sure. I wanted to be a waiter, but bartending was the opportunity that I got, so I just rolled with it. It ended up being cool, so I like it. I was bussing at Vito’s on Fair Oaks Boulevard between Fulton and Howe, now the Zinfandel Grille. So I got the gig, and I just remember I was really excited to get it and I kept badgering a couple of the bartenders to teach me, asking them how do you make this drink, how do you make that drink? So they’d give me little lame tasks to do to keep me busy so I wouldn’t bother them.
How did you get involved in the music scene in Sacramento?
I met a musician by the name of Ross Hammond, because I had done a recording session with sax player, Aaron Thurman, and they were looking for a drummer, and out of that came the Sardonics. Right now I’m in a band called Savage Rascal and have a side project called Kidtastrophy. I just enjoy playing music with other artists that I like.
Do you hear any good jokes being a bartender?
A lot of people think that the bar is a good place to tell jokes, and I’ve learned over the years to just listen to them. In the old days, I told people I didn’t want to hear jokes, but if something funny happened to you yesterday, then you can tell me that. But I don’t want to hear a joke.
How long have you been with the Paragary Restaurant Group?
I started with them at Zito’s in 1984 and that turned into Paragary’s. I was working at the Paragary’s on 28th and N [streets], and then I left for about two years to work at the Inland Boat Club. When I left there, that’s when I started at the Monkey Bar, and then I ultimately moved on to R15.
Why do you enjoy bartending?
I just don’t want to have to work a lot, and bartending fit that desire. You can make good money and you don’t have to work a lot, and it’s entertainment—you’re onstage, and I love to entertain people. I like making people laugh because I like to laugh.
What would you do for a living if you weren’t bartending?
I would be the water boy for the Miami Dolphins, because I love the Miami Dolphins and I want to be on the sideline with the boys, getting up in their faces going, “Yeah, good play,” and squirting water in their mouths.
My very, very earliest memory is when they were in the Super Bowl in 1973 or 1974, I think it was against the Redskins, and they were just winners when I was a kid, so that’s why I’ve always liked them. I’ve never been to Miami, but I figure I’ll get there someday, say, when I get my [water boy] job. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be calling me now after this interview comes out.
Are you from Sacramento? If so, where did you go to school?
Yes, born and raised. I went to Crocker [Riverside] Elementary, [California] Middle School, before they closed it, and McClatchy [High School]. Seventh grade was the worst, though, because I hardly knew anybody, and my dad made me wear these fucked-up shoes that he picked out, and I did not want to wear them. I felt like a goober, so seventh grade was really traumatic for me.
Who are some of your heroes?
Frank Zappa is a hero for sure, a local producer by the name of “Bongo” Bob Smith and Andy Partridge from XTC.