When 19-year-old Tina Marino moved here from her native Buffalo two months ago to take acting classes, her talent scout landed her a gig as a "tableside concierge" at the Hawaiian Tropic Zone. The interview process, she says, was a bit different than the one she underwent before working at T.G.I. Friday's: "We had to try on a bathing suit." We wondered how she keeps her cool (besides working in a sarong) amid co-worker squabbles, two fiercely competitive beauty pageants per night, and the occasional customers she describes as "rude, obnoxious gentlemen well, not gentlemen."
So what's it like working in a Nicole Miller bikini?
I'm a little self-conscious; it's hard to put on a bathing suit every day. It gets cold. I try not to stand near the door. They have some heaters near the hostess stand.
Do men ever speak out of turn?
The most common issue is men asking myself and other waitresses if their boobs are real, which puts you in an uncomfortable situation. Mine are, but a lot of the other girls' aren't!
How about women?
There was this table of women from out of town. I was like, "You guys really remind me of my mom and my family." This woman was like, "Oh, she should be real proud." I was like, "Excuse me?"
When you serve a couple, do the girlfriends get jealous?
We're always really attentive to the female. They tell us a million times, "Serve the females first. Make eye contact with her first."
Do the guys in the back of the house ever act up?
Actually, no. When I worked at Friday's, the kitchen would make sly remarks and sexual jokes. Here we haven't had that.
Unlike you, the waitresses who were recruited from other parts of the country live in a dorm together. Are they a cliquish bunch?
They're always having some type of drama: gossiping, fighting over boys or clothes. And within the house, they have some cliques, so girls are talking behind each other's backs.
Is the competition fierce when the nightly beauty pageants roll around?
Obviously a lot of girls want to win [the $100 prize]. Some will say, "Oh, she only won because she went to my table and asked them to vote for her. Oh, she stuffed the ballot box."
Any celebrity sightings?
Jerry Bruckheimer has been in a few times. Jadakiss, Derek Jeter, several people from the Knicks. When Sting came in with four or five people, he left because he said the atmosphere just wasn't what he was looking for.
How often do customers hit on you?
Um, all the time. A guy offered to fly me to France to "share his life with him." People will stick a voting card in the check book and leave their number. I have a resemblance to Tara Reid; one guy left a note saying, 'Tara, you complete me!'"