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Artem, a very hot bartender at Albatross Bar (3619 24th Ave., Astoria, New York), was just waking up as he answered my call. Born in a satellite of the Soviet Union, with a hint of a Russian accent, he has an appearance that I’m sure makes him one of the most popular bartenders around. Artem has a warm and friendly persona, and proudly claims that he’s shameless. I will certainly be visiting this bar for a fireball with Artem very soon.

So, are you a good bartender?
I think I’m a wonderful bartender. I get a lot of compliments, so I’m assuming people enjoy me.

Are you Russian?
I am. I’m from Belarus, actually. It’s a small country that borders Russia and Poland.

One of my good friends is Russian, and he made me listen to Russian pop music on the way to DragCon.
I had a customer last night who lived in Russia for a while. He was requesting that I put some Russian music on. I played a few rock songs that I really enjoy myself. I watched the customers faces, and they said, “What’s with this music?” I said, “You’re not that drunk. It’s Russian. It’s not your drinking; it’s just that you don’t understand what this person is saying. It’s in Russian, don’t worry.”

How long have you been in the States? Are you allowed to go back to Belarus? Would you?
I’ve been here since I was 12. I’m allowed. I’m a citizen, and I still have my Belarus passport. I went to Belarus once, and I didn’t enjoy it much. I was a teenager when I did that, and I was developing here. I just didn’t see home there anymore. I would like to go to Russia and see Moscow. My friend who lived here went back to Russia to develop a fashion line. He lives in Moscow now.

Has he had any trouble there?
He’s a fun boy, and he hasn’t had a problem. He stopped wearing heels.

What was your most fun experience that you’ve had while bartending?
I honestly don’t know. I have fun all the time.

Then I’ll settle for your most embarrassing experience.
I’m kind of a shameless person. It’s difficult to say that I’ve ever felt really embarrassed at work, especially because it’s the type of bar where you have all your regulars come. It’s a neighborhood spot. Everyone knows each other. It’s like a gay “Cheers.” There is never really an embarrassing moment. I think the most embarrassing moment for me at the bar is when I decide to sing karaoke, because I’m a terrible singer. Everyone tries to cheer me on, because they understand I’m really trying. I really do embarrass myself by trying to sing, because everyone else that works at the bar is a wonderful singer. In Astoria are a lot of Broadway performers that live here. They are incredible singers. You have somebody that’s singing Disney, and then you have somebody like me come and sing “Sweet Dreams” because it’s easy.

So do have queens perform at the bar?
OMG, we have amazing drag queens. Most Saturdays we have Suddenly Seymour, and she’s a Broadway queen. OMG, I love her. What a wonderful performer. She throws an amazing show, and she will bring in guests, too, that are different than what she does. If she doesn’t come, we have Cacophony Daniels. She can belt out a song in such a high-pitched voice that she sounds like a woman. On Mondays we have Gilda Wabbit. She is so much fun. She does drag bingo every Monday at the bar and is a professionally trained opera singer. She will give you some Broadway, and then sing an aria.

So you love your job to death, don’t you?
I absolutely love my job to death. I even moved to Queens to be closer to work. I lived in the East Village for two years and commuted to Astoria every night, every day. I finally decided I wanted to be close to make my life easier. I got more space for the money.

Do you have a boyfriend?
I do not. I am available to date.

I’ll be stopping by for a fireball.

I love fireball. It tastes like Christmas!

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