Behind the Bar

A look at the mothers, writers and musicians who pour Tucson's tastiest drinks

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The Veteran

I walked from my house in the historic Iron Horse Neighborhood to Ahead of Style, a salon located at 426 E. Ninth St. I'm three minutes early for my meeting with one its hair stylists, Barb Trujillo. Normally, she would be greeting me in the club bar at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. She was standing near the doorway waiting for my arrival. Her smile is outlined with fire-hydrant red lipstick that goes with her red The Underestimated City baseball cap. Trujillo is Tucson born and bred.

"Come in. I'll show you around," she said.

We walk into her office/hair cutting station. The wall on the west side of the room has her certification framed, a picture of a cocktail, and action shots of Trujillo in her roller derby gear and in a Mrs. Santa outfit. But all these images surround a large portrait of a handsome young man: her son, Parker.

Trujillo is a hair stylist by day and has been for the last 20 years. Originally, she went to college at Phoenix College on an athletic scholarship for her softball skills. "I played for many years. When I was 15, I played ball with women in their 30s," Trujillo said.

"I didn't know exactly what direction I was going while attending college, but I knew I didn't have a future in softball. I left after a year and went to school for hair."

Trujillo's first bar job was as a shot girl at the Atomic Café in Phoenix. Upon her 1996 return to Tucson, she was able to get a job with Zia Records before beginning her long-time career at Club Congress, somewhat by coercion.

"I went to Congress and spoke to the bar manager at the time, Alex Skelton. Alex asked me 'Why should I hire you?' I responded with 'Because I'll make you money and I'll make me money.' He answered 'You start on Thursday.'"

Trujillo has been slinging drinks at Hotel Congress ever since.

"The bar is like the stage, the customer is the rock star and I am their roadie," Trujillo said. "Some people don't get out that much, so I try to facilitate a good time. I like to see people have fun," she said.

Congress also serves a destination for celebrities, even beyond the bands that come through several nights a week. "Vince Vaughn comes in a lot. Justin Long is really nice, and I think I gave him one of my roller derby pens. Courtney Love was here recently. I don't really notice them until it's too late," Trujilo said. "I think they come because ... people are pretty laid back."

Trujillo is one of the few female members of the local branch of the United States Bartending Guild. "They help us stay excited with what's in the bar scene, and helps keep us up to date on what's coming. The veteran mixologist's favorite drink is the "Green Tea," made up of Jameson, peach schnapps, fresh lime juice and simple syrup.

Besides cutting thousands of heads of hair and serving countless Congress customers, Trujillo is also a mainstay of Tucson roller derby history, participating in the city's first team following the sport's revival. She was very reluctant to play, but Tucson Roller Derby founder Kim Kysar's argument was, "Look you already have your name: Barbicide ... It was Kim Kysar's fault. Damn you, Kim," she laughs. Trujillo first joined the Furious Truckstop Waitresses and then Vice Squad, before recently retiring after 10 years of action. "It was like someone died," she confessed.

"I retired because I did it for so many years. I knew (Parker) would make an elite baseball team in Phoenix," she said. "I couldn't be the (derby) co-captain and go to Phoenix for my son every week," Trujillo said. Now the retired derby star can spend more time with her son and mother, Mary. "I live with my mom and son. Now, I'm here when Parker gets home from school. He told me recently, 'It's nice to have you home, Mom.' I knew then that I made the right decision," she said.

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