A pivotal development in Loren Sletten's life came about because of Kid Rock, Jim Beam and Facebook.
Sletten, who lives in Sarasota, recently triumphed over nearly 10,000 competitors to become Kid Rock's personal, but temporary, bartender.
"I think you're always a little afraid when you meet your heroes, that you might be disappointed," Sletten said. "I'm 32, and I've been a fan of Kid Rock since I was 17 or 18, so I was nervous about it. But it lived up to my expectations. He's just a really nice guy, really easy to talk to."
It was back in May that Sletten heard about a contest that would let one fan become Kid Rock's backstage bartender on his summer "Best Night Ever" tour.
"I saw the promo about it on Facebook," Sletten said. "I like both Kid Rock and Jim Beam on Facebook, and I read about this promotion."
He knew it was a long shot, but we went for it.
"First of all, I had to write an essay about what Jim Beam and Kid Rock mean
to me," he said. "The essay came pretty easily, actually. I just wrote what I felt and that was it."
Out of some 9,500 entries, Sletten's essay was chosen as one of the 10 best.
The 10 finalists were asked to create a video, less than three minutes long, explaining why they liked Kid Rock and Jim Beam, "and of course, show your bartending skills," Sletten said.
Sletten grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and he's now a construction worker. He's never been trained as a bartender. But his heartfelt enthusiasm for Kid Rock and Jim Beam earned him the top prize.
He's able to keep his construction job here while he performs his bartending duties. He's serving drinks at just three Kid Rock gigs, all on weekends, in Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit.
But before he could tend for Kid Rock and his entourage, Sletten had to learn some of the basics of the trade.
"They sent me to New Orleans to meet Bobby G., the head mixologist for Jim Beam," Sletten said. "That was amazing. He's a really great guy. He taught me a little about bartending, and, of course taught me how to make Kid Rock's drink."
Kid Rock's standard order, Sletten said, is Jim Beam Devil's Cut and Coke.
"Three parts Jim Beam Devil's Cut to one part Coke," Sletten said. "Fortunately it's nothing too complicated."
("Devil's Cut" refers to a 90-proof Jim Beam brand that enhances six-year-old whiskey with the whiskey that has soaked into the oak wood of the casks and then been extracted. It's supposed to have an especially rich taste.)
Sletten poured his first bourbon and Coke for Kid Rock a few weeks back in Los Angeles.
This weekend, Sletten's in Detroit, where Kid Rock is playing three shows for his hometown fans.
Sletten's bartending career is slated to come to an end after an Aug. 30 concert in Chicago.
For Sletten, the real prize is the chance to hang with one of his musical heroes. But there's a bonus: He gets a salary of $10,000, or $3,333 per gig.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.