Photo Essay: Slingin’ Beers with The King

Each month I work with writer Brandon Chuang for a Feast Magazine column called How To. Each month, Brandon interviews someone working in a field that he’s unfamiliar with, and in some cases, gets the opportunity to actually do the work himself to really see how it goes. Columns in the past have included dishwasher in a busy and popular restaurant, bartender at a joint where every single person is a regular, coffee roasting, and most recently, a beer vendor at Busch Stadium here in St. Louis.

Each month I attempt to capture a single photo that illustrates the job the Brandon is writing about – not an easy task to be sure. And when I photographed Ray “The King” Wilkins slinging beers at Busch Stadium, I knew that one photo was not going to be enough. To merely label The King is a beer vendor doesn’t nearly cover what this man does. Sure he sells beer on consignment, and sure, he’s working for tips. But he’s also an entertainer, and his act is what people are watching whenever the game slows down. His booming voice and amusing schitck has cultivated a loyal crowd of regulars who will only buy beer from him. Here is an excerpt of Brandon’s column:

he’s got about 10 moves total. There’s the fist bump. The barking (hence, the “big dog” references). The “HOOTIE-HOOS!” But there’s also the random removal of beers from his ice chest so he can jokingly rub them along peoples’ faces (he later explains to me, “THEY LOVE IT WHEN I DO IT IN JULY WHEN IT’S HOT”). There’s also the question he asks when he comes across a gaggle of women: “IF YOU NEED PROTECTION, DO YOU WANT A LITTLE DOG OR A BIG DOG?” If someone tells him that they’ll take a beer the next time he comes around, his response is almost always, “I’LL GO SEE MY GIRLFRIENDS OVER IN THE NEXT SECTION, AND I’LL BE BACK.”

I really encourage you to take a look at this brief photo essay about The King and then to read Brandon’s article. And then go to a Card’s game and keep an eye out for the best beer vendor in the stadium.

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