Loren Sletten is probably not the first man to have his faith in humanity restored by Jim Beam. Or Kid Rock, for that matter.
This summer, Sletten, a 32-year-old golf course construction worker from Sarasota, won a nationwide contest to serve as Kid Rock's "personal bartender" on his current $20 Best Night Ever Tour. In reality, that meant he got to shake up a few cocktails for Rock and some fans before a handful of shows. But for Sletten, a longtime Kid Rock fan, that was more than enough of a prize.
"You see these contests all the time, but you never really hear about someone winning," he laughed. "You always think it's someone that knows somebody, or it's somebody's cousin or nephew or friend. To actually win this whole thing, it made me a believer in everything."
Sletten is not a bartender, but he does play a little music — in his spare time, he's a stand-up comic who uses a ukulele in his act. He entered the contest this spring, submitting an essay about his love of Kid Rock and Jim Beam, and how they both represent versions of the American dream — the bourbon company was founded by immigrants in the 1700s, and the rowdy rock-rapper "came from nothing and made something of himself."
He was working on the 18th fairway of a golf course in Jupiter when he got the news: He'd beaten out 9,500 other competitors for the gig. He flew to New Orleans for a cocktail lesson with Jim Beam's head mixologist, then it was off to a tour stop in Irvine, Calif.
"Kid Rock would do his meet-and-greets with fans, and I would be back there making drinks while he's doing that," Sletten said. "When he was done with the meet-and-greets, I would make a drink for him, and have a few minutes to talk with him and have a drink with him before he went on stage."
It was surreal, Sletten said. He got to hang and chat with Rock's band, the Twisted Brown Trucker Band. In California, he got to watch the show from the side of the stage. In Detroit, he had a tip jar stolen. And in Chicago, he and Rock got into a passionate backstage chat about John Fogerty.
"He didn't act like it was something he had to do," Sletten said. "It was something he really wanted to do. He was very cool. It was just like talking to anybody else you would meet."
Sletten won't be backstage at Rock's concert in Tampa on Sunday — he bought his tickets before this contest even came about — but at least he'll have the memories, photos and a bottle of Jim Beam signed by Kid Rock. "That's pretty awesome," he said. "You can't really replace that."
Oh, and the contest also came with a $10,000 prize, which isn't bad.
"The funny thing is, that was the last thing on my mind," he said. "I would have done it for nothing."