Bruce Carlton: Remembering One of Our Own
Bruce started working for Great Performances in 2004 and was a dedicated employee, our finest bartender and our friend. A man who's personality radiated positivity and kindness, he cared for everyone like they were family. His hard work, humor and humility will be missed from set up, to break down.
Bruce was from a very small town called Arkabutla, Mississippi. The town was so small that not only was he was related to everyone there, but his family actually owned the entire town. As soon as he graduated high school, he left the small-town life and went away to college where he became the Bruce that we all knew and loved.
He was always up for an adventure; we had so many together I couldn’t even begin to summarize the things we got into together. His spirit was out of this world and he would do anything for anyone who needed his help. He was truly one of the grandest and most humble men in this world. If it wasn’t for Bruce, I would have never moved to NYC and work with him at GP. He was responsible for all of the fast friends I have met here. Bruce could make you belly laugh just by some of his expressions. He had a wit about him that could be matched by no other. He was an avid Chess and Backgammon player and he always beat me at Chess, every time.
There is no short way to sum up his great life in a few words, so let me just say this: he had no regrets, he lived his life to the fullest and he took control of his destiny.
He will forever be in my heart and all that knew him. The world lost a great man on April 21, 2019 at 11:09 am, on Easter Sunday, to meet all of our friends that went before him. He had to go out with his Southern flair. He’s up there having a great time and looking down on all of us and always wanting the best for us all.
To my brother, best friend and the most loyal person who I’ve ever had the pleasure to know: Godspeed my love! My buddy forever, with my whole hearted love and respect.
Michael Sanders (or as he called me, “Missy Sanders”)
There are special people in our lives who never leave us, even after they are gone. Bruce is gone from my sight but never from my heart.
Bruce Carlton was a wonderful person to work with and a wonderful friend, always bringing the sass and charm. He was a fun bartender and was so patient with new bartenders. He trained a lot of the bartenders we have now at GP. He would share these special ice scoops with his co-workers. He made them by drilling holes in the scoop, so melted ice water could drain out. So generous.
It was easy to become friends with him, he just liked being around good people and bourbon. It’s hard not seeing him around—at work or out socially. He had this great southern accent and a belly laugh that could make you laugh with him, just from hearing it. It’s hard losing someone so full of light.
When I had a surgery couple of weeks before he passed, he called me every day to ask if I needed anything.
I love how Liz called him “A Tennessee Bumpkin who made New York home in 80’s.” He had to move away from family to be himself–one more thing we have in common. The whole world is one family if you have the ability to love people for who they are.
Bruce was incredibly sweet, funny, smart, and generous. He was one of the first catering professionals in NYC who helped show me the ropes in our crazy business. If you were a new hire, the best possible coworker you could end up next to on a bar was Bruce. He never judged or bullied you, just guided you with southern charm and an unmatched sense of humor.
One time on a gig he told me he had several private clients and would often need some extra hands for a dinner or a party and wanted to know if I’d be interested in helping whenever. This is when we got to know each other a lot better. We discussed books, history, news, music, hiking, you name it.
He was just a joy to be around. And all of those private gigs he threw my way made a huge difference in my life financially when things were really tough. I’ll be forever grateful.
We made a great team and I miss him so much. I’ll never hike or sip bourbon without thinking of him. I do my best to spread the same joy and laughter in the workplace in tribute. I miss his hugs and his laugh.
Love you Bruce.
Plenty has been said about his kindness and his sassy sense of humor. I do have one favorite story Bruce told me once. Ken Bolander and I had the pleasure of hosting him at our home for several months while he was between apartments. He and I, both being smokers and bourbon drinkers, spent many a night on our sunporch swapping tales; he of his youth on a farm in Mississippi, mine spent in a Queens suburb. One evening, after one of the many horrible mass shootings that plague our country, Bruce said to me, "I am for gun control but I also understand the gun culture. I got my first rifle when I was 12. We had a pond on the farm and we had cottonmouths and water moccasins. I was terrified of snakes. Mama had a .22 leaning up against the wall by the kitchen door. I'd go out with my rifle and if I saw a snake I'd throw the gun down and go running for the house screaming, Mama, Mama, there's a snake. Mama would run right past her .22, grab a hoe and cut the snake's head off"!!! I can still hear him telling that story with his distinctive and delightful Mississippi accent. I hope I'll never forget that story or the sound of his voice telling it. He was a good man and a dear friend. He will be sorely missed.
I really enjoyed working with Bruce, and he was always the guy to organize groups in a car back to Astoria when we worked late in Brooklyn. He’ll be missed!
Bruce and I used to work bar together all the time. He was the the best listener you could imagine, and no matter the type of day you had, he was there for you.
His favorite quote was “bless your heart”. Regardless of how he felt about you, it was always the same, “bless your heart”.
Bruce was one of our top bartenders, and when I saw him on my staff list, I knew that everything would be great and I knew I could trust him to handle anything.
He was a beautiful soul and none of us at GP will ever forget him.
Kat Liz Kramer