Remember the somber opening sequence of the 1982 Stallone film FIRST BLOOD? Misunderstood war vet John Rambo wandered through the Pacific Northwest, trying to find a purpose in his post-Viet Nam life. With his training-hardened physique and masculine, rugged looks, Rambo might have had plenty of opportunities in present-day Las Vegas.
John O'Donnell has a lot in common with that fictional action hero. Tough features, chiseled body, a Pacific Northwest background, and quite obviously, the will to survive in a tough environment. But while Rambo didn't successfully adapt to civilian life, O'Donnell has embraced the pace of Sin City and made it his own. From driving camouflage Army vehicles to whipping up cocktails at stripper bars, this handsome young man has pretty much seen and done it all.
VEGAS 411 had the opportunity to pick John's brain and discovered a genuine and unique soul. While he might seem rough and tough on the exterior, O'Donnell is quite eloquent and gave some surprisingly insightful responses. Here's what the U.S. Army veteran had to say, in his own words:
Your social media depicts a guy with a sense of fun but who is quite serious about the concerns of the world. Which is the real John O'Donnell?
My political views are very progressive. I was in the Army, so I always choose whoever is going to take care of my brothers that are still in uniform. This is a free country and I've fought for my freedoms. Deep down I want everyone to be happy, day-to-day. I want our freedoms to remain what they are, and not be taken from us little by little...like they are currently. When I'm not voicing my opinions you can find me out choppin' it up with my friends, taking shots of tequila like the savage I am.
Tell us about your birthplace, family, and education:
Born in El Cajon, California. San Diego area. The ghetto of San Diego, that is. Lived in California till the age of five, then my mother, stepdad, and two brothers packed up and moved to the Pacific Northwest. I lived in Vancouver Washington until the age of 17 when I joined the Army Reserves. Should have just signed active 'cause my unit was activated upon returning from basic training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training).
I have two siblings. My half-brother Hunter is five years younger than me. We look nothing alike. He's 6'4" blond hair, blue eyes. My brother Jason is nine years older than me, 6ft tall with green eyes. I'm 5'9", 155 pounds.
Are you more of a night owl or a day dreamer?
Since 2009, I have been a night owl. When I was deployed, my unit ran night missions outside the wire in Iraq. So we would mount up and start our missions once the sun went down. When I returned to the United States and moved to Las Vegas (on my 21st birthday), I continued the nighttime lifestyle, working in nightclubs and strip clubs. It's weird waking up at 8 am and having all the daylight ahead of me. I'm used to waking up at 8 pm, starting my work at midnight, getting off at sunrise, and heading to sleep.
It's harder than one might think to land their first bartending gig. I started by bar-backing at Crazy Horse III (a popular Gentlemen's Club) and enrolled in the Union Bartenders Course. It's six months long, with two three-hour classes per week. I was offered my first bar shift during that time, and upon completing the course, was bartending almost full time at that club. I'm very thankful for my mentors James Contreras, Joe Botz, and Miguel DeOsaba. They're all legends in my book.
Along with Crazy Horse III and Centerfolds Cabaret, John segued into the mainstream nightclub world with stints at The Foundry, Foxtail, and LIFE Nightclub (all at the former SLS Resort). It's pretty well known that nightclubs describe their positions as "Model Waiter", "Model Server", and such, in order to hire an attractive staff. So I had to ask "What came first...the muscles or bartending?"
I've had my physique since I exited the womb, my mother told me. I've had abs since about age three. When I started wrestling in sixth grade I had the nickname "Mini Hulk". Oddly enough, I don't train that often. When I do, I go to EoS. I train muscle groups. minimal legs otherwise none of my jeans will fit. My favorite muscle group to train is back/biceps. Abs are every day. My favorite form of working out is "cardio" if you catch my drift...
You've worked at stripper bars, nightclubs, and now at FreeZone, a popular gay hotspot featuring drag queens. Do you deliberately seek out the wild and exciting?
I seek out MONEY. No doubt I enjoy a secular lifestyle. The normal conservative life doesn't appeal to me. It doesn't mean I can't do it, but by choice, I enjoy something a bit more exciting than the 'normal'.
At FreeZone, you work behind the bar without a shirt. Is that your choice, or does management encourage you to do so?
When I started at FreeZone I wore a tank top for the first week. One night a female came in and gave me $125 to take my shirt off. After that, I realized I made way more money without a shirt. What's the point of having a body like mine if people can't see it? So I put it out there for everyone to see. I believe we work in a very sexual industry. So the more you show, the more people love you...if what you're showing is appealing.
Asked how he deals with flirting from the patrons, O'Donnell had this to say:
FreeZone is the first gay bar I've worked at. I smile and give every person I speak to the same respect. I'm here to do my job and look good doing it. I entertain, pour, and entertain some more.
Next was a series of rapid-fire, random questions with no particular rhyme or reason....just for fun.
You just won a vacation and your choice is Alaska, Hawaii, or Miami? Which one...and what would be the first thing you do when you got there? If they threw in $25k spending money with the trip...we're going to Miami, baby! Club E11EVEN is the first stop.
Favorite big-screen movie? This is a tough one with so many amazing movies. Fight Club.
Last song you played in your car? Immortal Technique - Point of No Return
Any pets? Currently, I don't have any pets. When I do, I will have fish. Easy to take care of, and easy for others to take care of when I leave town.
Your favorite restaurant in Las Vegas is...? Lotus of Siam. I'll take the Tom Kah, medium spiciness, followed by the Soft Shell Crab Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodles) also medium spiciness. Sometimes even that's a little bit too spicy, so have ample amounts of water nearby, cause I'll be drinking it.
Do you have a favorite charity or social cause? Being a former soldier, I donate yearly to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Which of these is most likely on your bucket list: A) skydiving, B) scuba diving on sunken wreckage, C) hot air balloon ride, or D) meeting your favorite celebrity? I could care less about celebrities. They're just overpaid people. Let me jump out of a perfectly good working airplane.
John O'Donnell is ready to take on his next big nightlife adventure. Las Vegas employers who could benefit from this veteran's precision skills can contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.