Tim Burton is a dozen feet away and deep in conversation when he hears that someone lacks a drink.

In just three quick steps, he's behind the bar.

"Yeah, Donna, what would you like?"

"You know," she says.

He takes a glass, adds ice and pours her an orange press: Absolut Mandarin, soda and a splash of 7-Up. The fizzy hiss of the drink is trumped by a thumping bass and laughing friends.

Burton's house was built in 1918 on the tip of a point on Lake Minnetonka. Its windows reveal a startling, uninterrupted view of -- from left to right -- giant cottonwood trees, a great expanse of water and a sinking sun.

Occasionally, someone wanders to a window. But generally, people gather around the bar. It's an antique 1930s piece that Burton, with the help of a friend, customized. The zinc top absorbs the chill of a silver ice bucket and soaks up its sweat.

Over almost 10 years and innumerable Saturday nights, the smooth zinc has acquired an intricate pattern of drips, spills and water rings. This group is adding its own.

"The man of the hour!" someone shouts as Nate Swanson and his bride-to-be, Mandy Moerchen, enter. The two met through these friends, who now surround them -- kissing, hugging and playfully groping them.

Burton is throwing tonight's party to celebrate the couple's engagement and bid farewell to a fellow bachelor.

Swanson, 36, was once "very single," as Burton puts it. Now, Swanson brushes Moerchen's bare shoulders and wraps his arm around her waist.

Burton, 44, has not wrapped his arm around anyone's waist yet tonight. He's chairman of Microgistix Inc., a software marketing company he started a decade ago, but his true job, friends say, is Lake Minnetonka host.

He grew up here, and during the years he didn't have a house on the lake, he still managed to live on it each weekend -- relaxing, partying and sleeping on his boat.

A large framed photo of his grandfather dominates the dining room. A vice president at a well-known New York ad agency, he is laughing up at actress Eva Gabor, who appears to be sitting on his lap.

"He married Miss Rheingold Beer -- I think that was his first wife," Burton says. "His third wife was a year younger than my mom. So he was definitely a player."

He jokes: "He's my hero."

It's time for the toast. The friends fill 10 champagne glasses and bring them across the yard, down to the water, onto one of Burton's two docks. The low sun shines pink, the tepid water sloshes against the rocky shore.

"So, Nate," Burton says, easing Swanson aside, "a year ago, did you ever think you'd be here? Two years ago?" Swanson shakes his head: "No."

"When you were 11, did you ever think you'd be here?" Dave Tomassen feigns Burton's seriousness, and the three laugh. They clink the tips of their glasses together one more time.

Burton's running now, packing coolers and grabbing drinks. "Let's get on the water before sunset," he says.

Just seconds after hopping in his 31-foot, 1995 Sea Ray 310 Amberjack, the women abandon their high heels. The boat starts and growls, and they cruise out onto the bay.

When the boat idles, mid-lake, the women tilt their heads together for pictures. When the boat cruises, they steady their glasses against the constant up-and-down.

Slow, grooving music plays. Burton calls it "a sophisticated house selection" but Jenna Gettelfinger, rolling her eyes, calls it "Miami elevator music." Someone hooks up an iPod, and the heavy beats of Kanye West, Rihanna and Nelly Furtado's "Promiscuous Girl" blare.

Burton, at the wheel, does not protest. Instead, he watches as his friends dance, arms in the air, and Swanson and Moerchen nuzzle one another. His tanned face breaks into a slow, wide, loose smile. He dances, shaking his butt.

Then he steers the boat out toward open water, toward the bit of sky still pink from the sunset but quickly turning purple.

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168