Beth and I are in the kitchen drinking coffee. The lunch shift’s drawing to a close. The restaurant’s almost empty. Beth can’t wait to go home.
“I’ve worked like six doubles in a row,” she says. “I can’t take it anymore.”
“I’m here twelve days straight,” I reply. “I feel your pain.”
“No you don’t,” Beth says dismissively. “You can hide in the office.”
“It’s good to be the boss sometimes.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“We’re short staffed, what can I tell you?” I say shrugging.
“I know,” Beth replies.
“The crazy time won’t last forever.”
“I hope not.”
I see a flash of blonde hair out of the corner of my eye. Our hostess walks past the kitchen door with a customer in tow. I see the man’s face for only a second – but it’s enough.
“Isn’t that Russell Crowe?” I ask Beth.
“I think you’re right,” Beth replies.
Beth and I casually saunter out of the kitchen and pretend we’re rearranging napkins. As we perform our little reconnaissance I throw a covert glance towards the back section. Yep – sitting on the banquette is Russell Crowe.
“It’s him,” I say, walking back into the kitchen.
“Wow,” Beth says, star struck.
“Can you handle it?” I ask. “You know our policy about movie stars.”
“Yeah, I know,” Beth sighs. “Pretend like they’re not famous.”
Beth goes out to take care of Russell Crowe. I go downstairs to the prep area to look for Armando, our sous chef.
“Guess who’s here?” I say.
“Who?” Armando asks.
“NO FUCKING WAY!” Armando almost shrieks. Gladiator is one of his all time favorite movies. It’s one of mine too.
“Yes fucking way.”
“How cool is that?”
“Get behind the stove man,” I say, “You’ll want to add this guy to the list of famous people you’ve cooked for.”
Armando bounds up the stairs. He’s really thrilled.
I walk back upstairs. Mr. Crowe’s been joined by a guest. Beth’s taking good care of them. If she’s nervous she doesn’t look it.
The Bistro has always had a fairly ironclad policy regarding celebrities – we don’t care. Waiters are not allowed to ask for autographs – just treat them like another customer.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s always nice to have famous people patronize your restaurant. It creates a buzz and drives in business. The Bistro has had many famous patrons – ranging from Academy Award winning actors and directors, famous rock stars, Nobel Prize winners, and crazy gorgeous supermodels.
But the dangers of becoming a celebrity hangout are the same dangers a restaurant faces if they become a Mafia hangout. You end up with rich and powerful people who might start treating the restaurant as their 24/7 preserve for late night parties and back room deals. That’s bad for business. Celebrities are notoriously unfaithful where restaurants are concerned. Mafia guys just kill you. It’s the non celebrity/mafia customers who pay the light bill. It never pays to alienate the bread and butter clientele by fawning over celebrities and criminals. (So maybe the celebs won’t have us whacked. But trust me, the mobsters are better tippers.)
So The Bistro doesn’t care. And the celebrities pick up on that vibe. Most of our famous patrons appreciate that we treat them like everyone else. Maybe that’s the reason so many well-known people eat in my restaurant. If we made a fuss over them they’d just go elsewhere or worse, start treating us like some ass kissing LA eatery. Fuck that!
I head into the kitchen and find Beth gabbing excitedly on her cell phone to a girlfriend.
“He’s so handsome,” Beth says, “He has really hypnotic eyes.”
Actually I thought Mr. Crowe looks smaller in person than he does on screen. But what do I know?
“If he asked me to spend the weekend with him in Mykonos do you think my boyfriend would mind?” Beth asks the phone innocently.
I nod my head in the affirmative. Beth smiles.
“It’s just a thought,” she says to her girlfriend. “I’ve got to run. Later. Bye.”
Beth hangs up the phone and sighs.
“How you doing?” I ask.
“I’m a little dizzy,”
“You’ll be fine.”
“When I looked into his eyes I completely forgot the specials.”
“I’m sure he’s used to that happening.”
“Wow,” Beth says.
“If Charlize Theron was here I’d be acting the same way,” I say.
“Oh my god,” Beth says, “You couldn’t handle her at a table.”
Some time passes. Mr. Crowe and his guest finish lunch, pay the bill, and leave.
“Have a nice afternoon,” I say as he walks past me.
“You too mate,” he replies smiling.
Beth scoops the check off the table. She got a very nice tip.
“I love you Russell!” she shouts. I’m glad the Bistro’s empty.
“Don’t start sniffing where he was sitting,” I joke.
“I love you Russell!” Beth shouts again.
Beth kept it together while the superstar was here. Now that he’s gone she’s just decompressing. I did that after I waited on Alan Ruck – the guy from Spin City and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I had to fight off an insane urge to call him Cameron.
“Wow,” I say, “Russell Crowe ate here. We should put up a sign.”
But Beth doesn’t hear me. She’s already talking on her cell phone.
“Mom,” she says, “You’ll never believe who was just here!”
I leave my star struck waitress to her conversation. Honestly, I was sort of star struck myself. Ok ok. So maybe the Bistro cares a little.
Wow. The Gladiator.