Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Apparently I am!

Plinky asks what celebrities we've met in real life.

When I was a kid I lived on Long Island and every Christmas season Mom and I would make the trek to NYC for the whole fantasy shopping experience. This particular year (I'm gonna guess I was 8 or 9 or so) we made a stop at FAO Schwartz (a famous upscale toy store, for the uninitiated). At the time Schwartz's had a slide on the landing between the two floors, and I of course could not continue to live if I didn't go down it. Oblivious to all but my own self-satisfaction, I climbed the stairs, got on the rather lengthy slide (to me, but I wasn't that big at the time so my perspective is likely skewed), and slid down to the bottom. As soon as my feet brush the hem of a floor-length mink coat I realize there is a huge circle of people looking at me like I am absolutely out of my mind. My shy (no, really, I swear), paranoid self froze with the fear I had done something on the scale of wiping out an entire civilization, and my mother had to lean over and take my hand to get me up. She whispered to me, "Do you know who that is?" I didn't. Apparently I had run my grubby little shoes into Elizabeth Taylor, who was there with hubby-of-the-moment Richard Burton and a few of their kids. I have to admit that I was devastated to see that Liz, for some unfathomable reason, didn't wear "The Diamond" she had just recently acquired from her still-enraptured hubby when she was out toy shopping (I mean, c'mon... *I* would), and though I started my love of gemstones at an early age (and I'm sure all the news stories about the Taylor/Burton love affair with each other and gemstones large enough to be named had a good deal to do with that), I hadn't yet acquired my taste for fur. Though I do have a passion for a beautiful lush fox or lavender mink now, even back then I had my priorities in their proper order... still do. Jewels *always, always, ALWAYS* trump fur. And I'm just bettin' Elizabeth agrees.

The Faces of a Rolling Stone

This one could just as easily be filed under "One of the Most Embarrassing Moments of of my Life." In the late 80s I tended bar on the University of Delaware campus at a landmark nightclub called "The Stone Balloon." I wasn't exactly a kid at the time, I worked there from age 27-29 while I went to college (I had finally finished having "the good life" and figured it was time to get down to business).

The Stone Balloon was a big venue. National acts such as Iggy Pop, Meatloaf, Greg Allman and oddly enuf, The Charlie Daniels Band were booked to play there. On this particular night, Ron Wood (nice guy) and Bo Didley (major asshole) were doing the honors, and I was working the front bar.

Now, keep in mind this is a *college* bar. This means the crowd is wild, drinking like mad, and the bartenders are moving at the speed of light if they want to keep their jobs. I happened to be very good at this, mostly because I could care less if I worked up a good sweat and ended up completely covered in beer and orange juice by the end of the night (a concoction we referred to fondly as "Balloon Scum")... or at least I usually didn't care. It was not a good idea to work there if you were too concerned about leaving looking (or smelling) anything like you did when you arrived.

Elvin Steinberg owned the Balloon at the time, and he decided I was going to be his bartender for the night. He sat at my bar and I dutifully served him rock glasses full of Chivas all night long, filling 'er up before he ever saw the bottom of the glass. I'm no fool, I knew which side of my bread was buttered. Little did I know I was about to be "honored" for my hard work and devoted attention.

It's the end of the night, I am a mess and completely covered from head to toe in Balloon Scum. My makeup is no more than a memory and I am sure that I smell more like the disgusting remnants from a distillery than the Anais Anais I had applied before leaving the house. The musicians are up in the dressing room, the lights are up, and the last stragglers are leaving the bar. Elvin is apparently three sheets to the wind and thrilled with my bartending capabilities.

"So, you're a fan of the Rolling Stones, right?"

"No, not particularly, but I'm a HUGE fan of The Faces."

To this day I'm still sure I was the only one in the entire club who knew the words to "Ooh La La" when Woody sang it. Granted, it was my undying love for the hard drinking, seriously rock and rollin', long-by-this-time-gone-persona of Rod Stewart that inspired my undying love for The Faces. And btw, if you love the Black Crowes, you really have to check out The Faces. They did it first, and they did it better (Black Crowes fan that I am).

"Well, you've done such a good job tonight, we're gonna go upstairs and meet Ron Wood."

Ummm... huh? You're kidding right?

I've never been much of a stargazer and frankly, I wouldn't even want to meet George Bush adorned in Balloon Scum and sweat, and I *despise* him. Unfortunately, I have a more pressing issue. My boss is favoring me with something that is apparently supposed to honor me to no end, and he wasn't exactly planning on doing the same for any of the other half dozen or so bartenders who busted ass that night. I was The Chosen One and I could tell by his attitude that gushing with much appreciation on my part was expected.

I did give it as much thought as I figured I could get away with before answering, but couldn't quickly come up with a way to gracefully back out of this one. After all, I had apparently accomplished my mission to keep the boss happy, I just hadn't realized there would be consequences to pay for my efforts. How do you turn down a gift the person who pays you is sure you are going to consider to be The Shit? Well, if you're smart, you don't. I reluctantly acquiesced. I reasoned the ordeal would be over quickly, that I would escape unscathed in no time at all and get home to my longed-for shower, and Elvin would be content that he did me right.


Up we go to the dressing room, and we make a beeline for the bar. Elvin now decides he is going to honor me with being *my* bartender and starts serving up drinks. I'm standing next to Bo Didley, and if I wanted to make this diatribe even longer than it already is, now would be the time to explain why Bo Didley was a huge asshole. Perhaps Plinky will provide an appropriate prompt for that story down the road, so I'll save it.

Some chick who was a friend of Elvin's and apparently knew Woody comes into the bar and starts talking to Elvin. Ellvin asks her where Woody is and explains he has brought me up to meet him. And with that, the horror begins.

This chick goes running into the dressing room screaming, "Woody! Woody, c'mere, this girl REALLY wants to meet you!"

OH... MY... GOD. Just shoot me now. Please. IN THE HEAD.

I tried to hide my face in my hand and started slowly trying to shrink down behind the bar, frantically planning my escape route through the side room, to the door and down the stairs as stealthily as possible. Just as I had almost managed to sink low enough to employ my plan I hear, "Hi! I'm Woody." I took this as a sign that my escape plan had gone horribly wrong.

"Hi." Weak smile as I nonchalantly stood back up.

Now, I gotta admit, for as horrible as this was up to this point, and granted that there was little that was going to improve this situation, Woody sure did his best to make it an enjoyable experience. And considering he was entirely oblivious to my angst, I will be eternally grateful.

He grabbed me by the hand (at least *that* was clean, bartenders wash an awful lot of glasses), drug me into the side room, and sat me down at a table. He asked someone for a piece of paper, and when presented with a paper towel, scrawled an autograph on it for me (which I suspect I still have somewhere). We chatted about unimportant things like the crowd and how busy it was, and briefly discussed the music he had played. I told him how much I adored The Faces and that I'd be front and center if they ever managed a reunion. Hard as it was to resist, I was wise enough not to ask him any questions about Roderick, as much as he would have been my main focus if I could have made the best of the situation without the fear of insulting this person who was so incredibly nice and certainly had much more right to be an ass than Bo Didley did... afterall, Woody is a Rolling Stone [insert appropriate swooning here]. His wife popped in and said hello as well. Also very sweet.

My ordeal ended quickly and much better than the stressful, angst-ridden way it had progressed from the beginning would have suggested. I reasoned that Ron Wood met so many people he would instantaneously forget all about my Balloon Scum-ridden self as I finally made my escape down the stairs, only to be met by a circle of bartenders and bouncers who apparently also thought my experience must have been The Shit. As far as I know, they still do... unless any of them Plink.

I'm a Starr

When I was reeeeeeal little (I'm guessing six or so), I met this long-haired hippy guy walking down the sidewalk outside our Long Island home. He handed me a tiny sample box of Bold detergent and told me to give it to my mother. I asked him who he was and he replied, "Ringo Starr." I suspect that given my age he didn't think I would question why a multimillionaire rock star who couldn't even walk down a street without being mobbed would be handing out detergent samples (he was right), much less that I'd even know who Ringo Starr was, but the fact of the matter was that I had three much older brothers, the oldest of whom, Gene, was determined to destroy every Hi-Fi speaker in the house by blasting The Beatles with the volume turned up all the way to 11. Not only did I know who Ringo Starr was, I had named my cat Ringo... after my favorite Beatle (at the time). I chose to believe he was who he said he was. Still do.


rschmidt said...

I regret not having heard this story about Elizabeth Taylor before I married you. "Jewels *always* trump fur." Some would consider that a warning sign.

Susan Maxwell Schmidt said...

You'da married me anyway. And besides, though I have to admit you don't do too badly in the jewel department, I don't think I'm ever gonna see you start handing over Burton-Taylor level gems. Unless of course this new-found information inspires you to do so, that is... you certainly needn't let my "Lowered Expectations" inhibit you in the least.