Serving Celebrities: The Complete Collection (4 page)

BOOK: Serving Celebrities: The Complete Collection
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I wasn’t really paying much attention to him. I was trying to listen to what probably would have cost me a hundred bucks to hear Elton John in some cavernous arena. I had seen Elton the previous summer at Dodger Stadium. This was a lot better and free. The piano player said something else to me that I didn’t hear.

Realizing I wasn’t listening to him, he moved closer to my ear. At first, I thought it was just one of those wild thoughts you have every once and a while and then I realized it was the piano player talking to me… “Tell him to stop playing, right now!”

I turned to the little snot, incredulously, he had to be kidding. This guy was a piano player, a musician. Did he really think I was going to walk up to Elton John and tell him to stop the playing? I looked at the pouting pianist... yes, he was serious. And then it started -- and once it started, I couldn’t stop. I began to laugh.

I started laughing hard -- bending over and holding my sides, trying to keep it in. There was a point that I thought I was going to fall over laughing. I couldn’t believe this knucklehead would actually think that I would ask -- no tell -- the great, Elton John, to stop playing and entertaining everyone because it was hurting the feelings of the stuck-up hack that usually plays here. It makes me laugh remembering it -- but I was laughing real hard then. It was one of those I’m-laughing-at-an-event-where-I-shouldn’t-be-laughing-type of laugh. You don’t want to, but you already are… and you can’t stop.

As I started to regain control over myself, I realized that the piano player was now just staring at me… and that it was suddenly very quiet. Still shaking with waves of almost-suppressed chuckles, I looked up to find everyone; Sir Elton included, staring at me. I smiled at Elton, wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes and shrugged an apology… and then started laughing again. Elton smiled and turned back to his friends saying, “All right then…” and continued to play.

Elton John played for his friends for about another half hour and then they went back into the hotel’s small bar. At one point during his playing; my friend, Hector, the Assistant Front Desk Manager, came over and stood next to me and the still sulking, piano player. I turned to Hector and said, loudly, “Would you call that bouncy music?” Hector agreed. It was bouncy music. “People like something bouncy,” I said, loud enough for the piano player to hear.

Robert Redford -- Failing The Bob Class... or How I Got Kicked Out of the Sundance Film Festival

R
obert Redford is the Sundance Film Festival; he founded it and has been the driving force of one of America’s most important and esteemed film events every year. He’s so important that the festival actually gives a class to its theater managers on how to handle a screening if Mr. Redford decides to attend -- it’s called “The Bob Class.”

I enjoyed working at the festival and looked forward to going every year. It was fun to discover the good small film that may never see the light of a public theater. To make it possible, I would work at the festival and they would put me up and allow me to see many films for free. My last four years at Sundance, I was an assistant Theater Manager at the Holiday Theaters, in Park City. The Holiday was the town’s every day cinema. When I first started to work at the theater, it only had two theaters, in 2002 they renovated the theaters and added stadium seating and two more screens. The renovations were financed by the film festival. They called it a festival but never mistake it for fun, it was really big business now.

Every year just before the festival starts there is a training session for all the Sundance theater managers. Most of the training was about the festival rules and procedures. One morning is dedicated to what to do when and if Robert Redford shows up for a screening at your theater. The festival management will go out of their way to say that “Bob” wants to be treated like everyone else, even though Bob’s personal body guard gives a short talk about what Bob likes. The festival’s operations will call the managers of the venue and alert you to Bob’s upcoming arrival. The managers of the venue will then rope off the amount of seats that Bob requests and keep them empty. The seating of the theater will happen as usual but the screening will wait until it’s time to seat Bob and his party. Bob’s body guard tells you that Mr. Redford will have a ticket and sit with the rest of the audience. The lights are turned off and the film isn’t to start until Bob and his friends are seated, so the other guests in the theater won’t be aware that Robert Redford is watching the film with them.

“It was no big deal,” the festival theater management would tell you. Until Bob actually shows up for a screening, then all the theater management would appear and hide in doorways and dark corners, like government spies, making sure that everything went smoothly. I had worked a few “Bob” screenings and most went smoothly. One isolated incident; I had refreshed the ticket takers on the procedure of taking Bob’s tickets to make sure everything went according to the book. One of the ticket takers asked me what to do if he didn’t have a ticket -- I confirmed that he would (at least, that’s what I was told).

The big moment comes; we’ve got a theater full of people wondering why they are sitting in the dark so long, when Bob shows up with a couple of friends, after waiting in his tinted-window SUV outside, with his bodyguard. Bob makes his way through the empty lobby and to the theater. All the theater management is carefully hidden with only me, my manager, Jane, and the ticket takers at the door. Bob steps up to the ticket taker who asks him for his ticket and he good-naturedly checks his coat pockets, followed by his pants pockets and comes up empty. “I don’t have ticket. Can I still come in?” he asks, with that familiar sheepish smile of his.

The ticket taker glared at me for instructions of where to go from here. I turned to my boss, who glanced over at the corner where the operations manager was hiding. The theater ops manager quickly ducked out of sight. Bob coolly said, “I built this theater, can I come in?” I quickly said, “Sure, let him in.” The ticket taker let him and his party step by, while angrily staring at me. Bob and his friends were led to their waiting seats.

The ticket taker was all upset for some reason. She kept repeating, “You made me ask Robert Redford for his ticket and he didn’t have one.” I tried to reason with her, “You got to ask him for his ticket. Most of the volunteers at this festival will never get to talk to him.” “You made me ask him for his ticket and he didn’t have one,” like this was the end of her career in film. There was no harm done and my bosses seemed pretty happy about how it went.

Later, during the screening, I was filling another theater when Bob is suddenly standing in front of me, “Where is the men’s room?” he asked. Oh, when you didn’t have a ticket you built this theater, now that you can’t find the men’s room I’m so important -- you would think if you really built this theater, you would know where the men’s rooms are. I said, “It’s down the hall, the third doorway.” Bob hustled off down the hallway to the men’s room, trying to blend into the crowd that was openly staring at him. I got to talk to Bob twice in one day.

That was a good Bob screening… In 2006, I was again at Sundance, at the same theaters, doing the same job. The only thing that was different, was the theater operations managers had changed. Like most organizations that has a change of leadership, this new group of operations people were determined not to do the same things that the past operations people did, even if it worked. This year there was no “Bob Class” and Bob had a new body guard. The Operations Manager, this guy, Andrew, felt we didn’t need to waste time on it. Good call, Andrew.

It was just another day of filling theaters and listening to people bitch at me about tickets, seats and why I didn’t seem to know who they were. This was a difficult day and so we were running late with most of our start times. All the first screenings had started on time but as we got more into the day, we were falling further and further behind. Jane received a call from the festival office; Bob was coming to our next screening.

We got everybody on our team ready and set aside the three seats for Bob. My manager alerted the projectionists that Bob was coming and reminded them to hold the film until he was seated, she would give them the word when. I began loading theater; starting with pass holders, then hard ticket holders and we started on the wait list line. It was going pretty smoothly, the team clicking. The patrons entering the theater not realizing they were about to spend the next two hours in the company of Mr. Robert Redford.

A call came over the radio from a volunteer working the door to a publicists screening, Bob was trapped in a back hallway. “Bob? You mean, Robert Redford?” my boss asked over the radio. There was no answer. We stopped the line loading the theater.

My boss and I ran to the hallway where Bob was supposedly trapped. I thought maybe people had rushed him as he was standing outside and he took refuge in the back hallway. What was confusing was that he was inside the building at all. According to our usual procedures he and his body guard waited in the car.

When we got to the hall; we found that Bob and his new body guard had entered the back hallway and walked right into a theater full of journalists leaving a private screening. This was Bob’s worst nightmare. He’s never been much of public figure and constantly dodged the media during the festival but now he was surrounded by about thirty of them, all tossing questions at him.

Bob looked distressed, as his body guard tried to move him out of the mass of media. My boss and I started pushing through the press and began to lead Bob and the body guard down the crowded hall to the theater, where his screening was half loaded. My boss, took him into the theater and I continued to load in the festival customers.

Because of our rescue of Redford and his body guard, we were really behind in time. Rather than running people in a half dozen at a time, we were now rushing everyone in and trying to find them seats. My boss called me into the theater, Bob wasn’t happy with his seats.

I found a couple of people who didn’t mind moving for Bob and they exchanged seats. While I was reseating Redford too many people had entered the theater, so we were out of seats and had to ask people standing to leave. Once people get by the ticket takers, it’s always a battle to get them to go out and so was this.

During this re-arrangement of seats, my boss was dealing with the film makers, who have realized that Redford was going to this screening now want seats, but we were out of them. I found a couple of unlucky volunteers and asked them to leave, so that the film makers could stay. While all this action was going happening, the house lights were on so that everyone knew that Robert Redford was watching this film with them.

As we were making sure that all the seats were filled, I looked over at Bob. He was openly giving me the stink-eye, obviously wanting us to start the film. Finally my boss took her place at the front of the audience and welcomed everyone to the Sundance Film Festival and introduced the film makers.

Yep, they don’t go that bad often. I didn’t make much of it -- mostly it was Redford’s body guard’s fault. Had they waited in the car like they were supposed to it would not have happened. The screening went on and so did we. For the rest of the festival we never heard anything about it.

I went back to Los Angeles and back to work. One day about two weeks after, I got a call from the festival operations -- they would not be inviting me back to volunteer next year. I asked them “Why?” and they only gave me “a customer service issue,” as an answer. They never gave any other reason, it was the, “I was told it was a customer service problem but I don’t know more than that.” I was very frustrated. I spent two weeks of my vacation, every year for six years, to go up to Park City and volunteer to help these people. I’ve had patrons lie to me, threaten me, shout at me, over the dumbest things and now The Sundance Film Festival is just going to fire me and our team leader, without any explanation other than; “a customer service issue.” It was obvious, that it was over the bad Bob screening.

The last thing they could admit to, were that they were letting us go because Bob had to wait. We never even got a chance to tell our side of the story or defend ourselves. So when you hear the Sundance Film Festival say they’re independent, realize they are not all that different from any other big company; they just like to pretend that they are.

Bruce Willis, Bartending Jesus

V
ery early in my time in New York City, I lucked out and got a job as a bartender at Café Central, on Amsterdam Avenue. It was just one shift a week, but I saw it as a start to a very lucrative bartending career.

At the time, Café Central was the place to be and be seen. I had been there a few times as a customer and it was always great place to star gaze. Years later, I was having dinner there with some friends when Sean Penn and Elizabeth McGovern came in and took a booth. It had been all over Page 6 of the New York Post, that they had broken up and Sean was now seeing Madonna -- of course Page 6 was wrong -- no one believed them… until Madonna showed up with some girlfriends.

In other cities or small towns this would have been a huge scene but on the Upper Westside of NYC it meant nothing -- BULLSHIT!!! As soon as Madonna stepped into the front door, the place went silent (and it was usually very loud) with every head turned to watch her vogue-ness enter. Some guy at the table next to me said out loud, “I’ve never seen an actual murder before,” anticipating the only likely outcome. Everyone knew it -- even Elizabeth McGovern looked like she knew it. Sean tried to pretend he was too busy reading the menu to notice.

The place was so quiet you could hear the cockroaches rustling around in the salads. Madonna marched in and went straight to Penn and McGovern’s table, while everyone else watched her. When she got to the table, Sean glanced up with a “oh, hi honey” look and Madonna just glared at him. She played it up and took her good sweet time before addressing them… I had never seen a murder till now, either. Madonna raised her hand to make sure she had their attention and said clearly to Sean, “Her or me -- you decide. If you take her I never want to see you again.” She turned quickly and marched out the door, followed by her girlfriends for emphasis.

Penn and McGovern exhaled, realizing they escaped a bullet and I’ve still not seen an actual murder -- but that was real close. We all know what happened with
Sean-donna
or
Mad-Penn
(as it would be known today). Sean should have taken the episode as an omen.

Now I’ve hit the mother lode, I’m working at the hippest place in town and they were always busy, lines down Amsterdam Avenue. I couldn’t wait. I would go and do my one shift (I was still employed at another bar on the Westside, at the time) dazzle them and then I’ll be making more in one night than what I’ve been making in a week. Of course, on my first shift I was very nervous. The assistant manager showed me around and introduced me to the regular bartender, this guy, Bruno. At the time, he seemed like any regular guy, another out-of-work actor, a bit older than me, but just another bartender, another guy wearing an apron, who couldn’t wait to take it off forever. In every restaurant there is an alpha dog and it was obvious that Bruno was the alpha dog here. On my first shift with him, all he said to me was, “You work service and I’ll take the point.”

BOOK: Serving Celebrities: The Complete Collection
13.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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