Serving Celebrities: The Complete Collection (5 page)

BOOK: Serving Celebrities: The Complete Collection
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As the crowd came in, it got busier and busier, it seemed like everyone knew Bruno. I had been there before but had never really spent any time at the bar since it wasn’t my type of scene -- too many models not enough room to move.

It seemed like everyone came in to see Bruno. Almost every single woman had to give him a hug and a kiss -- every guy was his buddy. The bar was busy and so was he, we were really pumping. Working with Bruno went something like this; I would handle the waiters and the not-so-cool guys (another reason why I didn’t know Bruno before I worked there). Say, an un-cool guy (like myself) comes up to Bruno at the other end of the bar and says, “Hey Bruno, how ‘bout a Heinie?” Bruno responds with a, “hey,” then turns to me and yells, “Hey Bobby, how ‘bout gettin’ a Heinie for my pal here?” “It’s Bill…” I say, correcting him, but still getting the beer. He smiles, “Yeah, sure, Billy,” on his way back to the pretty end of the bar. I worked three Sunday’s with him before they told me they didn’t need me anymore. Many times in those days a restaurant like Café Central could hire people to cover for employees who went on vacation or got acting jobs and then let them go when the employee came back. I’m not sure, but I think that’s what happened -- so much for the big time but I did make good money while I was there.

I worked with Bruno for three shifts and unfortunately I don’t remember much about him since he was just another bartender at the time, one of hundreds that I’ve worked with. Who would know he would become Bruce Willis, big movie star. The only thing I can remember; is that no matter how many times I reminded him he couldn’t get my name right -- Bill is not an uncommon name. What is funny is how much mileage I’ve got out of working with him. I’ve never claimed to be good friends with him or anything other than a passing acquaintance but whenever someone would ask me about my bartending days, I found naming the places I’ve worked would mean nothing to them and I worked at some well-known houses; Tavern on the Green, The Blue Note, Jim McMullen’s… but telling someone that I tended bar with Bruce Willis in the day makes all the difference -- suddenly I’m a real bartender. Once, after telling a woman that I worked with him a few times, she asked if ever touched his apron? I replied, no, but we did share a bar-mop. Fifteen years in the business meant nothing but three days with the Bartending Jesus, that’s something.

Years later, after he was on
, I ran into Bruno again. He came into another bar that I was working at and ordered a beer. I couldn’t resist, I knew he probably would never remember me but I had to ask him if he recalled my three shifts as his apostle bartender. Bruce looked at me real good and said, “Bob?” I was thrilled -- he remembered me.

George Clooney Busts My Chops… and I Bust His Right Back

eorge Clooney is a big movie star and I’ve heard him tell people this. During a Q & A for his film
Goodnight and Good Luck,
” George was asked by an audience member, how he could make a film a like
and get it financed. George’s answer was easy, “I’m a big star. I don’t know if you know that.”

For many years, I worked as a stage manager for the Writers Guild of America West awards show. I last worked for the Guild in the Credits Department but it was in the Operations Department where I first began to work at the show. It was a lot of fun and I got tons of material for this collection from those experiences.

Goodnight and Good Luck
came out, the Guild presented it the Paul Selvin Award. The Paul Selvin Award is presented to that member whose script best embodies the spirit of the constitutional civil rights and liberties which are indispensable to the survival of free writers everywhere. Since
Good Night and Good Luck
is really about responsible journalism, George Clooney and his writing partner, Grant Henslov, were that year’s recipients.

To be honest, the Writers Guild didn’t get all that many stars at their show and they very rarely have a chance to award a big star like George Clooney. Before the show started, backstage was filled with excitement that George was going to be there. We did get some big names but they usually were the award presenters; they would give a very short introduction and then hand the award to the writer or writers who won, but tonight a star was going to receive the award and unlike the other televised award shows, he could talk for hours and no one will stop him (believe me, we had writers talk for what felt like hours).

My jobs on the show have differed; but for many of the shows I would be the person who coordinated the escorting of presenters and writers (it’s called
wrangling talent,
in the award show world) to the backstage area to prepare for their receiving of, or presenting of, an award. Before the show I would break down the show’s projected line-up by what time the talent should be taken from their tables and led to the green room, where they could review their lines on the teleprompter and make sure they are comfortable, until it’s their turn to take the stage.

At this particular show, I had three other Guild employees working with me, in corralling the presenters. Before the show began we split up the talent and then assigned a person to “pull” each of the celebrities from the audience. Of course, everyone wanted to
George. I usually volunteered to pull most of the writers since I had the most experience with the show and knew many of the writers who were presenting or receiving a service award. My friend Leigh was lucky enough to pull George and Grant. Leigh’s an attractive woman; she was the Guild’s receptionist at the time. I felt George would appreciate that.

I instructed Leigh and the other two Guild employees how to approach the talent before the show began, reassure them that about ten minutes before they were scheduled to go on, we would come and walk them backstage so that they could prepare for their moment. Before dinner, the four of us went out into the audience and introduced ourselves to our celebrities and writers and told them that we would be there in time to take them to the green room.

This show was actually going well. I had worked on about thirteen different shows and some were better than others, depending on the stars, recipients, lengths of speeches and sometimes the venue. Half way through the show, Leigh approached me backstage. “George Clooney won’t come back,” She announced. I was kind of tripped up; in all the time I worked on the show, we had never had anyone refuse to come backstage with us. Sure, we had lost celebrities, or they were really drunk or never arrived at the show, but we never had someone who refused to come when we asked. “Did you tell him that they would be going on soon?” I asked. “He said he wanted to watch the show,” Leigh answered. “Who really watches this show?” I asked. Everyone knew the only reason why any anyone came to the show was for business, or to hopefully get an award or a free dinner, or at least an hour of an open bar -- no one
the show.

Usually people couldn’t wait to get backstage. We sometimes had presenters coming backstage to wait in the green room for hours. “He won’t come?” I asked, hoping the she was kidding. “Nope,” She said. “You can go look for yourself; they’re still at his table.”

I briskly walked to the backstage entrance, on the side of the stage. Just like Leigh said, they were still at the table. George was leaning over in his seat, talking to Grant. I considered going out and pleading with him -- hoping he would realize then that we needed him to be ready to go on… but he was a
star and it may have made a
big scene,
if I did.

Then it happened; George glanced over at me and smiled, then turned quickly back to Grant. Again, he looked over at me -- I gave him a small “come hither” wave, with my hand. It became obvious that he was messing with me. He shook his head, laughing, and turned to watch the show.

I waited. He looked over again -- and again, I gave the “come hither,” wave. He smiled, continuing to bust my nuts, then pretending to watch the show in earnest. I waited some more. We were getting closer and closer to their time onstage. Now the stage managers, who were running the show on the headset, that I was wearing, were asking if George and Grant were backstage yet. I had to give them a, “negative that,” answer -- I told them that I was on it.

George again looked over. I smiled and gave another, “come hither,” wave. George took his napkin off his lap and whispered to Grant. They both stood and started walking to me. “Bill, where’s George Clooney?” the head stage manager yelled, in my headphones. “He’s comin’,” I answered, into the boom on my headset. “Why did you wait so long?” the stage manager barked. “He’s busting my chops,” I said. “You wish,” the stage manager answered. “Get him back here.”

George and Grant stepped to up me, both were wearing suits, rather than tuxedos, as I and most of the audience were wearing. I held my hand out to him, “I’m Bill Ryan, one of the stage managers. We need you to come back, so that we can get you ready to go on stage,” I said, as I did with most presenters and accepting writers. George and Grant both shook my hand. “Would you like to go and check over the teleprompter?” I began, as we started walking backstage, “Then maybe we can go to the green room and you can maybe get a drink or something to eat, or you can use the men’s room?” George looked to Grant, who said, “I would like to check the teleprompter, if you don’t mind?” “That would be great...” I said to them, leading them straight to the stage. “And we would do that, if you came when we first asked you… but now we’re under the gun and you’re going to have to wing it. Good luck,” I informed them.

Both stopped and glared me, “We can’t see the teleprompter?” I waited just long enough to say, “Oh, okay,” I led them to the room where the teleprompter was set up. The stage manager called me again, “Bill, do you have George and Grant?” “I’ve got ‘em,” I answered, “I’m taking them to the teleprompter.” “They don’t have time to go to the teleprompter,” The stage manager warned. “We need them up here right now. They’re going on after Hal Cantor does a short bit.”

You see, with experience comes confidence. “It’ll be okay,” I whispered, into the boom on my headset, “Hal Cantor has never done a short bit, we’ll be fine.” And we were.

Don’t Cry For Patti Lupone

very once and a while when I studied acting with Stella Adler, I would be invited to accompany Miss Adler to some special event with a group of people. This one time, I was invited to attend a special performance of
The Cradle Will Rock
performed by the Acting Company, John Houseman’s company, starring Treat Williams, Mandy Patinkin and Patti Lupone.

The Cradle Will Rock
is a legendary musical production, written by Marc Blitzstein, originally directed by Orson Wells and produced by Welles’ and John Houseman’s Mercury Theatre, in the 1930s, this was a revival staged by Houseman. There were about a dozen of us in the group, as we took our seats for the start of the performance.

The curtain opened and the play began. When I studied with Stella; she was in her early eighties and at times throughout the play, she would loudly comment something like “That was a big number,” or “That’s a beautiful set.” At one point, Patti Lupone sang a big emotional song and when she finished, almost perfectly timed, between the ending of the song and the moment when the audience started to applaud, Stella exclaimed “That was
to be a big number.” It went like this throughout the whole performance. If it was anyone else, I’m sure someone in the group I was in would have said something but because it was Stella, no one tried to stop her. I enjoyed the production and I was very impressed by Patti Lupone and Treat Williams.

Years later, I was studying with a different teacher, Sondra Lee. In Sondra’s acting class, there were a few of us who would go out after class. Two of the guys, Peter and Doug, were childhood friends of Patti’s, who, at the time, was starring in “Anything Goes” at the Vivian Beaumont. After class, we would drive over to Lincoln Center, pick Patti up (usually she would have a friend or two with her) and all of us would go to out to dinner.

At one of these dinners, we were talking about acting and acting classes. Patti was also a friend of Sondra’s and I think studied with her at some point. I had wanted to tell Patti that I saw her in
The Cradle Will Rock
but I never got around to it. Patti is very down to earth and is always a professional, so it was very interesting to listen to her talk about her craft. At some point in the discussion I felt compelled at add that I had studied with Stella, which set Patti off… “That bitch, Stella Adler,” Patti exclaimed angrily, “I was in this production, it was a benefit, mind you, and all I could hear all night was Stella Adler criticizing me from the pit.” And Patti continued on like that. I lost my nerve and never mentioned that I was at the same performance, few seats away from Stella.

Patti is a quite a character, she is brassy and very confident. After another acting class, we went to a soul food restaurant, downtown, called Acme. As we entered, many people at the tables recognized Patti. When we were seated, Patti described to us her disappointment that Oliver Stone, who was producing the movie
, had decided that she wouldn’t play Mrs. Peron in the film of the Broadway Production. Of course, this is the role that Patti will always be associated with, having won a Tony and established Andrew Lloyd Webber as a force in musical theater, but Stone felt that Patti was too old or not enough of a name to bring it to film. As anyone can imagine; she was pretty upset.

After we finished dinner, a host from the restaurant came up to the table and announced that Carole King, Phoebe Snow and Diane Schur were going to sing downstairs and asked if we would like to go down and watch. Patti jumped at the chance and said we would be on our way down.

The host asked if she would like to sing with them. Patti hesitated and suddenly said, “No. I can’t…” Everyone at the table was surprised. It couldn’t be that she wasn’t warmed-up; she had just performed the starring role in a play a few hours earlier. She seemed to be in good spirits, we couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t do it. “I can’t sing with Phoebe Snow… I’m not even sure I want to meet her -- what would I say to her?”

Patti was such a big fan of Phoebe Snow’s that she was afraid to get up and sing with her… and then Diane Schur and Carole King, it was too much. Patti kept on going from wanting to sing with them to not wanting to sing with them. Fortunately, the host never came back… but we did go downstairs and watched the show -- Patti spent most of the time singing along with them.

Patti is a larger-than-life type of character but she really was a down-to-earth-formerly-of-Long-Island-larger-than-life-character. She is a Broadway star who would go out after a show with her childhood friends and their acting friends and everyone could fit right in. A couple of times her boyfriend, Matt, would meet us. He was a cinematographer and I think they’ve been married for over twenty years now. And I don’t care what Oliver Stone (who eventually dropped the project) or Alan Parker, who would direct the film with Madonna in the lead role, think but Patti Lupone will always be Evita to me.

BOOK: Serving Celebrities: The Complete Collection
5.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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