Never Was

 Some rights reserved by ralph and jennyby Dixon Hearne

I’m serving kibble and greens to stick people who do lunch here to be seen. They hide behind designer sunglasses to make absolutely sure they’re noticed by paparazzi and tacky fans that point and lunge and squeal. Last week, I deliberately tossed a salad all over Table 3. Most of it landed on you-know-who’s pin-striped hair. She called me a clumsy bitch and I apologized profusely, all the while rubbing the oily dressing deep as I could into her one dress from Rodeo Drive – Armani knock-off at best. Boss Lady assured her I’d be “dealt with.”

They come in here every day—in twos and threes usually—made up and reeking. I always ask for tables 1-6 by the patio where the wannabes like to be seated—all the “not famous enough yet” and “soon to be has-beens.” But first they stop by Nordstrom’s for a free make-up and a spritz before they prance through the door, fancying themselves wealthy and important—making a point of tipping heavily just to prove it.  And all of them convinced they’re the great stars reincarnated.

The Weasel was in yesterday. Ordered a double martini, and two more before her lunch partner arrived. “Give my friend a Cosmopolitan, dear,” she says to me.  “A dash of bitters.”  The bartender gave her a dash of Worcestershire—like always—and she inhaled three more before they each ordered their plata de grass.

“I’m going to Clooney’s on Saturday,” says Cue-Tip. “I’ve got to buy a new dress.” Steal one, more like.

“With Greg?” the Angelina wannabe says back to her.

“Hell no!  He’s yesterday’s trash. They wouldn‘t let him near the gate. I’m going alone.”

“Two Arugula Sprout plates coming right up,” I say. “Another drink, ladies?”

“Another Cosmopolitan,” Cue-Tip says. “Don’t you just love that name for a drink?” she says to Angelina. “Sounds so . . . cosmopolitan.” A chaser of goofy giggles follows, as I set off to retrieve the bulimic specials du jour.

It’s the same at most tables—just change the names and talking hairdos. Table 5 is the worst, though. “Breasts out to here, girl!” Jean Harlow’s twin says to her lunch companion. “Implants the size of your head.” Her friend didn’t appreciate the comparison one bit. She won’t be dining with Jean again, that much I know for sure.

You get good at predicting things if you work the tables long enough. I’ve been right here in the dirt with the best of them. I once watched Marlon Brando pick his nose and stick his pickings on another star’s salad plate. Watched an A-lister slap the giggle right off Sally Field’s face over her soup one time.

Honey, I can’t tell you the number of Hollywood skanks that practice lunching here without panties—al fresco, I call it. Parting their legs for the camera when they leave for the powder room. Just like Britney Spears exiting her car. Remember?

Studio A-holes come in early to scope out a good table. They like eye candy with their scotch. Sometimes they comp a round of drinks for the stick women—and tell me to be discreet. And when I deliver the drinks, I sometimes tell the women they came from a different table. After a cool minute or two, the women flash big, blue teeth grins at the table I told them. Sometimes it’s just another table of women—I let them figure it out. And that just goes to show the kind of dumb bimbos and A-holes that frequent this place. The dumber they are, the bigger the tip. Go figure.

Baldwin pops in, and some of the Sheens and Osbornes, too. No mental giants in this place. Lots of groping and ogling, though. More happens under the tables in here than you’ll find on late night. We used to get the big names—before they became big and changed. It’s hard watching them on the screen now, disappearing under the make-up and studio lighting. You wouldn’t believe the pitted cheeks and chins I’ve served here. Different hairlines every day. Half the real stars in this town are bald as a bat with wall-to-wall acne. It’s absolutely amazing what they can do with the right cameras.

Look at Table 5 over there. Lohan and her special friend sat there yesterday. Ordered a martini—just like grown-ups. I carded Lohan and she flipped me off. She seems to think the help here is dumb as the clientele. It’s the same table where two women from “30 Rock” had a shouting match with Table 4 last week over a loud cell phone call. We ended up comping Table 4—after they threatened to call the Enquirer. I say, let them call. Hell, these people are looking for publicity…let them have it!

“You’ve got to coddle the stars, Saundra,” Boss Lady says to me. “They bring in the business.”

“What stars?” I say back to her. “You’ve got plastic anorexics and smarmy extras trying to claw their way up to the “D” list. Half of them skip out, and the delusional half over-tip with money from their unemployment check.”

She just shrugs, but she knows I’m right. She knows the Baldwins and Sheens are right in their element in this place. We’ve even had televangelists drop in for lunch.  Of course, they think table servers here in Sodom wouldn’t recognize an anointed figure when they present themselves. But they drink plenty and ogle even more. I can’t say what happens when they leave, but the smell of money has lured more than one cue-tip into the church limo. I don’t take pleasure in such hypocrisy—so you can pass me a rock too when it’s time for a stoning. Even had that Rachel Maddow wander in here one day. Looks like the love child of John Kerry and Gertrude Stein. Nobody followed her out the door.

Be sure you heat the brandy for Joan Crawford over there at Table 3. And she likes things on the side—like her marriages, I hear. She and the blonde there with the Betty Grable legs spread eagled meet here once a week to network. They talk about producers and directors—wouldn’t waste their time on slippery actors. The one—Betty—claims she got a half-assed proposal from Spielberg or some big director to do a remake of Joan of Ark.

“Wasn’t she a virgin?” I asked her. “Kate Hepburn couldn’t even pull that one off.” And Miss Betty was not amused.

Her friend Joan had a similar tale. I almost tossed her salad too when she got to the part about playing Mother Theresa. The stories I hear in this place would singe a priest’s ear. “When you’re on duty,” Boss Lady tells us, “you’re eyes and ears belong to the restaurant. You listen for orders and requests only. You’re deaf and blind to the private matters of our patrons.”

Well, sometimes the patrons insist. They’ll ask for my opinion, and I give it. But I’m warning you that all of them don’t want an honest answer—which is unfortunate because I’ve been known to be brutally frank. I once told Burt Reynolds his rug looked real and Loni Anderson that her breasts don’t. They asked and I told them. Same goes for that Kathy Griffin. She was a pretty nice girl back when she still had her own face. One more tug and it’s going to fly up like a cheap window shade. She got half her material parked right over there at Table 6—her favorite spot. I thought she was much funnier before she became a bitter troll.  She and Chelsea Handler—Cheesy Headlice we call her here—should co-host a skank-a-thon with other tired old leftovers with galloping egos from this place.

Oops! Table 4 wants a refill. Just stick a nipple on the Grey Goose and take it to her. Says she’s seeing “Mr. It” on the rebound. He was in here with his wife about a month ago—slipped down to the “B” list and still sinking. Co-star is all he can muster these days. Don’t you just hate these two-picture stars that still strut and pose after their fifteen minutes of fame is a footnote?

Sitting right there at Table 12, Al Pacino once asked me what kind of role I’d like to see him play. I told him Willy Wonka, and he stiffed me. Why are they all so needy for complements? That man knows he’s irretrievably lost in mobster land.

Here, cover the bread basket just so. The slobs jerk the napkin and the rolls pop out in every direction. You can always tell the lower class by their snatch.

“Did you fold the napkin properly?” Boss Lady asked me one day, when some especially hot rolls took flight on Table 5. “You fold over the top—not under the rolls,” she scolded me. I filled one right in front of her to show I knew my way around a bread basket. She smiled and sent me on my way, but I flipped that sucker over before I reached the table—Miss Crawford and Miss Turner again—and Lana ended up with a hot buttered martini on the house.

Oh, I don’t do things like that very often, but you’ll find out soon enough which ones are just asking for it. My-my, look who’s coming through the door! I haven’t seen him since his last lift. Looks very alert, don’t you think? I wonder if they have to spend a lot of their time in dark rooms—all popeyed like that.  I hear Joan Rivers wears a mask since she can’t blink anymore. You know, it’s a known fact that L.A. is the taxidermy capitol of the world—stretching, snipping, stitching 24-7. If you ask me, that Tori Spelling and Kathy Griffin are both on the critical list at Merle Norman.

Drop this off at Table 3 for me, would you? I’ll plate your salads for you. Take an extra knife, too. Angelina needs one for each course. Says she’s kosher. She’s a phony. And straighten your tie before Boss Lady yanks you aside and wags her knuckles at you. You’re going to love it here, girl.

Be right with you, ladies. The usual? You look absolutely stunning.

Category: Fiction, Short Story

  • michael c. keith

    Well done and highly enjoyable! Got some deep tickles from it. Strong prose nicely edged.

  • Zachary Colston

    Great flow and juxtaposition! The pace and feel are perfect in the environment. I have been a bartender and server for some years, and I feel the sudden shift of attention in this story. You can’t linger on one table or person too long before another need your attention. This was a real pleasure to read. Is any of the story a bit of non-fiction?