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August 5, 2008 at 8:14 AM

Fame Game: the Restaurant Edition

After reading my pal Mark Rahner’s interview with “The Bachelorette’s” losing lover, Jason Mesnick, I feel professionally obligated to post this photo of Kirkland’s famous suitor, seen here posing in front of the coat room at the Metropolitan Grill :

The close-no-stogie “bach” is smiling for the camera with “VIP”-patron Bob Wright (left), and the Met’s marketing manager Wendy Starr — who knows a good promo-shot when she stands in one. So, how does Mesnick keep his boyish figure? He goes to the Met, and instead of hoisting a knife and attacking a prime porterhouse, he orders the halibut cheeks.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, if you were to ask, say, Jerry Seinfeld what to eat at the Seattle steakhouse, he’ll tell you: “Halibut cheeks? Fuggetaboudit! I’m having the ribeye!”

Don’t believe me? Just ask GM Schuyler Adams and server Joan King:

When I worked in restaurants, I, too, rubbed elbows with my share of celebrities. And with the glaring exception of Jeff Smith, the late local culinary-celeb who gained fame as “The Frugal Gourmet,” they were, to a one, very nice folks.

Harry Connick, Jr. once dined at Saleh al Lago, where I worked for years, and the evening was thereafter described as “When Harry Met Saleh.” One night, after listening to a four-top chatting about Broadway actors and theater in general, I asked if they happened to know my best friend from high school, Liz Larsen. Indeed they did. And when I asked the older gent at the table if I should know him, he laughed and introduced himself. It was Broadway playwright and librettist Arthur Laurents — and it was all I could do not to start singing, “I like to be in America! Everything free in A-mer-i-ca!” right there in the middle of my station.

Another night, I got a laugh out of Larry King and company on their visit to the Green Lake restaurant. Larry, whose voice booms in person as loudly as it does on TV, was regaling his assembled guests with a story. When he explained, “So, then, I picked up the phone and said. . .” right on cue I leaned over from my post in the bar — and handed him a telephone receiver to use as a prop. Another evening, a pre-“24” Keifer Sutherland and that handsome hunk Jeff Bridges came in to dine with an entourage of ingenues and filmmakers. In addition to a nice tip, they left me half a bottle of expensive grappa — which I later enjoyed at home.

When I was a 20-year-old waiting tables at the Good Earth Restaurant in Santa Barbara, CA, I had heart-palpitations while waiting on Kenny Loggins, who drove a white Mercedes-Benz station wagon, which I thought was the height of luxury. Believe me: When I was a 15-year-old at a Loggins & Messina concert five years earlier at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, dancing in my seat to “Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock ‘n Roll,” I’d have never dreamed that one day I’d be chatting with the skinny pop-singer from Everett, WA (where ever that was) whose every croon (“I Wanna Sing You a Love Song. . .”) rocked my teen world.

And speaking of rocking teenager’s worlds, later, while working at the Marx Bros. Cafe in Alaska, I waited on the very charming John Sebastian. What? You never heard of John Sebastian? He made this song famous eons before the existance of the Disney Channel, and its never-ending promos of singers like Aly & AJ, now raking in the bucks by performing their tweeny-pop rendition of this John Sebastian classic:

Then there was the night actor Roy Scheider came in for dinner at the Marx Bros. He sat in the best seat in the house — table 12 — and was quite the elegant gentleman. So, how come every time I approached his table — the one with the water view of Cook Inlet — a certain, frightening orchestral arrangement immediately ran through my head?

What about you? Have you got any stories about brushes with celebrity in restaurants? Feel free to share them right here.

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