Besides the amusing characters I worked alongside, like Brenda ballerina, bartender Jimmy, Joe “Mama” in the kitchen, the Ruskin family, and Richard Sanders, I served many and various customers who were -- and are -- fairly well known.
The artists and their families, for one: John Chamberlain, his son, Jesse, and Jesse’s girlfriend, the drummer Jane Fire (from the Erasers); Lisa deKooning, who came by very regularly. She wasn’t much of a conversationalist, but she liked to drink.
Then there were the musicians: Paul Butterfield, Joni Mitchell. Butterfield drank a good deal, but was quiet and kind of sad. Joni Mitchell was upbeat and smiled at me kindly, ordering a Molson Golden beer while she practically chain-smoked her cigarettes and chatted with painter Nathan Josephson.
One night, at my large table in my server section, I waited on a very interesting eight-top of artsy folk who included William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg (and Peter Orlovsky, of course). You best believe I was shakin’ in my boots that time. . . how could I not be nervous, waiting on such big legends and their entourage (or their hangers-on -- or is it hanger-ons)?
I always looked like I kept my cool, though: I was working at One U, but most of all, I was a New Yorker. You never blew your cool. Das wast verboten. The song, “Broken English,” punctuated the air with Marianne’s sweet ragged voice clawing through the wreckage.
And then, one night in February, two young guys came up to me, dressed in black turtlenecks, with Ray-Bans (very Andy Warhol, I thought). They knew me from the NY club scene: one guy was from the Invaders, and the other guy booked the Peppermint Lounge and had a band called U.S. Ape.
I figured they must be hungry and broke, so I brought them sodas and bread and soup (all free). I wondered why they weren’t that interested in eating. . . instead, they were into goofing around and trying to get my attention by talking about how great my old band was and how the guys used to line up to get in just to see Nervus Rex because a cute girl -- me -- was in the band.
Is there any wonder why I listened to them? Compliments are the sweetest ambrosia. . . especially to one who was dying of thirst.