Holy Shit it’s Alec Baldwin!

You know celebrity is an interesting thing. Why are we so interested in their lives, what they wear, who they sleep with? What gives them their “power?” I mean you have to admit we live in a celebrity obsessed culture. Just look at the J-Lo/Affleck shitstorm.

John Cleese posited an explanation in his television special The Human Face. Basically he said we are designed by evolution to live in small groups, numbering five hundred or so. In our not too distant insular agrarian past we knew every one around us. Famous people in the village were those that had accomplished something. They were warriors, healers, prophets, and kings. Everyone knew their face.

Now we live in megalopolises numbering tens of millions of people. The endless procession of faces we see everyday are, for the most part, anonymous, with out a name or story attached to them. We feel a profound lack of connection to the swirl of humanity that besets us.

But we all know who Brad Pitt is.

He is just a guy who works in the movies but many of us know more about him than about our next door neighbor. We may not know squat about the guy sitting next to us on the subway but we will both know who Brad is. That, in a funny way, connects us. Cleese is basically saying that celebrities, by the virtue of their being seen in the media, fulfill a basic human longing for connection in the global village. We all know them and, by that, they connect us to each other. They cut through the anonymity. That’s what gives them power.

Of course that perceived power is all out of whack when compared against reality. A celebrity, if he or she is smart, realizes that people recognize their persona, their act, and not them. They realize fame is fickle and try and stay grounded in the real day to day experience we all inhabit. They know they are not warriors, prophets and kings – just people whose job puts their faces on the screen. Those who believe their own PR end up in trouble. Think Elvis. Think Michael Jackson. Think, gulp! – OJ.

So what does all this have to do with waiting tables? I’ll tell you why.

In our boffo box office culture, normal everyday folks are so caught up in celebrity obsession they start feeling entitled to star treatment. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in a restaurant.

I cannot tell you how many times patrons walk in on a busy Saturday night without a reservation and demand the best table. When they don’t get it I hear the most tired of protestations, “Do you know who I am?” Usually they’re a minor so and so with an equally minor company. They are part of the great huddled masses. Just like me.

Let’s not mention the outrageous food requests, finger snapping, obnoxious comments and other sundry bad behaviors here. I’ll save those stories for later. Suffice to say people who are not famous like to make the wait staff think they are.

So how do real movie stars act when they go out to eat?

One busy Monday night we are crazy busy. The door chimes, I look up and Alec Baldwin is standing in the doorway. Holy Shit.

He is with his brother Steven Baldwin, significant others in tow. First off let me tell you Alec really is a handsome devil. It’s a cliché, I know, but he is a lot taller in person than on screen. Alas, we have only one table; between the ladies room and the kitchen next to the register. It’s the worst table in the house. Alec, ever polite, takes it happily. He orders off the menu, says please and thank you, tips well, and thanks the kitchen staff on the way out. He is a perfect gentleman. This guy has his head on straight.

I also have had the pleasure of waiting on: Rich Little, Rosie O’Donnell, Bjork, Meryl Streep, William Hurt., Larry Mullen (from U2), Ellen Burstyn, Barry Bostwick, Alan Ruck, Joseph Bologna, Jack Klugman, Toni Morrison, William Baldwin, Judith Regan, and a bunch of notables whose names escape me.

You know what? Not one of them acted like an asshole. They were all well mannered, polite, and didn’t put on airs. I know other waiters have celebrity horror stories but not me.

So basically my long winded post comes down to this. If these “famous people” can eat in my restaurant without being an entitled obnoxious prick why can’t you? Don’t get caught up in the seduction of celebrity. It’s an illusion. Just be happy to be you.

Now shut the fuck up and eat your food.

God I hope OJ doesn’t read this.


Comments

Holy Shit it’s Alec Baldwin! — 35 Comments

  1. It amazes me how ignorant some people can be. Someone is dysfunctional because unlike the vast majority of society, she speaks her mind.

    On a sidenote waiter, I agree with you. Every celebrity I have met has been gracious and polite. Makes you wonder.

  2. I have waited on 2 celebrities. One was a real peach (SheDaisy, country music group) and tipped really well. The other? Worst customer ever. Rude, demanding, expected free food (which my manager caved in on) and didn’t tip. Stupid Gary Coleman

  3. I worked for a Boston Hotel during the DMC, and I had the pleasure of checking Mr. Baldwin into his hotel room and also got him reservation at a fish restuarant in Boston (note, this is during the DMC, restaurants were sold out months in advance), He was very polite and just a chill guy. He was one of the best however I had some share of “differcult” famous people!

  4. I wonder if there is a difference between “New York” showbiz celebrities, and “California” showbiz celebrities. The surrounding culture is different; NY strikes me as a much more “communal” place, where people have to get along because they all pretty much life on top of each other. LA seems more aloof, with its gates and swimming pools and such.

    Chris and Tom, don’t take Gary Coleman’s behavior too seriously. I mean, how would you feel after a day of fixing up the dilapidated old buildings on Avenue Q? ;)

  5. from my experience in serving the big stars don’t want to be recognized or treated any differently. ive had several stars come in after the dinner rush, and be totally fine eating wherever, and in general, do not want to be recognized.

  6. Maria Shriver came into a restaurant I used to work at, right after Arnold became Governor. She wanted the table in the back of the restaurant. Unfortunately, there was already a party dining there.

    So what happened?

    She insisted and our wonderful manager actually asked the table to move.

  7. Pretty neat entry…I waited tables at a faculty club of a rather famous university, and I noticed kind of the same thing…the professors who were trying to get tenure were more asshole-ish than the others (although the vast majority of profs were nice), whereas the Nobel prizewinners (as well as the really well-known profs) were generally very, very nice. Also the people with 9 or 10 digit net worth were nicer than the people who _thought_ they were rich…!! I always wondered if that was true of some celebrities…

  8. It’s funny how those people who want and are trying to be somebody are assholes and those who know they are famous and are somebody know they don’t need to act like a big shot cause they are a big shot. They are secure in their fame. When your famous you don’t need to act like an asshole to get what you want. They don’t feel the need to try and prove their power cause they know they are powerful and at the top. The winey wannabees will throw a fit as if saying “look at me!” I’m somebody too dammit!” They know you know they aren’t and that makes them try harder to be an asshole and prove themselves.

  9. I served Jerry Rice. He came in with his wife and 3 kids. Real nice guy. first of all, I didn’t know who he was. I served him like any regular customer, and he behaved like any other regular customer.
    He even graciously autographed our restaurant business card and guest book.

  10. I was tending bar downtown Seattle and it was late Sunday night, around 11:30, and there was no one in the room, so I was watching George Michael’s Sports Machine. Around midnight a customer comes in so I turn off the TV. I walk out around the bar to take the customer’s drink order and see that it is Leslie Nielsen (of Naked Gun fame).

    Now, I’ve waited on maybe a hundred celebrities–movie stars, sports stars, musicians, etc–and all of them were polite and gracious, but Leslie Nielsen was something else altogether. After I took his order (a double Absolute martini straight-up with a twist), he crosses his legs and farts, nothing spectacular, but subtle, so subtle in fact I wasn’t even sure I heard it correctly (maybe it was the chair squeaking). When I returned with his martini, Leslie Nielsen uncrossed his legs and farted again (I definitely heard it again) and I was flabbergasted because he acted as if nothing had happened. Three or four more times he farted again before the front desk came to take him in to dinner.

    Now, a month later I’m home watching Letterman and Leslie Nielsen is one. He’s chatting up Dave and they’re as thick as thieves, and then Leslie Nielsen crosses his legs and farts, then uncrosses them and farts again. I about fall off the couch. Dave looks straight into the camera and raises one eyebrow as only he can, then finally says something to Leslie Nielsen. Nielsen fesses up that he has a fake fart machine he keeps palmed and that he’s been having a lot of fun with folks in the hospitality industy. Thanks Leslie Nielsen! You got me…twice! I’ve never laughed so hard as discovering I’d been had.

  11. Real celebs are almost always nice, it’s their entourage that you have to watch out for. They want the free food and drink, treat you like chattle and then don’t want to tip on comped food and drink. I have had many a celeb stop their party to make sure I got a good tip when the rest of the group wanted to just walk away full on their free food.

  12. I served Cedric the Entertainer once… after he hit on me and his friend was sure to let me “know who he was”… they order an assload of food. This took forever as I stood at their table while they hemmed and hawed over everything. So I recommend a couple things, and when it shows up they send it back. I ask if they just don’t like it, or if there was something wrong with it – nope… no explanation, i guess those fatties were full already. So my manager has to comp. part of their meals – I’m now pissed about their behaviour regarding the food and me…. remember these two old fat dudes hit on me – young skinny… *barf* anyways…

    most nasty part? Cedric was wearing see-through plastic nikes with dirty old yellow/brown (used to be white) socks. eww

  13. William Hurt is, however, a prick to colleagues if not to waiters. My little sister was in a film with him years ago. Being on set a lot, he was decent to her. However, he had a scene with another little girl who was only on set for one day. The little girl’s mother was a big fan of Hurt’s and asked him if she could have a photo of him and her daughter, as a souvenir of the scene they were in together. He said no. No. To a photo with a seven year old girl, which would be treasured.
    That’s all I need to assert the guy’s status as “prick extraordinaire”.

  14. Angela Shelton (model, actress, filmaker) may not be as famous as Leslie Nielson or Alec Baldwin, but when she came into our restaurant in Winchester, Virginia, and was recognized by us as a VIP, she exuded charm and graciousness. I think the more important you THINK you are, the less important you make others think you are.

  15. The more famous the customers are, the less famous they want to be treated in my experiance. The irony is everyone who is no-one wants to be treated like they are someone, but everyone who is someone wants to be treated like everyone else :S

  16. I’ve never actually had a celebrity at one of my tables, unless you count college basketball players when I was in school (and I don’t). But I have had a few when I worked in retail. Couple things I noticed:

    1) The professional athletes I helped were tremendously nice guys. Antawn Jamison (power forward for the Wizards) is a particularly great human being.

    2) Politicians and political figures, interestingly enough, break down in one of two ways. Tom Daschle was almost unfathomably quiet and polite; there’s something about the man I can’t quite quantify that makes you want to give him a hug. Greta van Sustern, meanwhile? HUGE bitch. Same with Karl Rove, although thankfully he didn’t stay long.

    3) The only movie star I’ve ever helped (Leon, the guy from Cool Runnings, when I was working at Blockbuster) was one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. He was cheerful, funny, and was happy to sign some things for us, and actually hung out for a good twenty minutes just talking to us and telling some stories. We didn’t want him to leave.

  17. I waited on Jeff Foxworthy once. I was barely 21 and super innocent. Coincidentally, I had recently re-read his first book, which I had gotten when it first came out. I gushed to him how I’d read his book, and loved it. He replied, in typical Foxworthy fashion, “So yooooooou’re the person in North Carolina who bought it.”
    I giggled myself silly and told everyone in the kitchen who would listen. Hee hee.
    I loved your story, waiter. I am making my way thru this blog at breakneck pace, having just found it today. I love it.
    Oh, I also waited on Naomi and Wynonna Judd. Naomi is a bitch, and Wynonna is alright. Dan Marino came thru the kitchen once and seemed like a nice guy.
    Tom Selleck came every night for a week once, as he was performing in a play nearby. Each night he came in alone and got wasted. No one was allowed to look him in the eye. (LOL.) Did I mention he was a man-whore?
    :D
    Cheers, until next time.

  18. cynical me: well celebrities have their reputation to protect. even when they are boiling underneath, they need to keep their composure because they know the world is watching and they will embarrass themselves greatly if they act like assholes. i wonder what they do and say when nobody is watching them?

    only the people who are falling out of celebrity status can afford to be jackasses, because basically, they know people don’t care about them anymore and they need all the publicity they can get (good or bad).

    On a side note: I’m a big fan of John Cleese. Not just because of the Monty Python crew, but because his philosophy is great and we could all learn a lot from him.

  19. For this place that I worked at, my brother was the “famous face” on the commercials for this little college town pizza place. Well, Patrick Ewing Jr. (big basketball player of the town, and mostly known for his father) walks over to my brother and says “HEY I KNOW YOU! Can I take a picture with you?” My brother just smiled and said, “why yes, yes you can.” Funny to see because everyone thought he would be an ass… other way around. Very TALL and nice kid!

  20. I live in san antonio where the spurs are gods. In my restaurant bar I’ve waited on three of the spurs (their names escape me, I’m not much of a sports fan) But they were all very polite, and tipped well.

    A local college guy comes in wearing his basketball jersey, when I ask him for his ID so he could have a beer he goes “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!? MY JERSEY IS HANGING IN THE GYM BITCH”

    it’s irony for you

  21. Alec Baldwin can be an ass too though. They have their moments just like the rest of us though the entertainment industry is full of pathological narcissists. I’ve got stories..*zips mouth*

    The only celebs I’d be intimidated by at all are Tony Bourdain and Tom Waits. Imagine waiting on either of them? I half dream of it and fear it dreadfully at the same time. With my luck I’d be in the weeds on either occasion.

    Political figures I’ve met interestingly enough were very, very nice. Stephanie Tubbs Jones was an ANGEL. *misses her* Having said that I’ve never met Rove or Axelrod or Axelrove..same dif.

    I think America is too wound up in celebrity, marketing and all that rot anyway. Serve them if they appear and “Let It Be” cuz in a way they get paid a hell of a lot more for doing something that is while demanding in it’s way not anymore “important” than your job or a fireman’s. They get enough attention for it as it is. Good service, no more, no less than what any other patron would expect is my motto with celebs.

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  23. I served in Washington D.C. and served celebs and politicians on the regular. Best celeb was Joyce Gracie (extrememly famous Brazilian figher) and the worst celeb was Dan Snyder (Owner of the Redskins). 2 best celeb(s) was Muse (a band) they signed a stack of bev naps for the staff. Most politicians were very cool, some seemed a little distant.

  24. I worked in the world’s shittiest diner in the middle of Kansas when i was high school. for some reason (and to be honest i’ve never really understood this) Grizzly Adams frequented our town… i think he was friends with someone. I don’t know. ANYWAY, i was fifteen, and didn’t really know who Grizzly Adams was.. but there he was. (he’s really short by the way). he spent 20 minutes hitting on me and trying to convince me to split a bottle of tequila with him (did i mention that i was 15?). the table left me 10%. which is fine. But it’s a shitty diner. so i made a buck fifty.

  25. John Travolta has dined in my restaurant a few times, and he is very nice, a great tipper, says please and thank you, and never causes a scene. The few times I’ve seen him, (being the true nerd that I am…) I want to run up and start singing the Grease album, or start quoting “Face Off” to him. I usually just drop off his food quietly while attempting to not fall over from shaky knees.

    I’ve also waited on Danika Patrick of racing fame, Hank Blalock (on of the Texas Rangers)and seen plenty of other Pro athletes (I just can never remember their names)

  26. Ha! My former roommate waited on Alec Baldwin at the restaurant where we work. He was sitting with two women half his age and left a 30% tip.

    Someone let me know that Chris Noth was at the restaurant, so I ran over though I wasn’t working that night. There he was, in the flesh. He tipped my coworker well, but said no when another coworker (who was off duty at the time) asked for a picture. He just read a newspaper and acted like he didn’t want to be disturbed.

  27. A couple months back I had the pleasure of seating and waiting on Warren Buffett. Many of my cohorts in the industry here in Omaha have had the same pleasure. He ordered lightly, tipped 18%, but the best part of everything was as he was leaving he pulled the GM aside and told her “You hold on to him or I’m going to give him a job.”

  28. One busy Monday night we are crazy busy. The door chimes, I look up and Alec Baldwin is standing in the doorway. Holy Shit.

    I almost pissed myself laughing at this, and I can’t help but imagine you as Alec Baldwin rolls into the restaurant with entourage in tow. It surprises me that Alec wasn’t a douchebag, as that is typically the character he plays. It is nice to know that celebrities can separate their personal and professional lives and continue being better than everyone else.

  29. Something one of my regular customers told another customer who decided to come in and pull that “do you know who I am” bullshit with me:

    If you have to tell people who you are, you’re nobody.

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