(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt from the soon to be published book, Faux Pas Friday, appears on this blog.) Cobb and Kelley appeared as though in uniform. Prep school, frat boy, Wasp uniform. Kelley´s gray flannels, white shirt and tie complimented Cobb in a pink shirt, striped tie, khakis, loafers and a blue blazer. Prepped out 50 year olds who still belonged to the Peter Duchin Society Set. Brooks Brothers, Paul Stewart, and The Anderson Shop, with a small touch, here and there, a pocket square, a tie clasp, possibly from Jim McLaughlin´s. And, they both spoke in the same tongue as current Palm Beach restaurant star, Michael R. McCarty. There was more than a slight Waspiness in their diction. "Well, young man," Cobb continued, "Where have you worked before?""I was a waiter in Boston and Burlington, Vermont." I spurted out the lie, before I even knew what I was saying." Before that I was in newspapers. I am journalist. I sold a play, or at least thought I sold a play so I moved to New York. I haven´t waited on tables for a while, but I really need the money and I think that I could really do a good job for you." I said in an attempt to get this guy off the previous restaurant experience topic.
"Well, Kelly. We have another Russell Baker here. That could be very good for business if he ever makes it. Don´t you think?"
"Can´t wait Gorilla. We could use a boost in the Times. Or the Post."
"Christ, a mention in that little New York Observer would be a plus."
I had already become the subject matter for the act. Tossing me around like a foam rubber football, the comedians seemed friendlier than other managers and owners.
“We haven´t opened yet. We are just getting ready. As you can see, we are brand new. Kelly here, the guy taste-testing the Budweiser to make sure the coolers are working is the general manager, and John Vail, who´ll you´ll meet someday, is the financial wizard who takes care of all the books. And, hopefully the bags of cash. Bill Capra, "The Count", runs the room, and I´m the owner. I just get shit on by all the employees." Cobb said as he shuffled stacks of papers, applications, and resumes in front of him re-scattering them over the red and white checked tablecloth in an apparent executive motion.
"How long have you been in New York?"
"Since last Thursday." I said.
"You´re from Boston?"
"Yes, sir. I was born there, moved to Detroit as a kid and then moved back when I was 25?´
"Were you born in Boston?" he asked.
"No, Revere." I said.
"Kelly, we could be in trouble. The guy’s from Revere. Know what I mean, Gorilla. It might be helpful to hire this guy."
"Oh, do I Gorilla." Kelley shot back. They knew Revere had a reputation for being the home of the Eastern Seaboard Italian Mafia.
"I went to Brown. Vail went to Harvard. And, Baby Leroy here went to the Polo Grounds University." Cobb comically added.
"Ever hear of Allen´s." Cobb asked.
"No sir. But I am pretty new here."
"I know how new you are, but Allen´s was the society bar of Third Avenue. Kelly and I and Vail and Joe Allen started it in 1959. What a mistake, Huh Kelley? The place was an institution. It was a society institution. We´re going to recreate that here. And, we´re looking for some good waiters. Where do you live?´
"I am currently staying with a friend on 91st street."
"Well, if you´re available right away, and I am sure you are why I don´t get back to you on Monday. Just write your number down here in this book. You´ll need black pants and shoes and a clean white shirt." he said.
Cobb pulled a small, pocket size day-date-minder out of the inside pocket of his blazer. He handed it to me, opened to Monday´s page. A few other entrees appeared in minuscule alpha-numerical printing. I wrote my number in, larger than the rest and put four stars next to my name. I closed the book as I handed it back to him and he quickly reopened it to check the number.
"Kelly," he shot, "The guy has four stars next to his name. He must be sleeping with Mimi." Cobb said. The fact that he was referring to the New York Time´s restaurant critic, Mimi Sheridan flew overhead as I quickly got up to shake Cobb´s hand. I crossed the room, leaned over the bar and thanked Kelly for introducing me. As I walked out the door, I could here Kelly comment to Cobb that I fit in because of my uniform. I was wearing a blue blazer, blue shirt, khakis and a striped tie. Wing tips instead of loafers.
When the phone rang Monday morning I already had suited up with my black pants, white shirt, and freshly shined black shoes. I was ready for battle. I just didn´t know if it were going to be crossing a picket line or working for Cobb.
"Hello John, this is John Cobb. We met the other day. Say, listen, we were wondering if you would like to come down and help us set up the room for dinner. We´re going to open this evening and thought you might like to help us out."
"What time would you like me there, Mr. Cobb?
"Well, the sooner you get here, the sooner the room gets set up for tonight. See you soon." The room gets set up for tonight, I thought. What in the heck does that mean? When was my training going to begin?