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Author Michael Menzies

  • Michael Menzies

 

An Encounter with a Californian Server at a Russian Restaurant

Mari Vanna is a recent addition to West Hollywood’s beautiful restaurants. As Russian as a Faberge egg, it occupies the space that once housed the plush Bastide on Melrose Place. It's a delightful place, reminiscent of a Russian dacha in which any Chekov character would feel at home amidst multi-colored pillows, festive clutter, painted boxes, ornaments and those dolls that fit into dolls that fit into dolls. Even the bill is brought to you in a gay, red purse!

Our waiter looked like a Russian matinee idol, with black hair falling over his face. (“And I used mousse this morning!” he told us, brushing it back carelessly). A big grin.  

“Where are you from?” I asked him, imagining the answer to be Kiev or Odessa or somewhere exotic like Izhevsk.  

“I was born here, in California,” he said, pushing back black tresses.

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A Young Prince: A Hotel Lobby Encounter

Sometimes I cannot help myself. I move into a different world than the one I inhabit. At the West Hollywood bar Rage, for instance, Justin Timberlake can become Frank Sinatra and Rage itself morphs into the Cocoanut Grove. Recently I had such an experience at the Langham Hotel. (The one in Pasadena, I think. I know it took a long time to get there from where I live, area code 90069.)

While sitting on a cushioned sofa in the hotel lobby, I caught the eye of a young man at the concierge desk. He was The Most Beautiful Young Man in the World. He was a tad over six feet, a young Ruritanian prince straight out of an operetta. He had the posture of a royal figure—slender, proud, erect. I saw him with epaulettes, a heavily crested and embroidered jacket with gold cords dangling here and there and a sash across his chest. I was certain he was the heir to a long-forgotten European monarchy.  

I blinked. 

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Encounter with a Mysterious Server at WeHo Bistro

The tab where the server's name appears read FB. Frank Bridges I thought to myself. But since he is Latin—all golden, lush-lipped, dark liquid eyes and sphinx-like, it surely couldn’t be. I began to think of him as Fantastically Buff. For this young man is indeed fantastically buff. Perfectly proportioned. Had he been alive in Michelangelo’s day, the sculptor would have sent David home and had FB pose for him.  

It would be a cliché to say he is tall, dark and handsome, although he is all of these things. Not over-gymed, no steroid aid, he has arms that Superman would envy, a chest, a waist, a butt any male model or film star would die for. Patrons of the WeHo Bistro, too!

There is a secret, mysterious, even melancholy air about FB. He doesn’t give much away. Over a period of six months I learned little of him other than his devotion to his family, demonstrated vividly in the answers to the questions I posed to him. And there is an air of sweetness about him, shown in the way he welcomed me back after an absence of some time. He seemed generally pleased to see me. I was enchanted and surprised in equal measure.

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Service: Matthew at the Burger Lounge

There are a lot of ‘bests’ at The Burger Lounge, a restaurant in a mini-mall on Sunset at Alta Loma. The best hamburgers in Los Angeles (moist and delicious), the best booths in the city (comfortable and private) and the best manager (Matthew Perrye, a friendly and likeable guy who, if he were an actor would be cast as the best friend). I asked Matthew a few questions. He answered them with charm. 

 

You came from Chicago. Was Los Angeles what you expected?
It was 50/50. Most people have ideas of what Los Angeles is like before arriving here. Going out every night to fabulous places, posing for photo shoots, bumping into celebrities everywhere. I expected people were shopping or at the beach all the time. (I brought a ton of board shorts.)  Being from Chicago, which is also a  major city, my expectations were perhaps less than someone from a smaller place—like, say, Kalamazoo, Mich., for instance. However, moving here, I found everything bigger and more intimidating than I anticipated. There was so much going on. Once I started making friends and began working, the city became a lot smaller and a lot more comfortable. The board shorts didn’t hurt either. 

I live and work in West Hollywood, so that's my life and it’s what I know. I go to a lot of the same restaurants and bars, see a lot of the same people out and about, so it is less intimidating and less giant. More manageable. But it took a while.

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Connie & Ted's and David

Connie and Ted are all about fish.

They have opened an upscale fish restaurant on the spot where the iconic Silver Spoon restaurant stood on Santa Monica Boulevard. It is always jam-packed on weekends, the only days they are open for lunch. It could be the crab cakes, it could be the sole, it could be the lobster roll that brings the customers in.
 
But I believe it is David.


 
He is a young, up-and-coming actor, working (as so many of them do) as a waiter. However, he never gives attitude or considers himself too grand for the work as others of his ilk do. He is pleasant, engaging, shares light laughter with his patrons and has a boy-next-door quality that makes one feel downright neighborly. One day an agent is going to come into the restaurant, be as charmed as most patrons of Connie & Ted’s are by David, and his career will then begin with a non-stop upward-bound trajectory that would put Haley’s Comet and Chad Michael Murray into the shade.
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Steve at the Pikey

Steve is his name. He is a waiter at The Pikey on Sunset Boulevard. He was sporting a bushy, hermit-like beard when i entered for lunch. It did not diminish his friendly smile.

When I commented on the beard, he said, “I went to Alaska and grew it so that when I was there they wouldn’t think I was from Los Angeles. It completed my goal of visiting all the states of the union, which began with a family trip to Hawaii when I was 11 years old.” If my arithmetic is correct, this makes Steve 27 years old now.

 

In Alaska he met up—via facebook—with an old college chum who dons scuba gear and goes underwater to count salmon.

It’s amazing how much one can learn when one just wants fish ‘n chips.

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The Boys from Lisbon

An out of town visitor—a good friend of mine—was staying at the Palihouse hotel in West Hollywood. We agreed we would meet for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

I chose the WeHo Bistro, which was within walking distance for both of us, at La Cienega and Holloway.

A waiter with curly dark hair framing a face of youthful beauty and a smile that sent out sparks or stars—something blinding—stood ready to take our order.

“What do you recommend?” asked Stephen of the waiter.

“Don’t ask that,” I told Stephen. “You have to have a frame of reference. Find out what his favorite movie is. Then you will have an idea of his taste.”

The waiter was ready. "The Master,” he said.

“Huh?” was our reaction.

The Master. I saw it last night on DVD,” the waiter explained. “It starred Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, both of whom were nominated for best actor Oscars for their performances in the movie. People thought it was about Scientology, although ...”

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A Witty Waiter

While in Miami recently, Eduardo (my partner of 30 years) and I took his mother out to dinner at the SLS hotel in Miami Beach.
 
The waiter who took our order was named Ian. He was extremely handsome, spoke Spanish and took the order from Eduardo and his mother in that language. I think he said he came from Wales, but under his spell, I just sat there slightly unbalanced, staring at him, wondering what he looked like in a tuxedo or a speedo. 
 
He spent a lot of time with Eduardo and his mother, chatting animatedly with occasional laughter and a lot of smiling. (I later learned that it concerned the merits of the shrimp over the scallops and which was tastier, the beer sui mai or the kueh pad ti?)
 
Then he turned to me and asked me something in Spanish. I think it was, “You are the most dazzling man I have ever seen, and what would you like to order?”
 
“I don’t speak Spanish,” I told him.
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Champagne, Caviar and Christopher

All three—champagne, caviar and Christopher—sparkle, and all three are on-hand at Petrossian West Hollywood.

Isolated from his fellow students at elementary school because of his ADD, Christopher would swing his legs wondering idly why he wasn’t included in class activity.

Perhaps it is this experience that has made him the most charming host at one of the most charming restaurants in West Hollywood. He makes everyone feel extraordinarily welcome and totally included. If only his classmates could see him now!

 

What was the first time you tasted champagne?
The first time was when I was 14 or 15, at my father’s restaurant on a New Year’s Eve celebration. Someone snuck me a small glass. I felt great when I was included in the toast.

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