Thursday, October 25, 2007
Looking Back, Standing Up
After a busy day of wrestling employees, clients and numbers, it was my commitment to visit an old friend from high school, travel in to the city (after 5:00 PM) and meet at the downtown Missouri Athletic Club for a bit. The plan was then to move on to Bushes Grove, do a "getting the band back together" rendition thing on General Manager, Pedro Beltrenena. Pedro didn't know that we were coming, John Bell had sent me "blues brother" glasses to get in to character, to set the stage. I like stuff like this. We thought we would make a scene, cause a disturbance, make him quit his job and go out on the road with the band, like in the movie. Or at least pick up our tab (not really).
You see, John is/was an expert in tab stashing. He carved his skill out of the multitudes of restaurants that I have managed through the years in the St. Louis market. I think there are still folded waiters tabs stuffed between the bar and kick board at Mike Duffy's, or the Galleria Houlihans, or Cardwells, where Pedro worked, or the Media Club, or.....All testimony to the craftsmanship of John Bell and his clever antics. Bygones, I say.
You might have seen Pedro in the recent full page ads in both the Post Dispatch and the Riverfront Times, in an effort to boost lagging sales at "gazillionaire" Lester Millers 10 million dollar food manse. And as far as I am concerned, they have the right man for the job with Pedro. He needs to be around rich people, it is his brinkmanship. We used to have a little catering business back in the old days, doing high end catering events from Pedro's home in U-City. Lester Miller, Bob Kaplan, Robert Rafael, all clients of Pedro's, all brat pack St. Louis golden boys. Even though we had a falling out years back, I still consider Pedro to be a superb restaurateur. I am concerned, however, about the ability of that restaurant to (re) surface as what it once was. But as most people say, Lester's got the cash, does he really care? Damn right he cares, don't kid yourself. I wish them the best, as it is indeed a St. Louis Landmark and the restaurant business is a tough one.
Both Pedro and John Bell were high school friends of mine back in Columbia MO. Pedro was a foreign exchange student, who could only be described as Fez, the Latino on "That Seventies Show". John, a trust fund baby from his fathers invention, The Toastmaster Oven, I think.
John is now writing a series of books on American History and contacted me a while back. He wanted to catch up, tell me about his endeavor, find out what I have been doing etc. For a short time, in my pre-married days, John and I ran together, doing the music scene, singles happy hour groupie wannabee thing. What I have always enjoyed about John was that he always has a certain intellectualism about him, even in high school. When we were running in our twenties he lived in the West End, as did Pedro. All three of us migrated to St. Louis for various reasons after high school.
Pedro and I worked as restaurant mangers at Union Station, me at Houlihans, he at Fedora, restaurants owned by Gilbert Robinson Inc., out of Kansas City. GR was a leader in multi conceptual restaurant chain management in the states. It was a solid company, innovative during the corporate growth years of chain restaurants.
John had a Baby Grand Piano in his apartment and always wore a blazer or suit coat. I thought that odd, why leave a perfectly good pair of pants in the closet that matches the suit? I was captivated by that, a twenty something yuppiebee having a baby grand piano under a window in a West End apartment with 12 foot ceilings. He would wear the suit blazer over a pair of jeans, tennis shoes etc. Letterman either stole it from him or vice versa. Me, I lived in a house with a bunch of rugby players in Brentwood. There was sophistication but it was found only in a three year old Dijon mustard bottle in the fridge.
Once John had backstage tickets to KSHE's 20th birthday bash. We had a limo with Dave Mason and his wife, a couple other musicians as part of his brothers connect. I watched Monday night football with the Jimmie Ray Vaughn and the Fabulous Thunderbirds in their suite, before they were off to sings songs like "tough enough" for the thousands attending. Later that night we went to the after party, where I hung out with Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon, Charlie Daniels and a couple others. I damn near got fired for missing work that night.
So this is what I thought about while sitting at the bar waiting for John Bell at the downtown MAC. I went back to the good ole days, until about 7:00 PM, then got in my car and went home. He never showed.