Act It If You Don’t Feel It

 

There is something in the human heart that needs to be appreciated and liked and maybe even loved. Many men and women would love to be worshipped as well. Short of all that, most of us will take a pleasant friendliness in the people we must deal with, especially in our leisure time pursuits.

I remember one particularly horrid meal I had in New York City’s theatre district. My wife, the beautiful AP and I, along with gambling’s maverick author Walter Thomason and his wife, best-selling romance novelist Cynthia Thomason, were going to see the delightful hit The Music Man and we selected a restaurant near the theatre and we made an early reservation – 5:30PM – so we could make the 8PM curtain. This restaurant had come highly recommended by someone I will never talk to again!

The waiters were the nastiest people I have ever met. Poor Walter ordered a drink before dinner, then during dinner, then after dinner – the same drink, because they never brought it to the table. Yet the drink appeared three times on the check. The service was slow. The food was cold when it was brought to the table and when we left we told the maitre d’ that the service and the food left a lot to be desired.

He looked at us and said disdainfully, “This is New York if you haven’t noticed.” I have no idea what he meant since I have been living in New York for more than half a century. Was he saying that nastiness is something we New Yorkers should be proud of? Most New York restaurants have very friendly waiters by the way. So did he think we were tourists who had to be mistreated to get his version of the New York flavor? Beats me.

Almost topping this dining disaster was one I had in Memphis, Tennessee at a restaurant everyone told me had the best barbequed ribs on the planet. I was staying at the delightful Peabody Hotel and I went nearby to enjoy this world famous barbeque. Aside from the fact that the ribs went down like bricks, the waiters at this restaurant were frothing cousins to their New York City counterparts. Even worse, I found the restaurant greasy, the plates smudgy, the drinking glasses smeared. I had a hard enough time starting my meal, much less finishing. I don’t care how famous a restaurant is – filth is filth. The surly waiters almost threw the plates on the table and when I ordered a glass of wine – the glass looked like those jelly glasses that Welch’s used to sell so when you finished your jelly you had a cheap glass. The wine at this dump did not taste as good as the Welch’s jelly either.

These two events brought home the fact that not everyone belongs in the “service industry.” When I was a young man I worked in a fancy restaurant where I wore a tuxedo and spoke with a slight French accent (this restaurant only hired people with foreign accents so all of us Americans pretended to be from somewhere else) and I know that many nights I had to act friendly even though I didn’t feel friendly. That’s the nature of the job – you must be professional and friendly if you want to be a good waiter or waitress. In a real sense you are the servant of those whom you are serving and no one wants a surly servant.

Now is it easy to be a servant? No, many times it is difficult because the people you are serving, over the course of a day, a night, a week, a career can sometimes be tough to deal with. That one nasty person can make an otherwise great day turn somewhat sour. But a professional is a professional. Actors in a bad mood must still show delight if the scene in the play calls for it. A waiter must show the same friendly face even if inside he is steaming because of this or that event or patron. If a servant can’t do that he or she should seriously consider another job.

The casino industry is no different than any other service industry. From the moment you drive onto a property you are meeting service people – valet parkers, bellhops, reservation clerks, dealers, pit personnel, waiters, waitresses, spa attendants and more – all of them working jobs where your satisfaction is the key to their performance. The casino-hotel has made a commitment to making your stay enjoyable.

Players who play at tables with surly dealers certainly have diminished pleasure. The dealers can’t make you win or lose, of course, but they can present you with a winning attitude, a friendly disposition, and a professional demeanor. So how come some dealers seem like fire-breathing dragons, ready to incinerate you for daring to talk to them? Because they haven’t learned the most important aspect of the service industry – acting.

I learned from being a waiter that it didn’t matter what I was actually feeling. The patrons at the restaurant weren’t interested in my internal state. They were there for a gourmet meal served by a professional waiter. So that is the role I played. I showed the same disposition whether my internal state was happy or glum.

Dealers, pit personnel and others you encounter in the casino environment must perform their roles regardless of their inner states. What’s inside is irrelevant to the job.

Let me close with a great moment from the lives of two of the world’s greatest actors, Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman. They were filming Marathon Man and the scene to be shot was supposed to be about Hoffman’s character having stayed awake for 24 hours. Hoffman, being a method actor, wanted to do the scene for real – so he stayed up for 24 hours before the filming. Of course, he could not remember his lines and he was screwing up left and right. Olivier, to be helpful, said to him, “My dear boy, if you had learned how to act you wouldn’t have had to stay up all night!”

Great advice.

I Have Stalkers!

I am a minor celebrity in the great scheme of things. I have a good fan base for my gambling books, some fans have seen me on TV, and as I expand into other areas of writing I hope that fan base grows. But I mean I am “minor” as in completely, utterly minor—almost atom-like, as in I still take the damn garbage out on Mondays and Thursdays.

But I can now understand how real celebrities such as movie stars, sports stars, television stars, big-time writers like John Grisham must have it. There are nuts out there. There are seriously whacked-out people who write you, call you, show up at your house, knock on the hotel room doors where you are staying to invite themselves in.

I have stalkers, for crying out loud. I know many celebrities have stalkers. But they should just be for major celebrities, not the flea-sized kind that I am.

Newspaper articles report stalkers that have been brought to court by some of the real celebrities and almost none of them look really, really weird or even really, really scary.

But I can’t believe that in the past 20 years I have had my share—although I am not quite sure what my share should actually be.

A rabbi from a town near mine dropped by my house several times and asked to come for dinner. I made pleasant excuses the first couple of times. (“Oh, sorry, I had dinner already.” “It’s only two in the afternoon.” “I eat early.”) Finally, not to be offensive, I said, “Look, I eat pork and shellfish every damn night and down them with milk.” Now he just constantly emails me.

I had two women who seemed to always know where I was staying when in Vegas. However they did it, they were always able to take the elevator to my floor (often a floor that was secured), knock on my door (actually ring the bell of these particular rooms) and ask, “Oh, Frank, want some fun?” I would tell them that I was calling security in twenty seconds and they would go away. My wife would ask, “What was that?” I’d say, “Oh, just some fans.” She’d reply, “Oh, yeah, right,” turn over and go to sleep.

I have had several horrendous looking women, more like Morlocks than Eloi, who send me photos of themselves scantily clad, posing seductively, or rather, what they think is seductive. I completely ignore them because showing interest in them—even negative interest—would just encourage them.

I had a woman who would call me to tell me she was staying in Atlantic City in a beautiful suite and she would pay for everything if I joined her. I put my wife on the phone with her. That settled that.

 

I had one woman who offered me a “world-class *&^%**!!!” (I had never heard of that term before) if I did a favor for her husband. That was awkward. I blanched at the thought and immediately told my wife.

Oh, and men? Oh, yes, men too. “How do you know you don’t want to have sex with a man if you have never tried it?” If I were interested, I’d know it by now.

I did have one dangerous individual who had a severe mental illness called erotomania. This is when a person imagines and believes he or she has an intimate relationship with you. (Remember that woman who kept breaking into David Letterman’s house saying she was married to him when she had never even met him?) It is just the opposite of “Fatal Attraction” often with the same conclusion—the person (in this case, female) wants to harm you because she thinks you belong to her even if you don’t even know her or just know her in passing. That was scary. Thankfully that woman disappeared into the ether.

These crazies aside, I know this; I do enjoy people who have enjoyed my work, in whatever field it might be—teaching, writing, or acting. It is certainly an ego boost.

But these nuts, these fans who are certainly fanatical, are sad people. There is far, far more to a good life than bedding or bothering a person with even a modicum of fame.

Is fame important? No. I am happy taking out the garbage two days a week.