Birth Travails of a Spaghetti Salon
Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford, the Moskowitz and Lupowitz of Italian food, have, as you doubtlessly heard, opened a plush Beverly Hills lasagna palace called "Puccini's."
It's an old racket to Sinatra, who frequently backs restaurants and then becomes his own best customer.
But for Lawford, being the owner of an Italian restaurant is a whole new, frightening world.
When I saw him at Puccini's the other night, he was sitting at a corner table and staring, somewhat awestruck, at his investment.
"Whatta you think?" he asked me.
"Think about what?" I replied.
He glanced at me with thinly veiled annoyance.
"The room, the room," he said. "Do you like it?"
"I like it," I told him.
He nodded absently.
"It's a pretty room," he admitted.
I nodded absently.
"The food is delicious," he said sadly. "Business has been wonderful. The place will probably be a big success."
Then he signed and added: "But I probably won't be one."
Always on the lookout for a good, depressing story, I sat down quickly, leaned close and asked hopefully:
Lawford shook his head. "Nothing like that. Frank and I get along great."
"Then what is it?" I murmured soothingly. "You can tell me."
"I'm afraid," he replied, "that I'll never make it as a professional host. I feel ridiculous when I have to walk around the room and mix with the guests."
He signed again.
"Like tonight," he said. "Mike Romanoff came in for dinner. I've been eating at his place for years. He always comes over to the table, says a few pleasant things, buys a drink.
"Now that the situation is reversed -- he's the customer and I'm the host, I just didn't have the courage to walk over and play his role."
"What did you do?" I asked.
"Nothing," Lawford answered. "I sat right here until he left. Now he's probably sore at me. He must think I didn't talk to him because we're competitors."
--It's a basic tenet of show business (at least that portion of it which exists, precariously, in saloons) that in order to do well, an act must first make friends with theheadwater.
And of all the headwaiters in town, pudgy veteran maitre d' Marcel Lamaze certainly had the largest collection of friends.
Just recently, Marcel retired after 50 years of catering to the idiosyncrasies of customers and performers. Frank Sennes threw a testimonial for him at the Moulin Rouge.
The cabaret was crowded. But it was a shock, to me at least, that not one of the many stars he had worked with over the years took the trouble to be present and saygoodby to a very decent guy.
However, this is Hollywood. And, I guess, you can never tell about friendships in Hollywood.
[Note: Puccini's, 220 S. Beverly Blvd., had previously been the Harlequin Club and by 1962 was the Tender Loin--lrh.]