What are the odds?

According to Noah Webster, (that guy who when his wife said, “What do you mean I look fat in this dress?” responded in monotone assuredness, “Corpulent, fleshy, stout, beefy, plump, rotund and bulky.”) the definition for the word coincidence is, “an event that might’ve been arranged although it was really accidental.”

Well if Noah got that right (and who could doubt such a defining figure?) the events in the following story qualify as coincidence. Major coincidence! For they all came together quite by “accident”  yet the script was “arranged” indeed by the gods of serendipity. And for your friendly bartender just as accidentally to have been written into that script, makes him more than grateful he’s a bartender.

The accidental arrangement…

When first-time visitors enter our friendly confines they usually stop in the entryway first, just inside the swinging doors, to take in the rich ambiance they’re about to enter. For they’re immediately taken aback by the wall-to-wall photos reliving the past from the worlds of sports and theater. It’s like a museum. And so when this thirty-ish couple walked into the place (she a sportily attired, raven haired beauty and he her equal in slacker-wear) and not only stopped in the entryway first as is that usual wont, but proceeded to lap the room in wide-eyed approval, a deer stalker’s cap was not required for your friendly bartender to muse, “Here come first-timers”.

“First time here?” I said, as I set down the two bottles of Amstel they had requested. “Gee… is it that obvious?” she replied, while her friend just smiled his response in amiable concert. “Well,” I said, (wishing now that a Meerschaum pipe were clenched between my teeth) “when you took out your cell phone and started snapping pictures, I somehow figured you didn’t have a house account.” They blushed and chuckled.

A few minutes later, after giving this couple a verbal history of the lore that is our establishment (which I gladly do when I’m not too busy) the guy spoke up for the first time and asked, “Do you get many celebrities in here?” “No, not that many,” I said, “but we happen to have one here now, sitting across the room at that corner table.” Then I pointed to the nonagenarian who was sipping his tea and scribbling on a yellow legal pad. “Who is that? they asked in unison, knowing a Mick Jagger when they don’t see one. “That,” said your friendly bartender, “is the great Budd Schulberg.”

Now for those of you who don’t know the name which I fear is quite a few of you, Budd is a legendary writer who in addition to being a celebrated chronicler for decades on the “sweet science” of boxing, is a novelist and revered screenplay writer whose most noted credit in that field is “On The Waterfront”. It won an Academy Award. And when your friendly bartender shared with this couple that last bit of Budd Bio, Raven Hair’s eyes quickly widened, she slammed down her glass of Amstel and choked on the mouthful of beer she couldn’t quite swallow.

“Are you okay?” I blurted, fully prepared to leap over the bar and administer mouth-to-mouth til her friend pulled me off, but then I saw she was going to make it so I stayed put. “Did you say ‘On The Waterfront?” she shouted, “with Marlon freaking Brando'” “I did,” I said. “Well you are not going to believe this,” she continued, “but just two nights ago back in San Francisco my girlfriend called me up and said, ‘Ya’ wanna come over and watch this movie I rented? It’s like really, really old and it’s in black and white and stuff but it’s supposed to be like this really, really great film.’ So I went over and watched that movie and it was totally freaking On The freaking Waterfront!”

Now I don’t know about you, dear reader (for of course, how could I?), but in your friendly bartender’s assessment of this most magically arranged accident, for a fifty two year-old movie to have somehow been seen by some person, a person now able to gladly swallow her beer again, and then for that person to chance upon the writer of that movie all the way across the country just three days later, falls somewhere to me within the confines of winning the Lottery. I mean, what are the odds?

So your friendly did at this point what any bartender would do… he walked over to Budd, told him what had just happened, and asked if the raven haired beauty could come say, “hello”. And of course Budd agreed being not only equally amazed at all this but as much the perfect gentleman as he is the writer, and the two of them spent about twenty good minutes discussing the film and this thing called serendipity. Truly amazing!

But watching the two of them, and later the three of them as her friend eventually joined them at the table, your friendly bartender couldn’t help wondering just how this incident would be shared with her friend back home.

Would Raven Hair… A: play it cool and toss off dismissively, “Oh, by the way, when I was in New York I (yawn) had a marvelous chat in some bar with the guy who wrote that movie we saw, oh, what the heck was the name of it? You know, On The Water or something?”

Would Raven Hair… B: bolt into her friend’s apartment screaming at the top of her lungs, “You are not going to fucking be-lieeeeeve this but… when I was in New York… I met… are you ready for this?… Budd fucking Schulberg, the guy who wrote On the fucking Waterfront. A movie he wrote fifty two fucking years ago!!!”

Or would Raven Hair… C: say with a curved smile and lids at half mast, “When I was in New York I was introduced to some writer guy by the most gorgeous, erudite, thoughtful, fabulous, sweet hunk of a bartender you ever saw.”

I say “B” but then your friendly bartender has long been revered for his stout sense of humility.

End of story.

PS: If you’ve never seen this classic, NetFlix the shit out of it. It just happens to be (speaking of coincidence) my all-time favorite movie, bar none. I’ve probably seen it at least fifteen times and it still holds up. This was when Marlon Brando (pre buying his very own island and sitting down and eating it) was simply known as Brando, the most electrifying American actor yet to come along. He was also quintessential Brando in another classic,  A Streetcar Named Desire. I recommend that as well to all you youngins’ out there who haven’t had the pleasure of either.

PPS: It might be kinda fun, dear reader, if you leave in Comments the name of  your favorite movie… if for no other reason but to see who says Porky’s III. And to start things off, my own favorite all-time movie, (after, of course, On The Waterfront), is the masterpiece by David Lean… Doctor Zhivago.

Over and out from Bar-land… See ya’ next week-end!

28 Responses to “What are the odds?”

  1. 1 tai haku February 21, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Wait – there was a Porky’s III??!? To Netflix I go!

    More seriously that was a freaky coincindence and my favourite film is Jaws (and lets just pretend the rest of them didn’t happen).

  2. 2 physiobabe February 21, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    “Auntie Mame” – Roz Russell was da bomb! Great post, btw, YFB.

  3. 3 Anonymoustache February 21, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Wow. A great anecdote and beautifully narrated as always. And what a movie—“I coulda had class, I coulda been a contenduh, I coulda been somebody…”

    My favorite movie depends on my mood, Scrib50— I can’t pick one. And now that you brought up Brando, cliched as it may be the first one that pops into my head is Godfather—the first one. The first time I saw it, I didn’t think there was one wasted frame in that entire movie. It remains one of my favorites.
    And for some reason, the black and white genre also popped into my head and therefore so did “Double Indemnity”. I always get trapped by that one if I stumble upon it channel-flipping. True story—Over ten years ago, I went by a Books-a-million when they were having a “just get rid of them” sale and found a hardbound 3-novel piece by James M Cain (and the novels were “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, “Double Indemnity” and “Mildred Pierce”) for ONE DOLLAR. I felt like I was stealing.

  4. 4 jc February 21, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I can watch Audrey Hepburn 24-7. Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffanys.

  5. 5 Abel Pharmboy February 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Combination of B and C – This incredibly worldly and erudite bartender was so attentive to my interest in a classic film that he selflessly introduced me to one of the legends in Hollywood screenplay, probably much in violation of the code of protection and confidentiality he offers to well-known patrons of his establishment. To have had such a life-defining experience at my relatively young age will stay with me the rest of my life and, in fact, its significance will only continue to grow as I mature, dump the loser I was with, and get together with a gentleman who shares my reverence for the history of our great city and the timelessness of classic cinema. I will always look back with gratitude toward the bartender who made this experience possible.

  6. 6 scribbler50 February 21, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Abel Pharmboy: Ahh, from your keyboard to God’s ears and would that she did. But alas she’s gone forever, my friend, sittin’ on the dock of the bay with aforementioned boyfriend!

    Anonymoustache: Those three-books-for-a-buck was not just stealing, given their contents a Capital Crime. Saw Double Indemnity (again) just this past week on TMC. Almost anything by the great Billy Wilder can make a “favorites” list. And Godfather I… a Rembrandt!

    JC: Agreed… Audrey’s likes we’ll not see again.

    Physiobabe: Thanks for the compliment, and Rozzie Babe was da bomb all right!

    tai haku: Why am I not surprised you selected Jaws? Just went to your web site and you’ve posted a video of a shark! Terrific choice though and you’re right… NO SEQUELS!

  7. 7 janne February 21, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    “Leningrad Cowboys go to America” is pretty high on my all-time top list. Another one would be “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”, and a third “Drowning By Numbers”.

    All worth seeing.

  8. 8 Pieter B February 22, 2009 at 12:50 am

    Great story, as always, Scrib.

    I love black & white (my first three woking decades were spent as a photographer), but my favorite movie is in exquisite color. The Duellists, Ridley Scott’s first film. Made thirty-two years ago for less than a million bucks (five mil was a low-to-medium budget back then), and every cent is on the screen. It’s a jewel. Most scenes begin looking like classic paintings, and then stuff starts to move. Add that to a rattling good story and you’ve got a winner.

  9. 9 d-a-p February 22, 2009 at 11:15 am

    dear scrib…
    as far as comedy and pathos….Sullivan’s Travels…with joel mccrea…written and directed by preston sturges…
    pure scope..GWTW..visually still stands up although the dialog is a little dated…
    kudo’s to double indemnity and sunset blvd…directed by billy wilder
    really too many to mention…but turner classic movies is a godsend…
    this weekly habit of reading yfb’s adventures is a great find…good job as usual…
    see you on the red carpet…

  10. 10 goosenyc February 22, 2009 at 11:35 am

    What a fitting post on the eve of the Oscars…. Favorite movies…nothing beats “Miracle on 34th Street”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (the original – Gene Wilder not Johnny Depp) and the “The Fisher King”…..also have to throw in “Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show” – Hello Cleveland…

    Can’t wait to next weeks musings..

  11. 11 Isis the Scientist February 22, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Luscious Scribbler, this week I didn’t make it past the first paragraph before laughing myself sore. You are a god among men, dear blog friend.

    I love All About Eve. Sometimes I can identify with Bette Davis. Of more modern films, Secretary is probably my favorite.

  12. 12 Comrade PhysioProf February 22, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Marlon Brando (pre buying his very own island and sitting down and eating it)

    HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Comrade PhysioProf’s favorite movie is Spinal Tap.

  13. 13 scribbler50 February 22, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks, Isis, as always, for your too kind words.

    So… it’s “All About Eve”, eh? When I think of that movie only one line comes to mind… “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” Make of that what you will, dear Isis.

  14. 14 Stephanie Z February 22, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Although he’s never quite done it again, I think Baz Luhrmann found the perfect edge of surrealism with Strictly Ballroom. And, always, “Vivir con miedo, es como vivir a medias!”

  15. 15 Donna B. February 22, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    “Hunt for Red October” is one I can (and have) watched many times. And I still cry because Vasily never got to see Montana.

  16. 16 chezjake February 23, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    You do know how to tell a story, Scribbler. I’ll go with Raven Hair B.

    Way back in 1967 or ’68 I was introduced to Angela Lansbury in The Gingerman up near Lincoln Center. She was very pleasant, but I didn’t get a 20 minute chat.

    I’ll also go along with you on both <i.Dr. Zhivago and Streetcar. Another great flick based on Tennessee Williams was 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman, Liz Taylor, and Burl Ives.

    I’ll agree with jc that Audrey Hepburn was great, but I really love Kate Hepburn, especially The African Queen with Bogie and The Lion in Winter with Peter O’Toole and Anthony Hopkins.

    Then, when it comes to pure entertainment, I just love the 1980 off-the-wall comedy/spy/chase/revenge yarn Hopscotch with Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Sam Waterston and Ned Beatty. It got a Golden Globe Best Film nomination, rare for anything in that genre.

  17. 17 scribbler50 February 23, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Stephanie Z: Never saw Strictly Ballroom, will check it out. (ahh, NetFLix!) Thanks as always for checking in.

    Donna B: As well, totally missed Hunt for Red October. This is one of the reasons I suggested people do this, leave their fave’s, to give each other ideas. Thanks.

    Chez Jake: Know the Gingerman well… back in the 80’s, when I first moved to New York, I lived right next door to the place with an actress who knew the bartender there and we couldn’t buy a drink. At the time, (unlike what I said in my post “Charge Me Man!”), being brand new to the city I loved it. Made me feel like a big shot! As to Hopscotch, haven’t seen it either so thanks for the tip.

  18. 18 Juniper Shoemaker February 25, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    “Or would quoth Raven Hair, ‘Nevermore!'”

    Yeah. I did it. I did it and I’m proud. Ya wanna make somethin’ of it?

    (I did mean that in the best possible of ways, mind. As in, “I may meet such a screenwriter again, but no other bartender in my life could ever compare to Scribbler!” Or some such happy tidings.)

    I’m sorry I’m late to the party.

    I’m an escapist. I like trashy, trashy mainstream fare. I think the only quality movie that’s one of my faves is The Third Man.

  19. 19 scribbler50 February 26, 2009 at 9:50 am


    Better late than never as they say (or here quoth The Scribbler), thanks for your suggestion. The Third Man is a great movie featuring one of the forgotten screen luminaries of that era, the mysterious, (born to be shot in shadowy black and white), alluring Allida Valli.

  20. 20 DuWayne February 26, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Oy, for Clancy flix, I love Patriot Games and by odd coincidence my two favorite movies of my lifetime (32 years until the end of this month) would be Boondock Saints (which also stars Sean Bean) and True Romance. Pre-my birth, I absolutely love The Absent Minded Professor and Bucket of Blood, which if you look closely and watch it back to back with Little Shop of Horrors you’ll note is the same set and mostly the same soundtrack, same actors. Go back a little further and I’m a total sucker for Casablanca.

  21. 21 DuWayne February 26, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    I should also admit that when I’m feeling the urge for really dark comedy, Parents fucking rules. And when I’m just feeling dark, Lynch’s Blue Velvet is just the thing.

  22. 22 DuWayne February 26, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Holy Shit and even better. If you click on the link to Parents, you can actually watch the fucking movie. IMDb fucking rules!!!

  23. 23 scribbler50 February 26, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Thanks, Du Wayne, and “holy shit” indeed… you’ve given me quite a list I’m not familiar with. To wit: Boondock Saints, Bucket of Blood and True Romance. Though I must admit, I prefer light to dark when it come to my movies. Also, you couldn’t be more right, it doesn’t get any better than Casablanca.

  24. 24 DuWayne February 26, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Oh, you must see True Romance and Boondock Saints they are totally fucking rocking good movies. And Bucket of Blood is a fucking blast – can’t say anything about it without ruining the fun – but it seriously fucking rocks. Better fun than Faster Pussycat Kill Kill

  25. 25 IV February 28, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Okay I am boring when it comes to favorite movies.

    It’s a Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz

    Great Story!!

  26. 26 scribbler50 February 28, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Thanks IV… welcome aboard.

  1. 1 Opining Online » Friday Night Beer Drinking Links Trackback on February 28, 2009 at 12:20 am
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