While watching the Golden Globes the other night (yes, your friendly bartender has a sweet tooth for such confection) I couldn’t help being taken by the fact that Dustin Hoffman really hasn’t changed that much. Not really. But I’m not referring to how good the man looks for seventy four years of age, (he looks terrific!) I’m referring to the fact that the man still acts like an ass. At seventy four! Like he’s still this rebel outsider kinda’ guy with open disdain for award shows, forced to appear out of some sense of noblesse oblige. (Even though he’s already won five Golden Globes!) “I don’t really believe in awards for acting,” his tone and smirk still convey, “but they asked me to do the gig, I’m here, so I’ll do it.” Even when they shot him in the audience you got the feeling he thought he was above it, his painted on smile belying a hidden superiority. And this act goes all the way back to 1979.
After winning his first Academy Award for his role in Kramer vs. Kramer, while making the point in his acceptance speech about how he didn’t really “beat” his fellow nominees, that you really can’t judge such a thing (which in theory I agree with), he finished by saying he’s sharing the award with all those struggling artists out there and those actors driving cabs working on their accents. Noble, right? But then why did he act like this to an out of work actor…
Back when I first started in this business (I think I’ve mentioned this before), I worked as a waiter at P.J. Clarke’s, the legendary bar still thriving on 55th and 3rd. And back in those days there were many celebrities, Mr. Hoffman sometimes among them, who found it a place to drop by for burgers and drinks. In fact, if they weren’t at the famous Elaine’s on a night, P.J. Clarke’s was the spot to do all your star gazing. Anyway, one night Dustin came into the place (or “Dusty as “Cruise” referred to his co-star in every post “Rain Man” interview), with a group of five and took up a table in the back. A guy named Paul, an actor, served as their waiter.
“Can I get you folks a drink?” asked Paul, approaching the table of six, and each person, one by one, politely ordered. Until “Dusty”. When it came his turn to order from the waiter (this out of work actor/waiter) he instead leaned into his lady and said, “Tell him I’ll have a Michelob beer on draft.” (Amazing, right?) And yet damned if he didn’t repeat the procedure with food.
For again after each had placed his order, “The Graduate” (acting like an undergraduate somewhere in the fourth fucking grade) leaned in again to his lady and said, “Tell him I’ll have a cheeseburger rare and an order of well done home fries on the side.” But before his lady could pass this along (and this I really enjoyed), the actor/waiter interrupted with, “Tell him I heard him!” To a stunned Dustin Hoffman. And “working on one of his accents” as he walked away from the table, he muttered in his best Brooklyn-ese, “Fu-u-a-w-w-w-k him!!! To which I thought, “Bravo!”
Now I understand that celebrities have a right to enjoy their privacy, especially when out in a restaurant relaxing with friends, but waiters are often the ones who ensure that privacy… they’re the buffer… so why in the fuck couldn’t he speak directly to this waiter? Was it guilt because he’d made it and this guy hadn’t? Assuming this good-looking waiter was of his fraternity. Was it insecurity on some other level that only his shrink could define? Or merely a case of utter, systemic ass-hole-ery? I choose to think the latter because I once waited on him.
He sat in my section one day at Clarke’s along with a boy of about ten (I don’t think he had a son at the time so maybe this was his nephew), and before I could even open my mouth to begin my waiterly ritual, Mr. Hoffman picked up the bowl of sugar cubes, turned it upside down and began playing Lego. While I with my pad just stood there for a good two minutes. Unacknowledged. Even after I’d said, “Would you guys like a drink first?” I mean, c’mon, man, what’s the deal? Is your head that far up your ass you can’t even hear me? Or are you setting some ground rules? But either way when he did speak, lest they both go hungry, he annoyingly did it through the boy without looking up at me. Leaning into the kid’s ear he said, “We want a couple of cheeseburgers, pal, don’t we? And some cokes, right?” Maybe looking up just once to acknowledge my presence. The whole experience was a study in “You’re not me.”
Yet compare that act to Martin Sheen’s whom I waited on a few days later. Before I could even open my mouth to ask what he wanted to drink, he half stood up, extended his hand and said, “What’s your name, young man, my name is Marty.” And even though that’s the other extreme, a gesture you never see, dammit it goes to show ya’ who are the good guys. And who are the guys who take themselves way too seriously.
There are other stories of Mr. Hoffman’s rudeness, many of which are well known, so I won’t list them here ’cause this ain’t my terrain. That of gossip columnist. In fact, this is probably the first time I’ve written such a post about celebrities. Celebs, I believe, deserve anonymity which is something I’ll always give them (even when occasionally out of line), because they, like everyone else, have a right to unwind. Like in the old days, when stars like Mitchum and Bogart were around throwing cocktails back by the bucketful, with no one hearing the details ’cause it wasn’t their business. In short, I’m not a “pour and tell” and never will be.
But watching this “man of the people” last Sunday, this champion of out of work actors, delivering his smirk and remark before he presented, brought back all of his crap and I just had to write about it. What can I tell ya’? Drunk and disorderly is one thing when it comes to a difficult customer, sober and calculated rudeness is a whole ‘nother story. And that’s his story.
I just hope he comes into my bar one day along with his lovely wife, and asks if I have a Cotes Du Rhone by the glass. I’ll just smile at his wife and say, “Tell him I have it!”
See you next week-end, dear reader, and let me say directly to your face, “Have a good one.”