Bustin’ Dustin

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.”

20 Responses to “Bustin’ Dustin”

  1. 1 Comrade PhysioProf January 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Sounds like’s he’s got some kind of emotional or psychological problem that goes beyond being a jaggeoffe. Because I’ve never heard of someone speaking through someone else like that, celebrity or otherwise.

  2. 2 M.Lane January 21, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Somehow, that does not surprise me at all.


  3. 3 Connie January 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    I loved the Marin Sheen quip! Thanks,

  4. 4 brenda cullerton January 21, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Hah! Oh man, do I HEAR you, Scrib. Two years ago, we were down at the Angelika. Endless line, lots of chat on the way in. Suddenly, we’re all asked to stop in our tracks so “Dusty” can go in and “claim a few seats for friends.” That’s what we were told. So I finally get into the theater and head up front. There he is…The guy’s saving TWENTY seats. A friend of mine takes the seat in front of his row and Dusty taps him on the shoulder. “Woulda mind moving down one. I like the seat in front me empty.” My friend says, “Yeah, well, me, too. But this is New York City and I’m NOT moving.” Dusty was not amused.

  5. 5 scribbler50 January 21, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Comrade: What he has is an ego problem, times ten!

    M. Lane: Yeah, this wasn’t any great revelation, eh? His reputation precedes this.

    Connie; Glad you liked the bit about Martin Sheen, he really is a good guy.

    Brenda: Aw, man, BLESS you for that, a perfect follow-up to what the hell I just posted. Thank you, Bren, and good for your friend for saying that!

  6. 6 physiobabe January 22, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Too bad. I used to like “Dusty”. Now, Martin Sheen – oh yeah!!!

    Missed you last week, Scrib.


  7. 7 scribbler50 January 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    physiobabe: Nice to be missed, thanks, Babe! 🙂

  8. 8 Marty Wombacher January 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Great story! I would’ve never thought him to have been like that, I guess you never know. Martin Sheen has always impressed me as a classy guy and I’m happy to read he lived up to my expectations.

  9. 9 IrishIrritant January 23, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    why does “little prick” leap into my mind?
    Thanks again Scrib, you showed great restaint.

  10. 10 scribbler50 January 23, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Marty: In the immortal words of Fats Waller, “One never knows, do one?”

    Irish: “Little prick” comes to mind because he’s too short to be called “big prick”!

  11. 11 Jennifer January 24, 2012 at 8:39 am

    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!”

    HA! I hope it happens! I hope you get your chance.

    I’m surprised Dusty doesn’t carry a puppet with him for those times when he’s alone and must do the talking. I would have liked Brenda’s story even better had the puppet leaned in and asked the person to move down one.

  12. 12 scribbler50 January 24, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Jennifer: “Ha!” right back, that’s perfect… a puppet at the ready to do the “heavy lifting”. (Sounds like the premise for a movie he could star in.)
    Thanks, Jen, as always, for that wonderful imagination of yours!

  13. 13 Hornet January 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Dustin to little kid: “Mic check!”

    Little kid: “MIC CHECK!”

    “I’ll have…”

    “I’LL HAVE…”

    “…a hand and cheese on rye.”


    What a jerk.

    I used to live in Santa Barbara in my college daze, and one time I was waiting in line at a particularly popular local restaurant (owned by a buddy of mine and still in operation, by the way). This was probably the late ’80s. Standing directly in front of me, waiting for his order, was Kenny Loggins. Directly behind me? Jackson Browne. Not knowing exactly how to handle being in the center of this superstar sandwich, I turned to Jackson and offered to let him go in front of me. “No thanks,” he said, “I’m not in any hurry.” Kenny overheard our little exchange and turned around as if to say hello to Jackson, but not before politely INTRODUCING HIMSELF to ME, like I wouldn’t have known who he was. And that’s how I came to engage in five minutes of small talk with Jackson Browne and Kenny Loggins while waiting in line for a to-go order at The Sojourner in SB, CA.

  14. 14 scribbler50 January 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Hornet: Great story, man, thanks for that, And I’m pretty sure most stars are just like the bread to that “sandwich” of yours, I just got a bad one.
    (Like the mic check, by the way.)

  15. 15 Courtney January 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

    This reminds me of the time Die Hard II was being filmed in my home town and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore rented a house on the beach…one day my brother and my mom ran into them on the sidewalk and my brother asked for his autograph and Bruce Willis just said “I don’t give autographs” – to a NINE YEAR OLD boy. It wasn’t like my mom was creeping and asking.
    Jesus. Celebrities.
    PS – sort of sad, though, about Dustin Hoffman – he never struck me that way.

  16. 16 scribbler50 January 27, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Courtney: And Bruce Willis never struck me that way. I know he’s pretty damn pleased with himself but him being a former bartender and all I figure he’d be…
    Nah, you’re right, “Jesus. Celebrities.”

    Thanks for stopping by, fellow Pittsburgher!

  17. 17 Hornet January 27, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    One more celeb story…

    …Another time down in Santa Barbara, I was out on the town with some friends for my birthday. We happened to be in this one crowded sports bar when Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Horace Grant all came in the back door. They were in town for a basketball camp MJ ran every summer.

    At first there was little fanfare, but people quickly noticed these three basketball-sized guys, so the three of them moved behind the bar and “guest bartended,” which I think was really just a way of giving them some space so they weren’t mobbed in an already crowded situation.

    They all three had huge lit stogies and openly flouted the “no smoking in bars” law, taking giant puffs and blowing smoke rings and just generally having a good time. They even served up drinks and rang up the cash registers themselves.

    When they heard it was my birthday they made a big hoopla (pun intended) and bought me beers etc…

    At the end of the night, Sir Charles hit me up for a tip.

  18. 18 scribbler50 January 28, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Hornet: Now THAT’S a memorable birthday! (Hope you took care of Sir Charles.)

  19. 19 Anonymoustache February 7, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Wow, man. I’d heard of celebs talking of themselves in the third person, but never of ones talking through a second person!! Classless…

  20. 20 scribbler50 February 7, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Anonymoustache: And you’re the “first person” to put it that way, well done, Sir!

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