Outtakes, Part I

There is usually a plain-written tab on a DVD that reads,” Extras,” movie pieces that were not able  to scratch and claw their way off of a Hollywood floor and find a way into the finished product. Deleted scenes showing a squad car on its way to a crime scene, while the unharried cops inside discuss where their wives want to dine that night; a pregnant teen trying to tug a favorite t-shirt over her first baby-bump; and the outtakes where actors flub dialogue or stumble on their words never quite seem to make it.

The same goes for oral history. The life that an approved manuscript takes on does have a few good stories. Others get omitted, though, because they interrupt the flow of the piece. I have decided to include a few of these stories after obtaining permission from the noted sources. Both were told when the tape stopped rolling. But they are wonderful, and to not share them would be like throwing a Copper River Sockeye Salmon back because it was too big.

***

Virgil Zanders, Shaw’s Crab House

According to legend, a single maitre d’ had custody of the Pump Room for a seven-day stretch when Frank Sinatra performed in Chicago. This anonymous figure also lived in a unit in the Ambassador East, a minute’s walk from the Ambassador West on North Dearborn Street, making his commute home easy and brief.

On the seventh night of the singer’s Chicago tour, this employee apologized to Mr. Sinatra for the inconvenience, but said it was necessary to visit his room for a moment to retrieve an article of clothing. Mr. Sinatra, who had been surrounded friends at the Pump Room nearly every night over the week, sipped from his Jack Daniels on the Rocks and told him to hurry back.

The exhausted maitre d’ fell asleep just after arriving home, as he had planned. The late hours over the week had gotten the best of him, he just needed to catch up on some sleep, and he believed Mr. Sinatra would be too busy with friends across the way to notice his absence.

An hour later, there was a knock on the door and he rose to answer it after pulling on a robe slung over a corner chair.

Frank Sinatra’s bodyguard was there, saying,”“Mr. Sinatra requests your presence at the Pump Room.”

“Hold on a minute,” said the maitre d’, tugging at the pocket of his bathrobe.

He retrieved the single content that lie in a linty corner of it and held it out to the bodyguard, saying,” I’ll give you fifty bucks if you tell Mr. Sinatra I can’t make it down this evening.”

Then the bodyguard reached into the linty corner of his own denim pants pocket and pulled out an identical bill, saying,” Too late. Mr. Sinatra already did.”

Outdone, the fatigued maitre d’ managed to laugh at the irony of the situation. Then, he steeled himself, put his tuxedo back on, and headed back to the Pump Room for the rest of the night.

***

Paul Tuzi, Twin Anchors

Paul was working as a line chef in Twin Anchors’ kitchen in 1978, when his parents were the proprietors. This area is separated from the main dining room by a back wall decorated with a nautical theme, and is even further from the bar, where a row of red-leather booths line the northern wall.

One evening, a doubtable waitress returned from the dining room to expedite food to her table, and she approached Paul at his work station with an incredulous look on her face.

“You’re never going to believe this,” she averred, looking at him squarely while pulling a plate of barbecue ribs from beneath the warming lights. “The Blues Brothers are sitting in Booth Five.”

Paul’s curiosity began flower, while maintaining a struggle with the weeds of skepticism. This particular employee had made her own fair share of silly comments in the past and had not won him over completely. But the Lincoln Park restaurant had a life of its own dating back to 1910 and could brag of visits by Frank Sinatra in the ‘50’s.

He put his spatula down, took his apron off, left the cooking area, and entered the dining room.

He peered into the bar as he approached it. Glancing to the northern wall and sliding his eyes along the line of red-leather booths, he saw that she was right. For there, sitting in Booth Five were the Blues Brothers, “Elwood” and “Jake” (a.k.a. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi), wearing black suits with ties, fedora hats, and black wayfarer sunglasses, their fingers wet with barbecue sauce.

 

 

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One response to this post.

  1. Imagine what a great photo that would have been of The Blues Brothers! Thank you for creating one with words. Great story!

    Reply

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