Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Dining With Groucho

Groucho Marx played a waiter in Double Dynamite (filmed in 1948, released in 1951), so you’d think he might have some sympathy for members of that profession.

Nah. That wouldn’t be Groucho.

Groucho was insulting on the big screen, and in real life as well. Here’s an example from the United Press, November 8, 1954 from when he was still selling DeSotos on You Bet Your Life. I really like Groucho but I feel a little sorry for the waiter in the story. The column ends abruptly but I can’t find a version that goes any longer.

Groucho Marx Cuts Hostile Head Waiters Down to Size

HOLLYWOOD (U.P.)—Groucho Marx is the unheralded champion of all the little people who can get shoved around by maitre d's and hostile head waiters. He cuts 'em down to size fast.
Deceptively meek in appearance, Groucho gives lofty restaurant help the notion he's an ideal target for fishy-eyed stares and bemused tolerance. This idea is dispelled when Groucho harpoons them with a cold eye and recites the shortcomings of everything and everybody in sight.
He never orders simply. Each encounter with a waiter amounts to a clash of wills which Groucho invariably wins. This week he made one of his rare pilgrimages to a regular shrine among Hollywood restaurants—as much to do battle as to have lunch.
Gets First Word
The head waiter of the plush beanery approached us with the superior air of a monarch about to bestow death sentences on a pair of bandits. He was reduced immediately to a pawn when Groucho growled:
“Where's the crook who runs this joint? I wore a tie today just to prove I own one and that's a concession I don't often make.”
The unhorsed monarch waved feebly to a passing waiter whom Groucho described as "shifty." The waiter led us to a center table. Groucho said nothing, but scanned the place looking for trouble.
Once seated, Groucho and the waiter locked stares for a few seconds in a tactical maneuver best described as a "feeling out" period. There was no clear-cut hostility until the waiter—a type who tolerates customers with an arched eyebrow fumbled the oversized menu as he handed it to the imperious Marx.
“Why,” Groucho asked, “does this place have such big menus for such lousy food?”
The waiter regarded Groucho as if he had just slain his 300 best friends. But Groucho noted his frozen smile and pressed the attack.
“Take this water away,” he ordered, “it offends me. Put it under a bridge someplace and bring me a Bloody Mary.”
This done, the waiter drew his pad and pencil. He was miffed now and trying to restore the arch of his eyebrow. Groucho struggled briefly with the foreign spelling on the bill of fare.
“This looks like a list of Italian opera singers,” he cried indignantly. “Are you ashamed to print it in English?” He ordered a steak sandwich. When it arrived the shaken waiter hovered nearby.
“Gad!” Groucho roared. “Bring me something to disguise the taste of this steak.”

1 comment:

  1. "I'll have a Bloody Mary, a steak sandwich, and a steak sandwich." - Fletch (1985)