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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Jonathan Frid and The Menu Caper

The "Remembering Jonathan Frid" book project is going well.  Many individuals who worked with Jonathan over the past decades in some capacity or another, professional or semi-professional are sharing stories for the first time.  Friends and family will also be contributing their insights and stories.  Nothing like this book has ever been done before.

In preparing my own contribution to this tome, I have jotted down ideas and wrestled with the narrative; how much story to tell compared to observations.  I am leaning towards more of a story-telling venture as the capacity for observation naturally comes into play and still allows readers the opportunity to draw their own conclusions about what it was like to work and/or know this very interesting man.

That's what the book focuses on: what Jonathan Frid was like as a person.  It's not a series of essays about how good an actor he was, his professional legacy or even a study of his life.  Jonathan was a good story teller and now the tables will be reversed, focused on him.  And there are plenty of great stories, so many that it's a task unto itself to jot down quick remembrances and decide which stories show the most about Jonathan as a person, a friend, a family member, a boss, a co-worker.  What made him tick?  That's a question many are curious to know and this book of stories will certainly provide plenty of insights.  I am reminded in this journey just how much Jonathan was like a bionic banana - you can peel away the many layers, think you're done, only to find out there are still more layers to get through.

There is one story in particular that stands out in the memory of a few, especially myself.  Jonathan and I laughed about this story for many years. It's was simply known as "the Menu" caper.  I love this story not just because it was funny (well, we thought it was funny) but it shows the kind of impish humor Jonathan had.

The story took place after a very successful performance of Jonathan's one-man show at a place I won't divulge as the story centers around the behavior of a the event host.  She is most likely unaware of how funny her determination to make dinner the perfect event for Jonathan turned out to be.  So I am keeping the name of the place and hostess my little secret.

The hostess and her co-hostess wanted to take Jonathan out to dinner after the show.  Jonathan was ready to kick back after a great performance and signing autographs for an hour afterwards.  When we arrived at this restaurant, Jonathan was delighted that there was not only a bar there while waiting for seats (the place was booked up and we had to wait to be seated) but everyone ate and threw peanut shells on the floor of the bar area.  The hostess was clearly horrified at the lack of decorum of patrons throwing their peanut shells on the floor but we learned that is the way it was every night at that bar.  We found a bar table and four bar stools to sit on and a basket of peanuts.  The hostess ran off to plead with the restaurant host for seating as soon as possible.  She was really bothered by the site of peanut shells on the floor and thought it not appropriate for Jonathan to be in such an inelegant atmosphere.  In running back and forth to the restaurant host, she didn't witness Jonathan not only gloriously tossing his empty shells on the floor but throwing them at me.  Naturally, I threw them back at him.  "I'm getting us a table! I'm getting us a table!" our anxious hostess and her assistant kept saying in tandem.  Jonathan told them he was fine just eating at the bar table and he asked a passing server for some menus.  He was content to eat right where he was.

The menus were the long, glossy, skinny things boasting of some good eats.  The hostess' assistant finally sat down with us and picked up one of the long menus too.  I saw a swordfish dish, a Frid favorite, and I was pointing out to Jonathan when suddenly our hostess came running to our table, and then ran around it, pulling the menus right out of our hands while announcing she had secured a table for us.  Jonathan's hands were still positioned  as if holding the menu and then he pointed to what was now thin air and said "I think I'll have that."

In spite of the fact I had a slight "menu" burn on my hands from having the menus whipped away from me so fast, I was now in tears from laughter.  Our hostess, unaware of our flabbergastedness, was at the host station waiting for us to join her there.  I was laughing so hard, and trying to swallow the laughter, I not only walked behind Jonathan, I had to put my head into his back in an effort to hide and recover before the hostess saw us.  Jonathan, clearly amused by the hasty menu removal from our hands, reached around behind him to me and said "Get it together, girl.  Here we go! The Golden Table awaits!"  He gestured that I walk in front of him.  I managed to compose myself and followed our hostesses to a long table in the back with an equally long cushion seat on either side of the table.  The hostess indicated she wanted me to sit at the far end so that she and her assistant could sit next to Jonathan.  I figured if he wasn't fine with that, he'd let them know.

As it turned out, I was lucky to be away from him.  He could not let go of the humorous behavior of our hostess running around the bar table yanking the menus one by one out of our hands.  And he knew I was just a spit away from getting hysterical all over again.  The server brought us menus (a different size, this time).  I was looking at mine, hoping the stitch in my side from laughter would fade away by eating and having a drink.  While our hostesses were preoccupied with their menus, Jonathan kept craning his neck out so he could stare at me with raised eyebrows and a smile.  Of course, the hostesses didn't know why he was doing that, probably just assumed he was checking up on me.   Periodically, throughout the dinner, he would repeat this craning and smiling.  I simply could not look at him if I wanted to stay composed.  Now he knew I was avoiding the sight of him altogether.  I managed to do this throughout meal.  When dessert was being ordered, Jonathan said to our hostesses "If you don't mind, please let Nancy sit near me as we always share apple crisps."   Yes, that was true since they were usually to big for one person but the last thing I wanted to do was to sit next to him at this juncture.  I did not want to laugh in the faces of these two women.  But the hostesses, eager to please him, leapt up and made room for me to slide out and move to the one side of Jonathan.  "Now, there were are!" he pronounced and gave me a gentle elbow-in-the-side.  I started to laugh, the hostesses didn't know what I was laughing at and I feebly said that we had an "in joke" about apple crisps.  Jonathan smiled.  The hostesses gave us a blank smile and we did indeed share the apple crisp.

Later, when we were on our way back to the hotel in the rental car, I said to Jonathan "I will get you for that, I promise!" and he just laughed "HA HA HA."  The simplest things amused him.


Shadow Wolf said...

Love this story and all of your recollections of JF. I have always admired his work on DS, but now I can appreciate him in a whole new light. Thank you for sharing your personal anecdotes. The book project sounds amazing. Can't wait!

Linda Dachtyl said...

I'm really looking forward to the book, Nancy. Thanks for sharing these things.

Katrina Keller said...

Loved & Enjoyed reading this. Looking forward to the book as well. It's so refreshing to see the lighter side of him, so often he wanted to know what made people tick, now we may get to see what made him tick. Thank you Nancy For sharing.

femmeflashpoint said...

I sincerely loved this story. I was grinning as soon as the first vision of a peanut-shelled bar floor popped into my head.

I'm a Kentuckian, and quite comfortable walking through peanut shells in dress heels, lol. It's the peanut-shelled floor that causes my head to remind me that the fuss is over, and I can take a deep breath, relax and laugh. :)

It's a wonderful thing for people to not only reminisce about special moments that stand out in friendships, and an extra-special thing to share those moments with others.

I believe we really are all connected, in one sense or another.