Saturday, June 30, 2007


Well I knew it was coming, I just didn't really want to think about it too much, you know?

So I told you I took this journalism class and it was turning out to be fairly challenging, so for my final project (we can write a story on anything! GULP) I decided to make my life a little easier and write about something to which I had inside access - the opening of ONE Sunset, where I am now waiting tables. At the time, we were in the middle of four weeks of training, and I was having fun playing intrepid reporter, interviewing the management and hunting down pre-opening gossip and publicity. I also read up on a few other restaurants in town, ones that might be similar to what we were trying to do.

Throughout my research, I grew slowly more and more uneasy - not everyone involved in this new venture was on the same page, or even reading the same book.

There were two schools of thought.

1) The Altruists - my friends in management and the chef. The folks who asked me to come work with them, and for whom I'd do just about anything. They have this vision of a really fantastic place to dine. For them ONE would be incredible food and drinks, great music in a chill, laid-back but still classy atmosphere. Basically Cinderella after the Ball - she's got money and taste, but she still remembers her roots as a scullery maid. The kind of place where my tables drop lots of dough and realize that every dime was worth it. Here's your 25% in cash, Tara, you were the best server we've ever had.

No Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan-table, surrounded by drunk hangers-on ordering bottle service so they can watch the stars and party in the A-list clubs. We swear you haven't been hired to be a cocktail waitress.

2) The Money People - Ah ha. Yes, I read about New York's ONE (Little West 12th), and how the party gets going at midnight and stays open till 4am. How more booze flows than food. How, cleverly, some one in marketing realized that if you could get the celebrities to party in the back, then you could fill the rest of your tables with looky-loos, at $430 a bottle, minimum purchase required. And if people want one of those tables, well then they have to buy dinner first - come early, stay late, and SPEND.

There are plenty of places like it in L.A. already. They flare up and burn out within about six months. The latest place is Parc, previously Black Steel, and down the street is Le Deux. Celebrities, money, ropes at the door, guest lists, bottle service. I read about all these places, and then I listened to our management talk about class and fine food. And then I looked around at the restaurant, with its DJ booth in the center next to the giant bar, the cozy VIP tables in the back on a slightly raised floor, the varnished dark wood banquettes that switched to cocktail tables like transformers - more than meets the eye! It all seemed slightly contradictory.

Last week at our opening party, Jennifer Aniston and Demi Moore showed up (with Ashton in tow). And CAA hosted the crowd, who were all in all very respectful, enjoying the food and promotional cocktails, quieting down for the guest speaker (celebrity psychic Laura Day) and then calmly shuffling out around 10:30. It was a Tuesday night, after all. It all seemed promising.

So last night, Friday, I show up for my first shift since the party. Gather round servers, and hear us well - we said we wouldn't be offering bottle service reservations, and that is now changing.

Flash forward to me squeezing between drunken women dancing on the furniture at 11:30 while I try to bring another round of shots to an anonymous rock band after being at work for 8 hours already. There's Masi Oka at a banquette in the other half of my section, and it crosses my mind so predictably to wish he really could feeze time. One enthusiastic dancer manages to knock over an entire wine bucket filled with ice water. The manager asks - "Do you want to make a lot of money?" as she seats two tables for bottles of Grey Goose in my section. Do I have a choice? I was scheduled at 3:30pm (to polish glasses for two hours??) and my first table was at 8!

But the music was really good (Smiths mixed in to Polyphonic Spree!!), and I was having fun, mostly. I also didn't leave the restaurant till after 2am. Did I make a ton of money? Um... not really. I made about maybe $70 more than I would have made at Asia de Cuba (where I also work). But I also worked about 3 more hours.

So when does the classy crowd show up? I think my friends the Altruists are asking the same thing. Guess we should have seen it coming... Hey, the LA Times called us "Buzz-Worthy."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Moving Home

I think about it often - being closer to the family, maybe back in Atlanta where I would be closer to Chita and Z, Stanton and Bode, theaters where I wouldn't have to pay to improvise and the crowds would actually be crowds. The grass is always greener, right? What exactly would it take, what would it mean for me and my life here?

Logistically I would have to give up the apartment and probably the furniture, maybe even the car (!). No sense dragging all that back east, just sell it and re-buy once I know where I'm going.

I've got money saved, so I could stand to be without a job for a few months, plus there's plenty of places to stay - I could go hang with the 'rents for a while, then head up to ATL and stay with the Chita. I could probably find a place to live easily enough. As for out here? Quit the restaurants, say au revoir to the commercial agent... Not much that's got me tied up here - it's not like I own property (damn) or have a kid that really likes the school he's in right now (phew).

So what do I do once I get there? Guess the possibilities are somewhat limited, since acting isn't even as viable there as it is here. I could find another restaurant, or I could get a fast track teaching degree. Maybe I could pursue that journalism bug and get an internship at the AJC. In a way, leaving town might mentally open up a few more paths for me.

Or maybe I just like trying these thoughts on every now and then, like that dress from the '70s that mom handed down to me and that barely fits. The same kind of bug that drove me to acting in the first place - the urge to be something else constantly, completely change my M.O. - like an undercover cop.

Oooo. Undercover cop. I could do that.

There's also a part of me that likes the option to run away. Guess that's why I'm perpetually single. Don't like responsibilities and obligations. I like to have the choice to leave town at a moment's notice - that's what's nice about working at a restaurant - you can always get your shifts covered. At the very least, to indulge my escapism, I plan to go visit Atlanta in August. While I'm there, who knows, maybe I'll find a reason to stay. I do miss my Chita.

Or maybe its just my bi-annual restlessness.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Long Way Around

I picture it like this: you see, far off in the distance, a shining beacon of happiness. It is your success, it is your dreams, it's what you pictured your life would be when you started picturing that kind of stuff, way back when. And you see exactly where that beacon is, gleaming on the horizon. And you pivot, 180 degrees, and you start walking confidently in the opposite direction.

I have started work at a SECOND restaurant. I do not want to be a waitress for the rest of my life. Right now, I'm already bordering on "too old" for this job. But it is a terribly easy way to feed my habit of "waiting around for the next audition." Or more truthfully, trying to figure out what's next. I am certain, however, that what's next ideally does not include waiting on more tables. And yet, here I am, now working at two restaurants, and feeling the furthest away from an acting career that I ever have.

Why would I do this? Well, it kind of just happened. I have a very dear friend who is opening up a new place, and I thought, more money, new experiences. And it is - it's a beautiful restaurant called One Sunset with a fantastic chef and great management and most likely a celebrity clientele. At the opening night party Tuesday night, Jennifer Aniston and Demi Moore (with Ashton Kutcher) were there. Of course, they promised to be there for promotional purposes. But it seems like at least for the summer, One will be a pretty busy/popular restaurant, and I will be there on the weekends serving it up.

So I will stick it out for a few months, and decide which place eats less of my soul. In the meantime, feel free to come visit me at yet another high-end restaurant on the Sunset Strip. I'll buy you a free dessert and cocktail - that should keep your bill closer to $50 a person. If you don't mind tap water and beer. And chicken instead of oysters. Oh - we also serve chicken oysters. Seriously. Chicken Oysters Rockefeller. It's good. From what I hear.