Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pretty, Dangerous

Denver is home to at least a couple of "Gentleman's Clubs" that date back to the 19th century. These aren't strip clubs; they are essentially societies - places for networking, gaming, lectures, parties - and I applied at one of them, The University Club, established 1891. I'd heard from another waiter friend that private clubs were a good place to work because waiters had steady work (not so seasonal) and some club members were very generous with tips on top of a higher hourly wage than what was paid in restaurants.

When the University Club called me about my application, I was expecting, at the very least, an interview. Instead, they asked me if I could be there in 45 minutes to work lunch. I hightailed it down to the huge red brick castle of a building on Sherman Street and before my hair had dried I was fitted with a white dinner jacket that did NOT fit and began schlepping shoulder trays of double-plated entrees with real silver plate covers up five flights of stairs (I think it was two basement levels and three above ground) to "The Library." The building was very old, and the staircases were very tiny and steep with a turn at each half flight and a set of double swinging doors at each full landing. My God were those trays heavy by the time I got to the top floor. Of course, when lunch was over, we brought everything down the same way.

Most of the wait staff were black men around 60 years old who had been working at the club since before I was born. They were very formal, and excellent waiters, but there was a distinct feeling of distance between these professionals and any of the young waiters (that's me ... I was young then). The china, silver and crystal was beautiful and the rooms very elegant, but I was told that only the Ladies Dining Room and one other room were open to women. The rest of the building was exclusively for men, and I never did see any female employees.

When lunch had been served and the tables cleared, the wait staff clocked out and was permitted to enjoy an excellent meal. I can't remember now what it was, but it was some of the best food I'd ever tasted and we ate in the Ladies Dining Room. Then we hung up our jackets and were told to come back in three hours to set for dinner. I never returned. Never collected my pay ... nothing. I just knew it was only a matter of time before I went ass over teakettle down those stairs and it wasn't worth the risk. Still, it was interesting to be inside (and especially in the back of the house) of such a distinguished club, and I did get a really good meal out of it.

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