Saturday, September 25, 2010


I was reading an old news article online and saw that a philanthropist and his husband were buying one of the Denver's historic mansions. It had been owned by Denver University for the last few years and had been used in various capacities, one of which was for catered parties. I worked one of those parties - just one - and here's how that came to be:

I was out to brunch with my boyfriend and another couple at a popular gay restaurant in the Cheesman Park neighborhood. Our waitress was very chatty and she mentioned that she was also in charge of the catering staff at _____ Mansion. I told her I was a banquet captain and she asked if I'd like to work with her because she was short staffed. I gave her my number and she called and booked me for a wedding the next week. When I arrived, she was in a tizzy because she hadn't managed to completely staff the event and asked if I knew anyone who might be willing to work. I called my friend Monica whom I had waited tables with off and on for about ten years, and she arrived within a half hour. I think it was the meanest thing I ever did to her.

It didn't take long to realize what a disorganized mess this "banquet" was going to be. Aside from staff who were only half in uniform, I remember a bartender who was using a champagne ice bucket stand to keep a two litre bottle of 7-up chilled (no bucket ... just the stand), and setting up the buffet on top of antique billiard tables that had been covered with sheets. Monica and I had been working about an hour on the setup, which included moving tables and chairs (not waiter work in my book ... I always used housemen for that kind of heavy lifting) and we had time for a break before guests were to arrive. We went outside to smoke and the first thing she said to me was, "Let's just leave now." Believe me, I was tempted. The woman running the thing was nuttier than a pecan log at Stuckey's.

When the wedding part of the event was over, we needed to flip the room from theater style seating into rounds (for the plated reception dinner) while the guests were enjoying the hors-d'ouevres around the sheet-covered billiard tables. Rather than placing the rounds first and then putting the chairs around them, the staff was setting up one round at a time with chairs, running out of room in various areas and shifting all of the tables and chairs - one table at a time - till the whole thing looked like a Keystone cops movie. Finally, I just took charge. I told the staff, "We're going to place the rounds first for the whole room, and when we know where we want the tables, we'll put the chairs around them." When they said they'd never done it like that before I told them they'd been working too hard.

At the end of the night, the manager was very impressed with our work and wanted Monica and me to come back. I told her I was a waiter and I didn't move furniture so, "Thanks, but no thanks." She said, "I move furniture and I broke my back last year!" Like I'm supposed to think that's smart? Of course Monica was just polite. She said, "That's really nice of you. I'll have to see if I can since I'm so busy." I don't know if the gal called her - I can't remember - but I know she never went back there. I was apologizing for years for getting her into that one.

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