I’ve never told this story before, but I experienced it first-hand in Manhattan about 30 years ago. Sit me down with a lie detector and I’ll pass with flying colors because it’s all perfectly true. The details won’t stagger anyone, but I want it fully understood I’m not making it up. It’s just one of those life-lesson stories that repeats the old adage about “you are your friends and vice versa.”
I was inside a new Italian restaurant on Columbus Ave., a block or two south of the Museum of Natural History. It had opened maybe a day or two earlier, and I remember sipping a vodka and lemonade (my drink back then) and talking to the bartender. There was a big noisy party at a big table in the main dining room. I asked the bartender what the ruckus was and he said, “Oh, that’s the owners and their investors…big dinner.”
I stuck my head inside and noticed that one of the guys at the table was an especially loud, large-framed, overweight guy who looked like a walrus. He was holding a drink in his hand and laughing with great merriment and going “Awwgghhh! Awwgghhh!” as he listened to somebody at the table say something wildly hilarious. He was kind of bouncing up and down in his seat and slapping others on the shoulder and going “awwhh-haaawwwhh!”
Right away I thought to myself, “That guy’s with the owners?” This new restaurant was trying to sell itself as a serious class act, and this guy was the kind of coarse beast you’d find at some neighborhood restaurant in Astoria or Bushwick on a Saturday night, not that there’s anything wrong with Astoria or Bushwick.
15 or 20 minutes later I was in the bathroom and the “awwgghh!” guy sauntered in and went right over to a urinal and did three things at precisely the same time — farted loudly, belched loudly and began to relieve himself. Perfect synchronization.
I knew then and there that this new restaurant wouldn’t make it. I think I actually muttered to myself “okay, that’s it” when I heard the belch-fart. Because any Upper West Side resturateur who has animals for friends will sooner or later lose favor with the locals, I reasoned. Having coarse friends means you have no taste and your judgment stinks, and that kind of thing tends to spread out in all directions.
Four or five months later the restaurant had closed.