Scorsese Goes to Dinner

May 18, 2016
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Via an excerpt from the postscript to Roger Ebert’s Two Weeks in the Midday Sun, up at Esquire:

My wife and I sit all by ourselves at the table for 10, awaiting Monsieur Scorsese. Around us, desperate and harried waiters ricochet from table to table with steaming tureens of fish soup and groaning platters of whole lobster, grilled fish, garlic paste, crisp toast, boiled potatoes, and the other accoutrements of a bowl of bouillabaisse. To occupy an unused table in a busy French restaurant is to be the object of dirty looks from every waiter; if you are going to be late, be late—don’t be the ones who get there early and take the heat.

Around us, tout le Hollywood slurps its soup. There is Rob Friedman, second in command at Paramount. Over there is Woody Harrelson, who explains he partied till 6 A.M. and then slept two hours, and that was 15 hours ago. He wears the same thoughtful facial expression that his character in Kingpin did when his hand was amputated in the bowling ball polisher. Next to him is Milos Forman, who directed him in The People vs. Larry Flynt. Across from him is director Sydney Pollack (Tootsie). Across from him is director John Boorman (Deliverance). All of these people regard their bouillabaisse like poker players with a good hand.

“It is no more, sorry, impossible! You must now to go outside!” cries the owner. He wrings his hands with anguish. “The people who are waiting, they are very angry! I cannot wait them no more! Impossible! Monsieur Scorsese plus tard! Monsieur DeNiro, etc., etc.”

We are banished from the table and go to wait outside in the road. Tétou is so small that you are either seated at a table or standing on the curb dodging Renaults and motorbikes. The Scorsese table has been given to angry patrons who have been waiting outside for, one gathers, days or weeks. I picture them in pup tents. Immediately after we are evicted, Monsieur Scorsese arrives—but not in time to beat out the new occupants of his table, who sit down with the air of wronged exiles returning to their ancestral homeland.

“Jeez, what are we, 15 minutes late?” asks Scorsese. His party includes his agent Rick Nicita, his collaborator Rafael Donatello, his friend Helen Morris, his agent Manny Nunez, Touchstone execs Jordi Ross and Mimi Hare, his producer Barbara de Fina, and his assistant Kim Sockwell. Counting us, there are 11, not 10. No problem, since there is no room for any of us.

Four of us are parked at a table in the corner while the rest of the party hovers uncertainly beside the traffic lanes. We are promised seating in five minutes. Well, not precisely five minutes, but cinq minutes, which is a French expression translating as “five unspecified units of time.”

I do my imitation of the restaurateur saying “impossible.” Scorsese is delighted: “He sounds exactly like Susan Alexander’s vocal coach in Citizen Kane, telling Orson Welles that his wife will never be an opera singer.”

To read the excerpt in full at Esquire, click here.

To read more about Two Weeks in the Midday Sun, click here.

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