I served Larry King at my former Chinese restaurant job on Christmas Eve, 2009. Of course, since it was the pinnacle of the holiday season, I was over-worked, not wearing any makeup, and exhausted from a bad cold that had me crying a couple nights earlier while closing the bar.
I was bartending this day, too, but my manager asked me if I'd take table 11. Without even glancing at it, I sighed out a "sure." As I walked out of the bar and onto the line (the part of the kitchen that's closest to the dining room- servers hang out here), I overheard chatter and mutterings of the name "Larry King." I turned around, slightly curious. "Larry King's here?"
"Yeah, at table 11."
"His wife is Mormon, so they have a house here."
"She's a total trophy wife."
...and so on. I didn't feel the usual light-headedness and racing pulse that plague me when starstruck, but I was still acutely aware as I walked to his table that this is a really big celebrity. This is a household name, not your moderately popular indie band member that always leaves me tongue-tied. And I found myself completely unphased for once. It was a nice change.
He dresses much more youthfully outside of his show-expensive jeans and a baseball cap-so all those Joel McHale and Conan jokes about him being on earth at the same time as woolly mammoths didn't seem quite as potent in person.
Ok he's failing to look younger here in street clothes. Does the camera add ten years, too? No, wait, it's the Ed Hardy.
And then he ordered. He was a typical old person customer. He made old person requests and ordered an old person entree. When I told this to a co-worker back on the line, he immediately said, "What, like did he order almond and cashew chicken?" (yes)
My favorite part of serving Larry King happened when I refilled water at another table as a favor to a co-worker. The middle-aged dad sitting there asked me, "Are you serving Larry King?"
"Yeah," I answered with a smirk.
"How is it?"
I shrugged nonchalantly, still smirking, and replied, "Fine. He's really just another customer."
The man nodded, his eyes slightly glazed over. "Yeah...he's great!"
I guess I shouldn't hold it against him that he was so starstruck. Maybe he's a ginormous Larry King fan. Maybe he has Larry King memorabilia all over his den and every Larry King interview ever on VHS, organized chronologically in a closet. Maybe he reveres Larry King like I do Ben Folds. Probably not, though. I'm just glad I found the one famous person around whom I could still act like a person with an IQ higher than 60. But I hadn't escaped the social awkwardness quite yet.
The time came to offer dessert and boxes for their leftovers. They declined both, so I left a plate of fortune cookies and the bill, standing up on the edge of the table in a black, plastic check presenter. I went back in the kitchen and turned around less than a minute later to see if they'd paid yet. The check presenter stood, undisturbed, in the same place as I'd left it. I went about my duties in the bar and on the line, peeking nearly constantly to see if they'd done anything with the check presenter.
Ten minutes went by, then fifteen. Not that uncommon, a lot of people sit around chatting at the end of their meal, but I got nervous nonetheless. Since it was slow and I didn't have anything much better to do, I went out into the dining room and stood by the host desk, not too far from their table, to more closely monitor the check presenter situation. After a few more minutes of chatting with the hostesses and other servers that passed by, I decided to hazard a walk-by of their table, even though the check presenter still stood in the same spot I left it. I hate asking a table pre-maturely if the check is ready, because then they think I'm anxious for them to leave, which is usually not the case. As soon as I got within speaking distance of their table, Larry sat up, grabbed the check presenter, and handed it to me.
His card had been in there the whole time.
He must have slipped his card in right after I left the table, without moving the check presenter at all. Awesome. Now I've made Larry King wait 20 minutes to pay for no reason.
I felt extremely sheepish, but in my defense, most people, you know, move the check after they pay, or lay it down flat or SOMETHING so that the server knows they've put some form of legal tender in that black plastic case. They sat a while longer after I ran the card and gave it back to them, so at least they weren't in a hurry. And he tipped me a generous 30%, so he couldn't have been too irritated. I was the irritated one, for failing once again to have a normal social interaction with a celebrity, one that didn't even phase me. Just more proof of my all-around awkwardness.