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I am not quite sure of the dates but it was the late 1950s or early 1960s. I was back living in New York and I had a job at the Ham ‘N Eggs on 7th Avenue and, I think, 52nd street, working the night shift. I think at this point the had divorced his first wife and had not yet married Joanne Woodward and he was rehearsing a show on Broadway. If I remember she had already won her Oscar for “3 Faces of Eve” and he was on the verge of huge stardom. In any case I do remember it was around midnight and raining. At first I didn’t recognize either until the cook told me who they were. I don’t remember much about what they said or ordered but I do remember he was a good tipper--waiters tend to remember things like that!
Since I am talking about tippers I have to mention President Eisenhower and Milton Berle. (Hey kids hit that bing button!) It was 1964/1965 and I was working at the Gas Pavilion in the New York World’s Fair. Yes, we did all the cooking table side on gas carts! One afternoon there was a lot of excitement as it seems President and Mamie Eisenhower had come to the fair and, yes, they were coming to eat in the Gas Pavilion and, yes, I got to wait on them. All in all it was a pleasant experience with both talking to me and asking me questions not only about the fair, the gas carts but about me personally. (I did hesitate about telling him the whole Marine Corps story and chickened out.) As the got up to leave the President pressed something into my hand and he, the first lady and the secret servicemen left. I knew it would be rude to look at the tip he left me so I waited for them all to leave. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted to know how much he tipped me and I showed them. It was a very formal card saying that it was a pleasure having me wait on the President and first lady and they certainly thanked me for how efficient I was. Aside from the point that it was printed so, obviously, he gave them out quite often, and he didn’t even sign them! It may have been worth something if he did! I gave it to my landlord as my rent for that month and he couldn’t stop laughing!
Then there was one of my biggest call parties which meant that he insisted I wait on him whenever he came in to the restaurant! Milton Berle, known as Mr. Television, who supposedly sold more TV sets than any other entertainer, use to come into the Brass Rail restaurant later in the evening with his wife Ruth and a group of people he might have done a show with that evening. He wasn’t demanding and expected whoever he was with to treat the waiter with respect. He ordered and ate good and usually had a pretty high bill. He never failed to compliment me but the kicker was he NEVER tipped more than 10%! Ruth would come in the next day or two, apologize for him, ask how much the bill was and then tip me at least 25%.
Years later--1979? 1980?--I was in New York seeing a show and during intermission I heard this loud voice in an accent only he could pull off call my name across the lobby. He came over with Ruth, gave me a crushing hug, and told me that Ruth had eventually told him what she had done, not only with me but with all waiters who served him, and he said he was truly sorry, took a hundred dollar bill out of his pocket, and making sure everyone around us, gave it to me and said he hoped it made up for some of the times he hadn’t tipped me well. I was now back to being a waiter after 10 years out of the business so I told him whenever he came to Fort Lauderdale, and I told him where I was working, he should stop by but ask for someone else to wait on him. He made a big joke out of that and, thankfully, the intermission was over.
Another comedian I waited on who was Berle’s peer, Jackie Gleason, was a much better tipper--much better!
Part 3: Diahann Carroll, Queen Latifah,Dona McKechnie, Pearl Bailey and more

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