Last month during the film festival hoopla in Toronto, I sat on bar stools. In actual fact it was here that I felt more comfortable, more at ease, than at the parties and festival events. The bar stool was mine. A safe haven. A portion of the bar to claim as my own. It’s easier to be alone when in an environment more acceptable to ride the solo highway.
I stationed myself at a hotel bar. The fancy kind. The kind with two bars to choose from. Each with different atmospheres and stories to tell.
My tale began in the front bar, sitting down wind from a young actor and his lady friend. Spying the heartthrob, a quartet of young giggling girls barreled into the bar. They were so obvious in their amore and so out of place in the shiny establishment that other patrons paused in their talks to look with distain upon the teenyboppers. They sat at the bar, ordered one serving of fries and a round of Cokes. Sniggering and staring without abandon at the curly haired man child.
When the actor got up to leave rather abruptly with his date, the girls charged like dogs in heat. Falling over each other to get to the object of their affection before he left their sights forever. They circled him like wolves. Hungry for celebrity.
Before they dug their talons into his flesh, a security man briskly cleared them away and asked them to leave the hotel immediately – clearly frustrated they had slipped past his eagle-eyed watch in the first place.
A meeting took me outside the hotel, yet I returned that evening for dinner. The back bar beckoned. Charlie Chaplin waited to entertain me on the one TV screen while I ate.
When I’m alone, I have a tendency to get into my own foreign world. Sometimes oblivious to those around me – I don’t always observe. And as I ate my Salad Nicoise, I smiled and laughed to myself and at the TV, while buzzing continued on around me. I was in the eye of the hive. The calm. Tunnel vision and blinkers on. Captivated by vaudeville… until an obnoxious voice broke me from my insular state.
“Can you turn off Chaplin and switch on football?”
I locked my steely eyes on the brute and said, “I’m watching Charlie. He’s my dinner date.”
He set his pleading eyes on the bartender, who only raised his arms up helplessly. No dice, mister.
“I’m sure there’s a sports bar down the street. Football is rather out of place in a bar like this, no?” I declared with a cheeky smile.
He walked away. Defeated. Tail between his legs.
Charlie lived on.
Ten minutes later his friend advanced. Tactics adjusted. “My favorite team is playing. It’s a really important game.” He claimed, assuming a stance one takes when trying to woo.
I touché’d, “Is your friend really so boring that you can’t talk to each other?”
“I really hate begging.”
“Oh… please do.” I had my sass pants on. If he wanted to turn off the Chaplin, he had to work for it.
“I’ll buy your dinner and wine if you agree to turn on the football.”
I felt sorry for the (not so) poor man. So I agreed, saying dinner wasn’t necessary, a glass of wine would suffice. It was time for me to return to reality anyway. Interact with the world around me. Or turn my ears on for a little eavesdropping. As compelling as Charlie is, a bar stool tale he does not make.
There were two women my age sitting on my right. They had clearly come from some kind of mundane office job. The kind of practical girls who carry their heels in their work bags and wear runners as they walk the streets outside the office (I once did this. Once. Before deciding it was best suited for Melanie Griffith in Working Girl). They drank white wine and ate potato chips. Whispering conspiratorially between themselves as their eyes constantly darted.
Suddenly, one of the ladies jumped out of her seat and raced to the lobby, which was visible from her seat. Upon returning a few minutes later, she could barely contain herself. Heavy breathing, gasping for air, eyes welling up with tears, and a slew of OMGs escaping from her trembling lips. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d seen Jesus. In which case, I would be interested. I’m quite into those scraggly bearded types.
Without spilling the beans to her friend first, she jerked out her phone and called her mother. “Mom, mom, mom! I saw him!” As she rattled off details of her interaction, it became clear that she had found a writer / director with such a cult following that even Brad Pitt couldn’t compare in some circles. Admittedly, as a teenager I had been a fan of one of his television shows about a young lass named Buffy, but couldn’t for the life of me pick him out in a line up.
She was still ecstatic as she hung up the phone – retelling her story to her friend who, along with the rest of the bar, had surely heard the recount to the mother. I was worried she may have a heart attack or burst a blood vessel in her bulging eyes. I surreptitiously shifted my dessert plate away from her to protect the chocolate from the imminent blood splatter and the tears that were already dripping down her face.
I tried to imagine who or what would get me as excited as the girls in the front bar and the woman beside me. Father Christmas (the real one) came to mind. Perhaps a unicorn. Maybe even a Gremlin. But I couldn’t think of one real person who would make me lose it in public (As an adult, that is. As a 12 year old, Jordan Knight would make me pee my pants). Behind closed doors is another matter. Jumping for joy in the privacy of my own home has been known to happen.
Is there anyone who would cause you to have a public meltdown?
Lessons from a bar stool:
1. A sure fire way to see your idols up close and personal during a film festival is to hang out in hotel bars. Put in some practice beforehand so you know the lay of the land.
2. Keep your cool when meeting icons. Try a conversation rather than bowing down in Wayne and Garth fashion.
3. Be aware that everyone can hear you at a bar. You may as well be holding a microphone when speaking. Talk with discretion.
4. More bars should turn off the sports and turn on film classics. Football really doesn’t suit most atmospheres where martinis are being served.
5. Entertaining yourself by observing the people around you can be endlessly amusing or maddeningly irritating. Try to find the amusing in the irritating or you’ll go mad.