Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Time I Did Elton John Terribly Wrong

One time I did Elton John terribly wrong. I lied to Elton John and I’m coming clean –
exposing the truth of my actions in hopes that Elton John may some day be able to forgive me, because I’m deeply sorry. Really, I am.

I didn’t lie directly to his face. It was more complicated than that. Normal people like me aren’t allowed to actually speak to Elton John, or for that matter even make eye contact with him, so I’m going to have to explain.

When I was nineteen, I lived in Atlanta and I worked as a cook in an extremely fancy hotel. As I had no formal schooling, the chefs there trained me in the culinary arts. I was a high school dropout. I couldn’t go to college, so I needed a skill and some kind of a career to support myself. I liked to cook so it seemed like a good choice for me and it worked out pretty well because before I got the job I was living with three other people in a musty apartment with a bunch of cats. No one ever cleaned and I literally slept on a mattress that I pulled out of the wet, mildewed garbage in front of the Daughters of the American Revolution building on Piedmont. My parents didn’t help me and I got fired from my job as a coffee shop waitress because even back then it was apparent that I just wasn’t meant to wait on people. I was, however, meant to cook for them.

I worked 60 and 70 hour weeks at the hotel, but it was worth it. I had health insurance, a uniform and got to eat whatever I wanted. This was the best job ever. Although I worked in all the kitchens (pastry, brunch, banquet, garde-manger) I loved the times when I got to do room service. The overnight shift was the best because hardly anyone ever ordered anything and when they did it was something easy like scrambled eggs. We had a pretty extensive room service menu, but people just didn’t order from it very often. They would call and make special requests, which we were supposed to do everything in our power to fulfill. Since we were one of the finest hotels in Atlanta, we got a lot of VIPs and famous people and when I did room service I had to cook for them. I never got to meet anyone, but whenever a VIP would make an order the person who took the orders would tell me who it was for so that I would make it extra special.

The woman who took the room service orders was a gigantic black lady named Everestine who had six kids. She hated white people. She loathed white people. She wanted all white people to die. Of course I completely ignored this and told her I loved her anyway in spite of my unfortunate affliction of whiteness. She used to act like she hated me, but Everestine was totally full of it because she used to drive me places and let me sleep at her house all the time and she even took care of me when I was sick. She did all this while telling me how evil my whiteness was and how she could never not hate me because she had to stick to her vow of hating all white people forever no matter what, but I paid her no mind. Once when we were at the mall Everestine refused to give up her parking space until a black person came along to take it, because it was a good parking space and she didn’t want a white person to have it. We had to sit there for an hour until some black people finally showed up. I’m not kidding. This really happened.

Everestine hated our VIPs because they were usually white people, but whenever one of them called she’d come tearing out of her office as if Jesus Christ himself had called asking for a grilled cheese on wheat. She’d make a great big deal out it and have hysterics if I took too long cooking whatever it was the VIP asked for, but then she’d realize what she was doing and turn her sense of urgency into a long diatribe about “whitey.”

Elton John used to come to our hotel all the time. I have no earthly idea why. Back then Elton John had a fancy penthouse in a high rise on Peachtree, which was the pride of the entire city. Every time anyone in Atlanta drove past this building they would have to cease all conversation and point out that Elton John lived in that very tower. Then on the way back, coming the opposite direction, they’d do the same thing all over again. If they had to pass the building every day, every day they’d twice repeat that Elton John lived in that building. That one. Right there. Elton John’s building was walking distance from our hotel. I never understood why, if you lived in a fancy high-rise, you would choose to spend several nights at a hotel that was less than a mile away from your actual home.

The only answer I can come up with was that Elton John really loved my chicken club sandwiches. I can understand that. If I made you one right now you would say it was the best chicken club you’d ever had and you’d want to smack your grandma across the face (this is one of those bizarre southern expressions that makes as much sense as staying in a hotel walking distance from your house). My club sandwich has chicken, apple-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, avocado and secrets. If I make it for myself I leave out the mayo and I’m willing to tell you my secrets. First I poach the chicken and slice it thin. I use buttered, whole grain toast. The mayo’s homemade, the veggies seasoned, and I brush my bacon with maple syrup, sprinkle it with cinnamon, cayenne and black pepper before baking it. It’s beyond good. Elton John can tell you. He ordered at least one of my club sandwiches every day. If he ordered one when I was working in another kitchen they’d come and get me to make it.

Then one day Elton John went on a diet. He could no longer eat chicken clubs. One of his handlers showed up in our kitchen. She had just gone to the farmer’s market and delivered to us a bag of nasty looking vegetables.

“Elton John wants you to juice these,” she said.

I agreed to do this because we had a serious juicer and made juices all the time. I wasn’t too thrilled about dragging it out, but I figured it couldn’t be too hard to make the man a glass of healthy juice if he wanted one. Could it?Yes it could.The bag contained an assortment of things like kale, collard greens, burdock root, salsify, shitake mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, lotus pods, bitter melon, fava beans and one golden beet. There wasn’t a normal vegetable in the entire bag. I decided to wash it and throw it in the juicer, but the juicer wasn’t having it. The vegetables were dry, so the machine jammed. I tried to add water. Nothing happened. I scraped everything out of the juicer and put it in a bowl. It looked like a chopped salad, albeit a disgusting one. One of the chefs said it looked like hamster cage bedding.

Next I tried to put some of it in a blender. Nothing happened. There was simply no juice. I had to get out the big guns. We had this thing that looked like a monster sized immersion blender that was the size of me and could instantly puree a live cow. Surely this thing could get some juice out of these vegetables, I thought.

About this time Everestine came to see why I was taking so long.

“Hurry up! This for Elton John!! Elton John need some juice!”

Then she had an abrupt change of heart.

“Fuck Elton John, that white motherfucker. Who he think he is wantin’ vegetable juice? What is that nasty shit? That look like dooky.”

She was right.

“It’s too dry,” I said, “but this oughta liquefy it.”

But the Immersion Blendersaurus-Rex proved too big and heavy for me to control, so when I turned it on the thing went crazy, like a fire hose. It flipped and bucked and threw me backwards into a hot stove and when I finally got it turned off I hadn’t pureed a thing. Elton John still didn’t have any juice and I was covered in green flecks of vegetable matter.The handlers called again and complained that the juice was taking too long.

“You need to figure somethin’ out ‘cuz Elton John be needin’ his juice,” said Everestine.

I tried to stir some water into the compost pile that the bag from the farmer’s market had become, but it wouldn’t blend. All the green stuff floated to the top of the water. I was on the verge of a minor nervous breakdown and began to curse Elton John as I skimmed the green mess from the surface of the water.

Two minutes later the handlers called again.

“You cain’t just stand there!” bellowed Everestine, “Figure it out!”

I was so aggravated that I was about one second away from tiny dancing my ass up to the Emperor’s Suite and giving Sir Elton John a piece of my mind.

“Elton John, you don’t need to be on some crazy diet drinking this nasty vegetable juice! Why can’t you just have a chicken club?” I imagined saying.

I wandered into the walk-in refrigerator to see if something in there might inspire a solution. The first thing I saw was a vat of gazpacho, which is essentially nothing more than vegetable juice. I used V-8 as one of the ingredients in my gazpacho. I laughed to myself. Elton John shoulda had a V-8. Oh!

Elton John was about to have a V-8.

I poured the V-8 into a pitcher and then I stirred in several spoonfuls of the vegetable mash I had created. Since the V-8 was thick, the green flakes stayed suspended convincingly throughout the red juice. It looked like what I think Elton and his handlers had in mind. I told Everestine to call them back and tell them the juice was very special and that’s why it took so long, but now all those vegetables were juiced and on their way up to the suite.

Everestine and I waited to see what would happen. If they recognized my concoction as nothing more than V-8 I would probably lose my job. An hour later the handlers called back and thanked us. Elton John loved it. The room service cook did a fabulous job making the unusual combination of vegetables prescribed by the homeopath, delicious and palatable.

Thank the Lord, this was the only time this happened. Apparently Elton John is a lot like the rest of us and can’t stick to any kind of restrictive diet for more than a few days. Within a week he was back to chicken clubs.

I was never found out, but let me tell you, at times the guilt at knowing that I deceived the great Elton John has been unbearable. Once I saw him in Neiman Marcus and I almost ‘fessed up but I chickened out. I was too ashamed.I’ve carried this secret for 16 years and now I’m finally free.


Anonymous said...

I would forgive you anything if you would make me a chicken club sandwich and post it to Australia. Anything.

Even the fact that your posts are so fun, I read them instead of doing my uni work - and get dooky marks as a result.

But that sandwich would be so worth it.

Anonymous said...

That? Was awesome, thank you. And yeah, now I want a chicken Club Sandwich with extra bacon.

Anonymous said...

Lovely and funny too.


secretmom said...

You seriously crack me up. I keep scanning your older posts to find the one that says this blog contains a lot of fiction, but it doesn't seem to be. You just live an amazing life.

And, i would kill for one of your sandwiches right now!

Anonymous said...

Your forgiven

Wide Lawns said...

Elton John for shame. It's You're. I thought someone as posh as you would have better grammar.

gulfsidebo said...

I will blame his lame songwriting of the last 15 years on you! Shame on you!

mbahawk said...

"The poisoned samosa incident"? SNM, is this a nod to Calvin's "Noodle Incident" from Calvin & Hobbes?

Miss Kitty said...

That is the most hi-fucking-larious thing I've read in a LONG TIME. OMG, you lied to Elton John. And what would be even funnier is if he actually stopped in & read this blog.

miss tango said...

That was hysterical, I kind of sputtered all over my screen!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure the "samosa incident" qualifies as something for which you need to atone---as far as I know, food poisoning paranoia isn't a sin.


Anonymous said...

Great post.

I have read that he was constantly renovating that apartment to accomodate his ever changing art collection. Maybe he stayed at the hotel during construction periods.

Wide Lawns said...

I wouldn't say it's a sin either, just that I felt like I was being a pain in the ass and ruining everyone's night, although that ended up being a really fun night.

Anonymous said...

That was priceless, no master Card required.

Pumpkin said...

Damn...yep, I now happily join the ranks of your readers everywhere who are craving that delicious sounding sandwich of yours!!!

First I come back and read a post about you seeing a real live bear running along a beach, now a post about cooking for Elton John.....seriously lass, your blog gets better and better!!!

Excellent as always!!!

Anonymous said...

Your sandwich sounds divine! I highly recommend that all poor, hungry, souls to get a job in the restaurant industry. It kept me well fed (one meal a day plus a snack) for many years. On my days off, I would eat ramen or popcorn. I believe Sir Elton would not have been offended if he knew about the V-8. It may not have been his Farmer's Market super-duper fresh, non-juicy "juice", but it's still made from vegetables, right?

Whiskeymarie said...

I love that the guilt had hounded you for 15 years. That is hilarious. I also love that you had to try and juice a jerusalem artichoke and freaking burdock.

Plus, now that I know you were a cook, like I am, I feel even more sure that we were separated at birth.

Anonymous said...

Careful, my dear, Elton is a notorious diva, so I hope he doesn't read this!!
Lord, it is unbelievable how these prima donna entertainers will believe any crap that their handlers give want to lose weight? Order plain old carrot juice! Take a vitamin supplement! Eat fresh fruit!! Stop with these bizarre blended combos!
Somebody seriously needs to slap these people silly to remind them that they put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

You have the best stories ever! I love them. OXOX's!

Sauntering Soul said...

One of my bosses lives in that building and I used to have to go deliver stuff to him and pick stuff up in there.

One of my friends went to his apartment and he was standing there in his undies. Her mom does clothing alterations for Elton and his boyfriend (David?) and my friend had to bring something to her mom while she was there measuring them. Apparently they buy a lot of matching outfits. My friend says, as you can imagine, that it was not a pretty sight.

I drive by that apartment building to and from work and almost every single time I say to myself "that's where Elton John lives" and at some point I think Peabo Bryson lived there as well.

MP said...

WOW...would you come over and make me a chicken club sandwich for lunch...please!

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