From This Month’s “In Style” Magazine

Guess Who’s Serving You Dinner? A Future Academy Award winner, perhaps. Today’s stars recall how time spent waiting or their big break often meant waiting on customers

Date: 03-01-2003; Publication: In Style; Author: Elyssa Lee

With its irregular hours, heavy memorization and fickle patrons, waitering is without a doubt the perfect prep school for becoming a performer. From Gwyneth Paltrow to Al Pacino to Sandra Bullock, many stars once added the time-honored job title of “waiter” (and sometimes “busboy” or “hostess”) to their resume. In fact certain restaurants seem to have had a better eye for spotting talented up-and-comers than Woody Allen. The Coffee Shop in N.Y.C. (above) has seen Taye Diggs, Jennifer Esposito, Maxwell and Selma Blair all vie for employee-of-the-month honors. Here, celebrities reveal the thrills, chills and, um, spills from their waitering days. –Elyssa Lee

KEVIN BACON “I worked as a waiter for about four years at this place called the All State Cafe on the Upper West Side [N.Y.C.]. I was also a busboy for about six months, but I wasn’t so good at that job. I remember this one time I dropped a bottle of ketchup on the floor. It smashed and the ketchup went all over this guy who happened to be wearing a white suit. He was really annoyed.”

JULIANNE MOORE “My worst experience as a waitress happened when I was 21 and in college in Boston. I was a cocktail waitress and I was carrying some beers when this guy just leaned in and put his hands on my breasts. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to do. I walked away and told the bartender, who leaped over the bar, picked the guy up, and kicked him out. It was very satisfying.”

JULIANNA MARGULIES “I waitressed at a few places in New York, like 150 wooster. I had so many insane experiences. Once this man kept insisting that his hot water wasn’t hot enough. He made me put my finger in it–and it was boiling hot. Not a fun moment.”

RACHEL GRIFFITHS “Oh, I was just a terrible waitress. Plates got confused. I could never remember who ordered what. So I became an artist’s model instead because then all I had to do was take my clothes off, lie down on a nice rug, and fall asleep. I was good at that.”

PETER KRAUSE “I was a cater waiter in New York and was called ‘servant’ once. Somebody actually said, ‘servant, can I have some of those … ?’ Needless to say, I didn’t like that very much. It was awful.”

MING-NA “My family owned a restaurant, so I had no choice but to be a waitress. I have a very vivid memory of my junior year in college, when I decided I would never waitress again. And so far I’ve kept my promise.”

MICHAEL C. HALL “I waited tables when I was in grad school at NYU one summer. I was sort of infamous for asking other waiters to take my tables because I was afraid I was going to physically go after some of the customers on my shift. I especially hated the brunch crowd. I was like, ‘come on, relax! or just stay home!'”

JORJA FOX “I waitressed for one night. I spilled food on people three times and I was never allowed back in the restaurant again. I was horrible. I just couldn’t do the whole balancing thing.”

DEBI MAZAR “I was a waitress in New York City, across the street from the Plaza hotel. One time a lady was being so rude to me that at one point I dumped tuna salad in her lap. I was just so tired of being abused that I left–and I have never looked back.”

MINNIE DRIVER “I worked in a polish restaurant called vodka. All the other waitresses were polish, and the customers ordered in polish, so I couldn’t understand any of them. Someone would order veal, and I’d serve them chicken and say, ‘I promise you it’s veal. It’s just polish veal.’ The restaurant also had more than 16 vodkas. But they were so completely encrusted in ice that you had to take a swig to learn by taste which was which. I’d get wasted and then have this foul hangover the next day.”

ROBIN WILLIAMS “I was an awful waiter. I got fired after only one night because I was so slow. I was very entertaining, but I Didn’t get the food there on time. I was a great busboy because then I could just be very funny.”

GREG KINNEAR “I got fired from five waiter jobs in college. I was too chatty. I’d get into these philosophical discussions with people who were just looking to get some fried zucchini, and all of a sudden I’d have tables backed up out the door.”

WILLIAM H. MACY “Waiting tables is a rough job. I was never good at timing things out. People would be having their salad and the next thing they knew, I’d already be shoving a T-bone at them. I was a bartender too. Once I applied to a bar called Le Pub. I wrote up a resume and when I walked in, they said, ‘Do you know this is a gay bar?’ And I played it like of course I knew. So I worked at a gay bar for about 12 hours. The guys were grand, but I just couldn’t keep up.”

JIM CAVIEZEL “I was working as a waiter at [producer] Jerry Weintraub’ S house for president Bush [Sr.’s] birthday party. I was told, ‘you’ re here to serve. If you talk to any of the guests, you won’t be asked back.’ Everyone was eager to meet the president, but when I Was serving people I saw Jimmy Stewart. I loved him, so I thought, ‘I’ll get fired for him.’ I knew he’d been a general in the air force, so I talked to him about that. Eventually, I got him a scotch and soda. All went well, but the caterers never did ask me back.”

KRISTIN DAVIS “Oh, golly. I Cried pretty much every night I was a waitress. I’m not clumsy, so I Didn’t spill a lot, but I was slow. The kitchen was really intense, and chefs are high-strung. One time a chef got so frustrated that he threw a plate at me. I ducked.”

LUCY LIU “I’ve done everything you can in a restaurant. I just remember spilling a lot of drinks on people.”

BETTE MIDLER “I worked as a waitress for one night on Martha’s Vineyard 36 years ago, but I didn’t make the cut. I couldn’t do it. I had no idea what was going on, what people were talking about. People would say things to you, and you would have to do things. You’d have to write things down and add everything up. It was completely beyond me. I was also a go-go girl. That was great and a lot more fun.”

LEA THOMPSON “I waitressed in New York and Philadelphia. I always got fired–I’d miss work because of auditions and make up elaborate excuses. I’ve gone back to restaurants where I waitressed and they said, ‘you’re the only one who ever made it.'”

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