My job is to never let anyone leave unhappy. I jump through hoops. Regulars come in without a reservation, and I never say no. I will find them a table somewhere, anywhere—upstairs, downstairs, Hugo’s, Lux, on the patio. I handle it.
One evening, I got a call that I needed to seat 30 people that night, dignitaries from all over the globe. I had two hours’ notice, but I got them three tables of 10, on the left side of the dining room, which is quieter. I write the time status of my tables on the back of my hand and always leave a few options open for surprises and walk-ins. The person who’d called to arrange it said, “Kathy, please, they have to be seated by 9:30.” They were seated at 9:29. I still don’t know who they were.
Another night, Frank Sinatra and his wife, Barbara, came in. I seated them on the left side. Then in walks Tom Selleck. The whole bar exploded. I took Tom to see Frank and seated them together so I could keep all the chaos in one place.
When the Bulls starting winning, they put us on the map for late-night dining. After a game, everyone would come back to celebrate. At midnight, there would be an hour’s wait. The team would come in with celebs: Jack Nicholson, Penny Marshall, Denzel Washington. Dennis Rodman was the most colorful of all with all his boas and his friends. I remember thinking, I hope this never ends.
One really crowded Saturday night, a big guy—maybe 6-foot-8, 350 pounds—came in and pointed to a 12-top. “I want that table.”
I was very sweet and smiley. “And I’ve always wanted a pony, but I never got one. What time do you want to come in?”
“What time can I get the table?”
“Nine-thirty, earliest. For how many?”
“Kind of a large table for two,” I said.
“My boss would like that table,” he replied.
“Who’s your boss?”
Jay-Z came in with Beyoncé at 9:30. The bodyguard sat at a little table nearby.
On another busy night, about 10 years ago, I was staring at notes on the reservation desk when I sensed someone in front of me.
“Can I help you?” I asked, head still down.
“Party of three.”
“OK. A 45-minute wait. Your name?”
I looked up. I tried to get him a table right away, but he said he didn’t mind waiting. That was the longest 45 minutes of my life.
I never keep my head down anymore. You never know who’s coming through the door.