69. Westside Beach – the Future is Looking Good

The second thing to be done was to make sure Diana would be a stay-at-home mother in our new life in Santa Monica.  I went into town and registered with the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union. And from my experience with the Union in San Francisco I knew I had to do it this way.  

While it wasn’t mandatory, it was what I knew at least back then, as the way to protect my job, wages and get medical insurance right away, much needed also for this new family of mine.

Everyday I’d go into the Union Hall to see the day’s posted jobs.  Right away I went out to the Hotel Miramar as a banquet waiter.  I saw it posted everyday that week and I went there everyday.

The job was comfortable, all the people were nice to work with and I of course had become quite experienced in dining room service, so it was a natural fit.  The clientele who frequented the Miramar were fun people as well as great tippers!

Hey that counted for a lot as I have a new family to take care of; tummies need filling and rent needs to be paid.  We hadn’t yet bought a car, we really didn’t need it at this time.  Whenever she needed to grocery shop Diana’s father or his girlfriend would take her to the market or what have you.  Otherwise she didn’t mind walking or taking a bus to run any other errands.

There were many different groups who frequented the Hotel Miramar while I worked there, although before and after they came too I’m sure.

The airlines’ stewardesses and pilots were arranged through their respective employers to stay there when on stopovers in Los Angeles.  Boy did they know how to have fun, spending much of their time out at the cabañas by the pool.  Happy news for all, there were no restrictions on pool hours, it was open around the clock.

Some other of the many groups frequenting the Hotel Miramar all year around were the Santa Monica Kiwanis Club, the Rotary Club, the SM Chamber of Commerce, and many various Jewish groups -they’re definitely a joyous bunch!- just to name a few.  

I recall a few times where the partying members would get me out there dancing in their celebrations and I learned some of those famous songs of theirs.  Ha ha – sometimes a line or two of those songs would escape my mouth all these years later and my kids just look at me like, “Dad you’re not Jewish!  Where did that come from?” 

It wasn’t long before I was hired as a full time staff member of the hotel and made the Banquet Captain.  Better pay, naturally more responsibilities like calling up staff request for each separate banquet and paying said staff via pay vouchers and division of tips.

I too of course worked my share on the floor and when there were no banquets booked I turned my attention to room service.  One time I remember so clearly as I was on room service week, rolling up with a breakfast cart, I knocked on the door of one suite and Richard Nixon opened the door.  He was there with his family, vacationing I guess. I was motioned to enter and I set up the meal in the dining area.

There you have it, not so much a great celebrity story but a very brief tale out of nowhere.

With cash in my pocket every night, I always made a very good salary working there at the Hotel Miramar of the early sixties and I was able to comfortably support my new family.  

At the time, this was my greater goal.



57. Magic Wine & Tip Snatching

I began waiting on tables in this little Italian restaurant Mondays through Fridays and just like the sign said, from six in the morning until two in the afternoon.  After a little over a week I was an official member of the Union.  I opened my first American, well really first ever, bank account.  I did this at Bank of America.

I was doing fairly well and so I started to send money home for the family.  My leaving Fiji left the full financial load once again upon my brother and it was only right that I should continue helping any way I could.  

After about a couple of weeks working at this Italian place and secured in the Union, I went back over to the Indian restaurant and offered to take them up on their previous offer of employment.  In all honesty it now would better suit me, timing being what it was and all.

Jack and Bill were still most interested and accepted me into their business; same offer as before, no wage only tips and food, until such a time as business steadily picked up.  I know they were confident in my eager attitude and my seemingly endless brain of ideas.  

I did not reveal to them that I was a member of the Union, I honestly didn’t think about it, nor did they ask.

Perfect!  I had a pretty good set-up I thought:  I worked the breakfast and lunch shifts at the Italian joint and went home in the afternoon for a little rest.  I’d freshen up and go to work the dinner shift (3-4 hours in the evening) at the Indian place.  Not bad for a single guy in a new world.

Now to make things happen for the Indian restaurant.  I thought to pay a visit to the Indian Office of Tourism for travel posters and anything else they’d like to spare which spoke of India, turning to the Consulate for extras.  I would display these in the restaurant to lend some ambiance to the scene.  I had some other plans too of course.

As I had walked along the streets of the city, I noticed some men lying about on the sidewalks quite literally, some propped against a building wall, sipping bottles of wine most usually.  And so after a couple of weeks working in the Indian restaurant I found myself with what I thought to be a brilliant idea.

Having seen what I had while walking sometimes, I remember thinking that in my experiences up to now, on the average a person of supposed middle class standards would dare never to touch a cheap bottle of wine.  Maybe they’d even turn their noses up at it; and then perhaps only if someone was watching.

Okay never mind all that.  One day I decided to buy an inexpensive bottle of wine to conduct an experiment.  I took it in to the Indian restaurant that evening.  Amongst other helpful suggestions I lent to the owners of this place such as complimentary lite appetizers, this could prove to be useful.

I put some wine into 3 or 4 glasses and dropped different food coloring into each one.  The basic colors of blue and yellow; red obviously wasn’t called for.  It turns out the blue/yellow combination of green worked the very best, it had a jewel-like quality to it.

Mind you this is basic white wine that anyone can pick up for under a buck and a half.  I showed the colored wine to Jack and Bill and their quick comeback was, “Oh no, we can’t sell that here!”  I suggested they taste it and then comment.  I hadn’t yet told them what I’d done.  

They tasted it and said it was pretty good.  Then I gave them each a taste of the white wine in its original form and they both said it tasted the same.  Well of course it did.  I then suggested we charge 50 cents per glass.

They pondered this over for a couple of days.  Bill and Jack both agreed to start selling the wine in the restaurant, maybe they realised the profit margin?  Jack suggested to serve it up in chilled glasses.  Yes chilled wine glasses, Bill and I agreed.  

And so I introduced it in a teasing form to the patrons as they sat down at their tables.  ‘Would you be interested in trying a little glass of house wine?’  Most everyone replied yes and so along with the little basket of appetizers I brought out, a sample of the wine came too.  

The guests were naturally fascinated by the coloring; they would sip it conservatively.  “Hey that’s pretty good,” most of them would say.  “What is it called?”  I would smile and reply, ‘Jadoo.’   Being asked what that meant, I told them it means magic, which it does.  The two proprietors quickly added it to their menu.

Customers came in more often, drank more, ordered/ate more and my tips grew along with the clientele for this dinner restaurant.  Bill and Jack would buy the wine in a box, we wouldn’t run out.

In fact some of the customers brought in their own empty wine bottle to fill with ‘Jadoo’ so they could enjoy it at home.  The restaurant decidedly charged them $3.50 for that.

Now these customers were telling others about their experience at this little Indian restaurant which of course brought in more people for dinner.  Needless to say what the owners had hoped for their restaurant, was now happening for them.  But they didn’t keep their word.

The effort was never made to pay me a set wage now.  Instead they noticed when I’d cash in smaller bills for bigger ones at the end of the night, I was generally pulling in about $30-40 per shift working so few hours; they began helping themselves to half of my tips!

For a short while and only a short while I kept quiet.