How Not To Train Your Bellman.

To anyone considering pursuing a career in the hospitality biz: Do don’t do this while away from home!  I am a self-trained Wisenheimer with a lifetime of experience. Not to mention the fact I have a horseshoe firmly lodged in my backside…

Customer service is arguably the most important factor in running a successful hotel.

Sure, you can spend millions of dollars ensuring your rooms have a kick-ass view, million-count Egyptian sheets covering the beds (“Million-count Egyptian Sheets: Now With More Real Egyptian!“), all the amenities known to man, but in the end, unless you can give your guests the one thing everyone wants (sex), you have to rely on customer service to set you apart from the ridiculously-overcrowded hospitality pack. In my almost-two decades as a bellman I’ve encountered hundreds of repeat guests who have had dozens of hiccups during their stay but keep coming back to the hotel because of the personal relationships they’ve forged with staff.

Never underestimate the value of the personal touch, kids. The average guest interaction lasts for a few minutes but as I always tell my wife, you’d be amazed at what can be accomplished in a few minutes.

Moving on…

As important as customer service is, there are moments when it has to take a backseat to karmic justice. I’ve always believed that the energy you expel into the world will be returned to you – so it certainly helps to pump positive energy out as often as you can. Sure, everyone has a bad day, a day where your normal self becomes a raging D-Bag, but unfortunately, for some folks those days are the norm.

I served a woman yesterday who refused to let go of her negative thoughts. In fact, it appeared as though she was bound and determined to have a terrible vacation.

She wore a miserable expression when she walked through the hotel’s $250,000 revolving door.

She spewed venom when she realized her group was too early to check in and her only recourse was to store their luggage at the Bell Desk.

And her demeanor definitely didn’t improve when I brought their bags out from our storage room.

The doorway leading out of our backroom is of average size but with a dozen luggage carts sitting on the other side, it can sometimes be a bit tricky to navigate a fully-loaded cart from the storage room to the lobby.

Plus, I’m a dumbass, so…

And so I was not a bit surprised when the cart I was pulling lost a brown paper shopping bag. It fell face down from its perch on top of a pile of jackets, landing on the marble floor a mere foot from it’s original location. All in all, no big deal, right?

Not quite.

I picked the bag up and its contents spilled out: Two scarves and an iPad in a hard pink plastic cover. And then, friends, all hell really broke loose.


This woman definitely didn’t epitomize grace under pressure, did she? Her husband remained calm. Her female friend remained calm. Her friend’s male companion remained calm. I remained calm.

But she lost it.

And that set me off. I refused to engage my customer service skills, choosing instead to educate the raving lass in simple travel survival skills.

“Electronic devices aren’t cheap these days, miss… to say the least.  If you’re going to bring your tablet with you, you really need to pack it in something other than an open paper shopping bag.”

The look on her panicked face said it all: She was expecting me to grovel for forgiveness, not school her. But school her I did… big time.

Her husband just stood there, frozen with fear, as she ran over to our desk and examined her precious tablet. Which, by the way, was perfectly fine. Their friends asked her husband to begin removing bags, but he honestly didn’t have the guts to do so.

Eventually, he pitched in and the trio removed everything. He tipped me. (The ultimate sign of a job well done. No one tips you if they’re pissed off.)  Their friends thanked me several times as she continued to wait for an apology that wasn’t gong to materialize. They left a moment later and I basked in the adoration of my colleagues who were once again in awe of the size of my… nerve.

She may never return to the hotel. If I’m lucky.

Another day at the salt mines.

See you in the lobby, kids…


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More Travel Tips From The Hook.

As any detective or reporter worth their salt will tell you, the key to understanding a subject often lies not in what they have to say, but rather what they throw away.

For example, I spent precisely thirty seconds examining the temporary occupants of Room 4257 when they checked in two days ago, and all I gleamed was this:

  • She was a young, statuesque Italian girl who loved to show a ridiculous amount of leg and whose cleavage was a thing of beauty.
  • She was vain and loved the attention her fashion choices garnered from those around her.
  • He was a young Tony Soprano, heavy-set and so Italian his veins most likely contained Ragu spaghetti sauce rather than blood.

Not much to go on is it?

A cursory glance really doesn’t reveal much. Were they decent young people? Did they like to get freaky? Did they like their drink? Were they boring or party animals?

However, when they checked out and their room was cleaned, the picture became clear. I rolled my luggage cart past their room this morning and I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the contents of their room’s refuse.

  • A box of incredibly-cheap wine.
  • Several bags of chips and candy.
  • A pair of fuzzy handcuffs.
  • Three Magnum condom wrappers.
  • One bottle of Reddi-wip, real whip topping.
  • A bottle of Astroglide lubricant.
  • Two pairs of ladies underwear so cheap and trashy, even a hooker would have second thoughts about donning them.

And finally.. the pièce de résistance – two of ’em, in fact…

  • One empty package for a male “Seal Team Hero” costume.
  • One empty package for a female sheep onesie costume.

No, you didn’t have yet another acid flashback; there really was a female sheep onesie costume in their garbage bag. At least they were practicing safe – but nutty – sex, right? Just an aside: It’s amazing how many cans of Reddi-wip I’ve been bringing into the hotel lately. Funny thing is, guests never seem to have any food to go along with their real whipped cream topping. Hmm…

tumblr_mch5a6kkhh1qzx4bjo1_500It’s definitely not just for Halloween anymore, kids…

So what have we learned, folks? There’s nothing wrong with getting freaky on vacation… but if you want to keep it undercover, you better bring a few industrial strength garbage bags.

As always, the advice is free. I’m just happy to enlighten the traveling public.

See you in the lobby, kids…


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This is a blast from the past, courtesy of some much-needed blog archive housekeeping. Thanks again, NaBloPoMo.


AUGUST 28, 2012

The last few days have been particularly rough at the hotel. Summer is beginning to fade away but the truly “special” guests continue to emerge from the trailer parks, the hospitals, the projects, etc. It is a challenging time to serve the traveling public – to say the least.

I should be used to the routine by now, but every day brings a new challenge and thus new headaches. And so it was that on this day I retreated to my usual hiding place, my “Fortress of Solitude”, the local casino’s food court, conveniently located a short walk away from my personal Thunderdome.


Yes, believe it or not, you can actually find some solitude in a casino – if you know where to look. I have a little corner I hole up in for a half-hour every day and it is glorious. There, the crazies can’t find me.

But there’s no hiding from fate. In this case, fate dropped a quiet, unassuming, man named Larry into my life to serve as a reminder of how little we truly understand about our very existence.

And how fragile and brief it can be.

LARRY:  That sure smells good.

His simple observation roused me from my usual routine of scanning The National Post while chomping away at two slices of pizza. I looked over my shoulder to see a white-haired man in his golden years with a wide grin on his face and plenty of life in his eyes.

Or so I thought at the time.

THE HOOK:  Yeah, it’s pretty good. You can get some just around the corner in the food court..

LARRY:  Oh no, I’m not allowed. Do you know what a brain aneurysm is?

You have to admit, Larry knew how to employ a helluva ice breaker.

THE HOOK:  Sure.

LARRY:  Well, I have one.

Obviously, I was set back but I soldiered on.

THE HOOK:  And you have to amend your diet in order to deal with something like that?

LARRY:  You have to amend your whole life!

He pointed out his medic alert bracelet and informed me of his “Do Not Resuscitate” status. I really didn’t know what to say, but that didn’t matter; Larry wasn’t finished…

LARRY:  They told me I had three months to live.

I really didn’t want the answer to my next, oh-so-obvious query, but I had to keep going.

THE HOOK:  And how long do you have left?

LARRY:  Three days.

What the hell do you say to that? I wanted to point out that Niagara Falls, in spite of all its wonder, may not be the ideal place to spend your personal End of Days. A casino definitely isn’t suitable, unless you’re going to go out enjoying all the usual vices a casino contains, but this man didn’t seem the type. He seemed honorable and decent; the kind, funny neighbor or the shopkeeper at the end of the block.

Larry came to my rescue again and kept talking.

LARRY:  A bunch of my buddies from Waterloo brought me here on the bus, They’re upstairs gambling.

It seemed strange to me; a dying man’s friends bring him out for one last adventure and then abandon him to gamble, but I had to take Larry’s account at face value. Besides, people are capable of anything and are easily tripped up when dealing with such grim matters, so who can judge a man’s last wish? Certainly not I.

Larry excused himself abruptly, having spotted his friends. He joined them and together they walked off, out of my life forever. Almost.

I lingered for a few minutes, pondering the surreal events of the previous few minutes. I immediately realized the inescapable truth: These things happen every day to me. Why should I be surprised at all?

And so I returned to the hotel – and my life as usual… which is far from usual. Coincidentally, I’ve been to the casino many times but I never returned there for lunch again.


This post has been sitting in my archive for years. I don’t remember why I never published it. I think it may have been too much for me to process at the time. Years later, I would watch the greatest man I’ve ever known leave this world for whatever, if anything, that lies beyond. That experience changed me profoundly.

Now I feel I can deal with anything, and so I’ve been reading this post with a sort of emotional detachment. I’m finally ready to publish it.

Wherever you are, Larry, sorry for the delay.

See you in the lobby, kids…


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Not-so-Great Moments in Parenting: Hook Edition.

My parenting formula is as follows:

  • 100% Good Intentions.
  • 50% Blind Luck.
  • 50% “Go Ask Your Mom!”

Hey, if Lou Ferrigno can give 150%, I can give 200%! Besides, my good intentions don’t actually count…

But getting back to me, I’m the first to admit that I would not only be lost without my wife’s influence, I most likely would too busy attending parent/teacher conferences to blog at all. I do my best, but my daughter is a wonderful, healthy and joyful human being largely due to the influence – and medical attention – of my wife.

p_fEvery play-date I’ve ever supervised…

Here then, are a few of my parenting milestones, beginning with sentences that should have died in my throat.



What was I thinking? The kid has the following items in her dwelling:

  • One 32-inch, flat-screen television with one hundred channels.
  • Two million DVDs. My math may be slightly exaggerated; that figure is based on the number of times I’ve had to open my wallet in the electronics department of Walmart…
  • One DVD player. Lucky for her, right? Otherwise those movies and boxed sets of Supernatural would be tainting her daily.
  • One CD player and five thousand CDs.
  • Sixty-five Monster High dolls and dozens of Funkos. If you’re unfamiliar with the Monster High franchise, look it up. I did so when I realized the funds normally devoted to my weekly comic book  run were being diverted to pay for a doll named Draculaura, which I still maintain sounds like a Gothic stripper.
  • One iPad.
  • One laptop.
  • One netbook.
  • An incalculable number of miscellaneous items.

I’d love to be sent to her room. Especially since I paid for everything in it.



Once again, I really should know better. The scenario plays out the same every single time.

  • She poses a question designed to mess with my head, like “What’s dry-humping?”.
  • I send her off to my long-suffering wife.
  • My wife counters with “What did he say? BOY!!”  Yes, she calls me “Boy”. Don’t ask.
  • Our daughter returns and I make my wife regret her course of action by breaking the cardinal rule of parenting” I tell my daughter the truth.
  • My daughter returns to my wife and the roof lifts from the house as my wife pulls me aside and scrispers to me –  a “scrisper” is the tone that lies between a whisper and a scream – “Really? You can write a book and blogs but you can’t come up with a lie good enough to fool a kid?”
  • I slink away, my head hung in shame.
  • I get over it pretty quick.



I always swore those words would never pass my lips in a parenting context, but so much for vows. I think the desire to drag our offspring down Memory Lane is encoded into our DNA. Unfortunately, in the storied history of parenting this tactic has never succeeded. Except for eliciting eye rolls, it’s great for that.

The truth is, our kids don’t care about what we went through. You know how I know that? Because we didn’t care what our parents went through. The circle remains unbroken.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t quite apply; its more like “It’s broke… but maybe it’s better this way.”



This one never works. 

Case in point: I took my daughter to see Iron Man 3 years ago and the instructions from my wife were quite clear: “Share a popcorn between you and that’s it! We have to watch our spending!”

Of course you know what happened.

Two slices of pizza happened. A ginormous popcorn with butter happened. And a bladder-buster size pop happened.

She enjoyed herself, but eventually, my daughter cracked and sang like a jailhouse informant. I faced my judge, jury and executioner with my head held… mighty low.. (At least she’s damn hot!)

So be it. It certainly won’t be the last time…

In closing, I’ll tell you what I always tell my wife when called upon to answer for my parenting misfires:


“In my defense… I mean well. And I love you”


Hey, I’ve never claimed to be Perry Mason.

See you in the lobby, kids…


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Packing 101 With The Hook.

Packing for a trip isn’t rocket science, kids. (Otherwise, I sure as hell wouldn’t be writing about it.) But if it was, I’d let Commander Chris Hadfield write this post. Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be a bad idea, really?

How about it, Chris?

You couldn’t possibly know it, but the space between paragraphs and the sound of crickets that no doubt filled your head just now was meant to signify the time that burned up while I waited for a response from Commander Hadfield. A response that, much like the drunken hotel guest that lost his wallet after ordering two prostitutes, never came.

Moving on…

I recently served a ridiculously ignorant, inbred (I’m assuming), mid-Western, cornbread-eating, Duck Dynasty-worshiping, schmuck who expected me to load the following items onto my luggage cart:

  • 2 filthy pillows, rampant with germs of every variety, no doubt.
  • 6 toddler-size winter coats – that had been dragged through the rain and mud, ‘natch.
  • 4 giant, ripped plastic bags of birthday presents with tattered wrapping. (Use quality paper if you plan on transporting your birthday gifts, folks.)
  • 1 fold-up child’s camping chair. Pink.
  • 3 toddler-size Disney suitcases that appeared to have been mauled by the snow monster in Frozen.
  • 1 vintage Eighties boom box.
  • 2 playpens.
  • 1 garbage bag/suitcase.
  • 5 duffel bags of varying sizes.
  • 2 large, damaged boxes (without lids) of insanely cheesy birthday/Christmas ornaments and tinsel.

Just to provide you with a frame of reference (because that’s what I do), here’s what the average luggage cart looks like.

See my issue?

Well, okay, that’s far from my only issue, but we don’t have the necessary time and space to discuss my issues.

Or even a tenth of my issues.

But at least now you have an idea of some of the challenges facing a modern bellman. Fortunately, two decades (nearly) in the hospitality trenches have left me with uncannily-brilliant packing skills.

Which I will now share with you for the bargain-basement price of… absolutely nothing. Which no matter how you slice it, is a helluva deal.

As I said before, packing for a trip isn’t rocket science, but from what I’ve seen in eighteen years, it’s not common knowledge either. So let’s scratch the surface together, shall we?

 1)  Purchase actual suitcases!  I’ve said it before, yes, but whether you like it or not, I’m saying it again: Suitcases are ridiculously-expensive but worth their weight in gold. Yes, you could borrow some but if you plan on taking more than one trip in your lifetime you really need to do your homework online, find some bargains and buy your own set of luggage.

Laundry baskets, coolers that look like they lost a fight with God, Hefty garbage bags, Home Depot shopping bags, none of them hold a candle to an actual suitcase.

But be beware: Not all suitcases are constructed to the same standards; the extendable handles usually malfunction before you can put them back down. The same sort of thing happened to a colleague once and he was left with an extendable “handle” that he couldn’t get back down no matter how much effort his girlfriend put into it. (And from what I was told, she really tried.)


2)  Pack clean pillows – and pack them in plastic sleeves!  I suppose I can understand why some people would be more comfortable with their own pillows rather than the hotel variety but I’ll never understand why someone would willingly expose their pillows to innumerable forms of bacteria during transport. You put your face on your pillow, folks! Keep it clean! And for Pete’s sake, wash the sucker before it leaves your house!

3)  Contrary to popular belief, here’s nothing wrong with using bags to transport your belongings/food/spirits/sex toys.  Just use strong cloth bags with long handles rather than those of inferior plastic design. High-end luggage carts have hanging bars that allow a bellman to safely transport over a dozen bags, depending on the size – and whether or not the bellman is a complete tool, of course.

But a word of caution: Never pack sex toys in a plastic bag or a bag that cannot be zipped up. I don’t wear gloves, so if your vibrator, butt plug or any other item that is designed to be inserted into your body falls out? Well then you’re on your own, you sexy freak.

4)  Boxes are fine – if they’re stronger than Kris Jenner’s grip on her sanity.  Make sure the flaps can be closed. (That reminds me of another Kris Jenner joke… on second thought, never mind.) Ensure the box isn’t going to open from the bottom when I pick it up. Never use a box that’s been sitting on your porch in the rain for weeks. Do all of these things and you’ll live to see the end of your check-in experience.

5)  Garment bags actually exist, kids.  Although for some inexplicable reason, people seem to dislike them intensely. And so they transport their clothing on flimsy hangers that fall off my cart and land on the dirty ground. Then people seem to think they can blame me and get away with it. Stupid people. If you can afford booze and sex toys, you can afford a few garment bags, kids.

6)  Shoes belong in boxes or strong bags!  I have colleagues who refuse to handle a guest’s loose shoes. I certainly don’t blame them; I nearly passed out while handling a pair of Nikes last week. We lose more good bellmen that way…

7)  Pack what you need – and only what you need!  Don’t go crazy with the notion that you need to bring everything you own with you on vacation. That’s just crazy talk, man! I realize it’s no fun but be rational when packing. The life you save could be your own.

8)  Don’t pack like you own a cube van… when you actually own a Honda Accord.  If you can’t fit it in, no amount of pushing, grunting or thrusting is gonna help. Wait, that’s what my father told me before my first date… What the hell were we talking about?

Oh yeah, packing your luggage into your vehicle. Sorry about that. Anyway, be sensible and pack according to the amount of space you have available.

And speaking of space…

9)  Clean your car out before leaving your driveway – especially your trunk!  Seriously, get the garbage, the plastic bags, coffee cups, dead hookers, live hookers and whatever else you have festering in your trunk out of there. STAT!

A clean car makes for a more enjoyable trip and provides extra space you’ll desperately need. So get cleaning, baby!

And finally…

10)  Take your time!  Don’t race around like a Kardashian with its head cut off. Catch your breath, make a packing list and don’t rush when it comes to preparing yourself for travel. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway to your destination or worse, arriving at your vacation spot and realizing you’ve forgotten your phone, your favorite outfit or even your favorite child.

I hate when that happens.

And that’s it. We’ve officially scratched the surface of the packing enigma. I’ve kept you long enough, you may go now.

See you in the lobby, kids…


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Have I Learned Anything From NaBloPoMo?

This is how they got me:

If 50,000 words seem like 49,000 too many or you’re more interested in blogging than writing a book, NaBloPoMo — National Blog Posting Month — might be your speed: a challenge to post once every day for the entire month of November. No theme, no word count, no rules; just you, your blog, and 30 new posts.

Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it?

Until you realize… I have to write every day for the entire month of November? That’s a lot of posts, kids.

But we’re more than halfway through the month and I’m hanging in there so far. The Big Question is: Have I grown as a blogger? A person? Have I learned anything?

Let’s see, shall we?

 1)  Scheduling is everything The “Schedule” feature on my WordPress blog has saved my Canadian bacon this month. It is November 9 as I write this but you won’t it won’t go “public” (if one can refer to ten readers as the “public”) until the 19th or 20th. Which, by the way, is the closest I’ll ever come to time traveling like Doctor Who.

For me, being able to write posts ahead of time and let them publish at a predetermined schedule is key to this whole endeavor; as a dad/husband/bellman/nerd/hack writer, I never know how much free time I’m going to have.

2)  Even half-baked posts can be useful someday.  Thanks to NaBloPoMo I’ve pretty much cleaned out all the half-realized posts that were languishing in my blog’s archive. Not that I’ve been throwing just anything out there for your enjoyment; every post in my archive has needed some tinkering and updating but at least they’ve given me a head start.

3)  NaBloPoMo is a lot of work – but it’s a helluva lot easier than NaNoWriMo.  For me, at least. After the crap-on-a-cracker that was my first book, it’s taken me years to write a second book that I can be proud of. Now I just have to finish uploading it to Wattpad…

So NaBloPoMo is a godsend for a hack like me.

4)  It’s actually fun to see your blog stats rise during November.  Publishing every day really does have a significant impact on one’s stats, which is always good for the ego, which leads to increased self-confidence, which leads to better product (posts). I love it when everyone wins. don’t you?

5)  You can’t go wrong with a pic of Stana Katic.  A single pic of the Castle hottie will get your stats rising. Not to mention other things…

Unfortunately, half my WordPress pics aren’t working right now.

My life sucks sometimes…

6)  And GIFs of Stana Katic?  Well, they’ll put you over the top! Your stats, I mean.

tumblr_ne0mx5wAC21sgz07oo1_500I don’t know the name of the picture the image above was taken from… but I’m betting it’s “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”.


7)  It’s healthy to challenge yourself occasionally.  A little (controlled) stress can be good for the soul.

I’m a bellman in a thousand-room hotel.

I’m a dad to a teenaged girl.

I’ve been married for over twenty years.

I’m used to stress (to say the very least), but not everyone can say they carry the same load, so NaBloPoMo is a great way to test your limits without actually risking that giant aneurysm you’ve been dreading ever since they cancelled Cop Rock. Thirty original (mostly) ideas for thirty days is a great way to put your creative engine through its paces.

8)  But I’m still going to be glad to see November 30th!  This has been fun but I still have a ways to go, so I need to get to work on tomorrow’s post.

Oh, more more thing…

9)  NaBloPoMo has made me realize I make the rules on my own blog!  Who says you have to always have ten things on a list?

And just so my female readers don’t feel slighted…












Never say I don’t love you, ladies.

See you in the lobby, kids…


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Never Judge A Celebrity By His Cover.

In my almost-two decades of service to the hospitality industry I’ve seen the best and worst celebrity has to offer.

O.J. Simpson appeared to be unbelievably-grateful for the smallest amount of attention. To be fair to The Juice, he was kind, generous and super-friendly during the two separate occasions he stayed at the hotel. And now he’s languishing in a prison cell.

Pink gave strict orders to management: keep staff away, so as not to alienate the husband she had just reconciled with at the time. Sweet, when you think about it, though I didn’t feel that way at the time.

DJ Jazzy Jeff was a douche. Period. I’m usually fine with being ignored. And I’m usually fine with being stiffed. (Mostly.) But when you ignore me and stiff me? Well then, you’re on my list.

The Air Supply guys aren’t the greatest conversationalists (or tippers), but much like their music, they’re okay.

And then there’s Vincent Pastore. Yeah, he brought  Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero, one of the roughest, toughest Made Men in all of Jersey, to life on The Sopranos, but in real life he’s one of the nicest, most accessible actors you could ever hope to encounter.

I first met Vinnie (as he prefers to be called) last year at Big B Comics in Niagara Falls, of all places. He was there signing autographs and posing for pictures to raise money for Light of Day Canada, an annual benefit concert for Parkinson’s Disease Research and Patient Care. My daughter wanted to get his autograph for her grandfather, John, a huge Sopranos fan. John, as longtime readers will recall, suffered from emphysema in the last five years of his life which restricted his mobility terribly. A proud man, John, was self-conscious about venturing outside with an oxygen tank so my daughter took it upon herself to secure a picture and autograph for her grandfather. 

Vinnie was so touched by her act of kindness he posed for a picture with the entire family – for free.

“Hey, let’s gather round here, folks! We’ll take a Christmas card photo with Big Pussy and the family!”

Not only was Vinnie quick on his feet, he was damn generous; I’ve seen celebrities charge over a hundred dollars for posed photos.

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 29: Actor Vincent Pastore attends the premiere of ''Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!'' at the Directors Guild Theatre on October 29, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – OCTOBER 29: Actor Vincent Pastore attends the premiere of ”Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!” at the Directors Guild Theatre on October 29, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

So as you can imagine, I was overjoyed when I ran into Vinnie on a recent Thursday night in front of the hotel’s North Tower elevators. He was in town to emcee another benefit concert. Vinnie’s a helluva humanitarian – for a Wise Guy.

VINNIE:  Hey! How do I get to room 3434, buddy?

His Bronx accent was as thick as a New York pizza (whatever that means), and it was glorious.

ME:  You can’t get to room 3434, sir!

In retrospect, it probably wasn’t a good idea to tell a Made Man what he can and can’t do…

VINNIE:  Oh yeah? Why?

For a brief-but-ridiculously-uncomfortable-moment, I honestly thought I was in trouble.

ME:  Because it doesn’t exist! You must mean room 3454.

Big Pussy didn’t look impressed by my humor. Not one bit.

VINNIE’S TRAVELING BUDDY:  Hey, Vinnie! I’m in room 3455… so you gotta be next door in 3454!

Satisfied with that logic, Vinnie moved on.

VINNIE:  So how the hell do we get there?

I decided to play it straight this time.

ME:  I’ll be happy to take you up there myself!

And so we rode up to the thirty-fourth floor while Vinnie admired the poster for the hotel’s Brazilian steak house, that we keep enclosed under glass – to keep people from drooling on it, of course. I took it upon myself to break protocol and engage Vinnie man-to-man rather than man-to-bellman.

 I told him about my daughter’s gift to her grandfather.

I told him how it brought tears to his eyes.

I told him just how much that picture meant to him in his final months of life.

And I told him that he wasn’t just an actor on a television drama.

“The work you do affects some people on a deeply personal level. There are people who for one reason or another, can’t get out of bed or their easy chair. To those people, television is their only conduit to the outside world. To those people, their favorite programs are lifelines.”

By the time I was done, I was verklempt. He was verklempt. (Which may be more embarrassing for an Italian.) His buddy was verklempt. We were all done for.

VINNIE:  Hey, Robert, you come to my room and I’ll give you some pictures!

ME:  Well, I’m on a call right now… and I don’t want to bother you –

VINNIE:  Don’t worry about it! I’m here for a few days, so come by! And listen, you tell your wife ‘Vinnie says hello and he sends his deepest condolences.’ You’ll do that right?

One simply doesn’t say no to Big Pussy. Not more than once anyway.

But I didn’t drop by his room. The last thing I wanted to do was bother such a kind and generous guy – from the Bronx.

But on the last day Vinnie was with us, our paths crossed again after his concert ended. He had to rush back to New York for a film shoot but he found the time to stop and chat again. I thanked him once more and he insisted I take a picture.

“For yourself this time, Robert.”

And so I watched him drive off, my admiration and respect for him growing by the minute. And then a thought occurred to me:

“Dad would have loved to hear about this.”

See you in the lobby, kids…


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