It seems like just yesterday, Michael Patrick Gaffney and I were standing on the corner of Castro and Market in short shorts and tank tops hollering, “Coupons for Party! Who wants a coupon for Party?!?” In truth, that was 17 years ago, when we were at the beginning of our enduring friendship. We’ve acted together and we’ve catered together and I must say, in both situations, it’s a pleasure to be by his side. I asked him to guest blog and he graciously accepted. While not everyone has catered or waitered or cater waitered for a living, I think his story is universal. Who among us is living a life that turned out exactly the way they thought it would? Recently, a blogger friend of mine wrote, “What will survive us is Love.” I completely agree and I must say, I know few people that are as loving or as loved as my friend Michael Patrick Gaffney.
My Funny Cater Waiter
I was sitting in my therapist’s office on Tuesday…It’s worth noting that this is the therapist I have been trying to break up with for a few months now because he cried during my session TWICE! And he stood me up once and is quite aware of my abandonment issues. I have been dealing with an anxiety disorder for awhile now and he finally asked me, “What are you most afraid of?” I sat there for a moment and thought for awhile and finally I said, “I’m afraid I will become the oldest living cater waiter.
I am a professional stage actor but if I am to be brutally honest I have been making most of my living as a cater waiter for the past 17 years.
I started off in L.A. trying to make it as a film actor and worked as a waiter in restaurants until the infamous potato skin incident of 1989, which abruptly ended my career. When I moved up to San Francisco in 1996 a friend suggested I try catering work between theatre jobs. I signed up with a very high end company and began my new career as a cater waiter. I enjoy it for the most part and have been a part of some incredible events over the years. I have waited on countless celebrities and politicians including; Nancy Pelosi, Sean Penn, Christy Turlington, Hillary Clinton and Tabatha, from Bravo’s Shear Genius. And although I didn’t serve him dinner, at one fundraiser I met and shook the hand of President Barack Obama.
But as the years have gone on, I have found myself wearing a uniform more than a costume and my body has begun to tell the wear and tear of the often physical work and long hours. I find myself worrying about my future and how I will support myself. Will I become the oldest living cater waiter? Sometimes I think about how many weddings, fundraisers and bar mitzvahs I have done over the years. Some of them easy, most of them not so easy, and some of them down right grueling. I remember one particular wedding several years back. We were loaded onto a shuttle at 6am and driven down to Montecito to a 48 million dollar estate for a wedding that was rumored to have cost 5 million dollars. We worked for hours setting up the dining room and by the time the guests arrived I was exhausted and didn’t know how I would make it through the entrée course. I was assigned to the head table and had several celebrities to serve, including an unnamed romance novelist who chain smoked throughout the meal. By the time we dropped the entrée I was physically, mentally and spiritually spent. I was very close to tears and my white gloves were filthy with cigarette ash from replacing the ashtray for unnamed romance novelist. Suddenly I heard the voice of an angel singing my favorite song of all time, “My Funny Valentine”. I turned around and just a few feet from me was Etta James on stage. I just stood there smiling with the biggest lump in my throat and gave her a little wave with my filthy white glove and she looked at me and smiled. Time stood still and for a moment it was just Etta and me and Rogers and Hart. It is moments like these that make my career as the oldest living cater waiter all worth while.
Thank you, Etta…and bite me, unnamed romance novelist.