I don’t remember the Chef’s name. I should, but I don’t. I remember everything else about him. He was a funny guy. We used his funny, made up words to communicate all throughout the day.

“Hey Mikey, do we need to shemp up the sliced cheese for the burger station, – or do you think we have enough for the rest of the night”?

“No Mike, – if there is a rush like yesterday we’ll be caught short.”

Yeah, I think his name was Mike, but I’m not sure. Was it Chuck?

He was a big, fat, freckled guy with balding red hair. He had a big nose that lacked definition. It sat on the middle of his face like a glob of nose shaped putty, and it seemed like he had trouble breathing through it. He was a talker, and a story teller, and the hatred he expressed for his wife was equaled only by the love he professed for his children.

If I remember this right, they lived together, but were divorced, – and they hadn’t told their kids.

Aside from washing dishes and prepping, all I knew of kitchen work was baking and pastries. I really wanted to develop the skills of a line cook; so I was happy to be there, … and of course – there were the girls. Right from the start I sensed that Mike, (I’ll call him Mike if that isn’t too confusing) …  Mike was lonely and needed a friend; and I think  that was the reason he was willing to train me, rather than hire someone with more experience. I guess I struck him as a good listener.

I’d been there before, – learning a new trade from a man that was recently divorced. I would be introduced to a set of new tasks; while being held prisoner to the story of a marriage gone bad. It was enough to give me second thoughts, but between the “dancers” and the cocktail waitresses there were more than enough reasons for me to stick it out and bear witness to the saga of Mike and the fat, stupid, selfish, bad mother turned lesbian he had married, – and divorced.

I thought I knew people.

I knew nothing!

The Gold Club was actually a really nice place. Clean and well appointed, it wasn’t the seedy, stale beer smelling joint that comes to mind when you think, – “strip club”. The lunch buffet we kicked out Monday through Friday was a great value, and was frequented by office workers from the financial district, – mostly woman. They turned the house lights up a bit for the lunch crowd, – the DJ played tame music, the dancers toned it down; and all in all, it was a respectable place to meet and eat lunch.

I opened and prepared the lunch buffet, – then worked the line during Happy Hour. It was a mellow gig.

At night it was a different story. But I wasn’t there at night. Let the food fly out of the kitchen, I didn’t care; all I had to do was show up at 8: 30 in the morning and get things ready.

I planed on spending my nights in the coffee houses and dive bars of San Francisco working on a stand-up comedy routine. I’d learned my lesson from the poetry debacle, and I was taking my time, getting to know the lay of the land.

I started my reconnaissance of The San Francisco Comedy Scene by waking up at 4:30 am, showering up, and going down to the end of Harrison Street to sit in the studio audience of The Alex Bennet Show. I didn’t try to meet anyone, or get autographs from any of the famous guests; I just showed up, sat down, laughed when appropriate … and took notes.

The best thing about The Alex Bennett Show was the way he had it structured, and the way he used the pool of local comedians. Comedy may have been dead at that time, but Cobbs’s Comedy Club and The San Francisco Punchline were institutions that could outlast any lull in the public’s appetite for live comedy. Alex would start the week using the young opening acts that would be performing at Cobb’s and The Punchline on Monday. On Tuesday mornings he would have  the Feature Acts, (usually, but not always a local comic). On Wednesday morning he would have the Headliners come in, and if there was good chemistry, on Thursday and Friday mornings he would have everyone that was performing at both clubs back to do panel along with politicians, porn stars, A list celebrities, and Penn Jillette.

It seemed like Penn Jillette came in did panel every other week, and I never tired of it.

I did the same thing at the open mics. I didn’t get on the list, and try to  go up and just “wing it”. The first thing that struck me about comedians was that they were, essentially, writers. They wrote jokes, bits,  and chunks. The best ones, or I should say, – the ones I admired most, told stories. And they weren’t told “off the cuff”, they were written. Crafted. Comedy is a craft! There might be a little improvisation in between the jokes, but for the most part stage time wasn’t wasted on fucking around. There were at least twenty comics waiting to go up and try out new material, and you wouldn’t make any friends wasting your five minutes on floundering around trying to be cute. Written material, edited, rewritten, tested on stage, tweaked, and rewritten again; taking out every extraneous phrase and word until what was left was pure comedy gold.

Gangsters, Strippers, and Big Mike …

Kate …

Sunday Night Showcase at The Punchline …

Kate’s warning …

Steve Neilsen’s Joke …

Big Mike turns out to be Big “Gay” Mike …

Kate’s Ultimatum …

I’m going to have to fictionalize this one for a couple of reasons. First of all,  can’t remember anyone’s name. But more importantly, because even though I know what happened and what was said, – I can’t know what others were really thinking and feeling. And there is one person in particular, that has gone on to have a life, and even though it is doubtful she (or anyone in her life) would ever read this; I don’t want to cause any friction for her, – no matter how remote the chance.

In a nutshell:

She was a cocktail waitress at The Gold Club.

Our shifts overlapped, and we worked together for a couple of hours, a few days a week.

She gave me some solid  advice, that, had I not listened to it, –  the door to Stand Up Comedy would have been slammed in my face, never to be opened again.

We were attracted to each other on a cellular level, our DNA cried out to be shuffled together; so much so that,  without even going out on a date, (or even spending any time alone)  we could feel our lives coming together at a crazy pace that was way beyond our control.

She was so good.

She was so beautiful.

She was so smart.

We sat together on the bar stools in the back of The Punchline knowing this, and then she had the wisdom and the guts to say:

“I’m not going to give up the best years of my life to some guy that is just going get up and leave me so that he go find himself!”

She was so good.

She was so smart!

And in a moment of immediate honesty and regret, I said:

“I couldn’t ask any woman to follow where life is taking me” …

She stifled the hurt, and took a deep breath.

“Well, thanks for not wasting my time. Good Luck.”

She was so beautiful and so strong!

… so yeah, gonna fictionalize that one. Also because, you know, strip club – organized crime …

Have A Nice Day!


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