Camille sweetly invited me to a lavish New Year’s Eve dinner at The Mark Hotel. I had never been before and only knew The Mark Restaurant as Nora Ephron’s favorite eatery. When I asked Camille, why there, she said it was the most glamorous hotel of them all.
This took me back a bit since I know how much she loves The St. Regis since it was Orson Welles favorite hotel (Citizen Kane is her second favorite film, Clueless being the first). When I tried putting up a fuss knowing how pricey it was she told me politely but firmly to shut the fuck up and get dressed.
When I opted for a little skirt and blouse she practically fell down. “What, are we visiting the convent? Put on a dress and heels…hurry up.”
What you have to understand is, there were 3 sittings: 5, 8 and 10. We could only get into the early one so I’m thinking, casual but chic, while she’s thinking, chic and let’s pretend we’re in Vegas.
Knowing it was futile to argue I switched into a little black dress and off we went.
I have to say, The Mark is very elegant despite the lobby floor making me dizzy with its horizontal stripe tiles. The bar and restaurant are to the left as you enter so luckily I was off the high seas in a flash.
One makes an entrance into The Mark Bar whether you want to or not. The room is lined by a string of banquettes with tiny Copacobana cafe tables in front of them so patrons can legitimately people watch. You’re appraised like a prized calf as you step into the room. Hmm, I thought, would be a good perch for me if I wanted to jump ship from Bemelmans.
Of course what the Mark does lack is history so there’s little chance of that happening.
We sat at the bar while our table was being readied sipping Kir Royals from crystal flutes. Camille, in her bright red Armani that fits like skin, was quite a hit. I on the other hand looked more subdued, by choice, never vying for that kind of attention.
Flypaper remember, regardless how expensive, picks up everything.
The waitstaff was right out of Downton Abbey doing everything but strewing rose petals in our path. Already buzzed from that one drink I say to the hostess like a tourist from Duluth, “This was Nora Ephron’s favorite restaurant…did you know that?” “Yes madam, indeed I did…she ate here regularly so I was lucky enough to seat her.”
I loved that answer – not meet but seat…so packed with grace and humility even though when she left Camille said, “She made that up Susannah…she probably doesn’t even know who the hell Nora Ephron is.”
“Was,” I said wistfully.
She didn’t have to ask me twice if wanted another drink or not. I love Camille, but sometimes her edge cuts too deeply into my soft underbelly.
Our waiter was a 7 foot Jamaican who never stopped smiling which was a little arresting since he had no front teeth. You could have driven a jeep right through his, ‘Would you care to see the wine list?’
He was so happy to serve us and couldn’t wait to help with our ‘culinary selections.’ Yes, he did say that. Of course when I saw the prices I wondered if smelling salts were anywhere on the menu.
“I know what I’m having,” Camille said like a famished millionairess, “lobster, lobster and more lobster.”
“Camille, this makes The Carlyle look like Nathans of Coney Island.”
“And, your point is?”
“The crispy sushi appetizer could pay my ConEd bill.”
“Relax. I just got a check from Aunt Hilda so don’t worry about it. It was for my condo payment.”
“Then you shouldn’t be spending it.”
“So what if it’s a little late. Let’s eat like queens, shall we? And if you don’t mind me saying Susannah you could use a meal. You’re thinner than I’ve ever seen you.”
How I love remarks about my weight since they totally take away my appetite.
“Oh look, it’s Dr. Crest, my dentist,” squealed Camille. (no, that’s not really his name.)
“You sound surprised. With what he charged you for those veneers he can afford to eat here.”
“Are the two ma-doms now ready to or-da?” asked the waiter. The two ma-doms huh? Why do I suddenly feel we should have walked in with women wearing fishnets and crushed velvet bustiers?
Camille ordered enough lobster to empty the tank while I went for the Dover sole. Our waiter couldn’t get over, “Rully, no appetiza fa you ma-dom? How does a shreemp cocktail sound…our shreemp are famous for its size,” he said with bouncy brows.
Where have I heard that before?
“Oh just bring her one,” said Camille who couldn’t stop staring at her dentist.
“Camille, maybe you should just go say hello and get it over with. I know what you’re up to by the way. You want to get a good look at his wife.”
“I could pop by on the way to the ladies room, now couldn’t I?”
What I’m leaving out is that Camille and Dr. Crest had a little fling during the veneer installation process. I’ll admit, he is very good looking and she just couldn’t help herself. He made her smile, she said…which is what I like to think of as her ‘explanation of benefits’ since he certainly did, in more ways than one.
After our first course she floated over there. I had to laugh since you know this was every philandering doctor’s worst nightmare. Of course Camille would never have done a thing to embarrass him, at least not purposely. (Oh who am I kidding?)
Women can smell a predator, past or present, a mile away so I wondered how Mrs. Crest was going to handle a floating Camille.
“Well, I certainly don’t like her,” Camille said when she returned. She told me it was much too early in the evening to be wearing such a loud shade of red, even on New Year’s Eve.”
“Uh-oh…and what did you say?”
“That all men love this dress…even dentists. I then suggested she get one.”
“Camille, you didn’t?”
“Don’t worry, it was more playful than bitchy.”
“Is that why she just hit him with her menu? Look, they’re fighting.”
“I’m sure it’s over food. He probably told her red stains.”
“Wine…as in wine.”
After our mega meal that could have fed me for a month we had dessert: Profiteroles for 2 that was more like 22.
“Watch this,” said Camille as our very own Harlem Globetrotter took a carafe of steaming melted chocolate and poured it from 4 feet above our heads.
“Isn’t that amazing?”
“It certainly is…and messy,” since it splattered on the linen, not that you could see anything it was so dark.
“You know Camille, this would be a perfect place to have a hot affair. I mean it’s dark and smoky. Everyone is so discreet it’s practically criminal. By the way, before I forget, when were you ever here?”
While waiting for an answer I watched her peel fifties from her wallet like a seasoned croupier, a smirk slyly settling in. Then it hit me.
“You met the dentist here, didn’t you?
“Did you think we did it while I was numb in the chair?”
Just then our waiter came over to tell Camille how delightful it was having her. Now I was really suspicious.
“Camille, you didn’t sleep with him too, did you?”
“Don’t be ridiculous…but what I did do was give him Dr. Crest’s card and told him to ask for Marci.”
“Mrs. Crest,” we both said in sick unison.
“I think it’s time to go.”
As we stood beneath The Marks awning saying our goodbyes I couldn’t help getting a little sentimental. I was drunk after all.
“You know Camille, this was an evening I will long remember,” I said, giving her a quick hug that was more like a half nelson, “and for the record, I’m very grateful that we’re friends.”
“Me too Thin…when they toss me out of my condo you can visit me at the shelter.”
“That’s not funny.”
“Sure it is….Happy New Year,” she screamed from the cab window.
“A taxi for you Miss?” asked the doorman.
Ah, my last Miss of the year.
“No thanks…think I’ll walk a while.”
Flipping up the collar of my old Burberry…
that’s exactly what I did.