Saturday, July 21, 2007

Three Men Walk Into a Bar

The more hilarious time to be had at Tales of the Cocktail on Friday took place at 1 PM when three elderly men in seersucker and/or white suits, with the absurdly Southern names of Brobson Lutz, Prof. Kenneth Holditch and Doc Hawley gathered together in a Monteleone conference room to talk about the history of Galatoire's restaurant.

Together, the trio have sat down at Galatoire's roughly 14,000 times, downing countless Sazeracs and Old Fashioneds, and stretching their lunches well past 5 PM. They told how, in the past, the career waiters once ran the joint—in reality if not in name—and did the pouring, giving Galatoire's its once-well-deserved reputation for serving super-strong cocktails. Holditch told a story of how he once enjoyed a lunch with a reporter from Sports Illustrated who was mystified and alarmed when drinks and Cognac and finally a bottle a Champagne kept arriving at the table without anything having ever been ordered. Holditch calmed the journalist and instructed him not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Each man extolled the now-somewhat-faded tradition of regulars having dedicated waiters who served them over the course of years and decades, the two men inevitably developing a deep and jealous bond. One man mentioned often was Gilberto, whose firing a few years back over a sexual harassment case resulted in a firestorm of controversy for the restaurant. (Holditch, a retired professor, made the incredible assertion that he has "pushed" Gilberto through college by basically rewriting every one of his papers! There's a choice piece of New Orleans-style ethics for you.)

Another controversy resulted when new management decided that waiters could take on only so many exclusive clients. This resulted in a friend of Holditch being forced to accept a young server one day. He was not happy. The waiter asked for his drink order. He said "the usual." "What is your usual?" "Ask my usual waiter, Richard." The young pup asked Richard, and Richard replied, "I don't know until I look into his eyes."

It became quite clear over the course of an hour that the three men do not like the new management at Galatoire's, and believe their tradition-smashing policies are "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." For instance, people who wish to dine on the sought-after Friday before Mardi Gras may no longer hire surrogates to stand in line outside the restaurant, sometimes for days—a habit that had persisted for many, many years. Whether NoLa lawyers still send their secretaries to wait in line for the "lawyer's lunch" on Fridays, I do not know.

Holditch—a shrunken, bespectacled man who look and talks like Truman Capote's hirsute brother—is the most indignant, particularly since he wrote a book on the history of Galatoire's which the restaurant management is reluctant to display. Doc Hawley also made the point that the drinks are now poured with a little too much precision, leading to weaker libations. "Before, I would drink two Sazeracs and go outside and get in an argument with a lamppost. Now, I could drink three and go outside and preach a sermon."


Unknown said...

I am really enjoying your posts from Tales of the Cocktail. I am a native New Orleanian and love the Galatoire's sub-culture. I know Mr. Lutz from TV. He is a local medical reporter that stayed in the city during and after Katrina and was a great help in being the medic for the isolated city and reporting to its citizens via radio after the storm. (Like how to try and disinfect a maggot filled refrigerator, can you drink the water, is the soil safe, etc.) He is like the city itself. Complex, fun loving, very knowing, hedonistic yet hard as nails when it comes to his passion for the survival of this city. Don't let superficial impressions fool you.

MARDAB said...


Robert Simonson, "Our Man in the Liquor-Soaked Trenches"-New York Times. said...

Doctorj2u: Don't get me wrong. I developed a great affection for all three men within the first five minutes of the seminar. I'd love to talk to all of them at length, over many drinks.

Anonymous said...

I have met all three of these men and know two of them well. They should be considered treasures by the City of New Orleans, not only for their stories, but for their collective knowledge of the cultures and traditions that make the city as special as it is. You'd be hard pressed to find a trio, 'elderly' or not, who can beat these three in their willingness to share their wealth of information.