The year was 1995. Or maybe it was 1996. Perhaps my memory is fuzzy on that detail because it’s so clear on the rest.
I was young and fresh. Sort of cute maybe, but not cosmopolitan. My Scranton roots showed. I lived in Manhattan‘s Gramercy Park neighborhood where my rent was $950 per month and my entry-level salary was $25,000 per year. I was poor but somehow unconcerned, a combination of parental subsidies and youthful bluster-slash-cluelessness.
I took a second job working part-time at the Broadway location of Equinox checking IDs for the cheaper membership as well as the extra money. Once I checked in Michael J. Fox, but didn’t realize until he had proceeded through the turnstile. It was only when his member photo popped up on my computer monitor, that I said “Oh” aloud, recognizing him. He was so little in person.
I used the little bit of Equinox cash I earned to purchase personal training sessions. Of course.
But working at Equinox did lead me to make a friend, Lara, who was working as a personal trainer before applying to grad school. She is what made this whole encounter happen. Lara, you see, was cool and sophisticated and also, fortunately, sweet. We went to the same university, but didn’t know each other. In spite of our coolness disparity, when we actually met our alma mater somehow made me pre-qualified for some level of friendship. I knew you’d be useful someday, Cornell.
One of Lara’s friends, another personal trainer, was dating a Big Name Celebrity. He was a famous actor then, and he’s in the super-famous realm now. I’m not naming him here because while they were dating, this actor went off and married someone else. Someone he is still married to.
Anyway. It was through this other girl and her actor boyfriend that Lara and I had access to some primo nightlife. The spot of the moment was Morgans at the hotel of the same name. When we made our plans to go, I was excited but nervous.
My nerves dissipated once the burly doorman admitted Lara and me to the stairs leading to the subterranean lounge. We were in.
The dim room was seemingly lit primarily via a long bartender-less bar that glowed from within and divided the space diagonally. It was like nothing I had ever seen.
I wish I could remember what drink I ordered. My guess is that it was a glass of super sweet Riesling or something like a Screwdriver. Mixology wasn’t a ‘thing’ yet. Nor were phones with cameras so I don’t have photo proof of what happened next.
George Clooney walked in.
Lara and I had been promised excitement of the celebrity variety and we were not disappointed. Over time, others arrived including Jason Patric and David Spade. There were probably others, but Morgans was aiding and abetting celebrity privacy by keeping the space seriously dark.
George was friendly. We spoke a little about the movie he was in NYC to film, The Peacemaker. Lara and I did a shot with him. He circulated in the small room more than you might expect for a star of his caliber. Maybe it was just the times.
Once the shock wore off, I remembered that I had told my friend Sari that I would call her if Morgans were “good” and she should join us. Deciding that this definitely qualified as good, I pulled out my cell phone to dial Sari, but realized I didn’t get service underground.
Instead of going above ground to call and running the risk of not being let back in, I asked for a quarter to use the pay phone.
David Spade gave me a quarter. George told him to. I should have been flummoxed, or at least excited, but by this point in the night, nothing phased me.
Sari didn’t answer so I hung up before the answering machine did. David Spade’s quarter rolled out.
Returning to the lounge, I spotted George but not David.
“Where’s Spade*? I have his quarter,” I said.
As soon as the words escaped my mouth, I felt incredibly stupid. I might even have covered my mouth with my hand.
“Jen, I’ve seen his movies. Give him his quarter back.”
He could easily have left goofy, gawky me feeling dumb. But he didn’t. He called me by name. For one wonderful moment, I was in on George Clooney’s joke.
*I called him Spade because George did. Ballsy, eh?