It was a media event two months in the planning, but it suffered from the restrictive qualities of a Baptist mixer. There was no yahoo there.
Then just as I was about to sneak away, a waitress dumped a tray of hors d'oeuvres over the back of a distinguished, silver-haired gentleman, and the party took off.
We were in the front showroom of Tiffany's in Beverly Hills. I had just been introduced to the patrician-appearing man when he bent over to pick something up off the polished floor.
At that precise moment, a waitress came smiling by and, apparently not seeing him hunched over, plowed right into him. Every goodie on the tray, including tiny pastry things and little pineapple yummies speared by toothpicks, went sliding off onto his $700 sport coat.
He came up from his bent position not quite sure what was going on, with the waitress rubbing frantically at his back and me staring at the grease spots and thinking what a great party-starter.
The press agent who introduced us just kept right on talking as though nothing had happened, the way press agents have done since Jesus hired Peter. The waitress disappeared from sight and has never been seen alive again.
Meanwhile, the food-spattered victim removed his jacket, looked at the stains, then put it back on without changing expressions. When I suggested he might send Tiffany the bill, he said, somewhat testily, "No, I won't do that." Hell, I don't care.
Up until then I had been characteristically ill-at-ease, since I am not often invited to major media events in Beverly Hills, and never to one at Tiffany's. But when the waitress dumped the canapes over the guy, I figured this was my kind of doo-dah and relaxed. Let the good times roll.
I was at a party in Oakland once where Raincoat Jones was being honored for his 25th vagrancy arrest and the hostess, annoyed at something he said, dumped a bowl of clam dip over his head. It was such a hit that at every arrest thereafter they had a clam dip party in which Raincoat was adorned with a bowl of the same. That's Oakland for you.
Anyhow, a breakfast at Tiffany's (get it?) was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Broadway, which seems a thin excuse for a party since they meant the Broadway in New York, but it did what it was supposed to do. Television cameramen rushed to the scene like wildebeests crossing the Masai Mara.
In fact, when someone from a public relations company invited me to attend, they extended the invitation to "you and your crew." It was a message left on my answering machine, so I had no opportunity to explain I wasn't a television station, and newspaper columnists traditionally do not have crews. We are sometimes given desks, but that's it.
One reason for the party being held where it was is that the Gershwins once lived in Beverly Hills, a fact pointed out by the town's mayor, Max Salter, who manages to be ebullient and feisty at the same time but, to the best of my knowledge, has never been arrested for drunk driving.
The stars of the musical "Crazy for You," James Brennan and Karen Ziemba, were the most important celebrities to attend the breakfast. "Crazy" is at the Shubert and is composed of Gershwin music, which is why Brennan and Ziemba were there, straining to look pleased and honored.
I wandered aimlessly through the crowd, trailed by my ghostly crew, and came face to face with John S. Petterson, who is vice president of Tiffany & Co. There are two ts in Petterson just as there are two fs in Tiffany. I'm not saying it took that to get the job of vice president, but if it were offered me there'd be two rs in Marrtinez.
We were chatting pleasantly, which is what you do with Tiffany executives, when a scruffy guy with a myopic squint shouldered up and said he was a free-lance writer with Der-Something from Frankfurt and would I mind if he listened in.
I said OK, but began to suspect his credentials when he asked to borrow a pen and some notebook paper and then spent most of his time reaching for the chow passing by on trays. He left well-fed but noteless.
During all of this, two fanfare trumpets blasted bits of Gershwin music from the roof of Tiffany's, adding a kind of surreal touch to the whole fetechampetre. James Brennan, who is from New Jersey, took it all in and said he thought he was beginning to like L.A. more, then added thoughtfully, "Maybe I'm just beginning to hate it less."
As I left, the valet-parker shut the car door on my foot. I couldn't help but smile to myself. He probably recognized me.