What the Doctor Ordered

Brunching with the Boys at Brennan’s. 

By Luke Robinson

January 28, 1990 was all set to be a fabulous day for a group of Alex City residents. A gaggle of Tallapoosa County’s elite had made their way down to New Orleans to witness Super Bowl XXIV featuring the Denver Broncos versus the San Francisco 49ers.

But no trip to the Crescent City’s Super Bowl is complete without first catching a little pre-game breakfast at Brennan’s restaurant, n’est pas? So this pride of Alabamians headed straight for that world famous establishment. Of course, every other human being with a credit card had the exact same idea, so it was packed. No worries, though. Time passes quickly when you’re able to have a Bloody Mary or two…or 10. Unfortunately, the bar area was just as cramped as downstairs and this left our heroes with very little elbow room.

After some impatient deliberation, one Alex Citian stood tall and nominated himself to find a Brennan’s maitre d’ and line his pockets with enough monetary incentive to expeditiously locate seating arrangements. That man is a famous lawyer in these parts. I am giving him an alias (Tim Radley) for this article, but the story is true.

So Tim ventured down into the throbbing mass hysteria that was the Brennan’s waiting area. It was hard to distinguish the hosts from the wait staff from the patrons. All Tim knew was that most Brennan’s employees were dressed to the nines, especially on Super Bowl Sunday. It was then that the eagle-eyed attorney  spotted a tall, expertly coiffed gentleman sporting a tuxedo. The handsome man towered above the throngs of people as he stood stoically off to the side. Tim  just knew this character was the head maitre d’. He just had to be.

So, with his Southern charm switched to “high” and a five dollar bill between his fingers, Tim introduced himself to the good-looking, well-dressed  gentleman by extending his hand. “Hello, sir, I am Tim Ridley—SENATOR Tim Ridley—and my friends and I would like a seat,” Tim explained. (Ridley was actually a state senator at one time, it should be noted. It should also be noted he wasn’t at this time).

The maitre d’ looked at Tim, completely perplexed.

Tim offered his hand again and repeated his request. Out of instinct, the gentleman shook Tim’s hand, but was miffed when he realized a five spot had been transferred to him. He looked at the five dollar bill and back at Tim a few times. Tim smiled and gave a smug wink.

The supposed maitre d’ then proceeded to wad  up Honest Abe and toss the bill back at Tim.

Now Tim was the one confused. He tried to clear up matters by making his bribe more official. “Perhaps you don’t understand,” said Tim. “I want you to take this five dollar bill and help us get a seat.”

This statement clearly upset the man, who demanded that Tim leave him alone.

Tim slunk back upstairs and told his buddies what had happened. No one could believe times had changed so much that a maitre d’ would be insulted by a small offering for a table. (Of course, five dollars at Brennan’s is an insult in any decade, but that’s another story).

So another volunteer went downstairs to try to sort out the situation. Five minutes or so passed before Tim’s friend made his way back up the stairs with a look of astonishment. He  gathered the entire Alex City crew,  then focused on Tim. “Do you realize what you tried to do?”

Tim said, “Yeah…pffft..get us a seat!”

The friend replied, “True…but what you also did was try to get Julius Erving to do it!”

The bar was dead quiet for five seconds before erupting in laughter.

Yes, Julius Erving. Dr. J. One of the most famous NBA players of all time. A 210 pound dunking machine who was Michael Jordan before there was a Michael Jordan. A hero to most and an idol to all.

Granted, Tim is not a sports nut, so maybe it is OK he didn’t recognize Julius. After all, Tim thought Bear Bryant was an Uncle Remus character for gosh sakes.

But Dr. J is Dr. J.

He stands 6’7” and is blessed with hands that could palm a small asteroid. I mean, shouldn’t the NBA Championship rings have tipped Tim off?

Eventually, we were seated and had a rather boisterous brunch. As we were leaving, a limousine longer than a Tolstoy novel zoomed past. It contained none other than Dr. J and a cavalcade of other celebrities I’m  sure Tim didn’t recognize.

I am just guessing that the good Doctor leaves the “my brush with Alex City” story out of his autobiography. 

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