Busboys on the Roof

Steve Butler—tall, pockmarked, with greasy-curly red hair—lurches from the milk dispenser in his gold and black-trimmed busboy jacket.

Grinning stupidly through smudgy eyeglasses, he flicks lit matches from a matchbook at Rich Bruestadt.

Bruestadt scowls.

“Knock it off!”

It’s early summer 1976.

Just another Sunday brunch at the Lafayette Club and all hands are on deck.

Butler continues raining down matches on Bruestadt. The trick here is to see how far you can go before you really piss someone off. Bruestadt flees in frustration, but when Butler tries it with Dan Rogers, they both get chased out of the kitchen to bellowing from Chef and the dishwashers.

Chef ran Sunday brunch with military precision. Bronx-born, he hulked over the oven and griddletops early, barking orders to the sous chefs. He had a porous and pustulant red nose made that way by a fondness for sipping white wine. In fact I recall seeing less of his culinary skills in action than hearing his lascivious tales from the East Coast involving fresh oysters, champagne and rock-hard genitals.

Also in the kitchen was the ancient and nearly deaf salad chef, June, and the dishwashers—Scott Smykalski, aka Schmuck, and Tom Higus, aka Gus, who used to yodel and holler and step outside to smoke a joint and stare blankly at the golf course.

Then there were us busboys: Dan, of course, who was somewhere near the top in seniority, Bruestadt and Butler; and Steve Weiland, with his awkward-shy demeanor; Mike Smith, Mr. Cool with his thick mane of black hair, sideburns, and the Sweet Ride Parked Right Outside.

If brunch reservations were full-up, the Grill busboys, Warren Nash and Dan Boll, were called in to help.

And, of course, there was me—who Chef affectionately called “Little Pup.”

Little Pup.

It’s been awhile. I chafed at it then, but now I smile.  (The photo below right is the newest Lafayette Club “Little Pup,” my high school friend Theron’s 16-year-old son Dakota, suited up for his night shift.)

On the other side of the Battle of the Brunch were the waitresses: old school in their uniform skirts and aprons with front pockets: Ida (whom I barely remember), Dorothy and Bernice, who had large knotty hands that only a gorilla could love. Dorothy was short and pug-nosed, chain-smoked, and bellowed, “Oh, youse boys!” whenever a stealthy busboy snuffed out her waiting cigarette.

Sunday brunch was a big deal. Club members counted on it after church or golf.

A buffet line formed at the south end of what was called “Peacock Alley,” which lead to the main dining room, and to the right of which was the ballroom.

We busboys had two functions: either “run” the buffet line, or “scrape” at the carts placed at two stations in the main dining room, just outside the swinging kitchen doors. Of course the favorite job was running, but it also involved serving from the line, and making sure Chef knew when dishes needed replenishing. Scraping meant hours of standing, racking dirty glasses, scraping plates full of cigarette butts in mashed potatoes—well, you get the picture.

Rewind to Sunday, March 28, 1976. Dan and I ran the buffet for brunch.

It was warm outside for late March, so Steve Butler had an idea.

At the standard end-of-shift break, when the busboys broke down the line and moved the leftovers to the kitchen, the staff—waitresses, dishwashers, golf caddies, maids, parking lot attendants—were able to plate-up and go eat lunch.

Dan had me grab some folding chairs along with my brunch plate and meet him in the Governor’s Room, the very uppermost conference room in the Club.

Butler had opened a window and moved a card table out onto the roof.

There we sat, outside the ritzy Lafayette Club in Minnetonka Beach, enjoying our meal like it was nobody’s business.

And Steve Butler had finally made himself useful.

~ by completelyinthedark on September 10, 2011.

One Response to “Busboys on the Roof”

  1. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Huge new post now being edited into a 2-parter, up next Friday! For now, enough brunch at this country club.


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