I play at a very rich hotel in Park Lane. I’m contractually not permitted to tell you it’s name, but I can share the stories.
When I was first booked to play there my agent sent me along to have a look and get a feel of the place first. To my astonishment he said
“Tara, take a male friend with you otherwise they’ll think you’re an escort and ask you to leave!”
What on earth?! I could tell from the start this was going to be interesting. I took a mate along with me and paid £30 for two standard gin and tonics! (urgh!)
I’ve been playing fairly casually at this bar for two years now. In my greenroom is Liberace’s piano, tucked away under a spiral staircase and left forgotten, mostly. I sit with her sometimes and imagine all the great concert halls she would have seen in her prime. It makes me sad to see her collecting dust.
Last week was a particularly interesting evening. Two very dressed up young ladies came to the bar. The first was a French lass with brown curly hair and by far the more beautiful of the two. She wore an elegant long black evening gown. Her friend, who was not French, wore a very fitted, short, black dress with see through mesh cut outs and had blonde hair and glasses. They hovered awkwardly for a minute, deciding where to sit, and finally settled for the bar table just across from me. To be honest, the hovering gave them away. They wanted to make sure everyone in the bar saw had seen them and noticed where they were sitting. They ordered a nice bottle of white wine and settled in.
Fairly soon, a well dressed American man went over to chat to them. He was middle aged with that Richard Gere kind of attractiveness. They were together for a good forty minutes or so, laughing and flirting. The gentleman preferred the French lady and I have to hand it to her, she had a coquettish charm that seemed to cast a spell on everyone in the bar. I thought they swapped numbers though I can’t be sure and then he somewhat reluctantly went on his way.
The blonde was somewhat forgotten in all of this. She busied herself with the bottle of wine.
At this point an old, short, grouchy man (who looked like a Jim Henson character) walked through the bar with two towering Amazonian models at least half his age, fingers intertwined like teenagers. They didn’t even pause, or smile; they just waltzed on through and out the other side. I had to stop myself from laughing! Do these men really think that decorating themselves with young, beautiful women makes them look good?! I feel so embarrassed for them! We always tend to criticize the females, calling them ‘vacuous’ and ‘gold diggers’, but I’m really more interested in the messed up attitudes of those men. How does one arrive at such a level of incomprehensible twatishness? When my husband wants to make a good impression he swaps his jandals (flip flops) for actual shoes! Women are not accessories.
There is a barman I’ll call Domingo. He always kisses my hand when I say hello. I’ve accepted it to be his way, but outside of “hello”, “goodbye”, asking for more water or for the house music to be turned off I don’t engage too much. Unlike in other places I play, I’m friendly at a distance with the staff at this hotel.
Domingo seemed to take particular interest in the blonde and was constantly refilling her glass and making jokes. She was drinking much faster than the French lass. Both of them were petite and I could see Blondie was starting to show signs of inebriation. I decided to keep an eye on her.
Two men came in and zoned in on the Blondie and Frenchy straight away. They pulled up stools and joined them. They were Italian. Soon they paired off and Frenchy went outside for a cigarette with the younger of the two men. The older, stockier man sat with Blondie. She was clumsily playing with his hands and trying her best to look coy and sexy and failing miserably. One minute she’s feigning offence at things he said and the next laughing loudly and flicking her hair. It was toe-curlingly embarrassing. All the while the man was filling her glass, almost between every mouthful. She had no idea how much she had consumed.
At this point I was starting to get mad. I wished Richard Gere would come back. He was respectful. This man was predatory.
Frenchy returned and she seemed then to notice how drunk her friend had become. She took her to the bathroom, I assume to have a word. They did this three times in about twenty minutes. The poor thing was trying her best to be as discrete as she could in the face of her friend’s buffoonery. Blondie was making love heart hand signs at Domingo and to my shock he seemed to encourage the behavior! The staff at this hotel would lose their jobs immediately if one was ever caught with a guest! The rules are next level strict! They don’t even let me drink wine!
The older man (we shan’t call him a gentleman) requested an Italian song. I told him I didn’t know any, but I would play a French song for the lady. I sung “C’est si bon.” Frenchy came over and leaned on the piano as I sang. I’ve never seen anybody pull off this move, though many have tried. She gazed into my eyes adoringly and I felt her compelling me to play along with her show. I closed my eyes and sang to myself. There are few things more awkward than singing love songs to a stranger at close range.
Back to Blondie, - by now she had flitted across to the other side of the bar and all but thrown herself into the arms of an unsuspecting, unfortunate looking man drinking red wine alone. Within seconds he had his hands on her derrière, drawing her close. The Italian was not happy. Frenchy made one last attempt to talk sense into her friend before finally giving up and going outside for a cigarette. This was when I finished my evening of playing.
As I was packing up I called Domingo over and asked him if Blondie was ok? (Clearly she was not.) He waved his hand dismissively. I was unimpressed. The Italian came over to flatter me. I could see he was desperate not to go home alone. I had no time for that kind of carry on. I packed up and left. On my way out I caught the manager and two of the floor staff and explained the situation in the bar to them. I told them that Blondie was very drunk in a rather predatory environment and they should keep an eye on her. They thanked me and said
“It’s so sad the way she is behaving.”
I nearly exploded!!!! I’d just spent four hours watching a group of men, one of whom was staff; deliberately and calculatingly get a woman drunk with one goal in mind and they tell me it’s sad the way she’s behaving?!. Here’s the thing about consent: you have to be of sound mind to give it! Blondie was off her head! I’m not suggesting that she was faultless in the whole affair – she was deliberately stirring the pot and making a nuisance of herself, but she has as much right as anyone to be drinking at a bar. Domingo should have cut her off long before I finished playing and no gentleman should ever take advantage of a woman in that state.
What do you think? What would you have done in that situation?