The dinner was on the books for a few weeks before Emily and I got dressed up and walked the few blocks to the fancy restaurant in the West Village where we were to meet Harris. He had been a good friend of Emily’s father, Carl, before he died, and now controlled his estate.
Needless to say, I wanted to make a good impression.
Emily was dressed in a beautiful purple dress and I wore a jacket and tie. We entered the restaurant on time and were shown immediately into an elevator and rode up to the third floor where Harris was already seated at a table with The New York Times out in front of him. He’s in his late 70s and dressed impeccably: pinstripe suit with pocket square and matching cufflinks. He has a full head of slicked-back grey hair.
He stood when we arrived and shook my hand firmly, immediately and smoothly sliding the newspaper onto the chair next to him. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to see him reading the newspaper. (Tip to youngsters: when you are meeting someone you need to impress, read the newspaper that day.)
At first it was a little bit awkward. Harris and Emily caught up and then he asked me about being a film editor. I explained precisely what it is that an editor does and what I was working on. It was all very formal and the waiter couldn’t arrive quickly enough.
“Good evening,” he said.
“We will have a drink before we order,” Harris said very clearly. He commanded service, something that was immediately clear to everyone, especially the waiter. Then the drink happened. Then, after confirming with us, he ordered a four-course dinner with wine pairing. We were in it for the long haul.
My face physically lit up when he finally asked if I had seen the article about the mayoral primary elections going on in the Times that day. I had actually, I replied, making a point of mentioning a detail. He nodded slowly in approval. So far, so good.
One thing that Emily had told me beforehand was that Harris refers to his ex-wives by “W-1, W-2 and W-3” and that he is currently single. That little gem of information was rattling around in my mind when a very tall attractive foreign woman in a red dress was suddenly standing over us.
“Hello,” she said to Harris.
“Hello,” he answered.
“I just had to come over and say goodbye.” Suddenly a bit of confusion on Harris’s face.
Searching for a name, I thought to myself. This must be the hostess at the restaurant, and he must come here a lot. Just call me Sherlock Holmes. Then…
“Can I ask you why you came over here?” a wrench from Harris.
“We were making eyes at each other earlier and I just couldn’t leave without giving you a kiss,” the woman in the red dress said.
“Would you mind if I gave you a kiss?”
“No, I don’t mind.” And with that she leaned in and planted a big red lip smack on Harris’s cheek.
“Goodbye.” And like that, she was gone.
Harris sat there in silence. We all did. Eventually one of us laughed, and I’m not sure if it was the wine or the big red lipstick mark on his cheek, but the tension was broken.
“You both saw that, right?” Harris said with a twinkle. “If I didn’t have witnesses, no one would believe me.”
“Maybe there’s time for W-4,” Emily said.
“Maybe there is,” he said and really meant it.
Whether or not I made a good impression—I think I did—I know that he will look back on this night with a great amount of fondness.
I owe that woman in red a sincere thank you.