Party at Sammy’s Roumanian

Written by George Tabb on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.



"That’s
what the band Cracker calls him as well," says my friend L.P. as we discuss
our mutual friend and lawyer–plus birthday boy–seated at the table’s
end.


"He
really is Broadway Danny Rose," I say to L.P. "When I first met him
I bet he represented only skating penguins and sad clowns. And maybe talking
mimes."


We’re
talking about Andrew Krents. Besides looking like a more handsome version of
Woody Allen, he’s about the same size, and a total Jew.


L.P. and
I should know. We’re Jews as well.


We’re
seated at a large table at "Famous Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House"
on Chrystie St. When Andy called to invite me to his 35th birthday party ("It’s
actually the 34th," he later told me. "I’m bad with numbers")
at Sammy’s, I told him I never heard of the place.


"You’ve
never heard of Sammy’s?" he asked. "It’s famous. They serve
Romanian and Russian food. It’s fun."


I told him
I’d see him there. Then I forgot about it. Like the rest of the stuff my
lawyer tells me.


When my
wife Wendy and I arrived on the big night and made our way downstairs to Sammy’s
entrance below street level, I commented how it looks like a Jewish Wo-Hop.
We found Andy and his girlfriend and friends at a large table in the back. The
place is not very big, the walls are covered with photos of families and famous
people like Cheap Trick, Ed Koch, David Lee Roth and the Unband.


Waiters
showed up with two huge bowls of chopped liver, then eggs with onions, then
latkes and sliced brains and stuffed cabbage. Every Passover, wedding or funeral
I ever went to there’s always been a bunch of Jewish people eating. This
was no different.


Suddenly
a band appears.


Well, almost
a band.


Well, two
guys. One with a guitar, the other with what looks to be like a 70s electric
keyboard. The guitarist, Todd Colburn, has played around Chicago a lot. The
other guy is Rob Taube; the first thing he says into the mic as he looks at
us is, "Oh, you guys are lucky! You have the orchestra seats."


I’m
still hard of hearing from that night. The "band" played a bunch of
familiar-sounding Yiddish tunes. I remembered my Uncle Larry and Aunt Selma,
cousin Gabe and second cousin Karen with the big matzoh balls on her chest.


The main
course appeared. Some got chicken, some fish; Wendy and I got steak. Long steak.
Like well over a foot. The meat hung over the sides of the dish. Our Yorkshire
terrier P.J. was gonna be eating well for months.


Todd and
Rob sang "Happy Birthday" for a gentleman named Bill, who was turning
97 and danced like he’s 18. The entire restaurant sang along. Then we sang
it for Andy. The "band" rolled into a set of pop tunes by Barry Manilow
and such, and a waitress sang "Hey Big Spender." A constant procession
of vodka, the bottles encased in blocks of ice, a Sammy’s signature.


At some
point a Russian gentleman took the stage, borrowed the guitar and sang an old
Russian tune to his girlfriend/wife/whatever. The whole place went wild. Later
I bought a CD from the "band," Songs My Grandmother Never Taught
Me
, by "Rob Taube & the Sammy’s Orchestra." It rocks
in a Yiddish sort of way. It occurred to me that these guys aren’t even
Jewish–hence the CD’s title. Jewish wannabes. That’s funny.


On our way
out I ran into Bill, the 97-year-old birthday boy. Actually I almost ran over
him, he’s that small.


"Happy
birthday," I said to him and his "younger woman" who, according
to the "band," is 90.


He asked
if we want to know the secret of a long and healthy life.


"Well,"
explained Bill, in his polo shirt and light blue trousers, with almost a full
head of hair, "it’s like this. Every day when I wake up, she puts
another brick on my back. Day in and day out. And one day when I remove them,
I’m going to feel so good."


Shalom,
Bill.


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