New York's Plaza Hotel has been a world-famous destination for decades and its 2008 reinvention as a condo-palace and demi-hotel failed to tarnish the reputation of Grand Lady on 5th Avenue.
While the newly opened Retail Plaza in the basement had been an abject failure, the Oak Bar continued to attract power brokers, celebrities, and faces from the front covers of the newspapers and magazines.
Susan Lucci, the soap opera queen, entered our subterranean jewelry store and my young 'work wife' asked the diminutive TV actress, "Does anyone tell you that you look like Susan Lucci?"
"All the time." Her mouth expressed a sweet smirk at my blonde work-wife's innocence.
"Are you Susan Lucci?" Vanessa gasped like she had been tossed out of the Space Shuttle into zero atmosphere.
"Most of the time." Susan Lucci exuded the internal beauty beneath her botoxed skin.
"Congratulations." My work-wife stammered out her best wishes to Lucci being Lucci. Her face was a nice color red.
"Thank you." Susan wheeled a turn on her spike heels without which she would have been less than five feet tall.
We later related this encounter with the star of ALL MY CHILDREN to the other salespeople trapped in the doomed Plaza Collection.
They laughed at my work-wife's offering 'congratulations'.
"I didn't know what else to say." Vanessa had worshipped Susan Lucci from her couch for years.
Several days later David Beckham and his wife Posh visited the hotel. The paparazzi rioted outside the entrance. Fans screamed out his name. The madhouse lasted for hours.
Celebrity has its perks, but power demanded different security accommodations and one February evening the Secret Service locked down the hotel for the arrival of Bill Clinton, the former president of the USA, who had a table reserved in the Oak Room.
Agents in black suits roamed the hotel. They surveilled guests and workers with suspicion. Bill had been a popular president, but men in high places retain their enemies after retirement.
The secret service agents ignored me, judging a fifty-five year old diamond salesman to be harmless. They were right. I was no assassin.
I almost visited the Oak Room to gawk at Clinton, but customers kept me busy and at the closing hour I went to washroom at the rear of the Retail Collection. The owner of Leather Spa said that the ex-president stopped for a shoeshine.
"He tipped Segundo $10. He wore handmade loafer from England." Segundo knew his shoes.
"A good tipper." A shine cost $4 at their stand. "Is he still in the Oak Room?"
"Far as I know."
"Maybe I'll stop up there for a drink after work."
I tipped Segundo $2 and headed into the men's room.
There wasn't an attendant on duty, but the facilities were clean.
I stood at a stall and unzipped my fly.
Two seconds later a taller man joined me. His shoulder almost touched mine.
Male toilet manners require strangers neither touch nor talk to another man while standing before the porcelain god, so I dropped my eyes to the floor, only to notice that my neighbor's shoes were highly buffed loafers with tassels.
I lifted my gaze.
The ex-president was peeing next to me. There were no Secret Service agents in sight. Some things a man has to do on his own.
The former president smiled at me and I involuntarily peeked into his urinal.
Bill frowned and lowered his broad shoulder to block my view. He shook his member and then strode out of the men's room after washing his hands.
Exiting from the men's room I expected to be accosted by his security detail, except the only people in the hallway were Segundo and his boss. They pointed upstairs to indicate the direction of Bill's departure. I nodded and returned to my shop.
Vanessa was ready to go.
"What took you so long?"
"I ran into Bill Clinton in the bathroom."
"Hillary's husband?" Women looked at men different from men.
"I peed next to him."
"And did you look at him?"
"What do you mean?"
"You know look at his schwanze?" Vanessa was a nice girl from Moscow, but she wanted to know. "My husband says all types of men check out him in the bathroom. Did you look at his penis?"
She was my work-wife, not my real wife, so I told her what I would have told anyone.
"Oh." She was disappointed. "Were you scared about being gay?"
"With the president of the United States?"
"Ex-president." Women were experts at putting men in their place.
"I don't look at men's penises."
"Liar. All men look at porno. Don't tell me there aren't any penis there?"
"Right." Vanessa huffed and picked up her cell. She spoke in Russian. I heard the name Clinton, then pietska. It meant penis in her language. My co-worker smiled at me. She knew the truth.
I had looked at Bill's crank.
And checking another man's schlong isn't a gay thing.
It's just something you do.
Of course my gay friends think that all men are gay.
Given the right circumstances.
Bathroom, ex-president, New York?
Not a chance.
Then again Bill's not my type and I'm certainly not his, because he never bothered to look at mine.