My friend has a business relationship with the restaurant and knew everyone there. He asked for John, an entertaining 40-year-old, veteran waiter, to serve us. My host insisted on paying for lunch, but I insisted on leaving the tip.
After handing John a large tip as I reminded him of my name and my Kentucky roots, John and I parted as friends.
My wife becomes President of Ursuline Academy this summer. I am also in the process of opening an office for McNay Settlement Group in New Orleans. Both of us will have reason to entertain people at Galatoireâ€™s.
When that happens, I know John will be my server. And my clients and friends will get the same VIP treatment that I got.
Building a relationship with a star professional at a world-famous restaurant in a city where I am just getting established seems like a no-brainer, but I see a lot of businesspeople with no brains. Servers are anonymous and faceless to them.
When those people go to dine, you will see them waiting in line for three hours to get a table.
My streetwise father, Joe McNay, taught me that servers, nurses, plumbers and other support people can be the most important individuals in your life. Dad died 20 years ago this week at age 59.
Dad only made it to the 10th grade, but was smarter than any Ph.D. in understanding human relationships. I always thought he should have been in politics. Instead, he was a bookie and a professional gambler.
Dad was not a millionaire, but he lived like one. His personality and connections gave him a tremendous amount of clout.
Dad fought bravely against prostate cancer and as the end drew near, I had one deathbed question.
Did Pete Rose bet on baseball?
I did not mention dadâ€™s friendship with Pete Rose in my 2008 book, â€œSon of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery.â€
At that time, Pete had not admitted he bet on baseball. I wrote the book like my dad was looking over my shoulder. I was not going to hurt or embarrass one of his friends.
Iâ€™m releasing an updated version of the book on my dadâ€™s 80th birthday, July 30. Several people have died since the first release, so the book will be more revealing.
Dadâ€™s friends and clients were a â€œwhoâ€™s whoâ€ of the Cincinnati region, but in most circumstances, I never knew who was a client and who was just a friend.
I guessed that Pete was a client, but never knew for sure.
I knew Dad and Pete were good friends. During college, Dad gave me Peteâ€™s tickets and seated me next to a stunning young blond named Carol. At the time, Pete was married to a woman named Karolyn. When Pete came to bat, Carol would jump up and down and go crazy. I got the impression Carol and Pete were more than casual friends.
A couple of years later, Carol became Mrs. Pete Rose.
Even though he broke the law every day of his adult life, Dad was honest, but close-mouthed about his client list. Thus, asking him about Pete was something I only would do on his deathbed.
He told me that Pete never bet on baseball with him, and only bet football for a short time. Dad thought that having a sports figure client like Pete was not a good business decision.
The bookie who took Peteâ€™s baseball bets should have made the same decision.
I still wasnâ€™t sure about writing about Pete until famed Knoxville trial attorney Donna Davis and her husband Ivan â€œBuzzâ€ Beltz ran into Pete, who was signing his book, â€œMy Prison Without Bars,â€ in Las Vegas.
They told Pete of their friendship with me, and Pete sent back a book with the following inscription.
â€œDon. Bingo Joe was the best. He owes me $100. Pete Rose, No. 4256.â€
I figured the cat was out of the bag at that point.
Last year, I met Dadâ€™s close friend, the legendary â€œMusic Professorâ€ Jim LaBarbara at the Montgomery Inn Boathouse in Cincinnati. Pete was there too. Pete immediately said the same $100 line he wrote in the book.
Then he stopped for a second and said, â€œYou know, it is probably the other way around.â€
If there was any debt owed, it would have to be on Peteâ€™s side. Dad never missed paying off a bet. If Dad had to borrow money from everyone in town, he did. Paying promptly is what keeps a bookie in business.
There are a lot of ways I thought about paying tribute to dad on the 20th anniversary of his death, but I suspect giving the tip to John at Galatoireâ€™s might have been the most fitting.
The lessons from a streetwise man had been passed down through the generations.
I canâ€™t imagine a better tribute than that.
Don McNay, www.donmcnay.com,Â is the author of the bestselling book, â€œLife Lessons From the Lottery.â€