Today I want to share with you one of the most marvelous and memorable moments of my life. I will never feel deserving of such an amazing experience – I got extremely lucky and am very grateful. Nevertheless, here is the story of how I went from being a big fan to being a megafan of one of the most genuine and down to earth people I have ever met.
It was 8:25 pm and I had just finished setting a table for four that a man had reserved by phone earlier that day. I looked at the tiny, rectangular reservation paper that hung off of the table by a piece of tape and saw the name Rich and simply shrugged and thought, “I wonder if they’re still going to be coming tonight”. A few minutes later, four people came in through the door, two of them still behind the room divider in front of the door so that all I could see was their hair, and I asked, “Good evening, did you make a reservation?” Suddenly, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder actor, Robert Downey Jr., stepped out from behind the room divider and said, “Yes, Downey,” and my mind just turned blank. One of my favorite actors standing right in front of me, completely unexpectedly, to eat at my work place, 5 minutes from my home, and brought his Dad (Robert Downey, Sr) and his wife along for the ride.
I led them to their table, gave them their menus, and took their drink orders. Robert and his wife, Susan Downey (producer of films including Ghost Ship, Gothika and The Brave One), ordered two hot teas, and his dad ordered a regular unsweetened tea and I had to break the news to him that we unfortunately didn’t have that, and that we had iced green tea and jasmine tea instead. Robert asked me if the hot tea comes in different flavors or just one, and I said one and then went and made the drinks. I was relatively new at the job and, on top of that, we are in charge of ensuring that the tea is brewed to perfection – that it is neither too weak nor too strong. This time I was in charge of ensuring a Hollywood Superstar received the best tea he had ever had.. Wahhh! After that I went out and served the drinks and then took their order. Robert started, so I went to his side of the table and stood 3 inches away from him trying to stay as professional as possible, while thinking, Good God, it feels like I’m in a movie right now, not only his voice, but his intonation, choice of words, everything is reminiscent of Tony Stark! It was hilarious hearing him say, “Would you like to order anything, Dad?” They ordered two orders of pork gyoza (dumplings), two orders of seaweed salad, and beef teriyaki. I was so starstruck that 30 seconds after I left I forgot whether they ordered chicken teriyaki or beef tataki, and had to go back and double check, while thinking “CRAP!” They were all talking and I felt rude interrupting, but part of being a waitress is learning how to interrupt politely, so I did and Robert looked up at me and smiled while the others were still talking. After I doubled checked, Robert said, “Thank you for double checking, because I think we would actually like two orders of that instead.”
After submitting the order to the chef and sushi chefs, I took a short break and informed my friends of the craziness that was happening – and my mom who was actually in the middle of celebrating her birthday – and then tried to put my “cool” face back on upon stepping back out onto the floor. The fan girl inside of me was a complete wreck, but I knew that everybody, celebrity or not, needs an escape – in this case, a calm dinner with his or her guests. I had so many questions, but I would much rather him be able to enjoy a calm dinner than be bombarded with questions and pictures. It just wouldn’t be right, so I put my work face back on and got back to work.
When the red miso soup and seaweed salad were finished I brought them out there and when I served the red miso soup to his wife, she said “No, I actually don’t want it,” and then Robert said “Actually, I’ll take it!” What the hell? Haha. Then they were ready to order some sushi and Susan just said “Can I have some vegitable sushi?” and I said, “We have different kinds of vegetables.” Then Robert took over and was like, “We would like to have one cucumber roll, and one sweet potato roll,” and then his dad asked if we have a lobster roll and I recommended one and they ordered two and ended up loving them. 🙂 As I was leaving I heard how Robert was being extremely enthusiastic saying, “You should try this seaweed salad out, it’s delicious,” and I tried so hard not to laugh. Later when I came with the chicken teriyaki, Robert was like, “Oh wow will you look at that!” and he said the same thing when I served the huge plate of sushi. Later I came back with a pot of tea to refill his tea and saw that his cup was empty, and when I asked if he wanted more he said, “Yes, please!” I don’t know why I felt flattered, but I did. After all I made the tea, hahaha! I was scared that it would be too weak or something because before I got used to brewing the tea, it was an easy mistake to make.
At 9 the restaurant closed which means that the kitchen was about to close, so I went back to the table and asked if they want to order anything else from the kitchen before it closes, and he said, “Yeah, I’d like to order everything we ordered all over again!” and I laughed, and then he said, “Nah, I believe we’re good.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sache-san looking very amused.
When they were done eating I was told to clock out, and I was in the back thinking “I need to get a picture with this man. Who knows when it’ll happen again?” When I went up front again, my boss (and owner and sushi chef of the place), Hayakawa-san, was in the front talking to them like he does with every customer and told me to go get the camera. I thought he wanted to take a picture with them because the guy’s a famous Hollywood star, but he didn’t know who it was.. So when Robert went into the bathroom I was like, “Hayakawa-san, the guy in the bathroom is Robert Downey Jr..” “Who?” “Iron man..” “IRON MAN?! Are you kidding me? That guy?!” *points at bathroom* “Yes…” and he walked up to Robert’s family and said “I need to ask you guys, is that really Iron Man?” and they said, “Yes it is, but that’s not all he does!” and I started talking about how I love the movie Chaplin so much, and then Hayakawa-san started asking if there’s a way to get a picture, but then was interrupted by something, I don’t remember what. When I got a moment with him I said, “That guy is one of my favorite actors of all time.” A moment later, Robert came out of the bathroom and Hayakawa-san asked him to sign his autograph on a huge plack, and Robert wrote “For Sushi House!! Hayakawa!!! Robert Downey 2009,” and I could see how thrilled my boss was. Hayakawa-san then pointed at me and said, “Can I take a picture? She said she’s a huge fan of yours!” and Robert said, “Oh really?” and I stretched forward my hand and he shook it and asked, “What is your name?” “Bethany.” “Nice to meet you,” and I told him I am interested in working in the movie business. Then Hayakawa-san wanted to take a picture, and I thought it’d be all of us but it was just me and Robert, and I was trying to not stand too close because I didn’t want to invade his personal space, but then he was like, “C’mere!” and put his arm around me and time completely froze.
Soon after that it was time for them to leave, and like usual, we all shouted out “Arigatou gozaimashita!” (Thank you very much) and after replying to all that, Robert looked at me and yelled “GOOD LUCK, BETHANY!”
What an amazing experience. 🙂 Robert Downey Jr. is incredibly courteous and kind, at least when he is able to enjoy a nice, quiet dinner with his family without being treated like anything other than a normal human being. Until he’s done eating at least. 😉
All jokes aside, I have heard nothing but positive things about the man and the encounter blew every expectation I could have possibly had out of the water.