Great Possibly Apocryphal Show-Biz Stories (An Occasional Series): Part Deux

on February 10, 2009 by Steve Simels

Okay, unlike yesterday's vaguely smutty celeb vignette, I am reasonably certain that the incident you're about to read about actually took place; if memory serves I was either in attendance when it happened or else I heard about it immediately afterwards from people directly involved. Of course, if it didn't happen, it definitely should have.

In any case, our story stars eccentric but twice-Oscar nominated actress Sylvia Miles, a woman of whom the late puppeteer Wayland Flowers famously observed "Sylvia Miles would attend the opening of an envelope."

These days, Miles can mostly be seen in various odd outfits on buses in midtown Manhattan, but in her day she was taken very seriously indeed, and not just because she once famously dumped a plate of spaghetti on loathsome New York Magazine critic John Simon's head. Here she is in the entirety of her first Academy-nominated performance, as the society hooker mistakenly hustled by Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969).

Cut to a few years later (1974) and The Locale, a Greenwich Village joint run by legendary hepster restauranteur Mickey Ruskin (of Max's Kansas City fame). On the evening in question, Miles swept into the dining room with an entourage of approximately ten (what's the phrase I'm looking for?) extremely epicene and fashionably dressed young guys, all of whom seemed to be making an inordinate effort at lighting the diva's chain-smoked cigarettes. They proceeded to make huge pains in the ass of themselves, to the point where folks dining at adjacent tables were actually thinking about tipping the poor beleaguered waitress -- a lovely Brit named Stefanie, on whom I had a huge crush -- who'd gotten stuck with serving Miles and company, and was doing it with unflappable politeness and grace.

Anyway, after several courses had been rather too loudly consumed -- I can't recall who had what, but given that Julian Schnabel (yes, the celebrated painter and film director) was the Sunday chef in those days and was famous for his scallops, it might have been sea food -- the lovely Stefanie asked Miles for a dessert order and inquired how she would like her coffee. At which point, the following exchange ensued.

Miles: "I like my coffee the way I like my men."

Stefanie: "I'm sorry, Miss Miles, but we don't serve gay coffee."

Like I said, if that never happened, it definitely should have.


Tags: Sylvia Miles, Wayland Flowers, John Simon, Jon Voight, Midnight Cowboy, Julian Schnabel, Mickey Ruskin

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