My biggest encounter came when I was at Ginza Sushi on Ventura Blvd. That night, I was working as an assistant manager. At 6 PM, we have a few customers, not too busy. That was when I picked up a phone for a reservation request. “Six people for Phillips,” the man said in a low voice. I said, “Yes, confirming the table for six at 7PM. Thank you,” and hang up the phone.
At 7PM, I almost forgot about the reservation, when a tall man walked in through the front door. Normally, I would see the guests walking our front garden, through the front window, but I was talking to the chefs and never saw this man walking into the restaurant.
“Phillips for six,” the tall man said confidently. When I looked at him, I immediately recognized his face and realized who he was. I almost, shouted his name.
There he was, the Mr. Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger himself, standing tall, right in front of me.
I’ve been listening to The Stones since I was fifteen, when a friend of mine introduced me to Rock ’n’ Roll. My first “real” Rock ’n’ Roll albums were Deep Purple and Emerson Lake and Palmer, then The Rolling Stones after that. I never got into Beatles because I became a fan of The Stones. I bought almost all their records, listened to them over and over, remembered lyrics, used English dictionary to learn the meaning of “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar.”
So, when Mick walked into Ginza Sushi, for a moment, I had no idea what just happened. I don’t remember how my face looked, but I am sure it looked like my jaw was about to drop. I escorted Mick and his friends(?) to the table right in the center of the restaurant. I handed out the menus and took their drink order. To my surprise, Mick ordered Evian, no Sapporo. Just like Axel Rose’s friends were at Rock ‘n’ Hollywood Sushi, Mick’s friends looked like they were in the music industry. They seemed to be engaged in conversation about business, though, I could not hear the word they were saying. After the waitress brought drinks and took their order, I immediately called Sen on his cell phone.
“You are not going to believe this. Guess who is at Iroha, right now?” I said in Japanese.
“It’s Mick. Mick Jagger.”
“No way!” Toshi replied.
“Yes way. It’s Mick. It’s real Mick. He is sitting at a table and just placed an order. You should come down. Where are you?”
“I cannot. I am at Lakers game at Forum. It will take me over an hour to get there and by the time I get there, Mick will be gone.”
I remembered the time when I encountered a famous pop singer at a soba noodle shop in my hometown. My mom called the neighbor’s daughter who was a big fan, to come to the restaurant, though, when she arrived, the pop singer was gone, missing just by a few minutes.
‘He just ordered food and doesn’t look like he is in a hurry. If you leave right now, you might make it.”
“No, I won’t. It’s tempting, but I am going to pass.”
“Ok, no worries.”
I hang up the phone. Toshi did not seem as excited as I thought he would be. I thought he was a big Stones’ fan, too, so I was unsure why he didn’t rush in to come over here.
Toshi always had his digital camera at the sushi bar, in case someone famous walks in. I did not have a camera with me and it was long before a cell phone with a camera.
“Do you have a camera here?” I asked Akio and Mako.
“No we don’t,” Akio said.
“Would you mind if I go to the gas station across the street to buy a disposable camera? It will only take me two minutes.”
Seeing how excited I was, Akio said yes.
I rushed out of the restaurant and run across the intersection, into the gas station, hoping they would carry a disposable camera. I looked around inside of the store and found one, right by the cashier. I was so relieved. I bought one and rushed back to Ginza Sushi. The whole trip literary took me three minutes.
When I got back to the restaurant, Mick and his friends were still there. His food was not yet ready. I must have called three to four friends of mine and told them, quietly, that Mick Jagger was in the restaurant. No one said they would come down and just like Toshi, they were just too busy or too far away to come down. I just couldn’t understand why there were passing this golden opportunity.
I did everything I could to get close to Mick: bringing his food to the table, pouring water and green tea, checking to see everything was OK and trying to pretend that everything was “normal,” though, I was not. After the credit card transaction, I asked Mick if I could take a photo with him.
“Yes, of course, “ he said with a smile on his face.
I stood next to Mick and he put his shoulder around me saying, “Here, this is better, yes?” I was static.
The disposable camera had 24 exposures, and I only took two pictures with Mick. The following day, I took the camera to have the pictures developed because I could not think of any other photo I wanted to take with the camera, and most importantly, I just wanted to see the pictures as soon as I could.