Celebrities – Steve Tyrell

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Not all stars and celebrities enjoyed the attention. Heath Leader and Leonard DiCaprio were those, who did everything to avoid the attention. Both of them came late night, mostly during weeknights, dressed in regular clothing, with a baseball hat and sat quietly at the corner table, away from the other restaurant patrons. They never made a fuss, loud noise, or drunk too much sake or beer. They just walked in, sat down, ordered and ate the sushi, just like all the other customers. (OK, not all of them: some of the customers came to just party.) I’ve seen many celebrities like that: Helen Hunt, Paula Cole, Anthony Hopkins to name a few. When they arrived, we sensed that they wanted us to treat them just like other people. I suspected it was because they get enough attention from other people and maybe, they just wanted to things to be “normal” so that they could enjoy their sushi. In return, we treated the no different from other guests. I never treated them differently, gave them better fish, nor expected them to give us more tips than necessary.

When I saw Denzel Washington in the back parking lot after parking his black Porsche, he told me, in the same enthusiastic manner we all see in his movies, that something about the sharp hill and blind spot making it difficult to park, so I said thank you for pointing that out.

Former Red Hot Chill Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro loved our special: Seared Tuna Sashimi with Avocado and Salsa.  He came and visit us twice, sometimes three times in a week, ordering this special Sashimi every time. Most of the time, he placed “to go” order and when we got those orders in, we knew it was him and greeted him saying, “Dave-san,” when he arrived to pick up his order. Dave-san was quite but friendly and we aways enjoyed his company.

The other person who loved the same special was Steve Tyrell. He started to come for lunch, right after Saito-san decided to open for lunch. During the lunch hours of 12PM-4PM, hardly anyone came to Rock ‘n’ Hollywood Sushi. It was a Rock ‘n’ Roll Sushi join and no one would come for lunch, Toshi said. Saito-san decided to open anyway. As Toshi said, we hardly got any customers, though, Steve came in for lunch more than any other customers. On a good day, there were ten customers and most of the time, four to six. When we started to seeing him, I had no idea who he was. Upon seeing the Seared Tuna Sashimi with Avocado and Salsa, he ordered one and immediately said that was the best Sashimi he ever had. He came back the following day and ordered the same thing, looking a bit shy. He still said that the Sashimi was excellent and started to come almost every day for lunch. Sometimes he ordered two Sashimis.  Sometimes he came for lunch, and came back a few hours later for dinner. We found out that he was a Jazz vocalist and his Jazz album at that time was No.1 on Billboard’s Jazz chart.

When we congratulate him on his album being No.1, he said thank you and later brought a signed copy of CD to all the Sushi chefs as a gift.

Axel Rose came in one night, and he was sitting with a couple of people, talking quietly. It looked like some kind of business meeting. Toshi asked him for a photograph and he told Axel how much he enjoyed his music. Axel was kind enough to offer him a ticket to the concert that was coming up. He said he will have someone send Toshi some tickets later. Toshi got so excited, however, he never received them in the mail.

Celebrities – Mick Jagger

 

1024px-Pop-Art_-Mick_Jagger-_Öl_+_Acryl_auf_Leinwand_von_Silvia_Klippert.jpgMy 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.

“Mick!!”

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.

“Who?”

“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.

Celebrities – Luis Miguel

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One of the regulars at Rock ‘n’ Hollywood Sushi was the Mexican singer, Luis Miguel. He came and sat at the Sushi bar many times and every time he came, all the Latino guys got extremely excited like children whose parents told them that they were going to Disneyland or something. They all asked for his autograph, took pictures with him, standing side by side. It was comical, funny and charming the way they acted. They were all rushing back and forth inside of the restaurant, forgetting that they were at work. Some of the waiters forgot to bring out the orders to the table and instead, they flocked around Luis and engaged in a conversation, as if to say, “Forget work. I am busy. This is more important. You know who this is? It’s Luis Miguel. We are hanging out with Luis Miguel. Leave us alone.”

I knew about Luis Miguel and heard of his songs before, seen on TV and magazines, but I had no idea how big he was. When I asked about Luis, Javier said he is like a god in Mexico and all the South American countries, next to Julio Iglesias. Toshi, Kai, Jun and I had almost no interest in his music, so to us, it was just another customer, sitting at the sushi bar, enjoying the sushi.

Luis had some CDs with him and handed some to the bus boys, who put it into the CD player and started playing his songs. All the Latino guys went crazy, started singing the songs together.

Luis did seem to enjoy the attention he was receiving and was grateful for all the people to be his fan. He was very nice, smiling all the time and had the charismatic aura around him, infecting everyone around him, though, most of the non-Latino customers in the restaurant had no idea who he was and what was going on.

Celebrities

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During the two and half years working at Rock ‘n’ Hollywood Sushi, I saw more Hollywood Movie Stars and Rock’ n Roll Singers than any period in my life. Some stories are funny and some are interesting.

Here is the funny one.

It was Friday afternoon around 4PM, time for me to go on a break. So, I made some Thai noodle called Bah Mi, with crabmeat. I made two servings: one for me and one for Mia. We were the only people in the restaurant and we sat at the one end of the sushi bar.  Suddenly, two customers walked in. They sat the opposite end of the sushi bar and grabbed the menu, when one of them, one with a huge plastic comb on his head and a pair of shades, looked at us and what we were eating and said, “Hey, what is it that you are eating?”

“It’s Thai Noodle I made,” I told the guy.

“I want that,” the man said quickly.

“It’s employee meal I cooked and it’s not on the menu. So it’s not available for you to order.”

He looked quite shocked, which left him speechless.

His friend told him to order from the menu. There was something strange about the way talked and behaved like they were “on” something. I sensed that they were high on drugs, like marijuana. They ended up ordering the standard fair like California Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll and Salmon Nigiri, with a bottle of Sapporo and glass of sake. After spending quick twenty minutes or so, they walked out the restaurant and we never saw them again.

“Did you realize who it was?” Mia asked me. She had somewhat amused and surprised look on her face.

“No, I don’t know who it was,” I said to her.

“It was Bobby Brown, the singer, you know?”

“Oh, yeah, now you mention it, yes, I remember his face now. I’ve seen him on TV and music videos.”

“You said No to Bobby Brown. That was too funny,” Mia said.

A few months later, a tall black woman walked into the Rock ‘n’ Hollywood Sushi and sat at the sushi bar. It was early in the afternoon, around 5PM. I immediately recognized her as Whitney Houston. She ordered six pieces of Shrimp tempura as an appetizer, so I put the order into Pedro in the kitchen. “Seis Camarones,” I said. I had a bad feeling about this because the Shrimp Tempura Pedro made never came our right. I had no idea what he did, maybe it was the tempura batter or the temperature of the oil. I know Tempura is simple: it’s just frying ingredients in oil, however I can never figure out how to make a perfect Tempura. In Japan, there are restaurants serving only Tempura and just like a sushi chef, there are many Master Tempura Chefs. One of them, Saotome-san is said to revolutionize the modern tempura. I’ve never been to his restaurant to taste his tempura and hoping to have that opportunity to visit and taste his tempura soon.

Ms. Houston never ordered anything else from the sushi bar. No nigiri, no sashimi, just shrimp tempura and cup of Green Tea. When Pedro brought six large Tempura Shrimps out with dipping sauce, Whitney picked up one of them said, “These are no Shrimp Tempura. The real Shrimp Tempura never look like these. They look different. They are too fat and too thick.”

I knew this was coming.

“I’m sorry, should I send it back?” I asked.

“No, that’s OK,” and she ended up eating three pieces of Shrimp Tempura and left the restaurant within five minutes.

Later I heard about Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown getting a divorce. I gathered they must have been in town to discuss the details. I have no idea what Bobby Brown was going through back then and I suspect that emotionally, it must have been difficult for him, judging by the way he behaved when I saw him.

One of the regulars was Mexican singer, Luis Miguel. He came and sat at the Sushi bar many times and every time he came, all the Latino guys got extremely excited and asked for his autograph, took pictures with him. It wasn’t comical, but for some reason, the way those Latino guys excited looked funny because they acted like small children gone crazy. Rushing back and forth inside of the restaurant, forgetting that they were at work. Some of the waiters forgot to bring out the orders to the table and instead, they flocked around Luis and engaged in a conversation, as if to say, “Forget work. I am busy. This is more important, to hang out with Luis Miguel.”

I knew about Luis Miguel and heard of his songs before, seen on TV and magazines, but I had no idea how big he was. When I asked about Luis, Javier said he is like a god in Mexico and all the South American countries, next to Julio Iglesias. Toshi, Kai, Jun and I had almost no interest in his music, so to us, it was just another customer, sitting at the sushi bar, enjoying the sushi.

Luis did seem to enjoy the attention he was receiving and was grateful for all the people to be his fan. He was very nice, smiling all the time and had the charismatic aura around him, infecting everyone around him, though, most of the non-Latino customers in the restaurant had no idea who he was and what was going on.