Contact Kathryn at:

Kathryn Spira

How I Won a Bout with Tyson

Back when I was living in New York City and working at Columbus Restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I sometimes had to educate the patrons that “tipping” was not just a city in China. Trouble was, I never worded it that nicely.

I remember one French foursome who had split a rather pricey bottle of red wine, had appetizers and full dinners. They seemed perfectly nice to me and were fine about paying the bill. However, after totaling up, I found they had left about a $1.50 tip for a $100 eating experience. (I didn’t realize this until they were outside the restaurant, because they just left the money on the table and I didn’t pick it up until they had left.)

When I saw what they had left me, I flipped out. I had some choice words I screamed out to no one in particular. I actually ran outside, up the block and threw the money at them.

When they looked dumbfounded, I said, you speak enough English to get this, don’t you? “Not enough money for the waitress!”

They put the money in their pockets, mumbled something in french I didn’t understand and kept walking. (This actually happened previously at Chumley’s Restaurant, when I worked there, not at Columbus. Anyway, my civic lesson to the French fell on deaf ears.)

When I was working at Columbus Restaurant several years later, I waited on a lot of celebrities as I’ve told you before.

The one tipping incident that comes to mind happened when I was waiting on Mike Tyson, then heavy weight boxing champ.

He came in with a blond and ordered a bottle of Dom Perignon, which at that time cost about $100.

He stayed for a couple of hours schmoozing, which I normally wouldn’t mind, but it was busy and diners were waiting for a table.

When he finally got up to leave, he gave me money for the bottle, but only about $2 for a tip. I had to stop him. I’m like, “Mike, you drank a $100 bottle of champagne! You tied up my table for two-plus hours and I can’t serve anyone else at the table.”

You see, he had sat at a “four-top” table when he should have been seated at a table for two.  That’s how it is when you are a celebrity and the owner is falling all over you and giving you anything you want. It’s called preferential star treatment, but it doesn’t put any money in the waiter’s pocket.

Mike said, he ad just had a bottle of champagne and didn’t see why he had to tip any more.

I told him he had taken up the table for at least two turns of dinner crowds and I wasn’t trying to give him a hard time. But waiters rely on tips, because there is no such thing as a salary in restaurants in the city.

To give Mike his due, he said he was sorry and that he had struggled his whole life with money, so he could totally understand my situation.

The result? He handed me $10, not a huge tip, but at least not an insult.

And every time he came in thereafter when I waited on him I can vouch that he was much better about tipping.


About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site