Chris’s Debut on the Small (and Smaller) Screen

High tea

As most folks know, before there was A Butler’s Manor, there was a butler…Chris spent some twenty-plus years “in service.” It isn’t a common way to make a living, and until the Internet, most of those who did so worked in relative isolation from one another. (This, by the way, was the employers’ preference, to prevent their butlers from both comparing notes on issues like compensation, and being poached.) It is, I think, an interesting way to make a living, which is why I wrote A Butler’s Life: Scenes from The Other Side of the Silver Salver a number of years back. The confluence of these two disparate points is that when someone Googles “butler” for some reason, between that book, Chris’s memberships in the few butler/household management/domestic staff [groups] and connections with the few schools worldwide, and A Butler’s Manor, chances are good that the name Christopher Allen comes up.

Which is what happened when Scott Ross, an entertainment reviewer for NBC, decided that it would be an interesting idea to have a real butler comment on the recently released remake of the 1981 classic “Arthur,” now starring Russell Brand. Tracking Chris down through A Butler’s Manor’s, he invited him (us!) to join him at a pre-release screening of the new film in New York City. What fun!

The original of course starred Dudley Moore in the title role. Sir John Gielgud, as Arthur’s butler Hobson, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the role. I found this particularly apropos because, when Chris and I first met back in 1986, one of the things that captivated me was that he looked rather like a cross between Davy Jones and Dudley Moore, and he could (and can still) do a perfect “Arthur” imitation.

So two weeks ago this Tuesday, we met Scott near Rockefeller Center and walked over to the Warner Bros. screening room where we joined some 50 other viewers, mostly journalists. Scott had said in his email that it would be especially appropriate to go out afterwards and discuss Chris’s reactions over afternoon tea. (Chris joked that, the movie in question being Arthur, we should really discuss it at the nearest bar.) “Tea and a shoot,” Scott had written, which Chris interpreted as maybe a photo to accompany Scott’s blog. Hah!

Following the movie, we took a cab to Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon  in Gramercy Park area, a lovely old residential building that is also an inn, and were shown to a small private dining room where a table was set for two…surrounded by a camera, lights, and a videographer. Eeeek!!! Scott interviewed Chris for perhaps forty minutes, which like anything in television was slated to be edited down to a few good sound bites. You’d never know by the video clip that Chris didn’t dare sip his tea during the interview, for fear of exposing his shaking hands!

Afterwards, we all had the wonderful high tea: salmon, egg salad, cucumber, and cream cheese sandwiches, mini scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, and a yummy cake made with what seemed like two dozen layers of crepes spread with Bavarian cream. They brought the latter out with a candle in it, as it had been Chris’s birthday the day before. It was everything Hobson would have approved of; a class act.

Believe me, we had a more Arthur-appropriate beverage once we got home, as Chris was still shaking!

Oh, and is the new Arthur worth seeing? The short answer? Nah — wait for it on Netfliks. However, the original version is available in our video library, for your enjoyment on your next visit…

Quote of the Day: “I’ve taken the liberty of anticipating your condition. I have brought you orange juice, coffee, and aspirins. Or do you need to throw up?” — Sir John Gielgud as Hobson, Arthur, 1981)

Missing in action?

It is very strange to own a bed and breakfast and not meet your guests.

Last Wednesday, I had some minor foot surgery that I’d been putting off awhile. Doctor’s orders were that I remain in bed or in a chair where I could keep my foot elevated for at least 5 days. Me, off my feet!?! Difficult even to imagine. But it’s not like I don’t have capable help. I do the cooking here at A Butler’s Manor, but those who’ve read A Butler’s Life know that Chris used to prepare and serve multi-course gourmet dinners. So aided by our able housekeeper Kristen, Chris (easily) handled the breakfasts and enjoyed our weekend guests. Back in our quarters, I could hear bursts of laughter from the dining room. And felt a little left out…though I did get a lot of restorative downtime. And I certainly couldn’t complain about the the sound of birdsong, nor of the view of the budding trees and spring blooms outside my window that I had the time to sit and enjoy.

Bonus of living with a classically-trained butler (not to mention a wonderful husband!): I got the full silver service treatment…meals in bed, cups of tea, a laptop and a phone and a pile of books to keep me occupied (and immobile). Yeah!

I’m back to work now, though still in my “boot” — not quite to speed yet, but healing nicely, thank you, and looking forward to flip flop season!

(Special note to the lovely guests I missed meeting this time: I look forward to your next visit!)

Quote of the Day: Swallow your pride occasionally, it’s non-fattening! ~Author Unknown

A happy coincidence

Spring weather report: A little cooler than usual this weekend with a cool breeze though the sun is out, and we had guests enjoying the area on bicycles yesterday. Beach report (at 7 AM this morning): Water a granite grey-green, with small, choppy waves. Great day for a brisk walk on the beach with someone you love.

All the harbingers of Spring are present: fat red robins out on the grass, the first daffodils in the garden, buds on the forsythia just showing a hint of their brilliant yellow flowers to come. Yesterday Chris reveled in his first sunny Saturday spent in the garden, turning over the vegetable beds and starting seeds for lettuce, peppers, and both edible and ornamental sweet peas among other horticultural delights.

Many of you know that I write books in my spare time; that in addition to A Butler’s Life and our cookbook, I’ve written two novels of psychological suspense and, most recently, one of women’s fiction. Alas, if there’s something harder for me to do than to find time to write, it’s to market the books to a potential agent (who in turn hopefully sells the novel to a publisher). Nonfiction, such as the memoir A Butler’s Life is sold by proposal and, on request, an outline and sample chapters, meaning you needn’t necessarily have the book completed before you query. Fiction, on the other hand, is sold only when the book is completed, editied and polished to within an inch of its life.  But you don’t send that polished manuscript in unless you’re invited to do so. Before that, you send a query and if the book interests the agent you’re targeting, he or she may ask to see more of it.

I’ve been committed to trying to find a home (besides mine) for this new book, and last week I queried a particular agent. Her name was familiar, but with the research I’ve done on agents, after awhile names DO look familiar, and besides, I knew from my records that I had previously (unsuccessfully) pitched a book to her. A day or so later I received an email saying that she would be happy to look at a few chapters, especially as she remembered me and had such a nice experience while staying at A Butler’s Manor last fall. Eeeeek, no wonder her name had sounded so familiar! Since Chris and I rarely learn what most of our guests do for a living, I’d never connected the dots. Still, whether or not it pans out, I’m still grateful that a happy association with our inn afforded this opportunity!

Wish me luck!

Quote of the day:  The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.  –Benjamin Disraeli