It was an hour before the Salt Lake Chamber’s “A Giant in Our City” event was scheduled to start, and already the reception area outside the Grand Ballroom at the Grand America was packed with the usual suspects, the familiar famous and semifamous faces that constitute Salt Lake City society. There’s Fred! And Spence! Barb and Kent! Veryl!
But, first things first: Where was the bar? Uniformed females of Latin extraction were circulating with trays of what I assumed was white wine. Still eager to find the harder stuff, I nevertheless snatched a goblet and took a sip. Apple juice! I tapped the server on the shoulder and asked her where the bar was. She pointed to a table on which ranks of highball glasses sat shimmering with ice and carbonated water. I didn’t even venture a sip.
I tried another uniformed server.
“Where’s the bar?”
A shrug of incomprehension.
“You like some juice?”
“No juice. A martini. Where’s the bar?”
Another shrug and back to work.
This was ridiculous. Further reconnaissance revealed a complete dearth in the alcoholic beverage department. There was a total lack of genuine beverages of the cocktail variety. No wonder everyone looked so grim. It was like being at a Mormon wedding reception. (If you want sociability in large crowd venues, go to a Mormon funeral.)
There had to be booze somewhere in the hotel, so off we went in search. It took us 15 minutes to elbow our way through the listless herd, who awaited the 7 o’ clock dinner with all the hilarity of souls getting ready to board the barge to Hades.
We traversed an endless hallway and found, just off the lobby, an ornate lounge with the requisite bar. At last. A few martinis and dishes of nuts later, comfortably fortified for the boredom to come, we set off for the dinner. But several hundred yards away from the ballroom, we heard Lane Beattie welcoming the dinner guests. It was just two minutes past 7. Sobriety, clearly, equals punctuality.
As we navigated our way through the tables toward the waving arms that beckoned us to our assigned seats, I could hear mumbled words of censure: “They’re late. They must have in been in the hotel bar. They’re drunk!”
We got to our table just as the Rev. France Davis was beginning the opening prayer. Thank God for Pastor Davis! The man knows how to give a prayer. Not the droning inanities of the dominant culture’s addresses to the man upstairs. France Davis should be the Invocationer General of Utah, the Prayer-Giver in Perpetuity.
I glanced at the program and saw that the Beach Boys would be performing at the end of the evening. The Beach Geezers would be more like it. Weren’t most of them either dead or insane? Well, they would still be something to look forward to.
As I was contemplating the coming banalities, two wine glasses filled to the brim appeared in front of me. No breathing room for the wine, but who cares! I hadn’t heard Pastor Davis pray for wine, but maybe the Lord had hearkened to my own inward pleas.
I learned later that it wasn’t the Lord who answered my prayers, but the formidable lobbyist Gina “Guns” Crezee. A nondrinker herself, but a good host, Ms. Crezee, sensing our distress at the cocktail-less cocktail hour, had “persuaded” the waiters to keep the wine flowing at our table. The Lord works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.
With my glass topped off every 15 seconds or so, I felt my heart swell with fellow feeling and love, which encompassed even the tedious recitation of the evening honoree’s incredible virtues. Yes, yes, would that we all could be such sweet spirits (and sweet spirits made sweet without the warming influence, apparently, of demon rum.)
My sober tablemates informed me later that the Beach Geezers were woeful imitators of their former selves, but purple-mouthed with pleasures of the vine, I thought they never sounded better. I didn’t even mind that they had forgotten the words to “Salt Lake City.” I went home happy, knowing in my heart that we’ve got the grooviest kids, that’s why we never get tired of Salt Lake, yeah.