“Val Kilmer” Asks For My Help

Written By: Larry McCoy


My wife and I had never been to a yacht club before and didn’t quite know what to expect, so I tried not to look surprised when I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman picking up trash in the parking lot. That meant it seemed perfectly normal the next night to see Val Kilmer tending bar at the Montauk Yacht Club.
This was back in October of 2009, long before a humorless cardiologist told me to drink a lot of water and to cut out the bourbon. Irene and I had gone to the bar with our daughter-in-law, Deena, for a drink after dinner. I asked Val Kilmer for a Knob Creek on the rocks, and the ladies ordered cappuccinos.
(No, the bartender really wasn’t Val Kilmer, but a guy who looked like him and who ran his fingers through his hair a lot, as though he wished someone would volunteer to do this for him. The same goes for Philip Seymour Hoffman, another look-alike, hunting for stray pieces of paper between parked cars.)
The three of us (Irene, Deena and I, not Val, Philip Seymour and I) chatted while waiting for our drinks. Our son, Jack, was upstairs with his two young daughters and planned to join me when Grandma and Mommy finished their cappuccinos. A few minutes after ordering I noticed Val was talking to his assistant, holding his thumbs and two fingers to form a rectangle, the shape of a bottle of Knob Creek. There was none on the liquor shelf.
As the assistant headed for the storeroom, Val said, “He’s new. He’s learning.” Then Val asked, “Do you know how to make a French martini?”
“I don’t drink martinis,” I said.
“I’ve made them before but I can’t remember what you put in them.”
Trying to be of some help, I suggested “Why don’t you just make an ordinary martini and then say something anti-American?” (Later I wished I had made a more specific recommendation. Maybe, “Pour a regular martini and then tell the customer, ‘Lafayette was a real loser and totally full of it!’”)
Presumably valuing his job, Val ignored the one suggestion I did voice, and when I next saw him he was making noise on the other side of the bar with a martini shaker. He stopped, grabbed a can of pineapple juice and added it to the mixture, apparently having found someone on that side of the room smarter than the folks on my side.
We, by the way, were still without drinks of any kind. The assistant had returned from the storeroom with nothing, and Val went to get the Knob Creek himself. He reappeared, poured my Knob Creek and assured Irene and Deena that the cappuccinos were coming. Coming from where was unclear. Massachusetts? Milan? Mars?
When the cappuccinos did arrive, a search began for spoons. One was located and Val rubbed it with a towel, examined it and rubbed it again. He put the long-handled spoon on the bar and went searching for a mate. One was never found. Val informed the ladies, “You are going to have to share one spoon. That’s the way things are here. One napkin per customer, one spoon for two cappuccinos.” It was autumn and in a few weeks the Montauk Yacht Club would close for the season.
As the ladies sipped their drinks, we talked, and I urged Deena to tell Jack that when he joined me he should ask Val for a French martini and watch his reaction. When Jack sat down, Val was busy–perhaps searching the premises for spoon number two—and the assistant asked if he could help him.
“Yes, Drambuie on the rocks.”
Again puzzlement. The assistant had never heard of Drambuie. He went looking in the cabinets below the bar.
After Jack said it had a red top, he began grabbing any bottle with a trace of red on top. On the third or so try, the bottle retrieved was indeed Drambuie.
After pouring the drink, the assistant asked Jack what he was doing in Montauk, what he did for a living and then began to talk about himself. He had gone to school with a young couple sitting to our left at the bar. “I’m not all there today,” he said, “I was out with them in Manhattan last night drinking. Wasted.”
He asked the couple to remind him of some of the places they had been. Down the Hatch was one, Off the Wagon another. I don’t want to be an elitist, but I suspect that the bartenders at those establishments might also need some help if someone ordered a French martini.
“Would you like another drink? On the house?” the assistant asked Jack. As a second Drambuie was poured, he asked me, “Do you want another drink?”
“Yes,” I said, “but I’m not going to have one. Us old guys have to pace ourselves.”
If he offered every patron a “buy one, get one free” deal, he would be well-liked but have a brief career as a bartender.
Before we left Montauk the next morning, I picked up a copy of Dan’s Papers and looked at a special section, “The Best Of The Best,” listing the best bait and tackle shop, the best car repair place, the best charter boat service, the best place for breakfast and so on. Val was not rated the best bartender. Nor was his assistant.
The winner was Dottie at a place called Nick’s. I was never in Nicks, but I’d bet their drinks were cheaper than at the Montauk Yacht Club and arrived quicker. Then again, Dottie and Nick’s might not have been as entertaining as Val and his aide-de-camp were.