Back in the old days, up until 2013, the official Dirty Dancing tour included a segment that would later become what I called the secret tour. Guests would come through the kitchen and be afforded the opportunity to have their picture taken in what we called Penny’s spot—the place where Penny sits weeping while Neil offers Baby food from a refrigerator. Baby deftly steers Neil away, forgoing the brownies or sweet gherkins, and then runs to the gazebo to fetch Billy and Johnny. Since the tour came into the kitchen between breakfast service and lunch, we would do a quick clean, especially in Penny’s spot, before the guests would come in. Since it was a working kitchen, some of the staff would be scrubbing furiously, while others would be prepping for the next meal. The Chef would mount a light (actually a clampable heat lamp) so there would be proper illumination, and then, one by one, guests would file through to have their picture taken, doing their best weeping Penny impression, before proceeding on through to the back loading dock for the next segment of the tour.
When the last guest had left the kitchen, that was the cue for the Chef to join Buzz, the general manager who led the tours back then, on the back dock. The Chef would use this segment of the tour to regale the guests with his tales of the time when they filmed the movie. The guests always enjoyed hearing his firsthand memories of interactions with the movie people and recollections of what it was like when they shot the film back in 1986. The Chef is a colorful character in his own right and adept at telling a tale and spinning a yarn.
Back then I used to work only weekends and help out at banquets, special events like the Dirty Dancing weekends and weddings, the Oktoberfests, and any other festivities and functions. I was also the omelet maker for our busy Sunday brunches. It was the Chef’s cruel joke on me, as he knew I hated eggs, but I was in the hospitality business, so I gave it my all. One Sunday the assistant chef who used to carve the prime rib and baked ham on the buffet, Big Jack, challenged me to offer twenty-five possible ingredients for omelets. I managed over seventy. If you wanted a hot dog omelet that day, I had you covered.
The tours always happened on Saturday, between breakfast and lunch, as I’ve mentioned, which led to a very interesting development one day. Buzz was leading the tour, as always, and came into the kitchen with the group, each member eagerly awaiting their turn to get their picture in Penny’s nook. My workstation was just opposite the nook. I was busily cutting up fresh fruit for the lunch buffet, and just as I was about to start slicing up a whole, fresh watermelon, one of the guests asked if she could have her picture taken with the melon. Bear in mind, this was well before I was as thoroughly acquainted with the movie as I am now, and so, a little sarcastically, I asked if she was aware that this melon was not from 1986. She looked at me like I was a moron.
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