You can bet your cigar and kosher pickle that only death will separate Duke Zeibert from the L street restaurant that bears his name. But at age 66, well, you gotta understand, a man likes to spend more time playing golf and less time working nights, right?
Which is why it's nice for the Duke that his son Randy changed his mind and decided he'd enjoy helping run the macho eatery Dad opened twenty-eight years ago - the way Dad hoped he would ever since the days when young Randy toddled up to the bartender to mooch maraschino cherries.
"When he was a teenager he worked summertimes as a busboy," the Duke recalls. "He ate so much, I told him I'd give him a raise if he'd only eat somewhere else."
In some ways, Randy reminded friends of his flamboyant father, an acknowledged betting man with an eye for women (Liz Ray is perhaps his most famous ex-girlfriend). When he was in Bullis School in Silver Spring, Randy was the class wiseguy, a little more worldly than his peers. But despite an acceptance to Cornell - which boasts a fine resturant-and-hotel-management course - Randy chose to study business at Syracuse University.
Cracks the Duke: "He learned to play bridge sitting in a fraternity house."
Answers his son: "At Cornell they had wine-tasting courses and I said, 'This is college?'"
So Randy graduated to sell life insurance. That didn't sit well, and while he considered new careers he began working at his father's restaurant. Now, at age 29, he's part-owner of Duke Zeibert's. And he's learning the faces that have made it a place to see and be seen, especially among sports aficionados, lawyers and businessman who like the restaurant's hearty food and Toots Shor atmosphere cultivated by the Zeiberts and veteran manager Mel Krupin.
The Duke swears his son "will outshine me in forty different ways, and after Ali, I thought I was the greatest. But me, I'm old, impatient and cantankerous and he's exactly the opposite." Randy gives his father the glory, vowing, "I'd never change the name. I can carry on from where we are now, but if I had to start from scratch, I couldn't do it."
Since he began working the door four years ago, Randy became a father of a son, now three years old. Sometimes Daniel Scott visits the restaurant his grandfather built; he likes to ask the bartender for maraschino cherries.