'Doc," I said, as I shifted uneasily on the couch, "it's about this fantasy I've been having."
"Is this another ravishing beauty you saw in the subway?" asked the voice I know so well.
"I realize that people in your line of work have trouble with this idea, Doc," I said, "but there are other things in life beside that."
The doctor fiddled with his pipe, and attempted to relight it. "If you say so," he said, with skepticism as thick as the walls of the Washington Monument. And then: "So if it wasn't about women, what was your fantasy about?"
"I want my own restaurant. On K Street. Called Bob Levey's."
"Still having delusions of power and prominence," the doctor mumbled, as he scrawled notes on his ever-present yellow legal pad. After about a minute, he looked up and asked:
"Did your mother feed you enough when you were a kid?"
"She fed me too much, if anything, Doc. But that's not why I want to open a restaurant on K Street. I want to see my name over the door in four-foot-high letters. I want $300-an-hour lawyers to butter me up so they'll get a good table. I want Washingtonian Magazine to run a floor plan of where the great and mighty sit at my place. I want the TV news to interview me every time some politician tries to ban three-martini lunches. We're talking influence, Doc, not calories."
"But can't you get influence some other way? If you're so starved for attention and affection, why don't you run for office?"
"I'm going to assume you're kidding, Doc, because I couldn't stand it if you weren't. Run for office? Why do that when a restaurant will bring me love that lasts -- not just love that lasts until the next election?"
The doctor sighed, as if to say, "Okay, I guess I'm going to have to take this seriously." He looked me right in the eye and asked: "Do you have any idea how much it costs to open a restaurant?"
"Not exactly, Doc. But that's why God made banks -- to lend brilliant businessmen like me the money to get going. I figure I can open by next spring, just in time for Howard Baker and Jack Kemp and all the other serious contenders to start seeing and being seen. Hell, Doc, Walter Mondale won the 1984 nomination by gladhanding his way around Duke Zeibert's. Why can't Mario Cuomo win the '88 nomination by doing the same thing at Bob Levey's?"
"Perhaps you didn't notice what happened to Mondale in 1984."
"I noticed, Doc. But that's exactly the point. Presidential nominees may win, and they may lose. But they're always going to have to strut their stuff. And where are they going to strut it? At Burger King?"
The doctor looked as if he was getting slightly interested. "Let's talk marketing for a second," he said. "Why do you think there's a need for Bob Levey's if there's already a Mel Krupin's and a Duke Zeibert's?"
"Doc, you poor naive sweetie, have you ever tried to get a table at either of those places? You show up at noon, you're lucky if you're sitting down by 12:30. The whole marketing genius of my idea is based on customer impatience. People are sick of having to stand in the doorway at Duke's and Mel's. Yes, they want to be noticed. But they also want to be fed. So my idea is to skim off the throng that wants to walk right in and sit down. I've got the ads all planned, Doc. 'Come to Bob Levey's, where the pickles are just as big, but the delays aren't.' Pretty sharp, huh?"
The doctor was making notes again. "Has deep need to have ideas accepted," the doctor mumbled. "Fixation on pickles puzzling." Finally, the doctor looked up and asked if I had found a location for Bob Levey's yet.
"Not yet, Doc, but I have agents working on that problem even as we speak. I don't figure I'll have to wait too long. Hey, some of these restaurants on K Street open and close inside three months."
"Doesn't that tell you something?" asked the doctor, his voice rising. "Doesn't that indicate that there may be a risk in all this? What if Larry King and Edward Bennett Williams and all those guys try Bob Levey's once and decide they'd rather stick with the crab cakes they know and love?"
"They wouldn't dare, Doc," I replied. "I'm going to stagger them with innovations and freebies. I'm going to have free nachos at every table, cut-rate bloody marys, chocolate chip cookies for a penny. I'll have a roving photographer. I'll have free copies of every newspaper and magazine published east of the Mississippi. I'll have a stockbroker walking around with the latest quotations -- and order blanks. As the saying goes, Doc, it can't miss."
The doctor was lost in thought for a long, long moment. At last, he said:
"About nachos: I know a guy who sells nachos. Not just good nachos. Great nachos. His guacamole isn't exactly minor-league, either. Now, if you make me your partner . . . ."