In an effort to distract everyone from what would have been the start of Masters week. I bring you a non-golf story of a brush with greatness. It was December 2003 and Elizabeth and I were on our honeymoon. We chose Italy for our destination. Our good friend Hans Maissen who at the time was the GM at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, recommended some of the most amazing hotels in Italy. Hans had been in the industry a long time and had connections to all the five star destinations across the globe. So off we go!
Our first stop was Rome. We are doing all the normal tourist attractions. On Christmas Eve we had a private tour of the Vatican that was set up by our hotel. Quite the experience. Our tour guide was a local professor who spoke perfect English. He was great but at the end of the tour my New Orleans instincts kicked in when he suggested we take one last visit to a private art gallery just outside the Vatican to see some mosaic art work. He tried to sell us some crazy expensive art, he knew I was a professional golfer but what he didn’t know was that I missed more four footers than I made. When I asked him if he had anything smaller he showed us a piece about the size of a 3x5 index card for $3,000. I said “for $3,000 I need to be blessed by the Pope with my putter in my hand. And my wife needs to be blessed just for marrying me.” We all laughed and I said “I’ll come back when I’m playing better.” We haven’t been back. We did get to see the Pope for Christmas Eve mass in the square. That was really cool, trust me I prayed. Our next stop was Venice. Hans had recommended we stay at the Hotel Cipriani, which was truly first class. We did the normal tourist stuff. Took the tour of the Murano glass factory. Saw some more expensive stuff I couldn’t afford and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Venice. For our last night there we had made reservations for the Hotel Danieli restaurant across the waterway from our hotel. It was located on the main canal and was thought to be a very romantic spot for dinner. Elizabeth was getting ready so I took a stroll outside our hotel with my camera to capture the sunset over a church that was located adjacent to our hotel. As I took my pictures, I notice a British couple posing outside a building next to the church. I go take a closer look to see what the action was all about. I peer through the windows and see an Andy Warhol painting and a Chihuly chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Some people might be surprise to learn I know what a Chihuly chandelier looks like. Dale Chihuly is a famous glass sculptor and the Renaissance Arts Hotel down the street from our condo in NOLA had a couple in their lobby. They run about $250,000 plus. Another thing I couldn’t afford. I thought it might have been some type of art museum so I took some pictures through the windows to show my wife. We get ready for dinner and walk down to the front desk of our hotel. The GM was standing there so I show him my pictures and ask “what type of museum is this next door?” He gave me a look as if I had done something wrong then he says very quietly “sir, that is not a museum, that is Sir Elton John’s home.” I’m like, oops, my bad. He then asks us where we were going for dinner. I told him we were going to the Hotel Danieli. He shakes his head as if I’ve done something wrong again. He then pulls me over to the side and says “Hotel Danieli is a tourist trap. I recommend you go to Restaurante Da Ivo this evening.” After a brief pause, he kind of winks and says “You might even see Sir Elton John there.” Now, I’ve been around the block a few times, seen a lot of hustles for restaurants and bars in the French Quarter, so I’m thinking we might be getting set up. Well, it’s the last night, so we decide to take an adventure. We get off the boat at San Marco Square, journey begins. No GPS, no Google maps, just the handwritten directions from the GM. We literally turn down every tiny street in Venice. We are lost and can’t find our way out of these tunnel maze like streets. Elizabeth and I start arguing because I kept saying we are about to get robbed. The more lost we got the less English people spoke. Then, a kind stranger looked at our directions and said “follow me, I will take you.” I thought we were going to die. But then within minutes we were at our destination. Restaurante Da Ivo.
We walk in and I can confidently say this place sat maybe 20 people. I tell Elizabeth I want the seat facing the room just to keep an eye on everything. We sit down right by the front window, and order wine. The tables are small the room is cramped. Tables and chairs are touching, barely any room to back up from your seat. I look at Elizabeth and say “I’ll kiss your ass if Elton John has ever set foot in this place.” Our food is delivered, Chef Ivo (I don’t know if that’s actually his name but that’s what I called him) comes to say hello. The restaurant is filling up with Italians. Ten minutes later Ivo walks back into the dining room toward the table that is right behind Elizabeth and starts rearranging the chairs a bit. A private side door entrance is located on the other side of this table. The doors open, and in walks Sir Elton John. Elizabeth looks over her shoulder then back at me and says “pucker up!”
Now, we had already eaten our main courses and had one bottle of wine but Elton is sitting right behind Elizabeth. The back of his chair is touching hers. His large canary diamond pinky ring hung on the edge of his chair almost touching Elizabeth’s shoulder. No chance we were leaving now. I order another bottle of wine and desserts. This could get interesting. Elton talks even louder than me, which is saying something. We can hear everything he is saying and I can’t stop laughing. His conversation covered Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and George Michael. Elizabeth was thoroughly entertained. That is until the 2nd bottle of wine kicked in and I start singing. “ba ba ba ba Benny! Ba ba ba Benny and the Jets!” Elizabeth looks at me horrified and says “STOP. Don’t be that guy.” So I reply with “Rocketmannnnnn!” Elton’s shoulders went up as if to try and block the sound from his ears, his entire table looked in our direction. Elizabeth immediately asks for the check but I don’t want to leave until Elton does because I wanted a picture with him. Elizabeth says “no way, leave him alone.” I slow play the bill savoring the last few sips of my wine. She is not happy with me so we get up and leave. Of course I made her wait outside so we can see Elton board his private boat. A few moments later, the side entrance opens and Elton and his group of 4 step onto their boat. He looks right over at us and starts howling like a werewolf. Guess he didn’t like my singing either.