Giovanni and Villa Nova

I met Giovanni at the bar in Villa Nova Italian restaurant in Newport Beach on Pacific Coast Highway. I had walked into Villa Nova looking for a gig. I had just arrived in California and I needed to find a restaurant to perform in so I could start giving out my card. I sat down at the bar and that's when I met Giovanni, a warm and friendly guy with a dark mustache, about 75 years old. He said he was Italian and Argentinian with an Argentinian accent. We made some small talk then he asked me what I did for a living. Funny he should ask. I told him that I'm a professional magician and naturally he was curious about seeing some magic. He nudged the woman next to him, his lady friend, as he liked to call her, and told her that I was a professional magician. I gave them a little taste of the magic and he couldn't believe what he was seeing, and neither could she. As we talked more, I let him know that I thought this would be a good place for me to perform and he told me that Richie Fauno, the pianist playing there in the lounge is the man in charge. I asked him if Richie was also in charge of the restaurant side of things. He told me that he only runs the lounge, that it's "his room" when he's here. The people in the lounge were clearly regulars and would hear a key or two on the piano and already know what song he was playing, way before anyone else would know, if they didn't already know Richie's repertoire.

The second or third time I was at Villa Nova, Giovanni introduced me to Richie on his break. Richie was friendly with me and offered to let me come up and perform for the crowd in the lounge in between songs. I was grateful for any opportunity to get in front of an audience, but what I really wanted was to perform table side in the restaurant while people were waiting for their food and after dinner. Richie had no say in that. Richie did have say in the lounge, though, and he would introduce me to the crowd and I'd do my magic and it went over really well. When I sat back down next to Giovanni at the bar, he told me that he loved what I was doing and that he thought I had the right personality and look. There's a lot of right personalities and looks, I thought, but what he was saying was that that isn't a problem for me. He leaned in and smiled just before he was going to say something he thought was important for me to keep in mind and he said, "the shortest distance between two people is a smile". And I smiled, and I thought it was funny that I smiled. I also appreciated the saying because it had a cleverness to it and it also seemed to have some truth to it.

While we were talking business, he would tell me stories about the furniture business that he made his living in. He told me that if someone walked into his store and looked around and talked with him, but didn't buy anything, he would catch them as they were leaving and give them a bottle of wine as a thank you for coming in. I liked that. He wasn't small minded like so many people are. Somehow I don't think he had the ugly sign in his store that says WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO ANYONE. I really hate that sign. I always think, isn't there a better arrangement of words you could post on the wall for your customers, for the people who keep your business afloat? But that's another story. So I would listen to his stories and I never thought he talked too much. I liked hearing what he had to say. I probably only met him about five or six times, but he helped me make a couple of contacts.

After a while, I got impatient waiting for Richie to call me up to perform. I was sitting there listening to him sing, but I wanted to be performing for people, giving them my card. When I did get a chance to speak to the manager, it was in passing, and he seemed to be in a hurry. He wasn't too friendly. He had a seriousness about him and his blue blazer made him look important, and I thought that he probably thought so too. I didn't like the inaction of sitting around so I made my move... into the restaurant and right up to the first table of people in the dining room. There were nice white table cloths and glasses of wine and pretty people oozing money. I artfully intruded, which is always a gamble, and they were captivated by my magic. Everything was going how it should, they were laughing and completely stunned. I was at the table for maybe two minutes when out of the corner of my eye I saw gray hair and a blue blazer coming towards me. I already know what he's going to say, so just as he gets close to me and says excuse me, I put my hand up and looked at him and said, "just a minute". He stood there with his arms folded, seething, and watched the rest of my performance. The people watching didn't know that I was about to be told to leave, and blue blazer wasn't going to tell me to leave because the people were having a blast. I knew that and I milked it and took my time with them and gave them all my card before leaving. He told me that I cannot go into the dining room and just go up to people's tables, the lounge is okay, but not the dining room. He didn't throw me out because I was also a customer of the bar, and would order appetizers. I knew this wasn't going to last long because I needed a place where I was welcome throughout.

I told Giovanni about what happened and he laughed and seemed surprised that the management wouldn't be delighted to have me entertain their guests. I explained to him that the management has a legitimate concern. They are afraid their guests will not want to be bothered. I prove every manager and owner wrong about that, every time. I tell them to watch their faces and ask them about me afterwards. Blue blazer knew his guests loved it, but managers are usually afraid to say yes to any idea that isn't conventional, because if there is a problem, they are concerned that the owner will say, "what were you thinking having a magician go to the tables!?" An owner of a restaurant isn't worried about losing their job and therefore will try new things.

Giovanni and I talked and told stories, and he warned me about the women around here, telling me that they'd be after my money. I told him I hoped to have that problem some day. ​He told me of his days of working day and night and how it caused him to have three heart attacks. When I asked him about whether it was really the work or if it was the women, he laughed, and I suspected that I had discovered some truth lurking between his words. He grabbed his whiskey and took a sip, like people do when they've been caught. Giovanni had wisdom, though. When I told him about how I escaped my job having a sales manager, he said "it is better to be the head of the mouse than the tail of the lion." I liked that one, too. I had him repeat it so I could remember it.

Thank you for stopping by.



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