That was how our ultra-chill manager understated the events of last night in the daily report. I smiled when I read it 1st thing this morning. Indeed she did.
Where does one begin when one of the worlds most famous (and wealthy and humble…) mega stars visits your city, generates $1.5M then donates a matching $1.5M for your Alma maters scholarship fund, and then prior to heading to the airport in the season’s first snow storm, decides to first have dinner at your restaurant! (Tortilla soup and the blackened shrimp appetizer if you were going to ask; “…loved those shrimp.” If Oprah also had a “best seller list” for menu items, we’re confident our blackened shrimp would rate!)
We knew the pre-show business would be at capacity. We booked solid only days after it was announced that UMASS had booked Oprah to speak–with thanks to UMASS professor and renowned author Andre Dubois! When my wife Kathy asked last week if she and her mom/friends/sisters could dine at Cobblestones before the show we had to put her on the wait list! That went over well.
On a night like this, Cobblestones turns away almost as many people as we welcome and accommodate–the very few times each year that I wish our large restaurant was even larger. It was indeed a packed house, 95% female for whatever that’s worth, 90% drinking wine!
During the rush, someone whispered to me that they had heard Oprah was coming in for dinner after the show. I replied that its possible but in the past when huge stars have dined at Cobblestones I have generally received a heads up. Of course, not too many years ago, projecting the arrival of a celebrity carried limited risk. How many people could we have actually alerted by phone in a couple hours time? Today social media has changed that metric. The answer is now hundreds or even thousands!
In fact, when her people called during the show, (caller ID exposing OWN, Oprah’s TV network) they disguised their request for a private room as being for a VIP named “Amber…” The staff quickly googled the name and discovered a college basketball star and coach. Hmm? We told them we would set the room for the requested two tables of five and seven. (I then texted the phone number that a private entrance and complete privacy could be guaranteed if “the VIP” preferred.)
A half hour later, when a man in a black suit wearing an earpiece arrived and asked to see me, and the room choices, he continued to maintain that the VIP’s were not necessarily Oprah and her people; “I can’t name names, but your discretion would be greatly appreciated.” Hello-o.
We didn’t tell anyone. Much. But a heavy buzz was in the air as Cobblestones began to fill once again as the show let out. And then, all possibility of discretion and mystery disappeared when a large black Suburban pulled up to the curb and someone in the bar screamed: “Oh my God, it’s Oprah!”
Oprah emerged in the snowy streetlight and proceeded to pose with folks in front of Cobblestones before slowly making her way through a lobby full of adoring fans, covered in snowflakes! Along the way to her private room, security allowing her space but staying close by, she posed with numerous excited fans for pictures before disappearing into our Z’s Music Room for a quiet dinner with her team . Our guests were equally as gracious, allowing her space for dinner while many waited patiently dining and drinking for another chance to meet and pose with this super-kind superstar, many trying to glimpse her through the French doors.
Ninety minutes later, Oprah graciously posed with me with humor and a discretionary eye–as she directed then approved the photos–so we could add her picture to our 25-year “Wall of Fame,” with other stars that have eaten in our private rooms. She will now join Serena and Venus, Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Garner, Van Morrison, Barry Manilow, LaToyia Edwards, Ray Romano, Jessica Simpson, Natalie Cole, The Rock, and others.
We are honored that so many celebrities who have visited Lowell have chosen to dine at our restaurant and likewise thrilled for UMASS that Oprah generated/donated $3M for students. Thank you to all who made this night possible and to our incredible staff who beautifully managed so much throughout such a dynamic evening. Some pretty remarkable stuff on another incredibly memorable night in the DTL! They really pile up over 25 years.