Samantha made sure that she had the night off, but she was working up a sweat. Dimitri had certainly talked up his cabaret well enough; a ninety-minute set had sucked up all the tables in the Hooters side of the restaurant from 6:30 to 11pm. Samantha’s regional manager had the GM duties for the evening, a clear sign that Dimitri had “moved the needle.” The business expected for a random March Tuesday was 80% over par, but if the earlybirds had their say at the bar, this evening would do the corporate numbers double. At 5:30, with the afternoon just giving in to evening’s bullying, Samantha made her entrance in a flowing crème brulee backless dress (in Dimitri’s dreams, it turned out, come true). She was met by the star, in a sequined half-buttoned black satin double-breasted number competing with hers for the lowest neckline. He glad-handed customers, took repertoire requests, made drink suggestions (Dark Russian for Rachmaninov, White Russian for Scriabin, Berenguer for Poulenc, and Schlibovitz for Chopin)and lit cigarettes for the ladies. She made the men feel sophisticated, and in charge. And also, in charge of showing how well they controlled with the pulchritude of their wallet.
The way Dim and Sam had planned this, there would a build-up of tension before each classical showpiece, a drink order before every show tune or selection from the American Songbook, and a major side wager for each round of karaoke. Karaoke winners got their next drinks free. Was this any way to develop a serious audience? Hell, no. That’s why Dimya got to frontload the program with show pieces like the Schubert impromptu in D that he started this evening’s festivities.
Schubert didn’t specify high-flying left-hand antics in the impromptu, certainly not a choreography. Dimitri seemed to shape the lyrical left hard phrase exactly to fit the date of the richest diner, and then asked the woman how she was impressed, and what she would hear next. If the girl showed more cleavage than class, Dimya would transition to a karaoke set using something like “More Than a Feeling” as a bridge. If she was simple but sweet, she might get “Fur Elise” by Beethoven. If she were a real aficionado, she’d call the tune, and if Dimitri could find it in the Great American Songbook, she’d get it, along with a piano break Dimitri would make up.
Samantha, beaming, left her position as hostess and walked forward in just the dress that Dimitri had imagined for the Sunday morning when he first played for her. She dipped her elegant silky cleavage below the piano hood and gave Dimitri a hug that was more than just appreciative of the success of the evening. Then she turned to the crowd, noticing that two waitresses were busily taking more drink and hors d’oeuvres orders.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, from Russia with Love, via Israel and Bridesburg, Dimitri Kats!” Samantha smiled and put her arm on Dimya’s black satin shoulder and waited for the applause to die down. “I think that it’s safe to say that Dimitri can forget about taking the second Tuesday off for a while.
“I’ll send my boys if he does!” called out a beefy guy with wire-rimmed glasses and a double-breasted suit with oversized white pinstripes.
Dimitri made eye contact with the imposing figure. “Don’t worry, Gianni, I’m not going anywhere without a piano.”
Samantha winked at Dimitri. “Do I get to make a request”
“Lady calls the tune.”
“Could you do a medley of Israeli dance music?”
“You lead the dancing?”
There was a small space behind the piano that had not been set up for the last tables that should have been squeezed in. Samantha kicked off her beige satin high heels, showing her always tan feet, in the style that she had learned to do r’kudey am (the dances of the nation) that had kept her in Hebrew school for a year beyond her Bat Mitzvah. Tapping Dimitri on the cheek, she announced the existence of the unplanned dance floor, bounded out from behind the piano, and called out, “Hora Mamtera! Join me, anybody?”
Dimitri noticed that in motion, Samantha’s backless opalesque dress with the deep plunging neckline forgave her trim, well-shaped form its every wish, freeing her nipples when she bent down before a jump, and snapping back into place when she rose up to her full 5’11” form.