Suffice to say, Mr. Thomson got a laughable impression of Bens. The décor scored points, as we were sure it would, but then it came time to order. Between the 6 of us, we chose 3-4 different items from the lengthy menu. Our waiter (the only one working the floor at the time, where, once, a veritable fleet of black and white clad waiters had operated) listened to me ask for a grilled cheese sandwich before informing us that the kitchen was closed (!), as the cook was taking his lunch break (!!). "So, what does that mean," we asked. And we were told that it meant the only thing available was the “famous” smoked meat sandwich. Mr. Thomson, savvily, asked, “Why? Where do the smoked meat sandwiches come from?” Smoked meat sandwiches, the waiter replied, come out of counter-side steaming units and not the kitchen, and therefore are the domain of the wait staff and not the kitchen. We promptly ordered 6 “famous” smoked meat sandwiches (what else were we going to do?) with a few dill pickles, and 6 soft drinks and got back to our conversation.
An hour later, we’d had plenty more quality time with Mr. Thomson and we found him perfectly happy to discuss nearly any aspect of the film biz. Strangely, there we were sitting with one of the world’s leading authorities on the studio system, but D., M., and S. froze in his presence and failed to tell him about their own “hi-class” film studio [Dear Mr. Thomson (and anyone else, for that matter), for more information about Automatic Vaudeville we'd like to direct you to the following "hi-class" website: Automatic Vaudeville Studios--ed]. Instead, S., poor guy, confronted Mr. Thomson with a film he'd been wrestling with all summer: “What did you think of The Hulk?"
Mr. Thomson trumped us on the bill—the idea had been to take him out, to thank him. He told us he was flattered we’d asked him out (in spite of the poor food, I guess) and that it was his pleasure. We said our goodbyes, and he walked away—again.
I went home and started leafing through my newly signed copy of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film.