I liked the dark lighting, the walls lined with mirrors, and the fact that I could bump into Lindsay Lohan on the way to the ladies’ room and “Carlton Banks” at the bar. The food was pretty good too.
The first time I visited the restaurant, the waiter came to my table and frowned at me when I asked for a menu. Instead he asked me if I wanted beef or chicken, if I had any food allergies, and what I wanted to drink. He also told me to expect to pay about $50 per person, which did not include the drink. While I ate, “Mr. Chow” wheeled out a mobile cart and started flipping noodles around like a magician. Everyone clapped. I clapped too.
One night, I convinced my ex-husband to take me there. We were still married at the time. I don’t remember what day of the week it was, but it was definitely a school night, and there were lots of empty tables. I had never seen the restaurant so desolate. Mr. Chow didn’t even bother coming out and doing his magic show.
As my ex and I were eating one of the courses of our $100-dollar meal, a bright, white light suddenly shined into the restaurant. It was blinding. I imagined that this was the light that the nearly-dead walked into when they decided to take their last breaths.
“What is that?” I asked, as the light shined on my back and bounced off the mirrors. “What’s happening?!”
I turned around to look for myself, but all I could see was the blinding white light coming from the main entrance of the restaurant.
“It’s a flash. It must be paparazzi or something,” my ex said, as I was trying to blink the spots out of my eyes.
“Oh shit!” he said squinting. “It’s Whitney Houston!”
“Yeah, right,” I said laughing.
The white light slowly disappeared as the door to the main entrance closed. I turned around again. It was in fact Whitney Houston. She was beautiful. Her skin was clear. Her hair was curly and pretty. She looked healthy, contrary to many of the reports that were out around that time.
She was with two young adults – a girl and a guy.
“Is that Bobbi Kristina?” my ex asked.
“I don’t know. I thought she was chubby.”
“Me too,” he said.
I pulled out my phone and Googled her daughter, “Bobbi Kristina.” Pictures of a skinny, young woman with long hair, blowing smoke out of her mouth, popped up. It was the same young woman that walked into the restaurant with Whitney Houston.
“Oh my goodness, it’s her!” I whispered loudly through my teeth. I could feel myself smiling and my eyes opening wider.
We later learned that the young man with them was Nick Gordon.
The restaurant host seated them at the table right behind us. A waiter walked over to their table. Whitney Houston asked for a menu.
“Ma’am, we don’t really have a menu,” the waiter said.
“I want to see a menu,” Whitney Houston said. It was a demand. She knew that the waiter was there to serve her.
She continued speaking sternly to him. How were they supposed to know what to order without a menu? She kept going on.
My eyes widened. I was now glad that my back was facing her table. I recognized her tone. It was the same tone she with Diane Sawyer during that infamous interview. It was the same tone she used on Wendy Williams, when she told her to “watch what the fuck you say.”
My ex and I just stared at each other. He tried to keep his face expressionless because he and Whitney Houston could potentially make eye contact. Then out of nowhere, he gave her the “black man head nod,” to say hello.
“What?!” I said, still whispering loudly through my teeth. Did he really just say “hi” to Whitney Houston?
“She looked up,” he said smiling, as a result of his interaction with an icon.
The waiter returned to Whitney Houston’s table with a laminated piece of white paper. It was “the menu.” The waiter took their orders and walked away from the table. While the trio waited for their food, Whitney Houston started casually singing along with the songs that played on the overhead speaker. We were having our own Whitney Houston concert! It was the most unbelievable date my ex and I had ever been on.
We spent the rest of our date night spying on Whitney Houston, Bobbi Kristina, and Nick Gordon without trying to look at them directly. My ex would tell me when they laughed, when their food came, or anything else that they were doing behind my back. I turned around every so often pretending I was looking for something, but really I was taking long looks at them.
After the waiter brought our check to the table, we deliberated on whether or not we should ask Whitney Houston and her family to take a picture with us. We decided against it. We didn’t want her to go off on us like she did the waiter or Wendy Williams. Also, my experience interning at a record label programmed me to never ask celebrities for their pictures or autographs. It was a desperate move.
So after we paid our bill, my ex and I walked out of the restaurant as slowly and as non-creepily as we could past her table, so that we could take a mental snapshot of the time we once shared the same air as Whitney Houston. She acknowledged us with a glance, and then our moments with Whitney Houston were over.
When she died two years later, I remembered the time I “dined” with Whitney Houston. I immediately regretted not asking to take a picture with her. So what if she would have yelled at me that day? That would have made an even greater memory. When Bobbi Kristina died three years later, I regretted it even more.
As unbelievable as it was that I saw them that day, it was even more ridiculous that I let fear persuade me out of creating a memento of Whitney Houston…Whitney Houston, the world-famous singer!
This woman’s music marked some of my most memorable moments in life – singing her songs in the car with my mom; singing the “Greatest Love of All” during my first year at summer camp; struggling to finish a group project in college because my classmates and I were distracted by the Diane Sawyer interview; listening to her infamous Wendy Williams interview with my coworkers at Bad Boy Records. I even used her funeral as a marker to remember the last time I had sex with my ex-husband. Whenever I explained my unhappiness in my marriage, I would say “We haven’t had sex since the day of Whitney Houston’s funeral.” As each year passed, I said it more dramatically.
And from a more unethical perspective, imagine how much money I could have sold that photo for? I could have pitched it as “One of Whitney Houston’s last meals with her daughter and the guy legally responsible for her daughter’s death.”
So now, seven years later, Whitney Houston is dead. Bobbi Kristina is dead. I no longer live in Los Angeles. My husband and I are divorced, and I haven’t been to Mr. Chow since that day. I have no proof that any of this ever happened. I can never recreate that moment. I don’t get a do-over.