If You Like Piña Coladas

What do I do? I write for television.

Let me explain to you what this means. I once pitched a story to the writing staff of Amen. My premise was brilliant: Sherman Hemsley discovers a man who looks just like him. When Sherman accidentally bumps his head and is knocked out, his twin -- who is actually evil -- replaces him and wreaks havoc on the whole Amen bunch until, at the end, Sherman wakes up and proves that the guy wasn't the real Sherman.

They didn't buy it. I complain about it to just about everyone who comes into the restaurant. "Table for four?" I say. "Right this way. Did you know, I once pitched a script to Amen?"

The tourists occasionally listen to me. Locals, most of whom I'm convinced are related to the writing staff of Amen, just turn away at the sight of me.

So one day, I'm at work, waiting for my shift to end so I can go home and work on my script for a Very Special Episode of Blossom, when this guy comes in and asks me for a table for one.

"Table for one?" I say. "Right this way. Did you know, I once --"

And I stopped, realizing the identity of the man I was leading to a table.

"You're Rupert Holmes!"

That's when he got all shifty-eyed. He looked around the restaurant, making sure that nobody else was within earshot. Then he looked at me with cold, calculating eyes -- eyes that just couldn't have written the songs I loved in my youth -- and shook his head.

"No. I'm not."

He pushed me to the floor and ran out of the restaurant.

I got home about an hour later, and begin searching through my record collection. There it was, right next to my copy of Barry Manilow's Manilow Magic and Captain and Tenille's Love Will Keep us Together: Rupert Holmes. The man on the album cover had the same face as the man I met today at the restaurant. He had more hair on the album cover, and was wearing a purple felt jacket, not the tan slacks and green polo shirt he was wearing today. But it was unmistakably him: Rupert Holmes.

I put the record on and cranked it all the way. The first song was the one that had made me fall in love. The label called it "The Piña Colada Song," but I never thought of it as that.

If you love Piña Coladas

And getting caught in the rain

If you're not in to health food

If you're into champagne

I went out and drank ten Piña Coladas after hearing this song for the first time. The image that sticks in my mind of that whole night is still the moment I sipped the first Piña Colada and thought to myself: yes, Rupert, yes. I do love them. The hours I spent later, vomiting, aren't nearly as clear in my mind, though it taught me that loving Piña Colada and being into champagne aren't things you should do at the same time.

That weekend, there was a terrible thunderstorm. I stood outside the entire time, being pelted by hailstones the size of fetal pigs. When they wheeled me into General with a hideous case of pneumonia, I kept repeating one thing: Yes, Rupert, I love getting caught in the rain.

They tried to feed me healthy food at the hospital. I told them I wasn't into it. They fed it to me anyway.

My memories of "The Piña Colada Song" flowed over me as I sat there. It was the story of a man who took out a personals ad to find a new lover, only to discover that he and his old lover had more in common than they had thought.

They don't make songs like that anymore. Now the kids have their heavy metal, like Warrant and Winger, and their rap music, like that crazy Michael Jackson with his one glove. But Rupert Holmes, his songs were inextricably part of the fabric of the America of that time. Personals ads were all the rage. So were telephone answering machines. Which brought me to the second cut on my album...

I'm so sorry, you have just reached my answering machine

I'm not in at present, I'm sure you know the whole routine

Leave your name and number, and I'll try to get back to you

You've got thirty seconds to talk to me before you're through.

Rupert's mastery of songwriting had actually made me go out and buy an answering machine. And of course, my message was simply a small part of his song, "Answering Machine."

I picked up the needle after listening to the two songs, Rupert's two big hits. After that, we heard nothing more from Rupert. He faded away. In the intervening years, I admit to sobbing at night sometimes, wondering whatever had become of my beloved Rupert.

Now, out of the blue, Rupert Holmes had walked into my restaurant. But he refused to admit who he was.

Why would Rupert Holmes be afraid of the truth?

I never saw Rupert Holmes again. I'm afraid I scared him off by recognizing his face. He'll probably never come back into the restaurant again.

But I dream about Rupert, every now and then. I dream of a different world, a world where the '90s is the Rupert Holmes Decade.

I'm so sorry, you've just reached my voice mail

I'm not here right now, you know this whole spiel

Press "1" to ring my cellular phone

Press "2" if you just want to leave me alone

Press "3" if you like Smart Drinks

Press "4" if you're into safer sex

Press "0" to reach the operator

I was so depressed, I couldn't work on my Blossom screenplay for a week. I got through my Rupert Holmes grieving phase eventually, but I could never forget him.

He loved Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain. He was not into health food -- he was into champagne. And he had one damned fine answering machine, which gave you thirty seconds to talk to him before you were through.

Can you say the same? I thought not.