Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson were two of the most loving couples I had ever seen together. They were madly in love, and we could see this unfold when it all started.
The initial sparks of their relationship began on the Broadway stage in a production of Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie.” Richardson was the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and director and producer Tony Richardson and the granddaughter of English stage and film actor Michael Redgrave. So, she came from British stage royalty. And Neeson became a household name when he starred in director Steven Spielberg’s moving Oscar-winning film “Schindler’s List.”
After their nightly performances, both would often come to dine at Trattoria Dell’Arte and sit at a table where they could smoke, especially Richardson as she later became an outspoken critic of the ban on smoking in New York City restaurants. But you could see them sitting on a banquet side by side, making out passionately as people walked into the restaurant to check-in at the maitre d’ desk. It was a sight to behold. The two of them could not keep their hands off each other.
On one of those visits, Liam Neeson, who had recently been featured in GQ Magazine, had mentioned to the writer that he was well-endowed, which made it into print. So, when I was opening a bottle of wine for them, I congratulated him on the article (which I hadn’t read yet but wanted to use as a topic for small talk), and he replied, “Did it mention how big my c#&k was?”
I turned flush red because, boy, did I step into that pile of shit unknowingly. I didn’t know how to respond. But Richardson saved me because she had elbowed Neeson in his ribs and told him to stop being rude.
A few years later, I had opened a restaurant called Spread at a boutique hotel called The Marcel with my partner Bobby Ochs. His previous restaurant was Mulholland Drive Cafe, which he owned with actor Patrick Swayze. This time, Natasha came in with her assistant to plan for her 40th birthday.
She had on a tight-knit sweater that displayed her newly bought breasts, as her nipples were talking to me at the same time as she was. They looked like pencil erasers jutting out, screaming for attention. But they were magnificent — perfect! When she sat down, I had mentioned that I used to take care of her and Liam when they dined at Dell’Arte, and she quickly felt more at ease because the party that she was nervously describing was going to be epic.
She had invited some of the biggest names in show business and wanted to make sure that every detail would be perfect on her special night. We even gave her a private entrance to the restaurant so her guests could enter the place without the fear of the paparazzi. I asked her for a list of her guests, but she said she’d hand it to me 30 minutes before the event to ensure there weren’t any leaks to the press.
So, on the day of her party, I received the list from her and could not believe who was on it: Harrison Ford, Ralph Fiennes, Barry Diller, Diane von Furstenberg, Alan Cumming, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, and about every major Broadway star of any consequence. It was truly epic.
As her guests started to arrive, it looked like a mini-Oscar red carpet party. I made sure everyone was taken care of and that the evening went off without a hitch. Natasha was glowing. She ate, drank, and danced all night and had the time of her life. Our DJ was Cameron Douglas, son of Michael Douglas and grandson of Kirk Douglas.
At the end of the evening, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and I sat at the bar weary from a long evening. When we cracked open a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, a gorgeous blond who Ralph had met at the party whisked him away. As his taxi was leaving with his newly-found conquest, we could see Ralph turn around in the back seat, and with a wink, wave goodbye to his pal Liam.
Former restauranteur, musician, concert promoter, producer, publisher, manager, and impresario, Charles Carlini has synthesized these roles to become a dynamic force in the music industry–noted for his ability to bring diverse talent together to create innovative concerts and recordings that reach and move music-lovers everywhere.