One of the most popular after-theater restaurants in the city, Angus McIndoe (258 West 44th Street, next door to the St. James Theatre) made its debut on December 12, 2001. Among its investors are Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Mel Brooks, Tom Meehan, and Frank McCourt; these and many other theater notables can be found supping at the restaurant on any given night.
For Angus McIndoe (Mack-in-DOO), the place is "a dream come true. Also," adds the amiable Scot, "it's all I know how to do. I've worked in restaurants since I was a kid in Glasgow." But if Angus has never dreamed of a career in the theater, many of his staff members certainly do. As is usual with restaurants, the shift pay is low -- but the tips are not. (Angus's is a "poolhouse," where all gratuities are pooled.) Waiters train over three shifts, after which they are thrown to the patrons and quickly discover if they have what it takes or should consider a career in accounting.
"We're all doing our best to make this place as comfortable and interesting, as well run and professional as it can be," says Angus. "We're blessed with a good staff. I've never worked at a restaurant that had this great a crew -- ever, ever, ever." I recently chatted with a half-dozen of the restaurant's employees, all of whom are literally "waiting" in the wings.
Ohio native Audrey Hueckel (HECK-el) has worked at Angus's "since last September, the first week I moved here." She thanks actress Peggy Cosgrave, who played her mother in a stock production, for recommending her to George Alvarez, a manager at Angus's. ("They're like godparents.") Audrey waited tables "all through college" at Audubon, where she majored in musical theater. Since she's been at Angus's, she has worked as waitress, bartender, and maitre d'. "You have to know how to do everything," she tells me.
The second oldest of five children, Audrey claims that the only drawback to the job is the long hours: "Sometimes, we're here until three in the morning. Then you have to get up for a dance class or an audition. But I'm very fortunate; I can pay my bills, leave for an acting job, and come back."
A night at Angus's that stands out in her memory was "when a fellow proposed to his girlfriend at the bar. They'd just seen Gypsy and the whole cast was sitting at tables around them. That's what makes this place so great: Customers see shows, then come here and see the actors they just saw onstage. The actors saw him give her the ring, then they signed their programs and posed for pictures."
Where would the charismatic Audrey like to be in five years? "Not here!" she declares with a laugh. "I hope to be onstage -- either in New York or on tour."
The new kid on the block at the time of our interview, Evan Lubeck has been at Angus's since the beginning of June -- his first week in New York. The elder of two sons, this Arizona-born hopeful just recently graduated from the North Carolina School of the Arts. His girlfriend's best friend, who works at Angus's, recommended him for the job.
"I love waiting tables," Evan enthuses. "I don't think a lot of people do, but I love interacting with people. Some of the customers don't like that -- 'Hi, how are you guys doin'?' 'What do you care? Give us our drinks!' -- but you also meet some nice people. A lot of celebrities don't know if you recognize them. Like Doug Sills; he was surprised when I knew who he was. He's really nice."
Evan made his stage debut at age eight (in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever). When he was in the eighth grade, his mother brought him to Manhattan "to try to deter me from being an actor. I think she thought the bigness of the city might scare me, but I fell in love with it." His days are spent auditioning, "either though Backstage or my agent. I got lucky: I got an agent in a couple of weeks." Thus far, Evan has appeared in a brief run of Much Ado About Nothing and played Bo in a reading of Bus Stop: The Musical, by Walter Willison (book and lyrics) and Jeffrey Silverman (music).
In five years, Evan hopes "to be in a position where I wouldn't have to wait tables and my income would come from acting." While his first love is the stage, he wouldn't reject film or TV offers; "Who would?" he asks rhetorically.
Born in North Carolina and raised in Nashville, Chris Lewis has been working at Angus's since before the place opened: "I helped Angus find the place, made structural changes, and built the bar with him." A New Yorker for the past nine years ("I always knew I'd live here"), Lewis resisted waiting tables "as long as I could. I never wanted to do it. After three months in the city, I got my first acting job and my Equity card. Then I got a play in the Hamptons. For a year, I just acted -- but, the next season, there was no work for me.
"I needed to pay my rent, so I took a job at the All-Star Café on Times Square -- the worst job I've ever had. Then I went to work at Joe Allen. I managed there for almost four years, and here I've managed for almost three." Along the way, Chris has entertained on cruise ships. As to the plusses and minuses of the job, he remarks, "It's the only viable option for actors in terms of taking home cash, but it's a bad lifestyle due to the hours. A turning point came when I turned down an acting job in order to keep my restaurant job." He quit Joe Allen in 2000: "If I didn't do it then, I never would."
Chris belongs to an a cappella group, four men and four women, called Pieces of Eight. ("Our new CD, on Town Crier Records, is being released in October.") A June groom, Chris met his wife, Kelli, when they both worked at Joe Allen. She's now a maitre d' at Orso, located next door to Allen's and owned by Joe's daughter, Julie. The newlyweds will spend part of their honeymoon "at Joe's house in Italy."
What are Chris's hopes for the future? "I would hope that Pieces of Eight would continue. If all the things that are on the boiler right now would actually happen, it would be a nice life."
Soon to celebrate her first anniversary at Angus's, the effusive Christina Sivrich has been in New York "since a year ago March." A veteran of Disney cruise ships, she was hired through daytime host Chad Hudson, with whom she'd entertained on cruises.
The Pittsburgh-born Christina's goal "was to come here and not have to work right away." She did a stint at The Gap "for about a month." The oldest of three siblings, her show business ambitions began when her brother was born and young Christina became "really jealous. The doctor suggested that my mom put me in dance class." In high school and college, where she briefly considered a journalism career, Christina performed in musicals: A Chorus Line, The Pirates of Penzance, Merrily We Roll Along, and Sunday in the Park with George.
The pros and cons of restaurant work? "The schedule is definitely a pro," she says. "You work at night and can audition during the day. If you leave to do something, they're always willing to bring you back. They like to hire friends of friends here. I really like the people that I work with; if you have to wait tables, it's a nice place to do it. But the hours are definitely a con."
She used to be very nervous with the celebrities that frequent Angus's, "but I've gotten a lot better at it." In five years time, Christina "would hope to be on Broadway and to own an apartment in Manhattan."
Chad Hudson, who hails from Indianapolis, has been at Angus's "since we opened. I knew Angus from Joe Allen; I'd just come back from working on a cruise ship." A professional actor since he was 15, Chad already had his Equity card when he arrived in New York at 23. However, his first job in Manhattan "was as an administrative paralegal at a law firm. I got it through a friend of my mom's." After abandoning law, he went on a national tour and then went to work at Joe Allen. "I knew Chris [Lewis] and [his new wife] Kelli. Kelli and I did shows together in high school and came to New York at the same time. She's one of my oldest friends."
Among Chad's credits are "The Secret Garden at the Paper Mill, a lot of Forever Plaid, Sweeney Todd, and one of the regional premieres of Bat Boy [in the title role]." Like his friend Chris Lewis, the blithe Chad has progressed from waiter to bartender to maitre d'. The biggest plus to waiting on tables, he believes, "is the flexibility, and the challenge is when the worlds collide. People you just auditioned for or have done a show with come in, and you're waiting on them or making a cocktail for them. You can feel like you're in a lower class."
Chad also does all the restaurant's computer work, "because I like to. I built the website." In the coming years, he "would like to be happy. Show business is really hard to predict. I'd like to be in a good place, well-rounded, and sane."
Joey Boyles, who's from Charleson, West Virginia, has been in New York "almost five years and at Angus's almost two. In between theater gigs, I worked at Ellen's Stardust Diner, which was awful. I was a singing waiter with a paper hat, bow tie, and apron. I looked like a butcher. I sang rock 'n' roll tunes to high school kids. Compared to working here, it was like night and day. In August, I'll be the bar manager; I'll be responsible for ordering all the liquor and making sure that everyone's on the same page with what Angus wants."
His older sister was into ballet. As a kid, Joey "would attend all her shows, and I hated it. But I saw all the attention she got -- flowers, candy, money. I said, 'Why am I not doing this?' At ten, I auditioned for Oliver! and 'got to pick a pocket or two.' That began eight years of theater: Oklahoma!, Fiddler, Gypsy..." Genial but guarded, Joey says that the biggest advantage of restaurant work "is the flexibility" but he comments that, "when you're waiting on people, you have to swallow your pride." Over the past few years, he has switched his career goal from acting to another area of show biz: "I want to get into producing. One day, I want to have my own theater company somewhere outside of New York. Angus's is a key place to be; deals happen at tables every day. I'd love to be able to do that."
Like the others, Joey regards Angus as a friend. His favorite restaurant story: "One night, when Nathan and Matthew were back in The Producers, Matthew was sitting right behind an elderly couple who had just seen the show. It was the man's 85th birthday. I checked with Angus to see if he thought it would be all right to ask Matthew to autograph their souvenir program. Angus said to ask Matthew, which I did. Matthew wanted to meet the couple, so I brought him over to their table. The man said that he had wanted Matthew's autograph for his granddaughter but didn't want to disturb him; the man was so touched, he started to cry. When he and his wife were leaving, he told Angus how much they'd enjoyed their meal, that the server had been very nice, and he thanked Angus for the [complimentary] dessert he'd sent over. 'But the best thing,' said the man, 'was that we got to meet Michael J. Fox!'"