The Brad Pitt Stratagem
Imagine a table of middle-aged women engaged in a pleasant lunch at a Santa Barbara eatery. The maitre d’ approaches and politely explains that he cannot accept their payment for the lunch. The women are surprised. They are perfectly willing to pay their bill. The maitre d’ shrugs as if to say the matter is already settled; then he leans in as if letting them in on a secret.
Brad Pitt, he says in hushed tones, happened to be passing by the restaurant and admired them from afar. Mr. Pitt, however, was too shy to say hello. So he decided to pay for their meal as a token of his esteem.
There follows a delicious moment when the women consider the possibility that this could be true. Then the smiles start to bloom on their faces and the giggles bubble forth. The diners now suspect the truth. They crane their heads to look for Larry Crandell. After all, he had stopped by to say hello earlier. And they know his modus operandi. But when they scan the room for the man who would be Brad Pitt, he has already made his exit.
It’s a scenario that has played out dozens of times all over town. From down-to-earth cafés to the ritziest of restaurants in Santa Barbara, Brad Pitt has been picking up checks for women at lunch, admiring them, but always too shy to show himself. And the objects of Brad’s admiration? They all wear big smiles as they leave the restaurant, shaking their heads and chuckling.
Larry loves to eat out, but not for the food. He has a very basic palate – the blander, the better. He likes his meat well done and his salad (lettuce and tomato) without dressing. No booze, no coffee, no tea. Just Diet Coke -- on ice, by the crate.
Larry could care less for haute cuisine. He goes to restaurants for the social interaction. He always sits facing the entrance so he can see who comes in. He loves to “work the room,” as he calls it, saying hello to everyone he knows, making them feel at ease and telling a few jokes. But he also likes to set up the Brad Pitt Stratagem as he leaves. He enjoys the fact that when he exits the restaurant he leaves behind a time-bomb of merriment. He says all it costs is money, and the people who get treated by “Brad Pitt” get a happy experience which will last the rest of the day.
At the heart of the stratagem is Larry’s essential philosophy. He does things for people that they enjoy and he enjoys. In this way he is both giver and receiver. There is no greater joy for him than feeling he has helped someone feel good or laugh or just enjoy life. In the moment when the women diners consider the possibility that Brad Pitt actually admired them, they feel excited. Larry feels excited, too. It’s a circle of fun that fuels itself – which is why he keeps on doing it.
Of course, he doesn’t always pretend to be Brad Pitt. Larry is nothing if not resourceful when it comes to generating variations on a theme.
A few years back, a prominent male philanthropist in town had his bill picked up by Meg Ryan. She, like Brad Pitt, was too shy to say hello in person. A week later, Larry received a card in the mail. It was from the philanthropist’s fiancée. She suggested that though she understood why Meg might be attracted to her husband-to-be, she would “break Meg’s legs” if she ever came near him.
Another time, Warren Buffett, the world’s second richest man, picked up the bill for a table of millionaire businessmen in Montecito. Later, Larry heard from one of the high-powered investors, who told Larry he thought Jimmy Buffet might have been a more appropriate pseudonym given Larry’s level of investment insight.
This kind of jocular insult is food and drink to Larry. Its male-speak for “I’m enjoying your company.” As such, it was all the indication Larry needed to confirm that his Warren Buffett Stratagem had been a success.