Everybody comes to Rick's

Sunday, August 15 2004, 00:00:00

Thanks to all the great publicity we've had people are making detours to Casablanca just to come to Rick's. Others happen upon the restaurant by chance. And some seem destined to be here. It's starting to be the opposite from the film - instead of trying to get OUT of Casablanca folks are coming from all over. We can take some lines from the film and tweek them a bit: "They come from everywhere, by boat from Algeciras, by plane from Madrid, Paris, New York and Lisbon to Casablanca…to Casablanca where they wait, and wait, and wait- but not too long - for a table at Rick's Café." Some stories of people who've dropped in recently… It was a busy Thursday night (15 July) with the restaurant full on both levels and the impromptu curve balls, such as a party of 8 becoming a party of 16, that we're growing accustomed to fielding. I told the maitre d'hotel to handle the downstairs courtyard and I would greet people at the front door…wistfully leaving my corner seat at the bar where I was preparing to enjoy my first Sour Jdid of the evening. A woman walked in alone and my jaw dropped…it was Monica Henreid, daughter of Paul (Victor Lazlo) Henreid. Last spring, Monica had been invited to Morocco and we'd hosted a dinner for her birthday April 14. She was clearly touched then to be spending a birthday not only in Casablanca but at Rick's Café. On this visit, after taking in festivals in Marrakech and Agadir, Monica was transiting Casablanca before flying to New York and said she couldn't pass through town without stopping in at Rick's. So Madame Rick and Victor's daughter stepped into their roles taking corner seats at the bar, sipping champagne, and - with the piano, the lighting, the palms - the spirit of "Casablanca" was very much alive.
We decided to introduce a Forum component to the website, and calling it "Letters of Transit" seemed a natural choice. Issam made a mock-up letter of transit for the photo and we couldn't resist hiding it in the piano a la the film - though thinking at the time we might be a little too caught up in myth becoming reality. A few days later a Spanish friend called and said he was bringing a notable Spanish journalist for lunch - someone who loved the film and was so excited that there was a Rick's Café in Casablanca. Maruja Torres walked in the door and took in, appreciatively, every detail. But her first words were, "Well, where are they?" "In the piano, of course," I replied, not missing a beat as we walked over to the piano and I revealed the hiding place. Proves we're not too crazy after all, or if we are we have plenty of company! Arne Keskula strolled in at 10am one morning and said he'd been looking for Rick's since arriving at 6am. That got our attention…for instance why would he think we'd be open at 6am!?? Turns out he'd been traveling for days just to come here for lunch. Arriving in Frankfurt from Portland, Oregon on a Monday, he used his Eurailpass to travel by night to Geneva. Tuesday evening he took a night train to Barcelona, leaving there Wednesday night for Algeciras, Spain. Thursday he took the ferry to Tangier and the night train to Casablanca, arriving in Casablanca Friday morning at 6am. From 6am until 10 he walked the streets asking directions and trying to find a taxi driver who knew our location. Arne's side trip merited a complimentary Casablanca beer from Madame Rick. After enjoying his beer and a hamburger, loaded down with souvenirs, we put him in a cab for the train station as he headed back to Tangier and then Europe to continue his travels. He's planning on taking trains through Europe, then the trans-Siberian railroad to Nahodka and the ferry to Japan…definitely a client we'll never forget.