Pavarotti and Caviar

12th November 2010

From Herbert Breslin’s libellous ‘The King and I: The Uncensored Tale of Luciano Pavarotti’s Rise to Fame by His Manager

Luciano presented me with a menu that was elegant in its simplicity. In fact, it would require almost no kitchen- preparation time at all. His requirements were few, and the shopping list was straightforward and easy to follow. He wanted a kilo of beluga caviar, three bottles of Roederer Cristal champagne and Stolichnaya vodka.

To buy all this, of course, would cost several thousand dollars. Luciano obviously thought that I would balk at the expense, after which he would be able to taunt me for my lack of generosity. I wouldn’t give him that satisfaction. I accepted his list without a murmur and said that I was looking forward to having him.

On the appointed day, Luciano made his way slowly up the stairs and eventually arrived at my apartment, huffing and puffing, and wiping his brow. Despite a few complaints about the climb, he was in good spirits. He loved to play this kind of game. His mood only improved as he surveyed the table where I had laid out everything elegantly, exactly according to his specifications. With a smile, he sat down and requested a spoon for the caviar. I offered him one, but he rejected it peremptorily. It emerged that what Luciano wanted was not a demitasse spoon or even a teaspoon. It had to be a tablespoon.

With this implement, he dug into the mound of caviar and ingested a generous mouthful, which he washed down with a few mouthfuls of Cristal champagne. Smiling broadly as we talked, even glancing around to admire the view from time to time, he continued to pack it away.

“You’re eating too much of this stuff,” I eventually suggested, as the caviar continued to disappear at a steady rate.

“What are you afraid of?” said the tenor, sweetly.

“You’ll make yourself sick,” I said.

“Don’t be silly,” Luciano replied. “What’s the matter? Can’t you afford it?”

“I can afford it just fine,” I said.

We spent a pleasant afternoon together, talking over one thing and another, as Luciano ate more than a pound of caviar. Finally, the visit drew to a close. He needed, he informed me, to go home and rest. He had me pack up the rest of his provisions to take with him – presumably in case he should feel like a snack on the way home.

That night, I was the recipient of yet another late-night phone call from Luciano. He was desperately sick to his stomach. “I will never eat caviar again,” he swore, amid groans and various imprecations.

He kept that vow for several years. He finally broke down on the Air France Concorde, on which the stewardess served him a jar of caviar with the drinks. He managed to get that down with no ill effects, possibly because it was considerably less than a kilo of the stuff.

We never discussed that menu again. Nor did he complain about my generosity for a very long time – except to mention, more than a few times, that I had tried to kill him.

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