Backstage Confidential

Brian Lewis is the former venue manager for Humphrey's. "I liked the backstage responsibilities best of all," he says, "because of the interaction with performers....

"Dana Carvey would come into the inside stage and just chat with everybody. George Benson will hang out at the pool bar and drink mai tais and then come inside and say 'hi' to people. But then you get the other ones with real problems, like Roseanne Barr." Lewis declines to elaborate.

"Ray Charles was doing two back-to-back shows on the same night," he recalls. "In the middle of the first show, his manager told me, 'Ray wants a chicken-fried steak. And he wants two orders of it as soon as he comes offstage, before he goes on for the second show.'

"I went to the chef, and he said, 'I can bake it, I can broil it, I can grill it, I can slaughter it, but we don't do chicken-fried steak.' I told this to Ray's manager, and he said, 'I'm sorry, but Ray needs two orders of chicken-fried steak before he goes back onstage.'... We had to rush over to another restaurant, pick up an order, bring it back, and then re-plate it with fresh sauce and vegetables. We served it to Ray, and he said it was the best he ever had."

Which local culinary master prepared the best chicken-fried steak Ray Charles ever had?

"Denny's. It was close, it was quick, and we got it done."

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