by Frankie Evans
I was a cocktail waitress at Gianonni’s in 1969 where I met Dick Feynman. He came in four or five nights a week, so I got to know him pretty well. He was not only brilliant and quirky, which everybody knows, he was also very kind and a truly gentle soul.
At first I didn’t know who he was (he had been coming in for a while) until some of his students showed up at the door and said, “IS THAT MR. FEYNMAN?” Well, Dick told me to tell them that this wasn’t class and that he was off right now and trying to relax. So, they were very respectful and left him alone. After that I became Feynman’s “student blocker” and Dick and I became friends.
He was really something special even to someone who knew absolutely nothing about physics. He would sit there and make his calculations on napkins and placemats perfectly content in his own booth. (we always let him have a booth all to himself) He once explained how a snail grew within and with it’s shell. No wonder his students adored him. He made everything completely fascinating!
One of my favorite Feynman stories happened one night at Gianonni’s. Bars always attract more than their fair share of jerks. Add alcohol, some scantily clad ladies, and those jerks get out of hand sometimes! I was observing one of these idiots who was on the verge of being thrown out. Dick was standing right beside me and I turned to him and said something to the effect of what a useless piece of garbage, lower form of life, etc. — we could certainly do without HIM! Dick looked the guy over for a few seconds and then turned to me and said, “No, you can learn something from everyone.” He wasn’t being flip, he meant every word of it. Well, those few words from Feynman changed me forever. If HE didn’t judge people, and he truly didn’t, then how in the world could I?
Feynman the Pole Dancer: Dick Feynman rarely drank alcohol in the club, (Gianonni’s) and even when he did, it was only a couple of beers. He spent most of his time quietly drawing in the booth he usually sat in. A couple of beers was all he needed to get a buzz going, and he was really cute when this happened. He was giddy, fun, and acted like a little kid. We had a large pole in the club, it wasn’t for the strippers, it was on the customer’s side of the bar (probably weight-bearing or something). Dick used to jump up and swing around the pole yelling “Whee”! God, he was fun!
Frankie Evans at Gianonni’s in 1969