My Robocop Story – I’m Just the Installer

My Robocop story is a funny one and it goes back to 1992, which was during a time of severe economic recession.

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Business was brutally slow and I was being hard pressed to find work to keep my shop going. Although few projects were happening at that time there was a wealthy real estate magnate building a large custom home in Toronto, and his project required a number of custom cabinets, furniture and built ins. Unfortunately all of this work had already been bid on, and won, by a kitchen cabinet shop that managed to convince the client that they could do high end custom work.

While this kitchen company was able to handle most of the straight forward cabinetry, they quickly found themselves in over their heads on some of the more complex pieces. At this point the interior designer in charge of the project contacted me to find a discrete resolution to the problem.

I was offered the opportunity to make the more complicated furniture pieces  under the condition that it was sold under the kitchen company’s name. The kitchen guys were to get full credit for my work. My name was not to appear on any of the paperwork, and if the client ever saw me and asked who I was my response was to be: “I’m just the installer”.

Although the scenario didn’t thrill me I was also well aware that my ego didn’t pay the bills. Therefore, I agreed to the terms because my shop needed the work.

The pieces were delivered and the client was thrilled, and here is where the story should end. In fact, this is where the story gets interesting.

Shortly after this project was completed I was in Toronto to attend a design show called IIDEX . A client of mine by the name of Monroe Sherman flew up from Miami to attend the show, and one night he and I went out for dinner with a mutual friend by the name of Bill Stolz. Bill was working IIDEX with the Canadian Consulate General out of Atlanta.

After dinner the three of us headed to a nightclub for cocktails, and ended up at what was then the hottest club in town. I cannot remember the name of the place, but it was located in an upscale neighbourhood called Yorkville. Although the place was about 3/4 full by the time we arrived, it was filling fast.

We had just ordered our first round of drinks when Bill recognized a couple of guys standing nearby. He motioned for them to come over, and soon we were standing as a group of 5 talking about whatever it is that guys talk about. About 10 minutes later more people enter the club, and amongst them was the famous actor Peter Weller – of Robocop fame – who showed up with one of his friends.

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It turns out that Weller’s friend knew one of Bill’s friends, so before long there were 7 of us standing in a circle, talking in the middle of the club. I wound up standing beside Weller, even though neither of us actually knew one another despite our four degrees of separation.

By this point the whole club was abuzz with the fact that the famous Peter Weller was in the house. Bear in mind that the movie “RoboCop”, and it’s sequel “RoboCop 2”, had both been huge hits at the box office in recent years. And because Weller was the star of both films, he was a widely recognized personality at the time.

But what happened next was hilarious.

With the club now jammed full of people and our group of seven now the focus of everyone’s attention, who else should walk in but the real estate magnate in whose home I had been installing furniture only the week before.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see his startled expression as he looked over and saw my familiar face. I could tell that he recognized me, but was unable to figure out who I was. It didn’t take long before the bulb of recognition went off over his head. Of course, now he was puzzled as to what the heck his cabinet installer was doing hanging out with the famous Peter Weller.

We finished our drinks and prepared to leave. As we left the club I smiled and nodded to the client as we headed out the door.

There was no need to say anything.

After all, I was just the installer.

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