Jane Fonda: 'Do You Know Who I Am?'
Netlore Archive: Story circulating since the mid-1990s claims Jane Fonda and Ted Turner were kicked out of a Montana restaurant by its owner, a Vietnam veteran.
Description: Urban legend
Circulating since: 1996/earlier
Status: Dubious (see details below)
Email text contributed by Dan, April 24, 2003:
Subject: MONTANA HOSPITALITY!!
DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?
Star 100.7 Radio Station was doing one of their "is anyone listening who" bits this morning. The first one was, "Ever have a celebrity pull the 'do you know who I am' routine?"
A lady called in and said that when she was visiting her cattle rancher Uncle in Billings, MT a few years ago, they went to dinner at a restaurant that does not take reservations. The wait was about 45 minutes. Lots of other rancher types and their spouses were already waiting.
In comes Ted Turner and Jane Fonda. They want a table. The hostess says they'll have to wait about 45 minutes. Jane Fonda asks if she knows who she is? "Yes, but you'll still have to wait 45 minutes." Then Jane says, "Is the manager in?"
The manager comes out, "May I help you?" "Do you know who I am?", ask both Jane and Ted. "Yes, but these folks have all been waiting already and I can't put you in ahead of them."
Then Ted asks to speak to the owner. The owner comes out. Jane again asks, "do you know who I am?"
The owner says "Yes, I do.... Do you know who I am? I am the owner of this restaurant and a Vietnam Veteran. Not only will you not get a table ahead of all of my friends and neighbors here, but you also will not be eating in my restaurant tonight or any other night. Good bye."
Only in America, what a great country!
Analysis: For all we know, the incident described above or something similar actually happened somewhere, sometime though based on the evidence at hand I rather doubt it.
The reason I doubt it, and the reason, in my opinion, that the story qualifies as an urban legend, is:
- It has been ceaselessly repeated, without verification, since the early-to-mid 1990s.
- The details vary (e.g., geographical location and name of restaurant) with different tellings of the story.
- The Jane Fonda/Ted Turner version is but one example of an old, familiar parable.
Do-you-know-who-I-am tales, in which famous or otherwise self-important people get their comeuppance after attempting to use their status to "pull rank" on ordinary folks, have been around since time immemorial.
Consider this example, posted a few years back on an Internet joke list:
A celebrity went to visit a nursing home for a charity event and was dismayed that no one seemed to recognize him. He started thinking that, perhaps, the old folks were just being polite by not accosting him for autographs and the like. So he went up to one old lady and said, "Do you know who I am?"
The lady smiled and instantly the celebrity was reassured that the fame he'd worked so hard for hadn't slipped away. The old lady said, "Don't worry. The nurse can tell you who you are."
And this example, retold in a news article about Martha Stewart:
"Do you know who I am?" she [Martha Stewart] demanded, at which point the waiter climbed onto a chair and clanged a spoon against a glass.
"Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen," he announced to the room at large. "I wonder if you can help. There's a lady here who doesn't seem to know who she is."
And this one, found on the Internet, about former child star Danny Bonaduce:
DANNY: Can I get a room, please?
FRONT DESK MAN: We're full, I'm sorry.
DANNY: (chuckles) Yeah, ah, do you know who I am?
FRONT DESK MAN: Does it matter?
DANNY: Well, I was on The Partridge Family.
FRONT DESK MAN: The what?
DANNY: It was a TV show. Back in the - I'm Danny Bonaduce.
FRONT DESK MAN: I'm a little busy right now, sir.
DANNY: I also host The Other Half.
FRONT DESK MAN: The other half of what?
DANNY: (leans in and whispers) Look, okay, don't say anything, but... I was on that show... um, Celebrity... Celebrity Boxing.
FRONT DESK MAN: OH! Oh YEAH! CELEBRITY BOXING! ON FOX!
DANNY: Shhh... shhh...
FRONT DESK MAN: Yeah, I LOVED you on that!
DANNY: Thanks. Thanks a lot. So what do you think,
can I --
FRONT DESK MAN: No, I'm sorry, we're full.
Finally, to illustrate just how old the motif is, here's an anecdote excerpted from the San Francisco Chronicle in a book published in 1886:
There was once a very important State official in California who thought that everybody knew him, or ought to know him. He was one day walking through a field, when a bull addressed him in an undertone and made for him with its head down and horns in a position to raise him. He was a State official, a man of dignity and political power and natural pomposity, but he ran. He ran surprisingly well. He ran even better than he did for office, and he got to the fence first. He clambered over out of breath and dignity, and found the owner of the bull calmly contemplating the operation.
What do you mean, sir?" asked the irate official, "What do you mean by having an infuriated animal like that roaming over the fields?"
"Well, I guess the bull has some right in the field --"
"Right! Right! Do you know who I am, sir? Do you know who I am?"
The farmer shook his head.
"I, sir, I am General ------ ",
"Why in thunder didn't you tell the bull?"
Jane and Ted go to dinner
The earliest published example of the Jane Fonda/Ted Turner version of the story appeared in an unofficial summary of the Rush Limbaugh radio show dated April 10, 1996. Limbaugh claimed the incident took place at a Bozeman, Montana restaurant called the Rocky Mountain Pasta Company:
Rush says that's not the Unabomber's fault - it's people like Ted Turner who show up and buy thousands of acres for their buffalo ranches. Roxanne agrees, and she digresses to note that Turner and Jane Fonda have been kicked out of restaurants in Montana.
Rush asks how this happened, and Roxanne says a law enforcement friend told her that Fonda and Turner went into the Rocky Mountain Pasta Company in Bozeman, MT and were a bit miffed that they weren't seated immediately. The hostess told them that they were booked up and that there was a wait for tables, so Fonda demanded to see the manager, asking, "Do you know who I am?!"
Rush notes this is really bad form for any sort of celebrity, and Roxanne agrees. The manager came out and he turned out to be a Vietnam veteran, so he wasn't pleased to see Fonda at all. He told her, "Yes, Miss Fonda, I know who you are and you are not welcome in my restaurant!"
A more recent online variant includes a footnote claiming the incident actually occurred at Sir Scott's Oasis Steakhouse in Manhattan, Montana.
A variant of that variant says it was Sen. John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, who received their comeuppance at Sir Scott's Oasis Steakhouse, not Jane Fonda and Ted Turner.
The owners of the restaurant say nothing of the kind ever happened there.
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Last updated: 11/20/10