Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan have an interesting if odd story together. Like it or loathe it, celebrities are an important part of 21st-century culture. And while a certain mystique used to exist around the rich and famous, nowadays their private lives are as reported on as what they actually do to earn their enormous wealth.
Bad behavior is always a popular subject. There are big things like throwing TVs out of hotel room windows. But the small stuff can be pretty interesting too.
Take tipping for example. With plenty of money in the bank, it would be assumed a restaurant trip or similar would spell out a hefty return for the hard-working staff who carry bags or ferry drinks. However in the world of the celeb, that’s not always the case. In 2010 Las Vegas gaming industry veteran Rich Strafella lifted the lid on a tip-based run-in between basketball titan Michael Jordan and ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
Speaking to the website Urban Daddy, Strafella revealed “It was a private salon game. Michael had ordered a drink from the cocktail waitress, and he gave her a five-dollar chip.”
Now, this might seem fairly innocuous. Yet when Deadspin covered the same story, they described the resulting situation as “chilling”. An overstatement perhaps, but the size of the egos involved meant this view carried some weight.
Wayne Gretzky was at the same table and clearly wasn’t impressed at Jordan’s contribution. His reaction was that he “took the chip off the cocktail waitress’s tray, gave it back to Michael, grabbed a hundred-dollar chip from Michael’s stack and put it on the cocktail waitress’s tray.”
For good measure, he said, “That’s how we tip in Las Vegas, Michael.”
While it isn’t clear whether the slapdown from Wayne Gretzky had any consequences, Michael Jordan is not known for being passive. He is also known to have had a bit of a gambling problem at certain times in his career. Deadspin wrote, “This is a man who, as far as I can tell, has decided to devote the rest of his life to smoking cigars and settling scores.”
So it’s safe to say the atmosphere in the room was electric following that intervention. As well as being a snapshot of brinkmanship among much-admired males, it also showed how unaware some celebrities can be about the regular mortals who bustle around them.
“There are those that might think that the Great One was being a bit presumptuous in taking a chip from Jordan’s pile and giving it away as a tip,” the website TV Over Mind wrote last year, “but it was more like a lesson being taught since in Vegas there’s no time to be cheap unless your pockets aren’t that deep.”
A 2013 Business Insider article took a look at the best and worst tippers playing the fame game. Some of the choices were surprising.
For example, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson caused consternation at a steak house when he apparently left a meager 7 dollar tip.
The site quoted the waiter, who said, “This guy is not a ‘Rock’ to me, just a cheap pebble.” Seeing as the star reportedly got the place to open up at an unusual time, the irritation is understandable!
Madonna has a reputation for innovative music, yet her track record with tipping is far from ground-breaking. The site said, “it’s almost like being stiffed by Madge is a rite of passage amongst high-end eatery wait staff.”
Despite these celebs faux pas, there are some who have brought happiness to the lives of staff going about their business. Bill Murray once tipped a server a day-making 120%.
He also went beyond the call of duty when he “showed the waiter how to make lemon wedges juicier by rolling the lemon on the cutting board prior to slicing it.” Murray’s Ghostbusters co-star Dan Aykroyd is also supposed to be generous when dining out.
Johnny Depp has been known to raise hell, but doesn’t behave like a devil when eating out. Whilst shooting gangster epic Public Enemies, he “showed his appreciation” for a waiter he’d befriended “by leaving an extra $4,000 tip on top of the $4,400 bill.”
It’s safe to assume Michael Jordan learned a lesson about tipping that fateful night in Vegas.