November 1, 2013 6:45 pm

A tip for diners in New York and why to be wary of entertainers

I once had to measure the inside leg of the Marty Feldman when I had a summer job at Austin Reed

David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters

What’s your view of installation art in a private home? I was recently at a function where a server accidentally kicked an acrylic glass skeleton that was displayed on the floor, spilling its bright red “blood” all over.

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David Tang

I think indoor installations are best consigned to corners, pseuds’ corners that is, because they usually involve a great deal of conceptual philosophising that would bore an insomniac to slumber. At this year’s Venice Biennale, I queued up outside the Korean pavilion for half an hour to get into the “dark room” because there were warnings against epilepsy, faintheartedness, claustrophobia, and these alerts naturally attracted mugs like me. But this “dark room” consisted of absolutely nothing at all and when we were inside, we did nothing, we heard nothing, we said nothing and after a few minutes, we were all ushered out, with nothing. Codswallop was how I felt, until I realised that such a dark room at my home could be very useful. All of my boring visitors, especially my wife’s, could enter it and stay inside until they left. So perhaps artistic fraud could have a practical application.

But I generally like outdoor installations, especially when they are beautiful large pieces in a stunning landscape. Chatsworth occasionally has previews of lots intended for auction and they bring out some of the best spiritual interaction of man and nature, although I wish there were more installations that made us laugh.

. . .

I have never been able to resolve the issue of whether one should tip rude waiting staff and/or poor fare served at a fancy restaurant.

JS Mill’s principle of utilitarianism dictates that you should always tip irrespective of service, because all of the staff depend on tips to make up their pay. But there are also different practices to be observed. In the US, especially in the Big Apple, extra tips are expected over and above the standard gratuity automatically added to the bill.

Once when I was young, I gave a precocious dinner at Le Cirque in New York when I did not leave any extra tip, because I had assumed the English practice that a standard 10 per cent sufficed. But while saying goodbye to my guests outside the restaurant, a waiter rushed out and interrupted by asking, sarcastically, “Was there something wrong with our service, sir?”, while waving my bill. It was rather embarrassing and I had to rustle up a few greenbacks to pacify the belligerent waiters, and believe you me, there are belligerent waiters in Noo Yawk! The occasion was particularly memorable because Richard Nixon, who was also dining in the restaurant, was adjacent on the pavement preparing to leave. He seemed to throw me one of his “expletive deleted” glances against my apparent parsimony before getting into his limo in a shadow of unimpeachable contempt.

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I have noticed that some who write entertainingly are quite boring to meet, and vice versa. So I am wondering: how boring are you?

I don’t think I am boring. But I know I am easily bored. But you are right that professional entertainers are quite boring in real life. I once had to measure the inside leg of the Marty Feldman when I had a summer job at Austin Reed in Knightsbridge. I was a fan of the comedian but when I tried to engage him in conversation, he made it very clear he was not interested. Almost instantly, he became, for me, an excruciating bore with his bulging eyes looking more like Quasimodo than his signature for laughter.

. . .

In what circumstances is it necessary or appropriate to wear a wing-collar shirt? Should one wear a grey or black silk top hat with a morning suit for a winter wedding?

In court, a barrister wears a winged collar. In Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot wears a winged collar. In male dancing, the Chippendales wear winged collars – and hardly anything else. Otherwise, a winged collar should be reserved for cads and lads. Top hats should always be in black silk. For weddings, it is impractical to wear a hat because most of the time you would be carrying it rather than wearing it.

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com.

Thank you all for the hundreds of comments about my column on dogs (‘A dog’s best friend’, October 19). For any further comments, please write them online rather than emailing me

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