Dancing shoes polished, Betty to step into new year
Betty LeBid's dancing shoes are size-7 black pumps, glittering with the year "2000" and the Manhattan skyline in gold and silver. She bought them at...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Betty LeBid's dancing shoes are size-7 black pumps, glittering with the year "2000" and the Manhattan skyline in gold and silver.
She bought them at Nordstrom with the lone credit card she kept from before she was married and paid them off in three monthly installments of $333.33. It was 1999, and the shoes made their debut that New Year's Eve, which she celebrated with her husband, Sam LeBid, at Canlis.
Tonight, the 84-year-old LeBid — but let's call her Betty, because everyone else does — will again put on her fancy dancing shoes in what has become a New Year's Eve tradition, and drive her Cadillac from her Queen Anne condo to Canlis, where she has a standing 9:15 reservation every Saturday night.
She comes alone now since her husband died in 2002, but never seems to lack company.
"She comes alone, she dines alone, but she's never alone," says owner Mark Canlis. "I've never seen her leave without somebody having befriended her. I saw her give dance lessons once."
There was the time a Saudi Arabian prince, dining at a nearby table, sent Betty a glass of champagne. The following week, she brought him a singing Husky bottle opener. He reciprocated with a bottle of Dom Pérignon, then offered to have his motorcade drive her home.
Betty stayed into the wee hours the night jazz great Wynton Marsalis performed an impromptu concert in the lounge — the same night she hit it off with actor Laurence Fishburne, who happened to be seated next to her.
But the typical Saturday night is less star-studded, beginning with a glass of champagne at her usual table in the lounge, where she can see the piano player. He might play her favorite song, "I'm Through With Love," and she'll stop talking and sit quietly, listening.
"It's true," she'll say when it's over. "I will never fall again."
Staffers describe Betty as "the grandma you've always wanted," and like any self-respecting grandparent, she frequently arrives bearing gifts. Almost every week, she brings her own vintage earrings separated into plastic bags for the restaurant hostesses — sometimes clip-ons, always glitzy. (Not unlike her taste in shoes.)
"She really is the highlight of our Saturday," says hostess Claire Avriett. "The evening is winding down, and wonderful, sweet Betty comes in. We call her the Patron Saint of Canlis."
As such, Betty has a champagne glass etched with her name, a gift from the restaurant. Peter Canlis, who opened Canlis in 1950, started the tradition of giving personalized glasses to special guests.
"You can't buy them, you can't ask for them," Mark Canlis says. "It's a symbol of the restaurant saying, 'You're part of the family.' "
Betty never misses a Saturday, except once a year when she attends her high-school reunion in Minneapolis. She likes to sit at table 23, tucked in a corner, where she can look out on the water and "always see and not be seen."
She knows the entire staff by face if not by name, and she'll return each "It's nice to see you, as always" with "Better to see you."
Most Saturday nights conclude around midnight with a cappuccino and sorbet in the lounge, often in the company of the piano player.
"I like being here," Betty says, "because of the nice memories of my past."
Canlis hosted her wedding reception upstairs in 1980 when she married Sam, "who was asking me to marry him all the time." Finally, he said, "I'm going to set the date and I hope you'll be there." She was.
The two became regulars at Canlis after that. Sam wasn't much of a dancer, but on special occasions — like the New Year's Eve she first wore her dancing shoes — she'd ask him to "just stand," so she could dance around him.
She loves to dance. And she will tonight, she says, "If somebody asks me."
Pamela Sitt: 206-464-2376 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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