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That One Night When I Was Roger Federer

In 2006, you could be whoever you wanted at Ghostbar. If only for one night.

My attorney has informed me that the statute of limitations for impersonating a top-ranked tennis player in Texas is 15 years. So now I can tell you about the crime I committed one night in 2006, at Ghostbar.

Friends had for years teased me about looking like Roger Federer. And it’s true. I looked a lot like Roger Federer—just sort of a “let himself go” version of Roger Federer. A poorer, chubbier, late-night Whataburger Roger Federer who was a high-school Spanish teacher and lived with Mom, which is what I did. But Roger Federer and I were the exact same age and height.

One of my buddies, for his birthday, said he wanted nothing more than for me to pretend to be the world’s top-ranked tennis player so that we could get a VIP table at Ghostbar, which had opened that year atop the W Hotel. Who was I to deny such a noble wish?

My friends called Ghostbar repeatedly prior to our arrival and told the staff Roger Federer was in town and wanted a table. So when I walked up to the front door of the W encircled by an entourage, speaking in a vaguely European accent and wearing a mesh cap low over my eyes that read Rock Star, the staff was uncertain. A lot more was possible in 2006. iPhones didn’t exist. Instagram didn’t either. People still played Snake on their Nokia phones. There was no device in your pocket that could immediately verify whether or not someone was who he said he was.

Sure, I had 1.5 chins. And, yes, my Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers were dirty, and my pants had been purchased at the Salvation Army, but can you imagine if they’d dared to ask for the ID of the best tennis player on the planet? The nerve!

We were exactly what Ghostbar wanted: the illusion of fame. The objective of the now-deceased bar (it closed in 2012, RIP) was to attract A-listers to its self-proclaimed “legendary nightlife.” Jessica Simpson went. Paris Hilton went. LMFAO party-rocked there. And so did Roger Federer! Didn’t he?

Also, what kind of scoundrel would strut up to the entrance of a glitzy bar and pretend to be Roger Federer? I would, Dallas. I am that scoundrel.

What I learned in those five hours will live with me forever. Fame, I found, was both glorious and exhausting. What was glorious? Everyone went out of their way to please me. The floor manager assured me that anything I wanted—“And I mean anything,” he emphasized—could be mine upon request. Drinks, music, drugs, introductions to women, the approval of my father. Anything.

We were provided with a personal security guard, whose name was Tony. When a woman late in the evening yelled out, “That’s not Roger fucking Federer!” we asked Tony to escort her away, which he did expediently.

What was exhausting? Faking a Swiss accent for five hours. I mean, what does a Swiss person even sound like? One woman who had studied in Switzerland visited us in the VIP area and asked, “Is your first language German or French?”

“I speak Swiss,” I said in an accent reminiscent of Balki’s from Perfect Strangers. “I grew up in a village where we speak a local Swiss dialect.”

You know how tiring it is to make that up in real time for five hours? Fame, man.

The cherry on the top of the evening was commemorating the experience by signing the Wall of Fame, a stainless-steel fridge door in the Ghostbar kitchen. I was given creative license to sign my name as big and cartoonishly as I wanted, and the sloppy result looked like Pig-Pen from Peanuts had drawn a giant helix. Maybe it had something to do with the nine Cape Cods I’d consumed. I signed right next to Ross Perot Jr.’s signature.

Fifteen years since walking out of the W Hotel that night, the “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Roger Federer?” questions have become rarer. I apparently haven’t aged well. Now Quentin Tarantino supplants Roger Federer at the end of that question. Maybe I’ve got a new opportunity. If only Ghostbar were still open, I bet fake Tarantino would love it.   

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