Subscribe

Rendezvous legend Jack Dyson was waiter to the stars

By Updated: October 08, 2018 7:13 PM CT

Jack Dyson was an iconic figure at Memphis’ most iconic restaurant, a 48-year veteran of the Rendezvous, the waiter to big shots and celebrities who took it all in stride.

Dyson, 82, died Oct. 5 from complications of diabetes.

“It happened pretty fast,” Rendezvous co-owner John Vergos said. "He was planning to go with us last month when my dad was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame in Kansas City, but he was in the hospital."

Dyson started working at the Rendezvous as a busboy for his friend Robert Stewart in 1965, and for years worked there and also held a daytime job. He was able to stack 14 plates of ribs on his left arm and serve with his right before the waiters started using trays. 

“Jack was a great waiter,” said Vergos. “He was great with people. His room became the premier room. It was in the back left and when we started here it belonged to a man named Jeff, but he and my father had a problem, he left, and it became Jack’s room.”

He put three of his four children through college and met a host of big names over the years. Dan Akroyd, Dick Cavett, Red Skelton, Diane Keaton and Bill Clinton were a few of his guests.

“He was also the guy who waited on the Rolling Stones,” Vergos said. “Kemmons Wilson always asked for Jack, so consequently, Jack waited on all his kids. He knew that when Kemmons Wilson came in, the first thing he wanted was a big bottle of Tabasco sauce in the middle of the table.”


“Jack always made us feel really special and that made going to the Rendezvous very special. Over the years we realized that that were a lot of people who felt like that and it wasn’t us – we weren’t special. It was Jack who was special. He made everybody feel like that.”
John Joplin, customer


Celebrity or working Joe, the world traveler and Korean War veteran had an easy charm that attracted people to him. John Joplin is a native Memphian who moved away for a few years. When he moved back in 1982, he returned to the Rendezvous and, at a friend’s suggestion, asked for Jack’s room. He kept going for 31 years.

“Jack always made us feel really special and that made going to the Rendezvous very special. Over the years we realized that that were a lot of people who felt like that and it wasn’t us – we weren’t special. It was Jack who was special. He made everybody feel like that,” Joplin said.

“We went dozens and dozens and dozens of times. That was our go-to place. We still go, but not as much because it’s not the same without him."

When Dyson retired in 2013, Joplin was among a throng of longtime diners who came to send him off. Now his old friends are doing the same.

“When I say we’re like family, it sounds like everyone else who says it,” Vergos said. “But there was something special with Jack, Robert, Percy and all those guys (other retired waiters). I grew up with them. They’d come out for Easter, for holidays, for weddings. They were family.

“And Jack and my dad always had a good relationship, which wasn’t the case with everyone. I say this with affection, but my dad could be a volatile kind of guy. Not with Jack.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.



Topics

Jack Dyson The Rendezvous Memphis restaurants John Vergos
Jennifer Biggs

Jennifer Biggs

Jennifer Biggs is a native Memphian and veteran food writer and journalist who covers all things food, dining and spirits related for The Daily Memphian.


Comment On This Story

Email Editions

Sign up for our morning and afternoon editions, plus breaking news.