What I Do 

Richard Merritt, 43, Singing waiter, Little Venice

We have people that as soon as they walk in the doors, they’re like, “Richard, sing for us, sing for us. Anything.” And it’s surprising. On one hand, they want me to do it. On the other hand, I’m not surprised with the power of music and what it can do.

It’s just been a great experience up here, leaving Florida and moving to Richmond. I’ve been here since March. You have trees! People, look around at the trees; you got ’em! Florida right now is condos and strip malls. The people here are so warm and embracing. I think that’s one of the things unique about what goes on with me here. Everybody loves it and they don’t hesitate to let you know.

These guys [managers] just appreciate being able to entertain people. My boss encourages it. Alberto’s like, “Go sing something.” So I come out and holler, “Hey Joan, I hear it’s your birthday, and you know what I heard? You know what they told me?” And then bust out into [sings] “I heard you had all the boys, thinking they were in heaven, when you were 27, oh baby, you were looking great when you were 28, oh mama, I’m here to tell ya, you are looking fine, now that you’re 29.” Belt it.

I think life is there to live. That song, “Life is a Cabaret” — it is. I’ve heard people ask one of the owners here, Peppino, “Where did he train? My god that voice.” And Peppino said, “In the theater of life.” That’s what I do, I haven’t had any training. I can’t read music.

It doesn’t take anything to make somebody happy, you just throw it out there and see what happens. There was actually a lady, came in on her birthday, wanted me to sing to her. I was at Kohl’s shopping. Alberto called me and said, “She’s here, she wants a birthday song.” And I said, “Put her on the phone.” In the middle of Kohl’s department store, at the top of my lungs, I belted out a song for her. And when I got done singing to her, I had people in the aisles looking at me. Who’s the crazy one? People who are sitting around depressed or the people running around singing songs? I’ll take singing songs any day. — As told to Kelly Shaw; photographed by Scott Elmquist

Richard Merritt sings at Little Venice restaurant, 10483 Ridgefield Parkway, Thursday through Saturday, and other days as scheduled. He sings to tables for special occasions and performs for the entire restaurant at 9 p.m.


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