The most talked about story of the first part of this week continues to be Sunday’s Strib-o-gram from Bill Ward and Jon Tevlin. Their steamy tell-all sat on the front page of the Source section, detailing some of the sleazier goings-on in the restaurant world, lurid tales that go on behind the scenes in most businesses jam-packed with crazies and drug-addled egomaniacs with no self-esteem. I should know—I am one.
There were a few things that struck me about the piece as a reader. The biggest one was I WANT MORE DETAILS. And I want really juicy ones. You know it was a good piece when you can smell the blood in the water. One of the biggest causes of friction between owners and chefs or chefs and landlords or servers and managers, and something that presages all of the most disgusting behavior, is anxiety. Especially the type brought on when the business is circling the drain pipe. All these restaurants (Mpls. Café, Goodfellows, Bobino, E’s, Five, etc.) were going through the death throes of extinction during the time when the craziest behavior was going on. And remember, Big E is basically a self-created myth of Eric’s own making and if his TV deals and book deal go anywhere at all (am I the only skeptic here???), the background checks he will have to deal with will give him apoplexy. Check out the public record on this guy—in some of the restraining-order paperwork there are some pretty wild accusations. The amount of FBI background and security checks I had to deal with for my own show were massive, but they pale in comparison to the morals clauses you have to sign off on if you actually can get a real show on a real station. Everyone in the media these days is scared of signing anyone to anything and then finding out later that they have a record, or pending legal issues. It’s a deal breaker. And while it’s an incomplete survey to say the least, no one I speak to in the cable TV networks, major networks, or publishing world have heard of his projects. TV/publishing people I deal with always ask me about this person or that, or want to know who’s who in our market because they are seeing proposals or show tapes on different local personages and want to get a feel for their appeal. So far, not a whisper on E. But, of course, I could be wrong.
Ms. Miller is a talented chef, but the article fails to mention the travesties of what went on at Red, and the fact that the Bobino tale was only in a sidebar tells me that they couldn’t get anyone ‘on the record’ on the Miller-Paddock saga. I am surprised that not a single employee from Red/Bobino/Mojito, etc., would tell any of the tales of what went on in those restaurants after hours and behind closed doors. Perhaps they got a few on record, but the paper didn’t want to go there for fear of legal exposure.
The story I really want to read is the one that Ward and Tevlin must have turned in three weeks ago to be vetted by the Strib legal department before the editors told them what they could and could not print. Court records are one thing, but the stories I heard coming out of the mouths of employees of Red, Bobino, Five, and Goodfellows make the stuff I read on Sunday seem like Sesame Street. The nice thing about a blog is that people can feel free to chime in and tell me what they heard, so feel free, especially if you worked at one of these places back in the day.
Speaking of the Strib, how about that story they ran a week ago today on the Midtown Global Market? Talk about a tough headline. The front page used the phrase ‘World of Hurt’ and the jump contained the header "Growing Pains." I happen to think the real story is somewhere in between, but what do I know? Well, let me tell you. The MGM is a wonderful resource and one of the most undervalued and unappreciated and unattended food venues in our city. But we don’t live in a ‘build it and they will come’ environment. The problem with constructing a business of that magnitude, especially one that has such a large social agenda as its raison d’etre is that the two are rarely compatible (business and social agendas). Philly, Seattle, and other cities that have these fabulous multi-use eat-in or shop-it food and craft complexes are all in the hearts of downtown. Until the MGM folks can figure out a way to get mom and dad in Chanhassen to hit the place twice a month for dinner, shop there once a week by offering a compelling reason to do so, and lure them from the Minneapolis skyway for lunch once a week, they are in danger of developing Levain’s Syndrome. Imagine what would have happened if the MGM complex had been built across from the Target Center instead of that utter waste of a space that Block E became. Anyone been to Hooters lately?