Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

Getting awesome with Tommy Up

By Tommy Up
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 24, 2009

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It should've been obvious back in the beginning with Continental, but the trendification of a timeless American diner seemed harmless enough. It was some N.Y.C.-inspired flair at precisely the right time for the city, and we couldn't get enough of the kitschy cocktails, small plates and waitresses with interesting names. Continental was crack, Stephen Starr was Nino Brown and we--all of us--we were Pookie.

By the time Buddakan was open, it was probably too late. We were blind to the obvious at that point. Seriously, think about it: He made people who'd never met each other before sit next to each other at his "communal" table. Who does that? Churches do. And look closely at the face of the towering Buddha sculpture itself. The same pouty lips, the same icy focused stare ... this was no Buddha--this was Stephen Starr himself looking down from his throne at us, his subjects, as we paid him tribute one $65 Wasabi Mashed Potato Smothered Angry Lobster dish at a time. We should've said something, someone should've said something, but we were all too stunned by the deafening Thievery Corporation soundtrack to say one single fucking word.

They came like automatic gunfire after that: Alma de Cuba, Pod, Tangerine, El Vez ... Christ, there were just so many and he wouldn't stop opening them. I believe he lost count himself at some point after his 50th or 60th venue when he announced a futuristic Norwegian-French fusion concept he was calling Fjord Escargot. Philly didn't matter by then anyway. We'd been robbed, beaten and left for dead. He took the show to the cockpit of Western culture itself, N.Y.C., and before his places even opened everyone was already certain they were going to be fabulous and trendsetting.

As I write this I'm in N.Y.C.'s Meatpacking District one block away from Starr's Buddakan and Morimoto up here. I'm not sure what I can do to stop him, but I need to try something and I need to hurry before his Atlantic City location opens. I've got a wooden stake, a full pocket of silver bullets and tranquilizer darts filled with enough Diazepam to take down the Bronx Zoo.

Holla at party thrower and subversive marketing genius Tommy Up at tommyup@philadelphiaweekly.com

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