Phineas Taylor Barnum, wherever you are, raise a glass to Jon Basso, owner of the Heart Attack Grill in Tempe, Ariz. The restaurant may not be the Greatest Show on Earth, but you’d never know it from the headlines it’s generating this morning.
The Heart Attack Grill (Tagline: Taste worth dying for), is definitely a “guy” place. Witness its four featured cheeseburgers, the Single, Double, Triple and Quadruple Bypass, that last one with two full pounds of red meat, four slices of cheese and a pile of bacon (8,000 calories in all). Fries, by the way, are cooked in pure lard.
But it’s not the menu that has folks upset with Basso — it’s the scantily clad waitresses, decked out in “naughty nurse” attire, an obvious copy of the Hooters theme. Some will call it every man’s dream: cleavage, long legs and red meat by the pound.
The “eat well” community is upset with Basso, too. But you can’t accuse the man of false advertising. Of his menu, Basso says, “Essentially its nutritional pornography. It’s so bad for you it’s shocking.”
For those who accuse him of sexual exploitation, Basso tears a page from Barnum and adds, well…fat to the fire:
If anything, I think it glorifies nurses to be thought of as a physically attractive and desirable individuals. There’s a Faye Dunaway, Florence Nightingale hipness to it. Nobody wants to think of themselves as some old battle ax who changes bedpans for a living.
Who are we to mess with art and social commentary, eh?
The AP story quotes Sandy Summers, director of the Center for Nursing Advocacy, who objects to the restaurant’s objectification of nurses. Basso calls Summers and her fellow critics “prudes, cranks and lunatics.”
While P.T. Barnum’s form of promotion and publicity is sometimes offensive, it can also be effective, as this case so clearly shows. You may not like what Basso is saying and doing at the Heart Attack Grill, but I guarantee the patrons will be lined up out the door tonight. I’d also bet the mortgage that some venture capitalist is already en route to Tempe with a satchel full of cash to finance Basso’s dream of franchising this killer idea.
Next semester, we’ll be talking about the Heart Attack Grill in my Ethics & Issues class. But right now, I’m just kinda hungry.
Other angles on this story:
John Stossel’s report on ABC a few weeks back includes info on Basso’s troubles with the Arizona attorney general, who’s upset over the restaurant’s misrepresentation of healthcare professionals.
The Center for Nursing Advocacy addresses the “naughty nurse” issue in its FAQ.
In the blogosphere, I’m not the only one who found this story interesting. Run a search and you’ll find posts in at least a dozen languages. Here are a few:
The Gibbsblog thinks we all need to lighten up.
Belle of the Brawl thinks Basso’s critics should get a life.