I was 16 years old and in my second year of high school when I learned that punching in 58008 on my calculator and turning it upside down spelled "BOOBS." My appropriately sophomoric mind grasped the delicious subtlety of being naughty while still being able to claim an ignorant innocence. Nope, nothing dirty about the number 58008, we boys could snicker.
Apparently, some of the "boys" opening restaurants in the suburbs these days still embrace that mentality. Make room, Hooters and Tilted Kilt, a new Twin Peaks eatery promises to "bust out" this spring in Wheeling. Seriously? What's next?
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"How about Tilted Hooters?" offers my 13-year-old son, Will, whose middle school sensibilities could keep abreast with the marketing folks at those restaurants.
Wednesday's Daily Herald story by reporter Deborah Donovan noted that the Twin Peaks website (where the slogan is "Eats, Drinks, Scenic Views") features waitresses in plaid halter tops and boasts, "Our most prized assets: the friendly, attentive, and beautiful Twin Peaks Girls."
Somewhere, Beavis and Butthead are snickering, "Heh, heh, they said assets, heh heh."
As a father joining my wife in our quest to raise sons who don't regard women as objects, I am not loving this restaurant trend. For starters, I must point out that restaurants can't hire "girls" to serve beer. Calling a full-grown female waitress a girl is the same as calling a full-grown male waiter "boy."
While the website makes it clear that Twin Peaks is a breast joke, the name initially brought to mind David Lynch's quirky Twin Peaks TV show that debuted in 1990 and developed a cult following that including my wife and me. That show started with the discovery of the plastic-wrapped naked corpse of Laura Palmer, the local high school homecoming queen, and got weirder after that. But it also featured this wonderful little restaurant called the "Double R Diner," where the FBI agent could get a piece of cherry pie and "a damn fine cup of coffee."
That diner is what my wife and I first envisioned when we heard that a Twin Peaks place was opening in the suburbs.
"Twin Peaks? Aren't they dating themselves?" my wife asked.
Now that I know the truth, I'm guessing that many of the male customers who will patronize the new Twin Peaks are unfamiliar with the notion of dating, which is why they will be hanging with other guys at Twin Peaks instead of with a girlfriend or wife at a nicer restaurant. My wife gets her hair cut in the same building as a Tilted Kilt and swears that she's never seen a female customer in the place.
I'm sure the tips are good, and I think women should have the freedom and right to wear skimpy outfits, pose nude for Playboy or dance naked with a pole if that's how they want to make a living, but I get tired of suburban restaurants using the stereotype of women in skimpy outfits to sell chicken wings.
Having lived through and embraced the feminist revolution that saw women rise up to win elections and head corporations, I figured there would be no place for sexist restaurants such as Hooters, Tilted Kilt and Twin Peaks in our modern world. I assumed they'd come to the same fate as one of the favorite restaurants of my youth: Sambo's.
Named innocently enough after the founders, Sam and Bo, the restaurant embraced "The Story of Little Black Sambo," a children's book where a small, dark-skinned protagonist named Sambo outwits ferocious, man-eating tigers that race around a tree so fast they melt into butter, which Sambo's mother used to make pancakes. I loved that story, but grew to realize that Sambo, however admirable I thought he was, was a demeaning character to lots of people. Restaurants that demean people fall out of favor. There were 1,117 Sambo's restaurants across 47 states in 1981. Only the original remains.
Take heed, restaurants that build marketing campaigns around "girls" who pose for calendars and serve up "Double D Burgers," "well-built sandwiches" and other double-entendres.
If you must use slang for women's breasts to bring in customers, remember the subtlety I learned as a sophomore with a calculator. Call your new place Pub 58008.