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‘Strange Hollywood’ Tales: Celebrity-Founded Eateries That Flopped

August 14, 2019

What’s strange? Playing “make believe” and “dress up” for a living…and getting multi-million-dollar paychecks to do it. What’s even stranger? Using some of that acting money to open up a restaurant. Here are some stars who got into and then out of the kitchen.

Pat Boone’s Dine-O-Mat

Pat Boone made a name for himself singing sanitized versions of Little Richard and Elvis Presley songs in the 1950s, and in 1961 funneled his financial windfall into a chain of nearly 100 self-service cafeterias. An update of a mostly dead 1930s restaurant format called the automat, customers got food out of vending machines and heated them up in the then new-and-novel appliance called the microwave. Boone’s endeavor failed, likely because people didn’t quite yet understand (or trust) a box that cooked food with radiation.

Mickey Rooney’s Weenie Whirl

Ever notice that there are lots of hamburger-based fast food joints but very few hotdog ones? In 1980, former child star Mickey Rooney stuck up for the humble frankfurter, opening this chain of hot dog-themed eateries. Its signature menu item: Ring-shaped wieners served inside hamburger buns. The entire business closed down within a year…about as long as some of Rooney’s other fast food forays lasted, such as Mickey Rooney Macaroni and Rooney’s Star-B-Que.

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In early 2013, Eva Longoria, best known for Desperate Housewives, opened this strangely capitalized Las Vegas steakhouse geared toward female customers. What’s a women-friendly steakhouse? It sold small portions of steaks called “She-Cuts” and the dessert menus were printed on mirrors, so women could reapply their makeup before they headed back out into Sin City. (Really.) But what really led to its closure about a year later: 21 health code violations.

Twins

Macho character actor Tom Berenger was a fixture of ‘80s movies, appearing in hits like The Big Chill, Platoon, and Major League. He did not star in the 1988 comedy Twins, but he did open a twins-themed New York City restaurant in 1994 called Twins. (The menu offered Twin Burgers, and a dish named after Patty Duke, because she played “identical cousins” on The Patty Duke Show.) Any twins who came to twins enjoyed two-drinks for the price of one. Twins shut down in 2000, having served 100,000 pairs of identical twins in six years.

Hulk Hogan’s Pastamania

With his wrestling heyday behind him, Hulk Hogan turned from the ring to restaurants in 1995. At the massive Mall of America in Minnesota, Hogan opened a pasta-themed quick-serve spot called Hulk Hogan’s Pastamania. Despite his relentless promotion of the carbohydrate-centric eatery on TV wrestling shows, it failed after just a few months.

Flav’s Fried Chicken

Public Enemy member and reality TV star Flavor Flav partnered with restaurateur Nick Cimino to open this chicken spot in Clinton, Iowa, in January 2011. Flav had zero restaurant ownership experience, but the menu was based around his own secret recipe for chicken wings. Nevertheless, it lasted just three months, as employee checks bounced amid Flav and Cimino blaming each other for mismanaging the business.

You can find more stories like this one in Strange Hollywood, available now from Portable Press.

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