Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paging Rod Serling

I know exactly what you’re thinking: Argh, another blog post about Flava Flav and new employment laws. But, hey, we haven’t celebrated this sort of weirdness since Dennis Kucinich ended his run for the presidency. Did I mention he’s suing a cafeteria over an unpitted olive?

First things first. I’m perplexed as to why the Flav- and Kucinich-free incident in New Jersey didn’t get more attention from the restaurant industry, given the implications. Lawmakers there are considering a measure that would manacle chains from closing a unit there ASAP. If the proposal becomes a model for other jurisdictions, multi-unit operations could have a much harder time at stemming the losses from unprofitable stores.

Jersey already has a law in the books that requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to give a 60-day warning before shutting down. No warning, no padlock on the front door.

But Charlie Brown’s, the upscale casual-dining chain, found a way around that measure when it filed for bankruptcy. It argued that each store was an individual employer, and none of the 30 or so stores it shuttered back in November hit that threshold. Some 2,300 employees were put out of work instantaneously, drawing headlines and the attention of state lawmakers.

So now they’re closing that loophole. A proposal currently before the legislature would levy the 50-employee requirement on the whole chain, not the individual stores that constitute it. The practical effect would be stalling a closure until the advance-warning requirement was met.

Okay, on to Flava Flav, the rap star and former host of “Flavor of Love,” a reality TV show where women vied for his romantic attentions. He’s best known for wearing a Big Ben-class clock around his neck.

Now he’s building on that base of notoriety with an entry into the restaurant business. He’s opened a fast-food restaurant called Flav’s Fried Chicken in Clinton, Iowa, boasting as he did that he’s going to fricassee Col. Sanders of KFC fame.

In one of those strange coincidences, news of Flav’s endeavor almost coincided with report that Jay-Z was also going into the quick-serve chicken business, backing a wings concept developed by his cousin. No jokes here. Jay-Z has the Midas touch, and has succeeded at everything he’s done. He’s the former president of Def Jam records, the author of an extremely well-reviewed autobiography, and generally one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. By all accounts he’s a passive investor in this new concept, but it’ll be interesting to watch its growth.

Both announcements coincided with the news that Kanye West had shuttered one of his two Fatburger restaurants. There’s gotta be a Taylor Swift joke in here somewhere, but I just have to resist temptation.

So on to Dennis Kucinich. He’s had so many moments of dubious notoriety in his long political career that the most recent flash of weirdness merits no more than a shrug. This, after all, was the former boy mayor (age 31) of Cleveland who famously set its backdrop river, the Cuyahoga, on fire.

He was also reportedly a target of Mafia hitmen because of his refusal to sell the city’s utility company, and was at the helm when the city defaulted on its debts.

He currently serves as a U.S. Congressman from Ohio, celebrated for his liberal ideas and staunch vegan lifestyle. He ran for the U.S. presidency last election, comporting himself well in his appearances and debate participations. But he was labeled by many as a crackpot after Shirley MacLaine recounted in one of her books that Kucinich had claimed to have see a UFO during a visit to her home.

He’s back in the headlines because he’s suing a cafeteria in the Capitol for failing to pit an olive that was included in a wrap he bought. According to news reports, Kucinich asserts in the suit that he had to undergo oral surgeries to repair the harm that was done when he bit into the olive, and is seeking $150,000 in damages.

There’s no word yet in how this is being perceived elsewhere in the universe.

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