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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

 

Dept. of Laparoscopy



"Hand Over The motherfucking chicken wings," spits Al Roker, wildy grasping at the basket in front of me. I take another sip of my beer and finger the blanket of plastic Mardi Gras beads draped around my neck. Our waitress, whose nametag boldly claims her name to be "Sunshine," hovers nearby. She rolls her eyes in exasperation, letting me know I should let go of the basket of wings and let the weatherman gorge. The smudgey, hot-sauce fingerprints dotting her tank top and orange hot-pants let me know that Roker's already a little impatient with the service; she's told him repeatedly that his order is on its way, but he wants my stash, and he wants it five wings ago.

Still, I resist.

"Slide over the wings, dog." There's a hand on my shoulder. I don't even turn around. At this point in the history of American popular culture, it's impossible not to know that the voice belongs to Randy Jackson, one-third of American Idol's dream-making/dream-taking tribunal. "The brother's hungry. He needs to get his Buffalo on, dog. Ya feel me?"

I do feel him, as his fingers dig into my shoulder.

"Can't you just share? The man is hungry," implores Carnie Wilson, one-third of the erstwhile tripartite hitmakers Wilson Phillips. For reasons not entirely clear to me, she's dressed identically to the waitresses, right down to the nametag. Carnie.

I shake off his hand and defiantly rip half the flesh off a wing and toss what's left to Roker. He reduces it to the bleached remains of something unearthed by a archaeology doctoral student at a dig in Mesopotamia.

Then it happens, the same thing that's happened each time Roker's decimated a wing at this meal. I've sat through it enough times at this meal that I can almost feel the peristaltic wave like the kick of a too-close bass drum. He leans over the side of the table and vomits into a bucket that normally holds ice and beer bottles. I cringe.

And the rest of the crowd in the Pasadena Hooters cheers. Cheers like their kid has just kicked the game-winning home-run in the Stanley Cup 500. By now I am too drunk and disgusted to compose an appropriate sports metaphor.

It's Mardi Gras, and for some reason an editor at Cosmo Girl (whom I'd been hitting on the previous week in the VIP lounge of a Sunset Strip bar I will decline to name) thought that it would be just super if I'd spend my Mardi Gras with a group of celebrities who'd never endure another Fat Tuesday -- or Fat Wednesday or Fat Friday or any other day of the week -- thanks to the miracle of gastric bypass surgery. The explosion in the popularity of the procedure (where a small pouch is created by stapling a section of the stomach and the intestine is joined to the pouch, bypassing the larger stomach section, thereby reducing the stomach's capacity to a few ounces from its usual gallon or more) among the rich and famous could have serious implications for the self-images of their teenage readers. Would they feel the need to have drastic surgeries to slim down? The editor certainly wanted to know.

In any event, there I was, surrounded by cheers and the meaty splash of Al Roker's backflow, encircled by celebrities who'd formerly good-naturedly endured easy cracks about their weight, and who'd now slimmed down to the point of accepting large sums of money in exchange for photographs of their naked forms. Well, at least in Carnie's case. I turn to ask her the token question about exactly what message these stomach staples send to our youth, blah blah blah, but she's tuned out. Her eyes are on Roker.

I follow them and watch as he reaches into the bucket and withdraws something small and dully metallic.

"Oh, shit," yelps Sharon Osborne, who previously had only stopped yakking in my ear about just how bloody dreadful it is to deal with Ozzy's constant bladder control issues long enough to lean over and remark on the size of the recently-engaged Star Jones's rock. "He's thrown his bloody staple!"

Roker's face goes pale. All eyes go from impatiently watching the kitchen door for the arrival of wing-basket refills to deep focus on the object in his hand.

"Hold on!" screams a female voice. I turn and see an emaciated Charlize Theron. How had I missed her? I'd heard buzz that she'd undergone the gastric bypass in preparation for an upcoming role as Karen Carpenter that would further prove her dedication to self-transformation in the name of her craft. But I didn't expect in a million years to see her at the Hooters.

Theron floats over to Roker and takes the object from him. She wipes it on her dress, examines it for an instant, and affixes it to her earlobe.

"I knew I'd lost that somewhere!"

The entire restaurant seems to deflate with relief, from the big-screen TV showing NASCAR to the silicone-filled tank tops of the staff. Roker smiles.

I hand over my basket. The room explodes in cheers. Randy pats me on the shoulder, Sharon's too tickled to natter, and Carnie slides me her number. I playfully scream show us your scar! at Theron, and I'm suddenly flailing in a deluge of plastic beads.

It's Fat Tuesday, and Sunshine finally arrives with more wings.



About this site

This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
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