YOU’RE RICH, YOU’RE FAMOUS, you’re glamorous. So where do you hang out? Some tasteful boîte, perhaps, where you and your A-list friends can unwind discreetly, protected from the common gaze? No? Well, then, there’s always Hogs & Heifers, a saloon in Manhattan’s meatpacking district that gives the word “dive” a bad name and has become, rather mysteriously, the venue du jour—or rather de la nuit—for the likes of Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
By day the area is a cacophony of trucks and leather-lunged meat warehousemen. By night it’s a dreary landscape of nearly abandoned streets patrolled by drug dealers and transvestite prostitutes. In this bleak urban milieu, Hogs & Heifers’ neon sign stands out like a beacon. Inside, waitresses dance on the bar, and female patrons are encouraged to leave their brassieres hanging over a stuffed and mounted deer’s head. Pabst Blue Ribbon is the bestselling beer, and cops, firemen and construction workers rub elbows—with Gwyneth Paltrow. “We believe in the working man,” says owner Allan Dell with a straight face. “The celebrity thing was the last thing on our minds.”
Maybe that’s why every celebrity sighting or alleged indiscretion, such as Julia Roberts‘s donating her black Maidenform 34B to the bar’s permanent collection, finds its way into the gossip columns of the New York City tabloids.
Dell, 30, a 10th-grade dropout and self-described “functioning alcoholic,” got into the bar business in 1992 because, he says, “I love bars and I love drinking. Either I was going to waste my life in them or open up my own joint.” His dream, financed with a $40,000 loan from his father, manifested itself as Hogs & Heifers. “My family said, ‘Are you nuts? There’s no street traffic.’ But it was cheap, and we could be loud since there was no one around to hear us.”
Naturally most of the rich and famous whose roisterings in Hogs & Heifers are the stuff of tabloid sensation have had no comment, and some have denied even knowing about the place. If you were rich and famous, you’d probably do the same thing.