The sign inside the entrance reads, “This is not here.” Don’t you believe it. When London’s famed Hard Rock Cafe opened a branch on 57th Street in Manhattan last week, droves of celebs from Andy Warhol to Walter Cronkite certified that the joint sure is here by turning out and rocking around the clock. “I wish there were about 200 less people on this balcony,” said Eddie Murphy, who had been named the guest of honor by Cafe partners Dan Aykroyd, Yul Brynner and Isaac Tigrett. “It’s the poor boy’s 21 Club,” Tigrett proclaimed. Added Aykroyd, “It’s a restaurant for the ’90s.”
Tigrett, 35, is the proprietor of the original Hard Rock Cafe, which opened in 1971 as an American oasis near Hyde Park Corner—burgers, milk shakes and rock music. “People in the West are preoccupied with doing,” he said, explaining why he had chosen the slogan “All Is One” for the New York branch. “People in the East are preoccupied with being. What I’ve tried to do is put these two concepts together. It’s totally positive.” Accordingly, while scarfing ribs, roast beef and fried chicken, guests stared up at what Tigrett calls the “God Wall.” It includes a photo of Sai Baba, Tigrett’s Indian holy man, a hologram of an angel, a drawing of a huge Quaalude capsule emblazoned with the words “Victims Wanted,” and a photo of Tigrett’s “dear mother” in Tennessee.
Boasting a 40-foot-long bar shaped like a Fender Stratocaster plus real guitars donated by the likes of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Duane Allman, Dolly Par-ton, George Harrison and Pete Townshend, and a drum donated by Ringo Starr, the Cafe looked like “a kind of rock ‘n’ roll museum,” in the words of Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun. There was, in addition, Jimmy Hendrix’s hat, Jerry Lee Lewis’ shoes, and an extravagant costume worn by Bette Midler.
“I’ve been to the place in London,” said Lauren Bacall, “and I think you can breathe more easily here. I always prefer breathing to not breathing if given the choice.” Walter Cronkite concurred. “It’s a very interesting, warm place,” he said. “I’ve never really been that good at interior decorating. I can’t tell you why it works, but it works.”