All-Access Eats

The anecdotes may be amusing, but the hours for the area's premier rock caterer are anything but. Eat Your Heart Out arrives at a big festival at maybe 6:00 a.m. to set up for breakfast for the crew dudes, fries up eggs and serves pastries for a few hours, then lunch, snacks, backstage stuff--often derived from those infamous "riders," the contracts specifying what the band gets in their dressing rooms (they catered for David Lee Roth, but the "no brown M&M's" clause Van Halen was famous for was long gone)--dinner, or a post-show dinner. Often, say Barone and Hayes, they don't leave a venue till 2:00 or 5:00 a.m.

One time, after a Kiss show, a toothless member of the Kiss army followed Barone home, suspecting he might have Gene Simmons hidden in a chafing dish. "I left my girl back at the north exit," the would-be stalker explained. "You sure he's not in there?" And then there was the time some 13-year-old brat superstar had Barone stir up some faux tar, out of chocolate syrup, because he planned on tarring and feathering his bodyguard. Or the rock star who won't let anyone on his compound eat meat, so the crew dudes all rush off to McDonald's at meal break and stack up at the gate wolfing down their meat before returning to work.

Or the other more titillating backstage anecdotes: The star who has a standby EMT guy for intravenous post-show rehydration; the one glimpsed in flagrante on a tour-bus roof; the time they found wall-size mirrors coated with coke residue; the band that replaced all the lights around the dressing-room mirrors with carrot sticks and left behind chairs wrapped up with duct tape and chicken bones.

Craig Lassig

But those are the few and far exceptions. Mostly, as it is for rock stars, so it is for any well-paid member of the upper middle class on an expense account: tuna steaks, salads, bottled water, and coffee. And fresh juice--Barone and Hayes say fresh juice is very hot right now. "But, for the most part, I call it all Evian rock," says Barone. "No one does anything interesting."

Hayes, too, has lost the fire. "If there's a band I care about, I buy a ticket, I go and sit and watch it," she says. "People really have no idea what backstage is really like. It's really like a hospital waiting room--a hospital waiting room we try to make as homey and pleasant as possible. It's not glamorous--it's schleppy. After all these years, I am so jaded. I've met Ringo Starr now like three times. He is the nicest guy you can imagine, absolutely great, really funny. The last time, somehow, this came up with my mom. She was like, 'Aren't you thrilled? There was a time you would have done anything to meet a Beatle!'" But now Hayes just shrugs. She isn't really that thrilled, and there's no way to explain it, especially to her mom.

But isn't it always that way with life? You start out a nine-year-old would-be groupie and end up an entrepreneur with a scrapbook full of superstars and people on the payroll to stay up late schlepping herbal tea, so you don't have to.

TABLEHOPPING

ZINFANDEL PARTY: What a happy day! The quintessential American grape is being celebrated at the quintessential American restaurant: 1940s diner charmer the Modern Cafe will be presenting a tasting of nine California zinfandels, including Hendry, Deux Amis, Rombauer, Marietta, Oliver Caldwell, Runquist, Pezzi King, Everett Ridge, and Chappellet. And there may even be a few barrel samples from Marietta, so you can taste the nearly raw wine of 2001--a full month before the other famous young wine, Beaujolais nouveau, hits our shores! "It'll be right out of the stainless-steel tanks," says Modern proprietor Jim Grell, who does the restaurant's wine list. "Most of the fermentation will be done, but there isn't a lot to a wine that young. It'll be real fruity and cloudy, but very cool to see and taste." Foodwise, your guess is as good as Grell's: "We just put some food out on the counter--who knows. We never know what we're going to serve; we'll try some of the wines that morning, then go into the basement and start brainstorming, go into the cooler and see what works." And at the very Americans-in-recession price of $18 for two or three hours of snacking and drinking, what's not to like? "That's just what we're about," says Grell. "We try to charm the pants off people, and then hopefully they'll come back." And when they come back, perhaps they'll order one of the three-bottle vertical tastings Grell is showcasing on his list. (A vertical tasting is several different vintages of the same wine, and rare to come upon unless you collect it yourself--but the Modern is collecting them so you don't have to.)

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