June 23, 2007
If it sounds like I’m dropping names…I am! Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Will Smith, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Depp, Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross, Sean Penn, Jodie Foster, and Forrest Whitaker were just a few of our customers.
On any given night, I could walk into Genghis Cohen, the Hollywood hot spot I named and hosted, and feel like I was walking onto a movie set. While my friend Allan Rinde, who owned the restaurant, was making sure every customer was having a wonderful Chinese dining experience, I was paying a little extra attention to the stars. It was about this time that I had begun working with 3- dimensional acrylic fabric paint to create a new look for myself. I started enhancing old Hawaiian Shirts with 3-dimensional acrylic paint…which patrons bought right off my back! It wasn’t long before I had a profitable little sideline.
I remember while recording across the street at Cherokee studios, Bruce Willis and his producer, Robert Kraft would come in for egg rolls during breaks. This was during the end of the run of his hit TV show “Moonlighting” when Bruce was also performing around town with his blues band doing vocals and playing harmonica. From the conversations I had with him, I found out he liked blues and early Rock And Roll singers, so I made a special shirt for him of his favorites who passed away. It was called the “Rock and Roll Heaven” Shirt, based on the classic song my friend Alan Day wrote with the late Johnny Stevenson.
It was a black T-shirt, ripped a bit here and there, with with a stenciled “Heaven” on the front, with hand painted signatures of his favorite artists. I happened to give it to him on the same night he signed a 7 million dollar endorsement for Seagrams Whiskey. To be perfectly honest, later when he thanked me and said goodnight, I don’t think that the patented smirk he was wearing on his face was for the shirt!
Another actor/ musician who would drop in from time to time, was Johnny Depp. He owned a club up on the Sunset Strip, “The Viper Room”, and whenever he had yen for Chinese food he’d come down to Genghis. The first night I met him, we talked about music. Then I asked if he would mind if I asked him a personal question? “Can I see the tattoo?”
The tattoo I was talking about was a hot topic in all the tabloids. When Johnny broke up with Wynonna Ryder, he altered a tattoo he had on his arm that said “Wynonna Forever” to say “Wino Forever”. When he rolled up his sleeve and showed me, I knew he was cool!
One night when I came into work, I saw Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey, Jr. sitting at a tiny table for 2 in the middle of an empty restaurant. I introduced myself and asked if they would prefer to have a booth?
When they finished dinner, I sat with them and told them how much I enjoyed Sarah in “Girls Just Wanna’ Have Fun” and Robert in “Weird Science”. They told me that they appreciated how they were treated at Genghis Cohen. Other restaurants, wanted them to get in and out because they weren’t of drinking age and could only spend so much. I told them whenever you or your friends wanted to come in just call me. I assured them that “At Genghis Cohen, your wish…Is your problem!”
They laughed and not only became restaurant regulars, but became enthusiastic supporters of my wearable art.
One night Sarah was trying on one of my creations in the wine room at Genghis Cohen. She dresses and flicks off the light switch but it’s NOT the switch for the closet it’s the switch for the ENTIRE restaurant! Allan throws open the door, turns the darkened restaurant lights back on and GLARES at me. Sarah confesses and Allan smiles…after all who can stay mad at Sarah Jessica Parker?
(To Be Continued)
Copyright 2007 by Artie Wayne
To read an article on Barbra Streisand at Genghis Cohen http://artiewayne.wordpress.com/2006/08/04/barbra-streisand-and-the-price-of-egg-rolls/
Glowing Memories Of Genghis Cohen http://artiewayne.wordpress.com/2006/07/29/glowing-memories-of-genghis-cohen/
Peaking In A Chinese Restaurant http://artiewayne.wordpress.com/2006/11/23/peaking-in-a-chinese-restaurant/
To some of my wearable art. http://artiewayne.com/art.html
November 23, 2006
As we decide if we should have another piece of pumpkin pie or another glass of egg nog, the moment of truth draws closer…Black Friday! It’s the biggest shopping day of the year in America, and the official beginning of the Christmas season. I remember just a few years ago, it was wiser to buy presents closer to, or even after Christmas, to get the best deals. Now they’re advertising sales that are starting at 50% off!
Heaven forbid you waited to get your Playstation III or the new “masterbating” Elmo… Now it’s going to cost you a kidney to get one before Christmas! I was considering going to Petco today and getting a remote controled mouse for my cats, Whoppy and Streaker, but I think I’ll wait until the excitement dies down. I don’t want to be held up at gunpoint in the parking lot by some “catnip crazed” crook who’ll do anything to get a remote controlled mouse!
As I sit and think about some memorable Thanksgivings I had in the past, I flashback to one in particular. In the early ’80s, my friend Allan Rinde, owned a chinese restaurant in a Jewish neighborhood in Hollywood, which I named Genghis Cohen. This is the place in which Larry David (co-creator of the “Seinfeld”) based the episode, “The Chinese restaurant”, where he was kept waiting by an “arrogant host” for what seemed to be hours!
On the first Thanksgiving night after it opened…I was “humbly hosting” the place. There must’ve been 6 or 7 reservations that night, instead of the usual 100, so I assumed it would be like this all weekend. I didn’t even bother to have as many of my hand painted shirts, which I sold to customers from $75 to $350, onhand as I usually did. I thought that on Black Friday there would be as few customers as there was on Thanksgiving night.
As I sat back to enjoy the night, a publicist friend of mine came in for an early dinner, and left me an incredible trip…I mean tip! She gave me a capsule of MDMA ( Ecstacy) which was legal then, and I took for the very first time a few minutes later. It wasn’t long before a smile swept across my face and I felt an emotional connection with everyone I came in contact with. I even engaged in long conversations with Chinese and Mexican workers in the kitchen, even though we didn’t speak each others language!
Then the place started to fill up with our regular customers who were out shopping and asked if they could come in without a reservation. Lana Turner , came in with a party of five, Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey , Jr. with their friends, Luthor VanDross and his entourage, Rod Stewart, so on and so forth! Every time someone would show up at the door, I’d greet them with a glazed look in my eyes and say, “Welcome to Genghis Cohen, where there’s always room for one more!” It wasn’t long before I started to answer the phone, ” Hello. Genghis Cohen, where your wish…is your problem!”
I stopped taking reservations and advised everyone on the phone to order take out because there were about 60 people waiting for tables. In my chemically induced “loving” state, I was determined to make this a night to remember for everyone I encountered! I read the menu aloud to the hungry crowd on line, while the waiters took their orders promising the food would be ready by the time they were seated.
“Tonight we have Romeo and Juliet, fresh asparagus and schezewan string beans lying side by side…on a steamy bed of lettuce. If you order this dish you must be over 18, so please have your ID ready!
We also have our world famous, “Duck with no Name”. Why doesn’t it have a name? Because there’s no guilt when you eat a nameless duck. I mean, would you order it if it were called Daffy or Donald?
Finally, our special tonight is “Terminator Chicken”, a dish so powerful that if you don’t order it…it’ll come out and get you! If you Do order it, but don’t finish it, it’ll look up at you and say, “I’ll be back!”
Then things started to get serious, I ran out of one liners as well as hand painted shirts! Chef Lin stormed out of the kitchen waving a kichen knife and cursing in chinese, about the huge orders that kept coming in, so close to closing time. Although the walls were starting to pulsate and close in on me, I managed to calm the chef down and introduced him to patrons that kept gushing about his incredible food. He was absolutely beaming as he returned to the kitchen amidst a standing ovation! Chef Lin fortunately convinced his staff not to walk out at their usual quiting time and the bus boys not to beat my ass for making them work late!
I knew how much Allan hated for me to keep people waiting on line, so I made sure by the time he was expected, everyone had been seated and served. He asked how the night was…coming down from all the excitement, I quietly said, “OK, I guess.” I bid everyone goodnight and went outside where my little Genie and her magic carpet were waiting to take me home!
Copyright 2006 by Artie Wayne
Thanks to Elliot Weiss for letting me borrow the title of one of his songs for this article.
July 29, 2006
Back in P.S.55, when I wasn’t running from the guys with switch-blades and zip guns I would sit and draw. I learned how to make 3-D comics, you know the kind where you needed red and blue glasses. This peculiar talent got me in to New York’s High School of Music and Art. Although I never became the Picasso of 3-D, I developed the love of images that challenge the eye and the imagination.
In 1983, my friend and sometime business partner Allan Rinde decided to exit the music business and open a Chinese Restaurant in a Jewish neighborhood in Hollywood. I came up with a name for him, Genghis Cohen! The place was an immediate hit. Soon after, Allan asked me to take some of the burden off his shoulders and become night host. It was about this time that I had begun working with fabric paint and decided to create a unique look for myself by creating my own outfits. The first night I wore one of shirts to work, I sold it off of my back for $125.00…and I knew that I had something
Soon I had all sorts of people buying my clothes including, Robert Downey, Jr., J.D. Nicholas of the Commodores, Pam Tillis, Patti Dahlstrom, Sammy Davis, Jr. James Caan, Val Garay, Steve Cropper and Luther VanDross.
When I did a couple of jackets for ERTE….the father of Art Deco….I didn’t know who he was….when I found out I doubled my prices and landed a one man show at Bobbi Leonard’s gallery in Santa Monica. It wasn’t long before I was selling my clothing out of Fred Segals, Robinsons & Leather Force on Melrose and in Beverly Hills.
Once Sarah Jessica Parker was trying on one of my creations in the wine room at Genghis Cohen…..She dresses and flicks off the light switch….but it’s NOT the switch for the closet it’s the switch for the ENTIRE restaurant …. *#!!%……Allan throws open the door….turns the darkened restaurant lights back on and GLARES at me….Sarah confesses….and Allan smiles…after all, who can get mad at Sarah Jessica Parker?
When I started using glow-in-the-dark paint on my creations, I would dim the lights then go into the kitchen and get a blast of flourescent light. I’d walk back into the restaurant, hand out fortune cookies and sell the glowing jacket right off my back!
copyright 2012 by Artie Wayne