By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
401 North First Street
Several more six-way, five-minute stoplights down Grand Avenue sat downtown Phoenix and the downtown Ramada Inn, home to Kricket's, a restaurant, lounge and Rush Room. Accompanied by the Rushmeister himself (after an opening shot at Hillary Rodham Clinton's new hairdo, he had moved on to shoot at her husband's tax plan), we made the trip in time for a 1 p.m. arrival at Kricket's. Which was, as we had come to expect, eerily quiet. One table appeared to be littered with the remnants of a dittohead brunch (four empty bottles of Snapple, all the plates clean, not a single uneaten French fry in sight) and a couple of guys brooded at the bar, but there were otherwise no visible signs here that Rush Limbaugh mattered. Rush wasn't even playing on the PA. "No Rush?" we asked a harried waiter, while surveying the room's many empty tables.
"The radio," he said, scooting off to do something. "It's broken." Fibber's
7043 East McDowell, Scottsdale
In less than two hours, we had visited an upscale lunchroom for geriatrics in Sun City, an authentico Mexican restaurant in Glendale and a hotel bar in downtown Phoenix. The next logical destination, then, was a country-western disco in Scottsdale. The Rush Room here was set up in a side area, away from the dance floor. Two couples occupied most of the dark space on Day 119, while Rush's voice--booming over the PA system--filled the rest. Country videos played on TV screens around the club, and the music filled the big room next door. While we diners made repeated trips to the all-you-can-eat, steam-table buffet (a Rush Room exclusive, at $4.95), Rush questioned a caller about the meaning of morality. We questioned Heidi Haase, not officially the manager of Fibber's, but someone who takes calls when the manager is out, about how Fibber's picked up on the Rush Room concept. It was a couple of months ago, she said, at the suggestion of a customer. "Some guy came in and told us about it," said Haase (pronounced "Hoss"). "Our lunches were kind of slow." Rush sparked plenty of lunch business at first, Haase said, though the Rush rush has started to ease. "On a typical day, we average about 30 lunches. It's been slow this week." Not slow, said Haase, has been Fibber's sales of specially made Rush Room tee shirts. "I can't believe how much we sell."
Neither could we. Sir George's Royal Buffet
1744 West Main, Mesa
We arrived here at 2 p.m., and the Rush Room, a clean, well-lighted banquet space behind the buffet line, was completely unoccupied. A large-screen TV, mounted at one side of the room, was black. Below it, an 8 x 10 glossy of Sir Rush looked out on several dozen completely empty seats. The sound of Limbaugh's voice, still talking about Bill Clinton's budget, bounced off the green-and-white-striped walls and out into the main dining area, which still held several customers. Without making a mad Rush to judgment, it seemed as if Limbaug-eddon had struck, wiping dittoheads from a part of the map--the conservative East Valley--that should show a high population of rabid Rushdies.
Despite chilling evidence to the contrary, Sir George's manager, Mark Starley, claimed his Rush Room is an unqualified success. "We get 20 to 30 customers a day, Monday through Friday. It kind of slows down after 1 to 1:30, because people have to go back to work," Starley said, perhaps suggesting that Rush is not popular among the coveted unemployed-welfare-dependent demographic group.
The only chink in Sir George's armor came when a group of "Democratic ladies" who had been meeting in the back banquet room arrived one day to find a portrait of their archenemy mounted on the wall, Starley said. "They were kind of mad. But we moved em to another room, and everything is okay now.