Man Bites Dog
Boy, are a butt-load of you homos (and by homos, this plumed penman means Homo sapiens) wack! And no, The Bird ain't talkin' about Tom Cruise with a mouthful of placenta, or Keith Richards climbing a freaking Fiji coconut tree. Rather, this cee-gar-chompin' nest-dweller's squawkin' about the nutty response to New Times' parody "Xtreme Cuisine" (May 11) written by this publication's restaurant critic, Stephen Lemons.
It was the latest in a long line of Mad Magazine-type goofs dating back to the origins of this august tabloid, including such classics as arming the homeless ("Give Piece a Chance," April 1, 1999), desert tortoises halting the construction of Arizona Cardinals Stadium ("Super Bowl V," January 16, 2003) and human taxidermy ("Forever Yours," October 28, 2004). Back in the day, the paper even printed what was purported to be a big blotter tab of some hallucinogenic substance, and a lot of fools ate it. One reader called in and blurted, "I've eaten 10 pages and I'm still not high; what gives?!"
In case you've been high yourself for the past two weeks, "Xtreme Cuisine" was part Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd and part Swiftian satire, with a fictitious Chef Kazuki "Kaz" Yamamoto preparing illicit "moveable feasts" of rare, endangered or sometimes just taboo meats and vegetation for the famous, the well-connected and the über-rich. The parody claimed that Yamamoto would rotate his forbidden soirees among such select locations as Tovrea Castle, Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, the Phoenician, abandoned eateries like Beef Eaters on West Camelback Road, and the Wrigley Mansion, in which the opening scene of the tall tale takes place.
Possessors of jaded palates were said to have paid thousands of dollars to dine on everything from seal sushi wrapped in gold foil and tenderloin of Bichon Frise to barbecued gorilla and breast of penguin sauted in Grand Marnier. The story grew more grotesque and absurd the further you read, and ended with none other than Arizona U.S. Senator Jon Kyl and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon sinking their teeth into the grilled flesh of Mexican illegal aliens who'd sold a hunk of themselves to Yamamoto for just this cannibalistic purpose. For the legion of you with half a brain out there, Gordon made our list because he complained mightily when immigrants and their supporters marched up 24th Street recently, and Kyl's been bashing illegal immigration since Joe Arpaio was a Hitler youth.
Inspired by the 1990 film The Freshman starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick, wherein Brando's character Jimmy the Toucan operates an illegal, mob-backed supper club similar to Chef Kaz's "Le Menu," "Xtreme Cuisine" mercilessly skewers loony environmentalists, animal-rights crackpots, egomaniacal celebrity chefs, culinary critics who'll eat anything, the rich and famous, anti-immigrationists like Kyl, and the craze for extreme edibles driven by the likes of Tony Bourdain.
Smart people got the joke. Not every single one of them approved of it, but they got it.
Among those who didn't, only a handful were concerned about anything other than the adorable little Bichon puppy supposedly consumed in the opening paragraphs. Hundreds of e-mails poured in to New Times and to the faux Chef Kaz's personal Web mail account from around the world, but only a couple of the outraged letters mentioned the bloody seal head Chef Kaz is holding on the cover, the penguins he's shown hunting with a high-powered rifle, the ancient saguaro he's pictured chain-sawing, or even the human liver he supposedly fried up with onions. It was that Kaz supposedly prepared tenderloin of Bichon Frise in a port-wine reduction for the assembled noshers at a private dinner that sent these readers on a murderous rampage.
From across the pond, Mary Alice Pollard of Cornwall, England, sent a pic of a caged tail-wagger supposedly headed for a Korean supper plate, excoriating New Times for running the story. "You dare do this to SELL YOUR PAPER? You are the lowest of the low."
To writer Lemons, canine-lover Kat e-mailed, "You are a monster and will be hated by many for supporting this awful way of living by eating dog meat." Jill from Phoenix announced that she was "appalled and outraged" that Lemons would write a story about eating dogs; she was apparently oblivious to the near-extinct pygmy owl reportedly being consumed in the spoof.
St. Petersburg, Florida's Sherry seemed a little confused about Chef Kaz's nationality (the phony culinary character was a Japanese-born, half-Korean dude in the story). "THIS COUNTRY DOES NOT KILL AND EAT DOGS!" she announced, adding, "If [Kaz] wants to kill dogs, he better go back to China. They kill anything." Amelia of Lexington, Kentucky, shared, "My Bichon Frise is cuddling me right now, and if you ate one of his brothers or sisters, you are one sick bastard. Eating your pet is one step away from eating your infant."
Susan from Pennsylvania described what she'd like to do to Chef Kaz: "How 'bout we put HIM on a grill! I put him in line with rapists, murderers and child molesters. They should throw him in jail with the other sick people and let them FEED off him!" A gal named Sandy called for the law to get involved, but included a macabre twist: "I hope some day soon I'll be able to read about Sheriff Joe cuffing [Kaz] and making sure he never uses his fingers again to shoot a gun, if you get my drift."
Sandy, this foul fowl's reading you loud and clear.
Aiming again at Lemons, deputy dawg Deborah Grossman barked, "Now we all know you are a DOG MEAT EATING FOOD CRITIC. I hope you get fired, sued, arrested and die from some horrible disease." Bill "Doberman" Franco's response bordered on the criminal: "You think that you are so cute and clever for writing this article about this F-ing sicko. I will put all my time and energy into hunting down Yamamoto myself. I feel like chopping him up and feeding his carcass to homeless people. What an absolute outrage! Remember, Stephen, people know where you work. FOOD FOR THOUGHT!"
This wisecracking whippoorwill guesses it must state the obvious for the pound-ful of dimwits out there: No animals were harmed in any way during the production of this spoof. The text flowed from Lemons' imagination, and all of the photos were staged, and, in many cases, Photoshopped, as was the case with the seal's noggin in Chef Kaz's hand on New Times' cover. A local hunter happily lenthis trophy-filled home for the shots of the fake chef with stuffed victims. The phony chain-sawing of the 100-year-old saguaro cactus took place inside a gated estate in Phoenix. Not to worry, cactus police, not a single spire was sawed.
The role of swashbuckling Chef Kaz was played by Valley DJ Tranzit, winner of the 2006 New Times DJ spin-off, who turntables at such plush local nightclubs as Myst and Phase 54. He really got into playing the cunning Kaz for our cameras, and his good looks and 'tude earned him a number of fans as well as detractors. On his own, Kaz got a couple of hundred e-mails, interestingly divided almost between those who wanted to hunt him down and kill him and those who loved what he was purportedly doing.
The haters can be summed up by a selection of their subject lines, such as: "Hey Shit Face What's Your Problem?," "Are You Nuts!?," "You are disgusting and need to be shot," "Perverted Psycho chef needs to be deported!" and "Totally repulsed by the review of dog dinners."
Certainly, the death threats against Chef Kaz prove one of New Times' points concerning animal-rights crazies -- dog-owning ones in particular. Even if there was a Chef Kaz and he had been serving dog, would that really justify the murder of a human being? According to these terrorists: Hell yes!
More intriguing to The Bird were the folks who wrote in as supporters of this Emeril of endangered species. Chefs from around the country typed out lines of praise to Kaz, including one from a cook at a local Arizona casino who longed to work with the Nipponese nosh-preparer. Foodies wrote in asking for recipes, and pining to attend one of Chef Kaz's spreads. Hunting enthusiasts wondered what kind of cartridges Kaz preferred, with one declaring, "I would be proud to hunt with you anytime." A photographer for Nightlife magazine, which's inserted weekly into the East Valley Tribune's "Get Out" section, contacted Kaz, inquiring about doing a photo shoot for the publication. And among the lady mashers who wrote Kaz, one stated that he was "hot," and asked how an assignation could be arranged.
That's an assignation, animal-rights dumb-asses, not an assassination!
A generation weaned on programs like The Daily Show, Jackass, and South Park had the most fun with the yarn. Hipper-than-thou pop culture magpies, like those on Web sites www.bogusgold.com, www.snopes.com, www.lytrules.com, and www.donrockwell.com, had a field day with Chef Kaz. The discussion of "Xtreme Cuisine" on the wildly popular www.fark.com Web forum went on for pages, with the majority of those posting getting the references to The Freshman, as well as the fact that the article was satire.
"RudMan" commented on Fark: "This has to be the greatest fake article I've ever read. Anyone who thinks this is real is a friggin moron, the clues are all over the article. Ted Nugent shooting a flaming arrow into a penguin and it blows up because of all of the oil in it? And then he runs down and eats it right off the arrow? Hahahahaha! Freakin' brilliant!"
Also on Fark, "No Catchy Nickname" quotes the entire segment where Chef Kaz makes love to Gourmet magazine editor and former New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl for 15 hours, along with Kaz's statement that he "love her long time." NCN then opines: "Comedy gold! It's satire. Learn it. Love it. Then eat a Bichon Frise."
"Atl Malcontent" at http://atlmalcontent.blogspot.com repeated all his fave lines from the satire, as well as Kaz's declaration that "People from PETA, how you say -- retards?" He goes on to offer Senator Kyl a campaign slogan: "Concerned about illegal immigration? Vote Jon Kyl. He only like Mexican when on dinner plate."
Freakingnews.com offered one of its daily Photoshop contests, titling it "Kazuki 'Kaz' Yamamoto: Bon freakin' appetite," and asking Photoshop Picassos to riff off the story. About 40 contestants whipped up such outrageous rib-tickling imagery as Angelina Jolie's head on a platter, baby feet stew, eyeball pie, cactus ice cream cones, eggs sunny-side up with little human fetuses in the yolks, and the winner: a roasted human foot with beans that looks deliciously like osso buco!
But, like this feathered fiend's been saying, not everyone was laughing.
Several news stations in town got e-mails from the Wrigley Mansion's Jill Hawkins (New Times published her statement last week), who claimed that the stately home of the late chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. had been threatened with arson, even though "Xtreme Cuisine" never claimed that the Wrigley itself served Bichon Frise, or anything else outré for that matter. (For the record, the mansion's still standing.) See, our phony food preparer had supposedly rented a room at the sprawling Wrigley for the evening, something New Times has itself done in the past. Hawkins claimed the lives of her employees, including the Wrigley's chef, were threatened. Then she invited news crews up to the mansion to put that same chef (who wasn't mentioned in the spoof) on camera. That doing this might show any alleged assassin what the poor innocent schmuck looks like apparently didn't occur to Hawkins in her zeal to appease all the humorless wackos telephoning. (For the record, no angry reader of our parody has harmed any member of the Wrigley's work force.)
It all made this pesky parakeet wonder if Hawkins had even read "Xtreme Cuisine." This tweeter wondered the same thing about local news hacks after viewing their reports on the Mansion's complaints. Only Channel 3 seemed to have a clue about what the satire had actually purported. Both the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Business Journal parroted the Wrigley's press release, from Hawkins' statement that she'd received a phone call from the Humane Society of America in Washington, D.C., which reported it'd been inundated with angry callers, to her erroneous claim that Lemons had written that cat was served along with other "unconventional" meats. As Chef Kaz might have exclaimed, "Cat?! Too skinny and tough! Only kitten tender enough, and you have to catch too many for party of five."
Coverage by Channel 5 was the most extensive, and the most ridiculous, with the broadcast lifting a page from the parody by opening with a shot of the Wrigley's player piano, set in motion by the willing Wrigley staff. The segment then featured Hawkins, with her admitting to the camera: "It's almost crazy to even talk about this!" Afterward, New Times editor Rick Barrs pointed out to the obviously clueless that the piece was parody. For a rebuttal, the station trotted out Arizona State University journalism don Craig "Professor Gullible" Allen, who told Channel 5 about "Xtreme Cuisine": "I read it as a food review."
A "food review"?! Boy, does The Bird feel sorry for any wanna-be reporter who's got this nitwit as an instructor. Did Craig the Rube actually believe that Mayor Phil and Senator Kyl feasted on human flesh? Did Allen the All Day Sucker actually buy the story that Ted Nugent had shot a flaming arrow at an Antarctic penguin? Did he really swallow the whopper that Chef Kaz motored up to San Fran's Pier 39 and plugged a sea lion with his high-powered rifle and night vision laser scope?
Calling all real estate swindlers! Allen sounds like your dream investor. Look him up at the less-than-skeptical Walter Cronkite School of Journalism if you wanna sell him the Brooklyn Bridge.
Allen concluded with the pronouncement: "You can't run parodies as news stories . . . and expect the public to chuckle and laugh."
Thank you for that ivory tower insight, Professor Gullible! Thing is, New Times has a higher opinion of the overall reading public than you do. Sure, we expect a tight-ass, politically correct dork -- who once threatened to boycott a speech by 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney because the irascible Rooney had made some statements about women sportscasters he didn't like -- to hold his nose when it comes to satire.
To be fair (something this opinionated parrot hates like hell to be), a precious few readers of the parody did agree with the tight-ass teacher. But The Bird would refer them and Professor Gullible to Jonathan Swift's essay A Modest Proposal, written in 1729 as a satirical "solution" to the problem of poverty and famine amongst Irish Catholics. Swift suggested that Irish children be fattened up and eaten. Passages of Swift's pamphlet are gruesome even by modern standards. Take this paragraph, for example:
"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout."
Swift was attacked by his peers for his poor taste, and for the fact that he'd written a piece about cannibalism in such an earnest style. At the time, he was threatened with the loss of his patronage for publishing the tract. However, today it's regarded as a classic of irony and satire.
Speaking of earnest, if Professor G'd been around back then, he would've thought A Modest Proposal was a food review! And when the town crier told him it wasn't, he would've harrumphed that such bad taste "just cannot be tolerated in our society!"
This beaked baron of belles-lettres suggests that Allen and those like him have the two-by-fours surgically extracted from their sphincters, because when it comes to parodies, New Times can and will publish them again. And again. Both the craven and the credulous can take that to the fucking bank! Why? Because we earnestly believe that society's sacred oxen sometimes need to be gored. It's natural selection. And we believe that those who richly enjoy black comedy deserve to be entertained once in a while.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.