I ate dinner with Joe Arpaio the other night.
More specifically, my family and I ate dinner beneath a gigantic black and white photograph of Maricopa County's sheriff, one of several "celebrity" photos lining a wall at The Grind.
The Grind is strictly a burger joint (hailed in the July edition of Bon Appetit as home of one of the country's 10 must-try hamburgers) but I caught a whiff of Pink Taco when I looked up and saw the sheriff.
Remember Pink Taco, Harry Morton's little side project? The food was god-awful and a complete menu makeover couldn't save the place, which sunk in its marquee spot at the Scottsdale Waterfront.
Local PR guy Jason Rose did the publicity for PT, and, along with a lot of vagina jokes, tossed his client Joe Arpaio into the mix -- he got the world's self-appointed "tough sheriff" to talk about pink boxers at Pink Taco at a press conference.
Clever, huh? I thought of Jason when I looked up and saw the sheriff at The Grind. (Easy guess -- another Rose client, congressional candidate Vernon Parker, managed to get his mug on the wall there, too, alongside Mark Grace and Frank Kush.)
In the photo, the sheriff is eating a burger, with that typical shit-eating grin on his face -- the one he gets every time someone gives him free publicity. The photographer even tinted the paper around his burger pink, ostensibly to match the pink boxers he forces inmates to wear.
Yet there's nothing cute about Joe Arpaio. You may only know about the green baloney he serves inmates, but I've edited one too many story about his real abuses -- which range from bullying elected officials to creating conditions in which innocent people die.
I'm simply sick of the publicity gags from this guy and his minions, and if we hadn't waited more than half an hour with two cranky kids, I would have walked out of The Grind. Instead, I ordered another cocktail and tried not to look up. I did text Jason Rose, who demurred when asked whether he'd planted the photos. (Thereby confirming my suspicion, as far as I'm concerned. Hey, nice way to advertise your clients! Kudos to whomever did come up with the idea. Creepy, but effective. And nice line about "children's charities.")
After we were done (the meal wasn't bad, I'll admit that) I stopped our waitress.
Hey, I asked her, motioning to the photo, anyone ever complain about that?
Yep, she replied.
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Anyone ever compliment you guys for having it?
She didn't seem happy about it. Must hurt tips. But clearly it's not hurting business -- The Grind was packed when we arrived, packed when we left. And the restaurant next door was nearly deserted.