Al Copeland

The world is a sadly more tasteful place since restauranteur (using the term in its most generous sense) Al Copeland died Sunday of cancer. I’ll have to develop a new Christmas tradition to replace the yearly visit my wife and I made to the celebration of seasonal excess he’d put on. So many people drove by, but you had to get out and walk among the light-wrapped palms, the lit-up Santa sleigh, the massive tree, the videos by the doorway, and his fleet of sports cars to appreciate just how far beyond too much he could go.

One year we were invited to his Christmas party, and only Hunter Thompson could have done it justice – the mid-level politicians, the thugs, the wannabes, the trophy wives, and the wannabe trophy wives. Everywhere we turned, another bad toupee, another bad boob job. And no one showed more signs of work than Copeland himself, who looked like he had been pulled, trimmed and tucked back to his 40s – 20 or so years younger than he actually was.

My one Copeland dealing came when we entered the party. There were a couple of women in line, then my wife, then me. He was at the door and, in keeping with the luau theme, he placed a lei around the neck of the women in front of me, then my wife. I stepped up, figured it was my turn, but he pointed me to his pregnant wife in a Morticia Addams chair flanked by young women in bikinis and grass skirts. It was their job to give me my lei. “I don’t do guys,” he muttered, and that moment made my night.