ANIMIZE Magazine Volume 2 Issue 2 March 2017 - Page 28

Rue La Rue Café has been a labor of love for Michael. Not only is it an opportunity for him to share with the world the contents of Rue’s estate but for him to show a more personal and private side of Rue McClanahan. ‘I lost my mother when I was a little boy, and Rue was born the same year as my mother. And when she befriended me and started to love me, I experienced the unconditional love that people get when they have a mother. And she healed in me some damage that I didn’t even know I had. And so now that she’s gone I want to honor this lady that changed my life. And you know her acting changes people’s lives on a daily basis still. The Golden Girls, which she was famous for, is syndicated in dozens and dozens of countries around the world, and she still is affecting people on a daily basis. And I want them to experience some of who she was as a woman by coming here to the café and seeing her things. I used to tell people when you’d visit Rue at her apartment, you’d come through the door loving Blanche, but within minutes you would start loving Rue.’

Architect Marta Satwin-Ramberg worked closely with Michael on this project from its early inception. ‘He is the best client I’ve ever had. He has his vision and it was really amazing to help him put this vision together.’ Builder Csabon Tresanszki has overseen the physical transformation of the space. ‘This was an old store, very trashy. And we did more demo and it was a mess. And walking around here today, seeing the before and after pictures, it’s a beautiful place.’ They have worked to create an atmosphere that is cozy, warm and friendly.

Display designer Frank Ercole has collaborating with his friend Michael on this project. ‘Initially I did a lot of the layout and the majority of the creative direction for how the cafe is set. I did the styling, including the mannequins. I gave a lot of input for a lot of the photos and how everything is placed.’ As a big fan of The Golden Girls he has relished this opportunity. ‘For me, I do visual merchandising full time, I work for Neiman Marcus. That’s a very corporate setting, very strict guidelines we have to follow. With this, Michael essentially handed me this and said run with it. Which is fun. It’s work but it isn’t work.’

The cafe’s walls are lined with photographs covering every aspect of Rue’s life. Personal photos join backstage photos and headshots. Mixed in are script pages, Playbills and an assortment of memorabilia. Mannequins wearing costumes flank displays holding shoes, jewelery and all manner of personal effects that Michael intends to rotate. ‘If I rotate Rue’s clothing and personal property every month, we have enough to get us through the next hundred years.’ Prominently displayed is McClanahan’s Emmy, along side the gown she worn to accept it. But Michael is more excited to share the more personal items he has. ‘If you watch The

Golden Girls and look closely, you’ll see that Rue has this thin gold necklace around her neck. It’s like a human hair it’s so thin. It has a gold diamond star in the middle, and this was Rue’s good luck talisman. She wore this necklace for decades, for over fifty years. In fact, when she woke up for her stroke, one of the first things she asked for when she could speak again was that necklace.’

‘The reason we put in the reproduction of The Golden Girls kitchen table is that I’m hoping people will come in with their friends and hang out, drink some coffee, eat some cheesecake, and do what the gals did, which was sit around and talk about life.’ The kitchen table was an important setting for the show, where conflicts and storylines were resolved, always over cheesecake. Rue La Rue Café is serving up a delicious, creamy cheesecake served with one of four signature flavour drizzles, one for each of the girls. Vanilla bean for Rose, tarty berry for Blanche, salty caramel for Dorothy, and for Sophia an Italian dark chocolate. Each cheesecake can be enjoyed with one of four exclusive coffee blends, also created to represent each of the characters.

In addition to the cheesecake, Michael and Chef Michele Weber have set out to create dishes referenced in the show. The Rusty Anchor Clam Chowder and Sophia’s Sixteen Hour Lasagne Al Forno feature on the menu, which La Rue admits ‘doesn’t take us quite sixteen hours to make, but it will taste like it.’ Named for another classic Golden Girls moment, the breakfast menu includes Blanche’s Little Balls of Sunshine Expressed Eggs. The eggs are made with the steam wand of the espresso machine in same way that McClanahan herself preferred her eggs, something she picked up while living in California. In designing the menu, Weber has tried to ‘keep with some Italian themes, some southern themes, biscuits with strawberry butter. Comfort food, but the 80’s spin on it from when the show was running with a little modern twist.‘

The menu also features some of Rue’s personal recipes. ‘The orange poppyseed cake was Rue’s own recipe, I have it from Michael on a hand written index card, I made her recipe exactly.’ Incorporating recipes and influences from Rue’s life has been important for Michael. ‘Rue’s forth husband was The Greek, that’s how she referred to him, and he had some great recipes. We’re making his vanilla bean yogurt. Our chef Michele Weber who has run Good Enough To Eat for the last two decades, has made her homemade granola. And her homemade granola with the vanilla bean yogurt is off the charts delicious.’ Michael is also honoring McClanahan’s work with PETA by offering vegetarian and vegan options, including a very spicy black bean soup.