Abbe Diaz’s Greatest Rant

Abbe Diaz is an old friend. If you catch her at the right moment, she’s an angel, but if you say something offensive that could be the most innocuous thing, she’ll rip your throat out. I try to always be pleasant around her. I ran into her on my way to BINGO recently. She was sitting alone at Gemma, and I took her up on her offer to sit and chat. I adore Abbe Diaz. The last time we interviewed her, sparks flew so I figured I’d try it again.

What’s all this movie stuff about?
It’s actually a pilot/web series for more of a TV show than a movie. PX This: The Series is based on my book PX This (Diary of the Maitre d’ to the Stars), so it’s essentially an audio/visual manifestation of the story depicted in it. Some stuff was restructured to make it more adherent to the paradigms of television, but it’s still based on a true story. I mean seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Aside from that, this show also really reflects the exposition of my book, because it’s such a bootstrap project. I am lucky to have been able to assemble an amazingly talented cast and crew, many of whom have worked in the restaurant industry and whose lives mirror my own to a pretty substantial degree. I am humbled by their passion and dedication, working such long arduous hours, for a sum that doesn’t nearly compensate their tremendous skill and effort.

Of all the messages people have seemingly or professedly derived from PX This, the one about holding tight to your dreams (as clichéd as it is) is the one I cherish the most. So PX This: The Series is turning out to be quite the spiritual manifestation as well. And that is so infinitely satisfying. The teaser-trailer (and more information is available at) at IndieGogo.

You are a relentless proponent for fair play in the restaurant biz, and give the newbies the 25-cent tour. Who are you and how did you become you…and leave mom and dad out of it.
Well, that’s a nice sentiment but I don’t think I’m really all that “relentless.” I published a diary that happens to expose certain unsavory aspects of some renowned and illustrious fine-dining organizations. And since all I was doing was telling the truth, I take a fair amount of umbrage at those who would seek to disparage me for simply recounting these anecdotes in my own comical and satirical way.

All I was doing was minding my own business, literally. I’m one of the most chill people anybody will ever know. The industry has made me misanthropic enough that I’m perfectly happy to keep a good distance from other people and their fatuous escapades. I think I have pretty much one philosophical mandate and one alone, and that’s: DON’T COME FOR ME– which is undoubtedly a fairly easy rule for anyone to follow.

Unfortunately, it seems some people have had to learn the hard way that if you come for me, oh, you are sure to find me alright. Too bad I’m not quite the feeble prey you anticipated. I ran into you a couple Monday nights ago at Gemma and you seemed happy. Many people see you differently…some as a crusader – a c word – and some would use a b word. We always hear about your peeves, but what makes you happy?
Ooh, I’m afraid to say because then I might jinx everything. But yes, you have it right; I am happier now than I have ever been because I have pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted. (And what I don’t have yet, I’m about to get.)

Come to think of it, that last sentence alone is probably enough to make certain people seethe. I must admit; that does make me happy.

We’ve been friends for decades…we both have the scars to show we were there. What is not talked about within all the scandals surrounding Limelight and the characters you used to work with? That’s a leading question because so much written and screened is misleading.
Which is probably why I’m the wrong person to ask. I’m so accustomed to “misleading” representations in the media and whatnot, I have no idea what’s “talked about” anymore, because I’ve long stopped paying attention.

But I can well imagine that what’s not talked about very much is everything that was good; the wonderful people we knew, the fun times we had, the outrageous things we saw, the spectacular things we experienced, the whopping money we made. Despite all the hard work all those years (and the scandals), the only thing I regret about any of it is I never took any photographs.

We were part of a unique era that will never transpire again. Sometimes it feels like certain elements would have us apologize for it. But that very same era fostered a generation of strong and fearless wills – some good and some not so good, but largely the unparalleled combination of both.

What are you going to be when you grow up?
Fierce. Like my mom. (Oh, oops, sorry I didn’t leave Mom out of it. Hey, I didn’t bring up my dad.)

Ok, we need a rant … who makes you mad and why?
Woo child, that’s a whole other book. Literally. Its title is PX Me (How I Became a Published Author, Got Micro-Famous, and Married a Millionaire), as a matter of fact. Coming soon in the autumn of 2012!

But okay, I’ll give you a rant. Right now it’s still some particular facets of journalism and the media that make me really mad. To this day I am dumbfounded by the media’s rampant unscrupulousness and hypocrisy.

And if a piddling little nobody like me can be subject to the media depravity I’ve encountered, imagine the global implications of such a thing. It’s vomitous. It’s enough to make the entire news system suspect and incapacitated, the universal consequences of which we are just beginning to realize.

How’s that for a rant.

Centro Vinoteca Bankrupt, Food Network Star Anne Burrell Sued

It seems like every other week, someone’s trying to paint someone else in the cutthroat restaurant world as some kind of villain. And in the last 30 days, literally: first, there was psychotic restaurant owner Vadim Ponorovsky, who scre-mailed his employees a tirade somewhere just short of the Downfall meme. Now, in the wake of West Village restaurant Centro Vinoteca‘s Chapter 11 filing, Food Network chef Anne Burrell is being sued by former employees in a salacious discrimination filing accusing her of calling employees ‘slutty,’ ‘saggy,’ ‘ho,’ and ‘whore’.

Wait, that Anne Burrell? Yup. Try to keep up:

Centro Vinoteca’s a West Village Italian place, owned by restaurateur Sasha Muniak, that opened with Food Network star Anne Burrell in the kitchen before she was on TV. It pulled a pretty decent one-star review from Frank Bruni, shortly before one star was awarded to born-famous hotspot restaurateur Keith McNally’s West Village den of Italian eats down the street, Morandi, which also took chef Jody Williams from Gusto, another one of Muniak’s places. Some would say that she took some of her recipes with her, which isn’t exactly looked kindly upon. Jody Williams and Morandi eventually broke up, but problems continued to plague Centro: complaints came through the food blogs about bad service, their chef, Anne Burrell, leaves them for greener (read: televised) pastures.

They get a new chef, Top Chef-alum Leah Cohen, who leaves them, too. It keeps going: the city closes down Centro, and Burrell gets some smack talked on her by Cohen who wasn’t too pleased with her as a boss. Oh, and Gusto alum Jody Williams? One-starred at her new place, who’s co-owner then sued her. It should go without saying at this point that Gusto lost another chef in 2007 after getting the bodyblow of losing Williams, but are you starting to get a decent picture? These places have some shit to deal with, and these are restaurants that have had a fair amount of success in New York. Imagine what working with a lesser-known restaurant in this city entails. You have to be, on some level, clinically insane to knowingly involve yourself in this business. And so Burrell’s lawsuit and Centro’s Chapter 11 filing shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. We’d try to explain the Service Industry’s Nikki Finke — PX This blogger Abbe Diaz — and her involvement in this (besides being Muniak’s wife), but my head’s spinning too fast.

Needless to say, it sucks when a restaurant has this much shit to deal with, but that’s New York’s service industry — if you can make it here, you’ve probably had someone killed. At the end of the day, people want to make money and serve food, often, not even in that order (again: insane). Meanwhile, Burrell’s got quite the set of allegations to answer for. Another bad day for another bad boss? We’ll soon find out. Elsewhere, Abbe Diaz has a fairly substantial (and, with inquisitor Dick Johnson, hysterical) explanation for financial problems relating to businesses like Muniak’s and how they’re being affected by the government’s chin-check of American banking institutions. It’s worth a read.

And now, if you ever aspired to open a restaurant in New York, you’ve hopefully reconsidered.

Resto-Blogger Enemies Form Unholy Alliance

imageThe New York service industry’s Norma Rae, Abbe Diaz, runs a blog and message board for service industry workers to get their aggravated, underpaid, grievance-having rocks off called PxThis. Diaz has it out for former-and-still-sometimes Gawker blogger Joshua David Stein for calling said followers “Koreshian,” among other crimes. And her boards have, from time to time, skewered NYC resto-industry blog Eater.com. So wait until they get a load of Joshua David Stein taking the wheel at Eater for a few days. So, Friends of Diaz — has the internet just become slightly more Enemy of the State than it was before? Is THE MAN everywhere?

A Contrarian Opinion on Abbe Diaz

imageDear Abbe: I like you, I really do. You’re full of piss and vinegar, and you care passionately about those in the service industry. And I know you think anyone who writes for the Internet that isn’t you hasn’t worked in the service industry — or even if they have, are unqualified to speak about it — so you probably think this is going to be inherently unqualified (more so than every other inherently unqualified opinion on the Internet). But why, Abbe, why would you care about being banned as a commenter on Gawker?

Does it really matter that much to you to have your voice heard by the readers of Gawker (in the comments thread of a Top Chef recap)? You had a great public forum in your interview with Steve Lewis to talk about things that matter — maybe some kind of cost-benefit analysis of the tapering economy in regards to service industry gigs, maybe something about the current state of affairs in the industry; something about labor issues, emerging trends worth taking notice of and/or killing before they reach fever pitch. Or some good advice on how those in the service industry should deal with whatever’s about to happen, maybe, or maybe something on the fickle, fleeting nature of success here.

Instead, you complained about a beef on a gossip site. Your friends and admirers — those who clearly respect you, and hold you in high regard — came into our comments, diseased with cognitive dissonance, thinking they were talking to the writer you were attacking. With all the time, space, and (whatever) influence you and your (accurately described “Koreshian” followers — who is this Dick Johnson fellow, anyway, and does he have a day job?) possess, you tend to often fritter it away on some petty vendetta-style shit. Not that I don’t, but I’d never venture to project the idea that any of it matters. There’s enough misdirected, pointless anger in the world. Why waste it on something (or someone, or someones) like this?

Abbe Diaz vs. Gawker, Round Two

imageSome people have asked me to weigh in on this one, to take a side — and I take Abbe’s side. I know she is volatile and sometimes rude, but I feel she has the right to her opinion, and it’s my pleasure to let her tell it like she sees it. I get attacked a lot, especially when I stray off the reservation and comment on other blogs, but I think that’s part of this game. So if you’re going to put it up and out there, others have a right and even an obligation to put their two cents in, even if they’re overcharging at that rate. So here’s part two of Abbe’s story, and there would be a part three if not for the most wonderful people in the world: editors.

So what’s the deal with Josh Stein now? Okay, so now Josh Stein no longer works for Gawker full-time, but he blogs for them now and again and obviously still has friends there. One of his shticks is to “re-blog” Top Chef. With your homegirls, Nikki Cascone and Camille Becerra.

They’re both friends of mine … and yes, they’re hot. I agree! Okay so, here’s Stein, Top Chef … blah blah … I’m reading … and suddenly I’m seeing red.

Everybody duck! No shit. Here he is blabbering about some chef on the TV show, how she’s an awful human being, she’s mean and caustic etc. etc. etc. Okay, rewind … I wrote an entire book on this very same subject about people in the real restaurant world (not some made-up “reality” TV show) but that makes me “batshit,” “vitriolic,” and filled with “petty anger”? Wooo child, let me tell you, I showed him what “vitriolic” means. I tore him a new one in the comment section of Gawker, so they “banned” me!

Maybe it’s the swear words. I thought of that. Except Gawker is hardly filled with Quakers. And at the time, in a way, I thought I was kind of doing Stein a favor. See, I figured that Emily Gould chick was whispering in his ear, plying him with kisses while arming him with daggers. You know the type? Like Anne Boleyn in The Tudors or some shit. And I didn’t really have that big of a beef with him. I had fun with it in a way, but Gawker, they speak a different language. If you get all dejected and earnest with them, they’ll never take you seriously. But if you play their game, you have a far greater chance of being heard. And honestly, I thought I was giving Josh Stein the opening to come out and play. To get a little frisky maybe, get jiggy with it — I swear I thought he’d just fight back, and then maybe after a few heated words, we’d smooth it all over and laugh about it.

But they banned you instead … Yeah. Weak. Needless to say, I went right back in.

You’re hard to stop. Okay, fast forward. All that was months and months ago, practically water under the bridge. I even started to like Gawker. I commented there all the time. You know, like the way we both do at Down by the Hipster. Just messing around.

Okay. So what’s the problem? Josh Stein went back to Gawker to blog about Top Chef all over again, for the new season. Unfortunately, it turns out that I know a chef on the show again, Leah Cohen. She’s the executive chef at Centro Vinoteca, and she does a fantastic job. I’m convinced the show actually taught her a lot about being a great leader, because she’s young, you know? She’s only 26. She has a huge responsibility, and I’m super impressed about how well she handles everything. She’s going to go really far.

Where is this going? So, the Internet hates love, it hates achievement, ambition, and it hates integrity most of all. I can roll with the punches like anybody — it’s all good when it’s funny, but when people in glass houses start to throw rocks, it really makes the hair on my skin stand on end. So I commented on the Top Chef Gawker-recaps. But I swear, I never ever dish it worse than it’s being served. You can read them all, it’s in black and white. And if they try to do something really asinine like surreptitiously edit me — oh that’s been done to me on other sites too, believe me — I have copies.

Abbe, you don’t mind if I move my chair just a few more feet away from you, right? Trolls. Of course, trolls everywhere. It’s the Internet, after all. Okay so, a few trolls start to emerge, and they sling all the same baseless crap. At this point, I’m pretty used to it. But that still doesn’t make it right, or something I have to tolerate. So we decided to beat them at their own game. One of my forum members took on the role of “watchdog.” He’s smart, witty, funny, and he knows how to spell. What more can one ask for in a webdog? And what he does is fight back at the trolls, in their own language, in their own style. He’s like a little e-mirror doggy dog. He barks and he bites. So, the other day, I defended Leah Cohen on Gawker, and not for the first time, either. Last time, there was one particular troll, by the name of “Karion.” She called me a drunk, she called me “batshit crazy,” she accused me of wanting to “fellate” Josh Stein, and she told me to “find a new neighborhood.” Got that? I am defending the chef of a restaurant that is very near and dear to me, and she is calling me all these awful names, to defend a blogger she has never met, and whose sole purpose is to denigrate the hardworking contestants on a television show. And she says all these terrible things mind you, without knowing anything of the story I just told here.

So it’s all just crazy? Ha! that’s what they call me.

So they banned you for that? Pretty much. What happened is the “watchdog” came to defend me. Stellar job, too. He totally reigns in the profanities. You know … good cop, bad cop. In this case, clean cop, dirty cop. I play the bumbling comic, and he plays the earnest role.

Maybe it was a little too much? I honestly don’t think so. They had another commenter there last week, named Rachel Marsden. Apparently, she’s some type of media journalist or whatever. Well, Gawker made fun of her friend last week, and oh boy — she spit out venom. She called them all “retards,” I’m not even kidding, she called them “lying, fucking pricks.” She spit out every profanity in the book. And you know how Gawker responded? They called her “shrill, but fun.”

I saw that thread where you were banned. You didn’t go nearly as far as that. Thank you. That’s my point. Why am I being discriminated against? Or my friend for that matter? For defending ourselves? Our friends? For being right? But the troll who called me a drunk and crazy and accused me of wanting to “fellate” Josh Stein — she gets to stay? Did you see at the bottom of that thread, where Josh Stein says “hello” to her? Unbelievable. He has never had the guts to address me directly, but he certainly feels all right about deriding me on a journalistic platform. He doesn’t dare show himself in that thread until I’ve been locked out, and he appears, not to discount anything I or my friend has stated, but only to massage the ego of the troll who — I’ll be blunt — figuratively “fellated” him. But evidently, I’m the “petty” one. Commenters can criticize Leah’s looks, her hair, her work ethic, and call her a “ho” as much as they please, but when I, the only person there who knows her personally, comments in her defense, I am censored.

So why do you think Gawker did it? Nepotism, of course. For their weak, feeble friend, Joshua David Stein. They have the gall to use the First Amendment to protect every bitter nasty thing they say about anyone they choose, but they have neither the strength nor the character to extend that very same privilege democracy has afforded them to those they so gleefully denigrate. They actually had the nerve to send me an e-mail and call me a “troll.” Me — one of the small handful of people who comments under their real name. They banned me on the grounds of “high-jacking the thread.” Seriously? People attack me without cause, provocation, or pertinence to the discussion at hand, but I am not allowed to respond in kind? I should just slink away and let them say whatever ignorant, untrue things they want, without repercussion or consequence?

No one would ever expect you to slink away, Abbe. Would you ever do that, Steve Lewis? Write terrible things about someone on your platform, but refuse them the right of defense? Would you want that done to you?

I don’t do that. I respond to criticisms on my blog, and to date I don’t think we have edited out any comments. That’s all I’m trying to say. I’m sorry it took all this time and space to say it.

Abbe Diaz vs. Gawker

image“Fear not those who argue, but those who dodge.” — Dale Carnegie

Abbe Diaz has her own blog PX This and is a regular contributor as a commenter on many others. Abbe is a friend of mine from back in the day when I was filling joints with people and she was serving booze. I’m sometimes a shoulder to cry on for her, and she often helps me through rough spells. When you talk to Abbe, one thing for sure is that she’ll call it as she sees it — no sugar coatings and no holds barred. She doesn’t know how to be subtle, and this sometimes gets her in trouble, but I find it refreshing. She started to tell me about a recent ruckus involving Gawker, and I decided to just do it as an interview. I don’t get many words in (which I’m sure some will find refreshing), I just figured it was best to keep out of the way. (Also see Round Two of this interview.)

Have you been causing trouble again? No.

So, what’s the story? Oh god, the whole story? We might be here awhile.

Great. More time for me to sweat you. Ha ha. So what happened now? Gawker banned me. Again, I should say.

And by “banned” you mean … ? They revoked my commenting privileges. See, it used to be that you had to go through this kind of “audition” process to be able to comment on Gawker’s stories. But now I think anybody can comment, but I’m not entirely sure. In any case, the first time I got banned, it was for calling this writer, Joshua David Stein, a hypocrite.

Is he a hypocrite? Oh yeah. Absolutely. Oh lord, I don’t even know where to begin.

At the beginning? Remember my last interview with you, I mentioned these blogger “circle-jerky” cliques, or whatever? Well, when Josh Stein first started writing for Gawker, apparently it was his “beat” to cover restaurants and nightlife. It just so happens that right around that time, I had this drama going on at my [PX This] forum [for restaurant industry employees]. I don’t know if you recall, I mentioned a chef, and a grasshopper being planted in a sandwich wrap … oh forget it, that’s a whole other interview in itself. Anyway, we sent that item to Josh Stein, because we figured it was great restaurant gossip and very pertinent to the issues he covers. But for some reason, he didn’t quite understand, and he ended up writing about some other thing. But he did credit me for it, and so I sent him a thank you note. I thought he was cool, we had no beef with each other.

Okay … Then suddenly, a little while later, he wrote another item about me. (or maybe more about my forum). And in it, for no reason, he called the members of the forum “Koreshian.” As in, ya know, the David Koresh cult that killed themselves? Nice, huh? A bunch of people get together in one place to discuss the plights of their jobs and their industry and that makes them “suicidal cultists.” He also called our forum the “seedy-underbelly” of the industry, despite the fact the top few commenters alone have about 125 years of experience in the industry under their belts and come from some of the most well renowned restaurants in New York.

Why would he say that? Exactly. Good question. Next thing you know, he is being quoted on other websites, saying he’s “surprised” that I “haven’t killed anyone yet.” As in, I guess, I’m insane or something. Also, he called me “nuts.” The best part was when he decided my siding with the workers who sued their employees for wages that were stolen from them makes me “Napoleonic.” I’m not exaggerating. This is not a joke. Evidently, Josh Stein believes that supporting those who fight to uphold the laws of The New York State Department of Labor makes me a jackass. He thinks that these injustices (for which workers have been awarded millions of dollars in compensation) are merely “what [Diaz] sees as perfidious backstabbing.” In other words, all these injustices are merely my “perception.” As though I made it up. As though it means nothing. Okay, did you catch that? Workers fight for what rightfully belongs to them, and that makes them the “seedy-underbelly” of the industry. I support them, and that makes me Sympathy for the Restaurant Industry. Funny stuff. Hilarious. Interestingly enough, right away, I get fingered by both Gawker and New York magazine as its creator, despite having been barely acknowledged by Gawker previously, and never having been acknowledged by New York at all. Everybody thinks this “S4RI” blog is so good, it must be written by Abbe Diaz. How fucking ridiculous is that? It just so happens this blogger is a “fan” of mine, so we decide to meet in person. Her name is Gwen Butler, and she’s what Boston calls “the $3 Million Dollar Bartender.”

She’s the girl that got a $3,000,000 tip to open her own restaurant, right? Yes! You remember …

Go on … Okay so, NYM figures it out pretty quickly. Daniel Maurer pulls a Sherlock Holmes and he figures out it’s not me after all, it’s Gwen Butler. That very same day, Josh Stein writes this: “For those who love crazy tirades about the restaurant world but hate punctuation and capital letters, Abbe Diaz’s non-anonymous PXThis is a real boon … That forum brims with Ms. Diaz’s invective-laced bromides against what she sees as the perfidious backstabbing restaurant world. She writes about it with Napoleonic pizzazz and an almost Cummings-ian disregard for punctuation … Now there’s Sympathy for the Restaurant Industry … Is it the work of Abbe Diaz? There are two basic arguments for the blog being penned by Ms. Diaz. One is the pure unbridled crazy batshitness of it all … Either Diaz is actually secretly capable of stringing together words into sentences using syntax and grammar, or there’s another someone out there bursting with the same vitriol and petty anger …”

And you took exception to this? The fact that the item once appeared at the very top of the Google list under my name cost me a potentially lucrative consultation project. Understand? It affected my livelihood. Even after New York magazine proved Joshua Stein wrong, he did not retract or update his writings. An “update” is a very typical and standard way of correcting oneself, but he refused to do so — which is, quite frankly, dishonest and unethical. So now I’m thinking, “What is this kid’s problem? What have I ever done to him? I’ve never been anything but nice and straightforward with him, and Gawker, for that matter.” Even this one time when Gawker wrote awful things about a friend of mine, I handled it with humor. Oh ha — okay long story short? Before all this, Gawker wrote an awful item about this editor friend of mine. A few nights later, we just happen to run into [Gawker owner] Nick Denton having dinner at The Waverly Inn. So my friend went right over to his table and told him off smack in the middle of his dinner, even though, granted, he wasn’t directly responsible for the item. But when I recounted the story on my blog, I even said Nick Denton handled it graciously. But oh boy, the blogger who wrote the item, Emily Gould, she was not happy at all. She then proceeded to write more awful things about my editor friend. And of course, she dragged me into it, calling me “unintelligible” and “lamedropping.”

I’m more confused than usual … Sorry, I only bring it up to make a point. Emily Gould hating on my friend and me, for no reason. Josh Stein suddenly out of nowhere hating on me, for no reason. Ready for the punch line? It comes out months and months later (after they both quit their jobs at Gawker) they were sleeping with each other the entire time.

And you know this? Oh yeah. Fact. They each wrote about it too. Stein laid it out in Page Six Magazine, and Gould, being the woman scorned, unleashed her wrath on the cover of The New York Times Magazine. Classic shit. You’ve got to Google it. Fascinating in a very odd, perverse, media-inside-baseball kind of way.