I spent weeks trying to nail down a dinner date with former baseballer Darryl Strawberry, to interview him about his new Queens joint. I’m not typically a big sports guy, but this one gave me the flutters. See, as a pre-teen, I had Darryl’s rookie baseball card and I used to watch his games on TV. Along with Jose Canseco, Larry Bird, and a few other 80s sporting gods, Darryl could do no wrong (hookers, drugs, etc.)
Despite my hero worship, I didn’t want to embarrass the magazine by glorifying some lame TGIStrawberry’s. So I queried his PR agent:
Before we do a story, can you assure me that Darryl truly cares about and is invested in the food? My fear is that he is just capitalizing on his celebrity for a quick buck.
The agent responded:
I will be honest with you Jesse – Darryl is not a foodie. His favorite food is cornbread and collard greens. That said, the restaurant having delicious food was the single most important thing to him throughout the conceptualization and development of this restaurant. He insisted that it be more refined than just ballpark food. The food is hearty, well executed and crowd-pleasing and he loves everything on the menu. I’m talking double beef patty burgers stuffed with brisket and smothered in barbecue sauce, chicken and waffles, but there’s lamb and mussels on the menu too…. he eats and loves it all.
Good enough for me! My magazine focuses on delicious food, but it doesn’t have to be haute cuisine. Especially in working-class Queens (Brooklyn’s pretense-free little brother), a profile like this would be perfect.
So after deciding to write a story, I spent weeks trying to nail down this slippery celeb for one night. I never contacted Darryl directly, instead relying on his perky agent to shuttle messages back and forth. We spent weeks making plans, but every time we’d get close to actually meeting, something would come up. Family emergencies, some appointment he forgot about, etc.
I was casual at first, because the story wouldn’t be running until winter, but then my SF departure started approaching (October 1!) and I became pushy. I got the agent to confirm a supposedly definite date, for Tuesday or Thursday of this week. But then Darryl got hedgy again, and I got mad:
I have tried to be accommodating for Darryl’s busy celebrity life but this is starting to become more hassle than it’s worth. I have no idea whether he will be available tuesday or thursday or not at all next week, and meanwhile I am trying to schedule other stories around this mythical meeting.
Oops. After that message, the agent disappeared. Instead of Darryl Strawberry, tonight I have a dinner interview with an organic baby food maker. She is bringing her toddler.