Talk about your three-star restaurants. There they were, co-owners Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone, striding small as life out of their limos for the opening of Manhattan’s movie-themed burger bistro, Planet Hollywood. After an investment of $15 million and a half year of advance publicity, the eatery, an instant entry into the Hype Hall of Fame, didn’t disappoint — at least not on its debut night. Reveling in a klieg-light blaze out front, the three actor-investors pumped each other’s hands and egos before a screaming crowd. Then the trio followed the smell of wet paint through cramped, barely finished, memorabilia-draped dining nooks (built from sketches by Batman designer Anton Furst) into a sequestered VIP room.
So great was the crush of celebrity well-wishers filing in behind them that overzealous guards committed at least one faux pas — barring Billy Bathgate star Loren Dean as a gate-crasher until Alec Baldwin hotly intervened. Despite the chaotic atmosphere, photo-ready smiles radiated from Wesley Snipes, Kim Basinger, Michael J. Fox, Carly Simon, Garry Marshall, and Regis Philbin, among others.
Stallone seemed especially cheered by the reception. ”It’s a concept I never would have thought of totally myself,” he said, ”which is a museum, a kind of curio — a traveling show, if you know what I mean.” What he means is, this could be his biggest-grossing project in years: Satellite versions of Planet Hollywood are already planned for major cities around the globe.
Before sequels, though, there’s some major postproduction work to do on the first Planet. While the catered premiere-night food was good, when the restaurant opened for regular business the next day, the kitchen was an order-mangling work-in-progress. The food was indifferent, the service erratic, and the decor in disarray. Fluorescent lights perched precariously on metal folding chairs, loose fixtures dangled from the ceiling, and malfunctioning video screens wouldn’t descend completely. For all the celebrity glad-handing, the average diner’s trip to Planet Hollywood right now will be anything but stellar.