Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hard Rock to be silenced.

Keefieboy puts it well:

What a shock! I remember when HRC was first built, and I thought 'what a crap location'. Now it's in the heart of New Dubai. I think I left Dubai at the right time: the powers that be have no idea how to build a city: they only know how to build buildings (well, some of them know how to build buildings). But cities are about much more than the buildings that they are made of: they're about soul and culture and character. Dammit.

It was only six years ago, the very first time I came to Dubai to attend the 2002 CabSat exhibition, that the sight of the Hard Rock Café in its then splendid isolation by the highway made me smile.

And think seriously about whether moving to the Sandlands for a while might be an interesting career move.

In a way I feel the Hard Rock is part of my biography, and not just because I spent the Swinging Sixties in London. In the middle of that decade one of the things some of us missed in the British metropolis was an authentic American Hamburger. An American expat on the fringe of the Victor Lownes clique (Victor was Hugh Heffner’s ambassador to the United Kingdom) found backers who enabled him to open The Great American Disaster, where absolutely brilliant burgers were served for a good few years on the Fulham Road. Memorabilia had their place, in the form of replica newspaper front pages reporting catastrophes such as the sinking of the Titanic.

It was, as I recall, the success Peter Morton had with this first venture which lead to the launch of the first Hard Rock Café. He had also seen a new kind of restaurant flourish not far from The Great American Disaster flourish, Parsons. The décor was retro, sort of Hard Rock without, as I remember, any memorabilia. An acquaintance of mine designed the furnishings of the booths installed at Parsons, wooden backed but with an ingenious leather-bordered upholstered seating surface. I guess it appealed to Peter who certainly checked out the local competition.

And I swear that even after thirty years there’s hardly a Hard Rock Café I’ve visited which does not to this day feature this design. I was amused to find it in Dubai, when I dived into the cool darkness after the glare of Sheikh Zayed Road.

For my second trip to Dubai I booked into the hotel next door to the Hard Rock, a modest two-story establishment which will undoubtedly also be doomed to vanish in the name of what passes in the Sandlands for progress. And later, when I’d already relocated to the Emirates, I booked family (including an infant grandson on one occasion) and friends into that same hotel, just to have the Hard Rock close to hand.

Only once was there a bad experience. For a while an abominable live band almost drove customers from the venue as soon as they went on stage. As a regular that season I learned to tolerate their dreary performances, but one night when I was in the company of a very successful and very sexy (German) pop star she found the music so abysmal that I found myself actually walking out.

There was one surprising high point which I’ll not easily forget. It was a week during which possibly the entire crew of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, docked at Jebel Ali, were able to visit the Hard Rock at least once. Two memories; one, that many of them looked hardly old enough to drink, two, that they were so incredibly courteous. The hostilities in the Gulf had for me suddenly a human face, boys and girls of every imaginable ethnicity. And that face was so terribly young.

Another high point took place almost every weekend. I’m a sentimental old bugger, and I must admit that there was often a tear threatening when cute little kiddies, some visibly battling stage fright but determined to have their moment in the spotlight, joined the Hard Rock crew for their boisterously choreographed rendition of YMCA.

Eheu fugaces… Sic transit… And all that.

1 comment:

Cairogal said...

Keefieboy is right on the money. In 1998 I recall thinking, "Who the hell is going to drive out here?!"