Category Archives: Hard Rock Cafe

The Hard Rock Cafe

The one, the only (at the time), the original Hard Rock Cafe.

Before the empire — the chain, the hotels, the casinos, even before the huge collection of rock memorabilia and the now ubiquitous t-shirts, there was this: a joint in London serving up Schlitz beer and real American hamburgers and fries and milk shakes and rock-n-roll.  Opened on June 14, 1971 by Americans Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett at 150 Old Park Lane in London (in an old Rolls Royce dealership) it quickly became the place to go even for real rock-n-rollers.  Paul McCartney and Wings were the first band to play live there (1973).  Carole King loved the burgers so much she wrote an ode to the place which became a huge hit.  And Eric Clapton started the memorabilia collection in 1979 by giving Peter and Isaac one of his guitars.  Not to be outdone, Pete Townsend quickly left one of his with the note: “Mine’s as good as his! Love, Pete”.

For us Young Americans abroad the Hard Rock represented and America we didn’t know first hand and only really learned about when George Lucas’s American Grafitti hit town.  After that, we HAD to go to the Hard Rock and, thanks to our giant platform shoes, we were even able to score some Schlitz.  

BTW, the concert Wings was warming up for with their impromptu gig at the Hard Rock was the one we saw with Mother’s boyfriend of the moment, comedy writer, Herb Sargent.  Herb used to drive mother crazy by tossing her cigarettes out of the taxi which made Robbie and I laugh a lot.  He’d flown all the way to London to see her and we would have been happy if it had worked out; he was a good guy.

Platform Shoes!

What was a girl to do in 70s London if she wanted to see a AA rated film and she was only 12 or…
…an X rated film and she was only 14?  Buy the tallest pair of platform shoes she could stand in, of course!

The platform shoe has been around at least as long as the Greeks who used cothurni to raise up important characters on stage.  They were big in Chinese opera and rose again in Europe in the late 16th century.  I first experienced them as a girl when my dad was in the “House of Atreus” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis   (more on my and Robbie’s House of Atreus dolls from the Guthrie’s set designer in another post).  But it was in the 1970s when the platform shoe made it’s biggest mark.

For me, Elton John and glam rockers made platform shoes a much desired style accessory.  But trying to score Babycham at the pub and bypass the British film raiting system (U – universal, A – five and older, AA- fourteen and older, and X- eighteen and older) made them a necessity.  

In 1972, Robbie and I and our friends absolutely had to see “Endless Night” the new Hayley Mills horror film.  But it was rated AA and we were only twelve and eleven.  SO with a lot of make-up, stylish clothes and some new pairs of giant platforms, we bluffed our way in.  I seem to recall at least one of us tripping down the aisle.  A couple of years later when American Graffiti hit London it was rated X and once again our platforms were called into service.

That movie ushered in a craze for all things American in London which for us included trying to get into the Hard Rock Cafe.  More on that tomorrow!