Thursday, August 02, 2007
Arrivederci, Moaner, and Ridi, Pickle-accio: Joey Pickles Gets Canned in Vlasic Operatic Combo of Passion and Low IQF
Possums, we're not sure that Puccini, Leoncavallo, or Scorsese could have done any better.
Yes, possums, last night Joey "Pickles" Paulino was pykagged and sent home, thus bringing to a tragic end the verismo opera that has been the ursine, culinary Brokeback Mountain of our jaded media age.
(On the plus side, maybe now he can get that huge mole on his neck checked out; indeed, if he doesn't wince at the irony, perhaps he could just get it frozen off. We could swear it's been growing, and since the first episode we have been concerned that it might start eating his face or talking to him, like the pimple in that disturbing episode of Family Guy that we've never been able to forget.)
But back to the tragedy.
So much of opera is about Fate and its vagaries, and in our day and age there is perhaps no better symbol of the fickleness of Fate than the Top Chef knife block. It can spell success--the equivalent of drawing the Sword in the Stone--or lead to racking, manly sobs.
Which is exactly what it did this time around, as the cheftestants (term used courtesy of Television Without Pity) drew knives to determine who their team mates would be in the Elimination Challenge: to create a Mediterranean-style, easily reheatable frozen meal.
In an operetta, or in a novel by Gordon Merrick (Barbara Cartland for the Gays), the knives would have decreed that Bear life partners Joey and Howie (the debate as to whether it should be Kleinberg-Paulino or Paulino-Kleinberg has yet to be resolved) be on the same team.
Indeed, no one appeared to recognize this more clearly than guest chef Rocco DiSpirito, who wisely observed that Joey needed "to be pounded" (!!!). And, as Howie amply demonstrated, he's definitely the man for that. Imagine, then, Howie's distress at being paired with a woman, and Joey's disorienting grief at losing Howie to a woman and being stuck with a shifty bisexual for a team mate. As anyone who has ever lived through this will tell you, it always ends in tears.
Gone was the possibility of Joey singing to Howie, “Sì, mi chiamano Joey,” and of Howie taking Joey’s hand after an hour of packing frozen pasta and singing, “Che gelida manina! Se la lasci riscaldar.”
Instead of Baz Luhrmann, we got Cavalleria Topcheftiana, a tragic tale of deplorable misogynist fury, smoking, family (plane tickets to Italy promised to la mamma and la sorella), hubris, cosmetic procedures, polo shirts, and meatballs (the latter four also being prominent themes in the Jeffrey Chodorow-underwitten production of Roccopera!).
We did love the Judges' Table duet, as beautiful as the one in Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles, about who's more-Italian-than-thou. Here are some of the lyrics:
Tom: Truffles aren't Mediterranean!
Rocco: Oh yes they are! I'm not your bitch, bitch.
Tom: Oh yes you are! And truffles are not Mediterranean because I say they're not. And what I say goes, because I have many successful restaurants and you're just a blow-dried, tinted, Botoxed, gay-skinny has-been.
Rocco: Well, if you were expecting me to be Padma and parrot everything you say, you've got another thing coming. And I may be blow-dried, but at least I have hair. And truffles are, too, Mediterranean. Anyway, Mr. Mediterranean, aren't you from New Jersey, and isn't your name Tom? I at least kept my ethnic name.
Tom: That's about all you kept, and now you sell tv dinners, and pose on tv with a blank cardboard cut-out that might as well stand for your soul and your reputation. And seriously, an online cooking show? And showing your face on an NBC affiliate after what happened with The Restaurant? Wow. No dignity, man. Oh, and I repeat, truffles are not Mediterranean, even though the most famous ones come from Italy and Italy is a Mediterranean country, because I said so, and I'm Tom Colicchio, and no one contradicts me on my own show.
Trust us--in Italian, with all those vowels and all that music, and the voices blending, it's lovely, swooning stuff.
Yet all the loveliness was for naught. Hung was unable to give Joey the pounding he so desperately needed, as a result of which nothing was Individually Quick Frozen, and Joey was out and separated from his bear. Attired by the genius costume designer in the suddenly poignant "Italia" shirt, Joey sobbed and promised (threatened?) that this wasn't the last we'd hear of him, the kind of verbal rose bouquet that usually comes wrapped in a restraining order.
Not surprisingly, Joey tells New York Magazine, with that heartbreaking admixture of candor and circumlocution, "I became emotional because I was going to miss a lot of people."
Just reading that, we hear the plangent chords of Gustavo Santaolalla's Oscar-winning guitar score in our heads, and we envision an "Italia" shirt snugly encased inside a sweat-stained (and we mean sweat-stained) chef's coat smelling of pork and hung on the door of the walk-in at the Café des Artistes.
Sorry, possums, we made ourselves all verklempt there for a second.
At any rate, just be careful, Joey, possum. To paraphrase the great Italian philosopher M. Ciccone, you're frozen out when your heart's too open.