The Glorious Corner: Austin Butler, Hugh Grant, NYC’s Dean & DeLuca and More

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Austin Butler/Elvis Presley
G. H. Harding

ELVIS FOREVER — You might not be very familiar with the name Austin Butler, but you ought to be now that he’s landed the coveted starring role in director Baz Luhrmann’s planned Elvis Presley biopic (in addition to a key role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is being released this month). 

The Hollywood Reporter noted that Butler was settled on after a feverish hunt for the “perfect” actor to embody the King, a search that included potential fits in Harry Styles and Ansel Elgort … but with Butler winning the role in the end.

Butler, known for his work on television shows including Arrow and The Carrie Diaries, among others, will join Tom Hanks in the principal cast, as Hanks has signed on to portray Col. Tom Parker,  Presley’s infamous and domineering manager.

Via the Hollywood Reporter: Warners is describing the drama as having a story that will “delve into their complex dynamic spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and the loss of innocence in America.”

As for how Austin Butler might portray Elvis, the Wrap dug up a clip from a 2012 sitcom in which Butler portrays a musician, singing a song and playing guitar:

This is a big time for the music biopic, as the recent smashing success of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman have shown — and, if covered correctly and credibly, a biopic of the legendary Elvis Presley seems poised for similar levels of success.

Stay tuned!

Dean & DeLuca

DEAN & DELUCA — From Patrick Kelly in Grub StreetI always made a beeline to the back-left corner of the store; past the espresso bar and the pastry counter full of glistening entremets and a multicolored galaxy of macarons, past the cheese counter and the charcuterie case and the terraced display of olives. I went to that corner because it was there that you would find one last refrigerated case, one that, on first inspection, looked as if it held the random bits that didn’t really belong anywhere else. Quickly, however, it would reveal itself to be packed with an almost cartoonishly decadent spread.

Laid out on marble slabs were five-plus varieties of smoked salmon and dill-encrusted Swedish gravlax, the gorgeous pinks and greens popping like a 1960’s living-room palette. On top of the counter, there was a display of aged balsamic kept under lock and key, the kind of stuff a well-to-do Italian family might keep in their cellar as a wedding dowry. In the far end of the case, tiny tins of caviar sported names like Galilee Osetra and Acipenser transmontanus. Next to those, a glass cloche guarded Perigord truffles, nestled on a bed of dry rice.

This little section was always, for me, the essence of Dean & DeLuca because it held the highest density of wow-factor stuff, an almost vulgar display of authority that let shoppers know they were in a Very Serious Store. This was stuff most people never bought on regular grocery runs, but it hammered home what Dean & DeLuca was all about. And, in coming face-to-face with these absurd luxuries, their extravagance and astronomical prices were always tempered, at least somewhat, by the people working at the store.

Here were ordinary New Yorkers armed with extraordinary knowledge, who could rattle off a dizzying array of facts about cheese, prosciutto, caviar, and anything else on the shelves, all without making customers feel self-conscious for asking. Whether it was the woman from Haute Savoie working the cheese counter, explaining why Reblochon in the States didn’t taste as good, or the produce buyer who drove his own car to Connecticut in the summer to return with a trunk full of pawpaw for the store, the folks working the counters and the floor were not snobs; they were merely obsessives, and they always seemed thrilled to have a genuinely curious, captive audience when they were asked to explain something.

I worked on the corporate side at Dean & DeLuca for almost three years, and I was not shocked when reports emerged last week that the company was closing numerous stores and owed its vendors hundreds of thousands of dollars. By all accounts the grocery chain, which has been owned by a Thai real-estate company named Pace Development since 2014, is struggling to survive at all. Even its flagship Soho location now features bare shelves, indifferent service, and an eerie sense of emptiness. Though I was not surprised, I am still upset by it because, for all of its gourmand posturing — and there was plenty — Dean & DeLuca always felt paradoxically egalitarian, owing in large part to the people on the ground.

When the store first opened on Prince Street, 40-ish years ago, a couple blocks west of the current Soho store’s corner location at Broadway, the founders decided on an aesthetic that, as they put it, “brought the back of house to the front.” Whether it was purely an economic decision or a bold aesthetic choice is unclear and probably irrelevant, too, since the subway tile/metro shelf/butcher block vibe is now pretty much taken for granted in NYC restaurants and retail. The famous claim is that the store was the first place in the States to sell things like sundried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Even if that isn’t entirely true, Dean & DeLuca has been responsible for much of what we understand to be the fabric of how we eat right now. Who could imagine a 1980’s cookbook without a few recipes calling for sundried tomatoes, or a cheese shop without its own hulking wheel of Parm dwelling somewhere on the counter?

The store always featured a “food museum” vibe, but it also felt like an accessible indulgence. Walk into a caviar boutique on the Upper West Side and you might as well be shopping at Tiffany’s. But even though the stuff for sale at Dean & DeLuca seemed designed to appeal in equal parts to fans of Escoffier and American Psycho (“the mud soup and the charcoal arugula are outrageous here”), all the standard grocery tropes were alive in a way that made customers feel welcome. At a C-Town deli counter, a customer might ask to see a slice of smoked turkey to make sure it’s the right thickness; here, it’s a slice of 24-month-aged culatello. At Associated, you’re never far from a bread-squeezing grandma in the aisles; here, that same grandma might ask the cheesemonger to hand over a Camembert and give it a pinch to see if it’s ripe.

 While the stores’ customers included private chefs and celebrities, you’d still find people that pinched their pennies all week so they could buy an outrageous rib eye on a Friday. For a broke-yet-food-obsessed early-20-something like myself, this was a place where I could find the ingredients I needed to attempt to cook dishes I knew I’d never be able to afford in any restaurants.

After a particularly great interaction, when I was still just a customer there, I’d often come away thinking, dang, they seem like the most regular person who seems to know a crazy amount about caviar, or pâté, or fish, or whatever. And, I would later come to find out, after getting to know them, that’s exactly who they were. In 2019, New Yorkers can find high-end ingredients in plenty of places, but the people at Dean & DeLuca always seemed like they were preternaturally consumed by the idea of great food, and making sure it went into the hands of people who would most appreciate it. Take away the history and the air of extravagance, and that connection is precisely what turned the stores into the first place that customers might feel like great food really was meant for everyone.

I loved that original Prince street location and as I would walk by, I’d see people like Madonna and David Bryne stopping by. Like the much-missed Gino’s and Langan’s… another incredible institution … soon to be gone. Sad!

Jerry Mathers; Michael Nesmith; Micky Dolenz; and, Tony Dow 
Hugh Grant
Anthony Noto & Robert Funaro

SHORT TAKES — From last weekend’s Knoxville Fan Expo, in Knoxville, Tennessee, Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow, from TV’s Leave It To Beaver, met up with Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith. Classic shot … In yesterday Emmy nominations; Hugh Grant for Leading Actor for his A Very English Scandal. He was terrific in that. But, snubbed were Big Bang Theory; Julia Roberts for Homecoming; Jimmy Fallon; Grace and Frankie; and, Richard Madden in The Bodyguard ... What even became of Joanna Bonaro and her Good ‘n Screwed pilot? We saw it and loved it. Too bad. It had the makings of a network-size hit but weak powers-that-be behind it … This coming Monday, July 22, Race Taylor segues to CBS-FM. Much missed from the airwaves … Speaking of the Emmys: (from DeadlineLast year Netflix for the first time ever beat HBO in noms, 112 to 108, but in the end both took home 23 wins total. This year, HBO took the Emmy nom crown back and set a new network nom record for a single season with 137 Emmy noms. Netflix counts 117 noms today, still an all-time high for the streaming service which continues to grow its Emmy footprint. HBO’s previous Emmy nom record for a single season was in 2015 with 126 nominations. HBO’s Emmy nom count this year is +29, while Netflix is +5. Today HBO saw massive noms for Game of Thrones (32), its limited series Chernobyl (19), comedy series Barry (17), late night talk show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (9), True Detective (9), Veep‘s swan song season (9), Deadwood (8), Blumhouse series Sharp Objects (8), Michael Jackson dicey doc Leaving Neverland and in a big comeback its summer 2018 frosh series Succession (5). Netflix counts 16 noms for its Ava DuVernay series about the Central Park 5 When They See Us, as well as 13 noms for the Amy Poehler-produced comedy series Russian Doll, 9 including a Best Actor drama nom for Jason Bateman’s Ozark, and 5 for the second season of comedy series GLOW. NBC filed third with Emmy noms with a total of 58 (-20 from year last year). Amazon Prime Video was fourth with 47 (+25 from 2018), CBS has 43 (+8), FX 32 (-18), ABC 26 (-5), Hulu 20 (-7), Fox 18 (+2), Showtime 18 (-3), CNN 17 (+7), VH1 14 (+2), NatGeo 13 (-4) and AMC 11 (+10) … And, ever figure out that jazz-rock-fusion outfit we asked about several columns back? This time last year, they had the #1 jazz album in the country. And, it appears they just jettisoned their fifth PR-firm: think they’re difficult to work with? Get out … indeed.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Jody Ritzen; Robert Funaro; Bruce Goldberg; Donna Dolenz; Ken Kohl; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Bruce Haring; Don Kaplan; James Edstrom; Leesa Csolak; Van Dean; Vinny Rich; Adam Pollack; and, CFS.

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