Vintage Q&A: What Would Keith McNally Do
A very tiny mystery, solved.
This week I’m soldiering through COVID symptoms that seem to be getting incrementally better day by day but absolutely have not permitted me to, say, edit an interview transcript. I tried, but found myself not typing and just listening to what sounded like the world’s most self-indulgent podcast. However one thing I can do with almost no functioning brain cells is blog. So here’s a little throwback of the traditional format that used to make up all the important parts of the internet.
Perhaps you saw how New York restaurateur Keith McNally banned warbling television personality James Corden from his restaurant Balthazar due to churlish entitled celeb behavior. Corden allegedly apologized, and McNally magnanimously unbanned him.
McNally says that Corden apologized to both McNally “and my staff” but in context it seems likely that apology was transitive, i.e. Corden didn’t apologize directly to the people he abused, just their boss. Happy to be wrong about that of course.
All that aside, McNally has had a swell time on Instagram the past few years, maneuvering from charming eccentric industry veteran to own-goaling via his defense of Woody Allen and Ghislaine Maxwell. But let’s go back further on social media—much further—to 2009, when this tweet appeared on the otherwise innocuous twitter account for the Zagat guide:
I found this tweet by accident when running the Zagat account in 2020 and my reaction could best be expressed as 👀. The shortlink doesn’t work anymore, though you can tell it originally connected to something in the long-purged archive of the New York Observer.
I recently realized you can unpack the shortlink to find the original URL, and with some tinkering in the Wayback Machine, found the original deleted interview with McNally there (page 1 and page 2). In this ancient Q&A, McNally is his typical caustic, self-deprecating, and non-responsive self, and to a question about how restaurants must adapt to survive (in 2009!), he offers this:
How do restaurants survive in this economy? Who knows? I don’t. And nor does anyone who says they do. Ultimately, I think one does what one’s always done. In my case, it’s stabbing people in the back and sleeping with my friends’ wives.
The secret of the old Zagat tweet reference is revealed at last. Turns out it wasn’t some poster pursuing vendetta through a brand account, but rather someone correctly identifying the line that should have become the focus of the conversation once McNally uttered it. Even in jest!
All water under the bridge now, as the contemporary McNally is more large-hearted and forgiving (of celebrities). Though apparently he’s still chewing on that too, as he posted last night:
Feeling strange about the James Corden thing. On the one hand, he was definitely abusive to my staff, on the other hand, I feel really sorry for him right now. Like most cowards I want it both ways. Fuck it, I’m going to get drunk.