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A few blocks down from the Refinery is a piece of my childhood: the Broadway Café has known me since I was four months old. Obviously I don't remember those earliest experiences, but my parents have often regaled me with tales of my tendency to sit on the table in my car seat and drool.

I have seen many faces over the years, but Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis Presley have been the most constant of my dining companions. With frozen, toothy smiles, they gaze down at me as we wait for our food to arrive. And I have known their life stories since I was old enough to ask, "Mommy, how did they die?"

Because there are two sides to the Broadway: there’s the cheerful, sunny breakfast club and then there’s the darker side around me — glamourous photos of dead movie stars and musicians who lost themselves to a few of fame’s risk factors: fast cars, booze and drugs.

I still remember first learning about the barbituate overdose that led to Marilyn Monroe's death. My dad was tired of delicately answering my questions, so instead he bluntly told me about her death by drugs and why I shouldn't do them. Of course, this only led to more questions.

Besides the atmosphere, I love the Broadway Café for its food. No one can make foot-long hot dogs and chicken strips, pink lemonade and hot chocolate like the Broadway. Especially the hot chocolate. It has become an unofficial tradition that when the Christmas decorations go up, you order hot chocolate with lots and lots of whipped cream (I'm a bit of a foodie at heart).

The Christmas decorations are another thing. Those Broadway waitresses don't go for a bit of dinky tinsel — oh no, that would be almost a felony. Christmas law at the Broadway Café dictates that there should be Christmas trees, lights, retro garlands and Elvis’ Christmas hits crooning from the ceiling. And over in the corner, there’s Betty Boop with her own Santa hat.

But by far, I have always loved the Broadway’s Fat Lady the best. She is always a mystery to me. She lives in the Broadway’s biggest bathroom stall — in a painting hanging on the wall above the toilet. She’s immensely chubby, and she’s standing — naked — in her bathroom. She’s turning on the tub’s water faucet with a skimpy red dress draped over her arm.

What I can never figure out is this: is she getting ready to go to a party or has she just arrived home and is having a late bath before going to bed?

No matter how many times I visit, I doubt the Fat Lady will tell me anytime soon.




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