recently asked me, "Where did you get the idea for 'The
Heartbreak Grill And Bar? Does such a place really
exist?" The answer, surprisingly, is Yes.
The date was
June 10, 1990. Or maybe it was February 22, 1991.
In any case, it was many moons ago. I was living
in L.A., struggling to make ends meet, playing acoustic
gigs for free hamburgers in the Valley. A good
buddy of mine, John, was an L.A. model and actor, with
ruggedly handsome looks and that razor-stubble
semi-beard that was so mysteriously popular at the time.
We were both broke, so on Saturday nights we'd hang out
at his apartment, drink cheap beer, and listen to
Aerosmith. We'd then go out to various clubs in
Hollywood with a full buzz on, hoping to be
"discovered", or at least hoping to score.
John would always attract every kind of woman, wherever
we'd go... but he was incredibly picky, and would reject
most of the women that were interested in him. So
I'd usually go after his rejects, which would have
worked out well if they weren't so P.O.'d that he
rejected them. Sometimes, just to keep them from
leaving, I'd say stuff like "He really DOES like you,
he's just a bit shy", as he was flirting shamelessly
with some other girl. My hope was that if I
kept them around long enough, after a few drinks they'd
forget which one of us was the handsome model/actor.
Unfortunately for me, that rarely happened... but hey it
was fun trying!
One night we walked into this bar in west Hollywood, a
small place tucked out of the way, off the beaten path.
I was amazed that almost every woman in the place was
gorgeous... and I don't mean "cute girl next-door" type
of pretty, I mean "intimidating supermodel kinda
mean-looking" pretty. As John and I saddled up to
the bar, I noticed this one hot brunette began looking
over at me. She didn't have the same mean,
hardened-by-L.A. look that alot of the women there had.
No, there was something softer and alluring about her
that I really liked. I confidently ordered a club
soda for $1.25, hoping that she'd think I was drinking
$7 vodka tonics. Things were pricey in L.A., even
After about 10 minutes of playing the eye-contact game,
I decided to waltz on over and hit on the brunette.
But before I could even utter my first cheezy line, she
says to me "I was looking at your friend".
Stunned, I go "Excuse Me?", so she clarifies: "I wasn't
looking at you, I was looking at your friend, he's
really cute... do you think you could introduce me?"
I sullenly walked back over to where John was talking up
not one but three ladies. I mumbled something to
him about this woman across the bar wanting to
meet him. He looked over at her and flippantly
said to me "Not interested". She wasn't up
to his exacting standards.
For some reason, maybe it was revenge, spite, or perhaps
a death wish, I walked back over to her and stated
plainly "He says he's not interested in meeting you."
Whoosh, just like that, the remainder of her
watered-down $7 drink splashed across my face, after
which she quickly bolted from the bar. As I stood
there stupidly, liquid dripping off my lips and face, I
thought to myself "Mmmm, vodka tonic".
That's when I first got the idea of "The Heartbreak
Grill And Bar", a place filled with beautiful but evil
women who will break your heart as effortlessly as they
apply their lipstick. But it wasn't until 5 years
later, when I was living in Dallas, that I began putting
the actual song together. I came up with a country
beat and melody, finished most of the lyrics, but still
didn't have a title. I was toying with "Heartbreak
A La Carte" as the title - a place where you could
pretty much pick what type of heartbreak you wanted.
I did a full demo of the tune, but still wasn't
satisfied with it. As I often do with my songs, I
set it aside for years, only to discover it later when I
was desperate for song material and ideas.
I was writing songs for the 3rd album last year, I sent
the lyrics to my good friend Della, a former
heartbreaker herself before she settled down, to see
what she thought. She responded "How attached are
you to the title 'Heartbreak A La Carte'?, which means
basically the title didn't cut it. Since I'd
written all the lyrics and she liked most of them, I
looked in the rhyming dictionary to see what rhymed with
the words in the chorus - charge/heart/start - and of
course "bar" was right there. I added the concept
of the "grill", that the way the women treat the guys is
like being put on a grill, and Voila, the song was
for John, I'm not sure whatever became of him. I'm
guessing he eventually tired of L.A., married, moved to
Iowa and had 2.5 kids. I Googled his name today
and came up completely empty, so I guess he never did
make it as an actor/model. Either that or maybe he
got a contract put out on him by one of his many