Later, Gunther Toody's: Here's to nostalgia, my first love and a fake '50s diner of my '90s youth
A little part of me broke off and fell between my laptop and stretch pants yesterday when I found out that the Gunther Toody's location by the house where I grew up had closed. The fake '50s diner where I spent a good amount of time in the '90s pandering to a waiter I was in love with is gone, and not getting a chance to say goodbye to the place felt cruelly unfair.
Like Enid Coleslaw in Ghost World, I didn't know I would catch an inaugural glimpse of my first love at a fake '50s diner.
But that's what happens when you (and many other people) stop visiting places of business -- they eventually close. According to the slew of angry-for-no-reason-as-usual commenters on our post about the closure, the Gunther Toody's location in southeast Denver has been shuttered for a few weeks. I can't even remember the last time I drove by the overstated building; if anything, it was a great spot for a restaurant in terms of visibility, but access from the strangely shaped sliver of an intersection at Alameda and Leetsdale Drive was horrific.
Nostalgia has taken a strange turn in the past two decades: The Internet has made it possible for us to gaze back fondly on almost any time in human history and wax poetically/dress inappropriately/talk annoyingly about it like we were there. From Civil War Reenactment communities to guys who look like Billy Crudup trying to look like an Allman Bro in Almost Famous, no era is off limits.
The nostalgia component might have been more of a problem for Gunther Toody's than the weird location. I mean, do we still have a need or desire for fake '50s diners? Or do we find more enjoyment in going to a place where waiters are dressed like Prohibition-era bootleggers with contemporary pop culture-referencing tattoos and always want to talk about their band?
To me, the fake '50s diner has much more appeal than the retro-bourgie cheese shop or slick-looking bar. Kitsch is supposed to be fun and kind of weird -- like a grilled cheese sandwich, not an overpriced alcoholic beverage that comes with a toe tag attached to it. To each her own, I suppose.
Part of why I have a soft spot for kitschy shit like Gunther Toody's is because as a kid, I wasn't in on the idea that the things/art/music I loved were supposed to be a joke. John Waters movies, Pee-wee's Playhouse, the B-52s -- it all went over my head. I just enjoyed Ricki Lake's big hair, Pee-wee Herman's ability to overreact while wearing a bow tie and Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson's big hair. The fake '50s and '60s looked fun.
Gunther Toody's worked in a similar way for me as a sixteen-year-old in the '90s. As uncool as it probably was to hang out there, I did so every Sunday when I got off of my four-hour shift at KB Toys at the mall. A cute boy -- my first love, who wore a name tag that said "Domino" -- waited tables there. Under his button-up soda-jerk outfit, he was really a raver. I sort of liked that he was a fake '50s guy for a living.
But secretly, I wished it were the fake '50s and that one day he would take me on a date to a place with tall vinyl booths and we could hide away and smooch and share a Black Cow. Instead, I watched him come down from rolling on ecstasy on the weekends and always made sure to bring toilet paper to his apartment, because dudes in their twenties don't buy toilet paper. So much for the real-life nostalgia.
Gunther Toody's in almost-Glendale is gone, but not forgotten.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies.