The interior of Planet Hollywood Times Square.
Of all the wretched places to visit in New York, Planet Hollywood is king. The moldering eatery’s main entryway—beneath a colossal, glitzy sign that jostles for attention with Times Square’s other lurid neons—leads you to one of two elevators, their doors designed to mimic a subway car’s (as though the real and grimy thing were not a block or two away). One need not feast at a Planet Hollywood to know that the experience will be underwhelming and too expensive, that the earsplitting soundtrack will consist only of pop anthems and Disney theme songs, that there will be a weekly changing burger named the OMG! Burger, and that a visit to the gift shop will make you want to cry. A cursory search of online reviews confirms Planet Hollywood’s status as a dwindling brasserie chain attached to a substandard museum—a place that should no longer exist and yet seems to defy market logic. To quote a recent note on TripAdvisor, “The threat from dust falling from the above decorations was enough to put you off.”
But shortly after moving to America, and for reasons that now evade me, I began dining regularly—and with near-evangelical enthusiasm—at Planet Hollywood Times Square. (This is the city’s only branch, and it has lived here since 2000, after relocating from its original 1991 location on West 57th Street.) I have noshed on spinach dip served in a cocktail glass, and on a pizza whose pepperoni is glistening and wet. I have stopped in for drinks—some of the cocktails, by the way, involve bacon, some chocolate milk, and most have vaguely clever names like Eternal Sunshine, Hawaii Five Ohhh, There’s Something About Mary and Pineapple Express. A couple of titles are less divinely inspired, such as the Red Carpet Margarita. (Also available, for forty-two dollars a bottle, is Vanderpump Rosé, one of Lisa Vanderpump’s wines. If you actually want to get drunk, I recommend that—or a beer.)
Just before Halloween, when dollar-store cobwebs were draped across cases of faded memorabilia, my friends and I paid fifteen dollars for a printout of ourselves clutching pumpkin props. Our fellow patrons, an ambiguous mix of sad-looking young couples and tourist families with teenage kids in tow, stared silently at the ceiling or the floor or their mobile phones, anywhere but each other’s faces, as a dance remix of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” shook the walls. On Valentine’s Day, a cluster of half-deflated fabric lights emblazoned with HUG ME, KISS ME, and BE MINE were arranged beneath a tawdry button-up shirt that Charlie Sheen, a disgraced misogynist, wore on an episode of Two and a Half Men, a production not so much “Hollywood” as unending, asinine sitcom. Elsewhere, teddy bears were propped clumsily against display cabinets. My favorite bear, splay-legged and smiling, sat atop a see-through box protecting a pair of pink Converse. These had been autographed by former Playboy bunny Holly Madison. Read More