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A Gift That Stands Out 

John Trani got the graduation present no red-blooded frat boy could refuse: his own Hooters restaurant

Wednesday, Mar 19 2003
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In the annals of gift-giving, certain moments stand alone.

In the year 32 B.C., Mark Antony gave Cleopatra the Riviera. In A.D. 36, God gave mankind his only son. And in the spring of 2003, Shirley and Nick Trani were so proud of their male child that they gave him, on his graduation from college, the most wonderful, inspiring, thoughtful gift a Southern California frat boy could possibly desire. They gave John Trani, who turned 24 last month, his own Hooters restaurant in San Francisco.

"We have a lot of faith in our son," says Nick Trani, who runs a string of Carl's Jr. franchises in the Modesto area.

"We're real excited about it because we like the concept. It's a good family restaurant," adds Nick's wife, Shirley.

Hooters is a chain of roadhouse-style restaurants along the lines of Chili's or Chevys, but with the added value of waitresses in orange running shorts and décolletage-friendly T-shirts. The chain's logo features an owl, suggesting, speciously, that the name refers to something other than boobs. There are currently no Bay Area Hooters franchises; if all goes well, John Trani will open the region's first in the former Steelhead Brewery space on Fisherman's Wharf, as soon as the Tranis finish remodeling it.

Perhaps sensing our excitement, John Trani didn't return our week's worth of calls requesting comment.

But that didn't matter; it's his parents, Nick and Shirley, who are the real heroes of this tale. They put their son through college at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he became fraternity programming coordinator of the Greek Council. They encouraged John to come up with a dream business plan, with the promise that they'd help him realize it. When John suggested buying and running a Hooters, which my sources tell me is like a PG-rated, hetero-male cheerleader fantasy, plus burgers and beer, Nick and Shirley plunked down a reported quarter-million dollars to help Trani junior realize his San Francisco dream.

It takes a village to raise a child, and Nick and Shirley Trani have entrusted their little darling, and his new Hooters, to the good people of San Francisco. With SF Weekly's long-standing commitment to family values in mind, we convened a uniquely qualified panel of consulting experts, including performers and entrepreneurs in the S.F. live adult entertainment industry, to proffer advice aimed at making sure John's San Francisco fantasy is a happy one.


San Francisco's newest surname in entertainment entrepreneurship is pronounced "tray-nee," not "tranny." Nonetheless, the Tranis may have given their son a more exotic frat-boy fantasy than he bargained for. Juanita More, aka Michael Rodriguez, aka Everybody's Good Time Gal, aka www.juanitamore.com, was happy to lend the young Trani a helping hand.

"Oh gawd -- a twentysomething belly-slapper running Hooters? When you're 24, it's still a belly-slapper, isn't it?" asks More, apparently thinking I am young enough to recall when a certain appendage smacked my abdomen. "I think it's going to really generate a lot of business in the tranny community. I think we're going to find a lot of new clients, because 18-year-old girls are trouble, trannies aren't. They'll go there and see what they can't touch, then follow me out the back door and hop in my '72 Buick Riviera and follow me downtown. I definitely think this will be good for the tranny community in more ways than one.

"You know, San Francisco is the land where everybody comes. Everybody comes here for something, and if you want orange hot pants, you go to Hooters. I just hope they have my fucking size. How do we get a pair of 58-inch hot pants?"

Donna Sachet, known to perform her review of comic and torch songs at Harvey's, Marlena's, and the Powerhouse, says she'd be perfect at Hooters. For one thing, drag queens, like Hooters Girls, must titillate without offending female guests.

"Waitresses have to be friendly, and there's going to be extra energy there. You want to create a disguise, an element of illusion. At the same time, you're not competing with any of the real hooters that are there," Sachet notes. "You always have to remember, their hooters are real, mine are Styrofoam."

In their Hooters orange-and-white T-shirts, women like Juanita and Donna may seem like fun at the outset. But unless young Trani makes a decision early on to refrain from fraternizing with the help, he's heading for trouble. Filled with worry for little John, we called SF Weekly consulting expert Steve Berkey, owner of Divas Nightclub and Bar, San Francisco's premier transgender entertainment venue.

"When you're in a business like that, it appears like you've got easy pickings," Berkey helpfully explains. "If you try to take advantage of the situation, you're going to create major problems for yourself. Employee attitude is going to suffer, because everybody wants to be treated equally and fairly. If there are favorites, that's going to quickly translate into employee bitterness and bad employee morale."

And just because he's working with scantily clad, post-teen women, Trani shouldn't think the job is free from hard work, Berkey advises.

"I tell you what: Dealing with all these girls is a challenge," Berkey explains. "The one thing I know he is going to run into is I seriously doubt it's going to be all the fun he envisions interviewing all these girls and keeping his place staffed. He's going to find out real quick that these girls are people like anybody else. He's going to find that what he really wants is reliability, and not strictly looks."

Dale Miller is not a tranny, exactly. And he doesn't work for Hooters. But the University of Arkansas computer programmer has a hobby that uniquely qualifies him as an SF Weekly consulting expert.

Ever since prudish citizens managed to close down the Little Rock Hooters a couple of years ago, Miller has spent his free time flying to cities where there are Hooters restaurants, dressing up as a woman, going out for burgers, and having his picture taken with the waitresses. Miller urges Trani to take Juanita and Donna up on their suggestion to spice up his S.F. Hooters with a few drag queens.

"I've not spent a lot of time around drag queens, but I think it would be interesting," says Miller, who's chronicled his cross-dressing Hooters visits at www.skirtman.org/hooters.html. "Some of the ones I've seen are excellent. You have to realize: 'Oh, it really wasn't a girl.' I think it could be interesting but in a different way. I might not have as much fun because, well, I like watching women.

"But I can see in your area it might be a real draw."

According to SF Weekly consulting expert and freshman city Supervisor Bevan Dufty, San Francisco is a community that cares about the young, John Trani included. Since Dufty was made aware of the new Hooters, he's been alerting residents of his supervisorial district, which includes much of the Castro neighborhood. Already, Dufty says, many S.F. residents are planning to dress as Hooters Girls this Halloween in support of young John. "I've discussed the potential for a Hooters coming to S.F.; everybody's been saying they want to dress in a Hooters uniform. They may not be able to outfit their staff by the time they are raided for Halloween 2003," Dufty notes. "I may have more guys going there, given the fact that this guy is fresh from a fraternity.

"The excitement is palpable."


I'd be interested in hearing the stories of people who inquire, either successfully or not, about working at the new S.F. Hooters. I can be reached at matthew.smith@sfweekly.com.

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Matt Smith

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