Marilyn Hagerty and the cynical manipulation of contrived simplicity
WHEN Marilyn Hagerty went to the Grand Forks, North Dakota’s first Olive Garden eatery, she wrote a review. The thing went viral. Over 27 million Facebook likes is none too shabby. Marilyn Hagerty’s words in the Grand Forks Herald went:
“[The new Olive Garden] is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks. It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here.”
Marilyn Hagerty bought a chicken Alfredo (“warm and comforting on a cold day”) and water – the waiter recommended a raspberry lemonade and she conceded “on a hot summer day, I will try the raspberry lemonade that was recommended”. And “the server was ready with Parmesan cheese”.
What about the room:
“As I ate, I noticed vases and planters with permanent flower displays on the ledges. There are several dining areas with arched doorways. And there is a fireplace that adds warmth to the decor.”
The review possesses neither artifice nor pretension. Well, so it seems. Marilyn Hagerty has been a journalist for over 50 years. She knows words. She is no enthusiastic amateur. She says:
“I may sound a little on the defensive to you today because of the emails I’ve received. One was kind of snotty. But the other four or five were kind of friendly. But my daughter tells me I should go on Facebook and read all this crap. And I do not have time to let myself be bothered or read all that stuff. I have a Sunday column I’m doing now about a completely different subject. I don’t have time to sit here and twit over whether some self-styled food expert likes, or does not like, my column. The publisher likes it.”
This is the mainstay of journalism. It’s a job. If your employer likes it you get to keep working.
Marilyn Hagerty then writes a letter to her sister Shirley. The Grand Folks Herald publishes it:
Not even in my wildest dreams could I fathom all that has happened in the past week.
You see, here I was finishing up my Friday column last Thursday and getting ready to go to bridge club. Then the whole world went crazy. It started with an email from afar declaring that my recent Eatbeat review about the new Olive Garden was — in a word — pathetic.
I braced myself and responded with a “thanks for your interest. I appreciate your input.”
Then… whoom! The messages started flowing in from all over the country. Kind people were telling me not to pay any attention to the naysayers. It seemed people wanted to protect me and buck me up.
The reviewer reviewed:
The local TV station called and asked if I could meet with two of them at the new Olive Garden — the place I had written about. I said OK and went over there. The Olive Garden couldn’t allow the TV cameras without orders from headquarters. So I suggested we go to the Ground Round nearby.
Ground Round is a chain of eateries. The Grand Forks branch was the chain’s best of 2011.
The manager there said, “Fine.” They gave us some free popcorn and they asked questions and took pictures of me sipping a Diet Coke. When the Village Tattler or whatever called from New York, I didn’t understand who they were. I didn’t understand that I had gone viral. I didn’t know that meant it was like hits on the Internet.
Village Voice, Marilyn.
After that it was unbelievable. Early Saturday morning, the ABC show sent a driver up from Fargo. I was driven down there to answer questions. It was fun seeing the innards of the TV station. I don’t know exactly what I said.
This week I have been interviewed by a raft of national television outlets. I have had phone calls from people all across the country. I have bouquets of flowers from friends and — best of all — a dozen roses from my colleagues at the Herald.
Not sure where all this is taking me, Shirley.
Piers Morgan’s sofa on CNN? (She’s been there already.)
Thank you for sending along the news of Tucson. It was interesting to read that beer and wine are flowing again at the Arizona Wildcats baseball games. I see it is through the fifth inning and started with your opening game when you beat North Dakota State.
Why include this slice of life if not to bolster Hegarty’s profile as no-nonsense matriarch? This is the stuff of the celebrity.
Carol Anderson and Bob and Pat Wood were pleased with the turnout of more than 200 people for the annual Grand Forks breakfast in Mesa last Thursday. Five former City Council members in attendance were Dave Beach, Tom Hagness, Gerry Joyce, Ann Sande and Arden Shores.
Donated gifts went to Joy Bostrom, Norm Bisgard, Gerry Joyce, Marlene Johnson, Dale Koppelman, Joe Litzinger, Arden Shores, Colleen Abar, Larry Foss, Yvonne Syversen and Don Lindgren.
Ready for the TV series?
The sponsors are encouraging me to come down next year. Well, who knows? I sure never thought I would be on national television answering questions about my Eatbeat column.
Love from your sister Marilyn on Cloud 9 in New York City!
P.S. This, too, shall pass. I soon will take my hammer named Margo and go down to the river. There I will meditate on the 15 years that have passed since the flood of 1997.
Reach Marilyn Hagerty at email@example.com or at (701) 772-1055.
A spot of history to end with.
Marilyn Hagerty has arrived…