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Columns

Stars in our Pies

Always wanted to invite a famous person over for dinner? You can dine with almost any one you want, every day, no linen napkin required.

Paul Newman’s recent announcement of his retirement from the movie business got me thinking. My first thought was that what I’ll miss most isn’t Newman’s presence in the movies, but his salad dressing. My second thought was that of course, his salad dressing is so successful that it surely won’t be affected by Newman’s retirement.

This, in turn, made me wonder why the Newman’s Own label -- which now covers a range of organic goods, from pet food to pretzels -- no longer seems ridiculous (if, indeed, it ever did). Does the odd notion of the movie-star-grocery-product tie-in just come to seem less peculiar with time (after all, Newman’s Own has been around for 25 years)? Or does the fact that Newman himself has always been a serious, well-respected actor make his product line easier to accept? Perhaps it makes a difference, too, that the products are high quality, well produced, and ecologically-sound. Oh, and they taste good.

Of course, some celebrity tie-ins come with the territory. Successful athletes endorse sports equipment as a matter of course, and everyone accepts that movie stars often launch fashion and fragrance lines. Ventures like these may be sell-outs or second careers, but either way, the product is tied to something recognizable about the celebrity, be it their glamour, athletic prowess, sex appeal or silky hair. But food is another matter, and it’s a rare celebrity who can, like Paul Newman, pull off the grocery-store tie in with dignity intact. But that doesn’t stop them trying. In fact, there are enough celebrity groceries out there for the star-struck diner to put together a complete supper menu from products made (or at least, endorsed) by the stars.

You could begin with a small plate of Francis Ford Coppolla’s Mammarelli Creste di Galli organic pasta, served with the accompanying Mammarelli Empolese sauce. For your main course, if you’re a meat eater, you could try one of golfer Greg Norman’s Signature Wagyu Australian steaks, “grain-fed and aged to perfection”, and if you’re not, you can substitute one of Linda McCartney’s frozen vegetarian meals. Either way, add a dish of Dwight Yoakem’s Refried Buffalo Bean Dip on the side.

There’s no point eating meat without sauce. If you like it hot, you’re in luck; celebrity hot sauce is the tie-in du jour, so hot, it’s cool -- a grocery product you can peddle without losing your macho cajones. Mexican actor Cheech Marin makes it in three flavors, including Gnarly Garlic; porn star and celebrity autofellator Ron Jeremy has also come out with his own hot sauce line (let’s hope he washed his hands). Heavy metal fans can choose between Mad Anthony’s Hot Sauce, the official hot sauce of Van Halen’s Michael Anthony (“so hot you’ll need two assholes!”), or Rock Your World hot sauce made by Joe Perry from Aerosmith, available in Boneyard Brew and Mango Tango. For the younger generation of rockers, Dexter Holland of The Offspring has a hot sauce out called Gringo Bandito.

(An interesting side note: while past-their-prime US rockers go in for hot sauce, their British equivalents prefer a more genteel pursuit: history. Fans of MTV reality show The Osbournes will recall Ozzy’s passion for The History Channel; no doubt Ozzy often tuned in to Extreme History, hosted by The Who’s frontman Roger Daltrey, who could, if he chose, prepare for his show by unearthing buried treasure with the help of the Bill Wyman Signature lightweight metal detector).

But back to our supper, and to go with our Greg Norman steak, we’ll want a nice red wine. Bob Dylan has a 2001 Montepulciano, which is supposed to be “rich, warm, supple and well structured, with ripe sweet tannins.” If you prefer something heavier and more demanding, how about Gerárd Depardieu’s Cyrano Cuvée 2000, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc? If you like Australian wine, chanteuse Olivia Newton John makes a 2004 Shiraz that “combines red berry aromas with a hint of cherries to ensure a well-rounded finish”, or, if you’d prefer a Canadian red, you could go with one of comedian Dan Aykroyd's super-premium offerings from his new Signature Reserve Series, or -- if you’re dining on a budget -- one of his more “mid-priced wines”.

Finally, polish off your dinner with a nice cup of Barry Manilow's “intriguingly smooth” Earl Grey Cream Tea and a slice of Pope Cake. That’s right, Pope Cake -- Pan Ducale’s Dolce Del Papa, a delicious-sounding chocolate almond roll that Pope John Paul II stamped with the papal imprimature the day he first tasted a slice, in 1985. This gives it the honor of being one of the few edible items (outside the host) approved by the Vatican, so we can leave the table feeling full and blessed. Now, if only Jesus made a good cigar.

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