In a news story that is near and dear to my heart, Lambda Legal is suing a Queens Sizzler steak house, alleging that a manager spewed homophobic epithets at a customer and shoved her to the ground. In the suit, Lambda Legal charges that the frightening encounter occurred after a manager accused Lisa Friedlander of not paying for the buffet during a brunch with friends at the Forest Hills Sizzler last September.
The suit, filed in Queens Supreme Court, says the manager shoved Friedlander in the chest and kicked her in the legs while calling her a “f…… dyke” and other epithets. The suit also contends the attack set off a frenzy of hateful chants from other patrons. One male diner called Friedlander a “he-she freak” and demanded she leave the restaurant.
“Just because I don’t appear to be a Sizzler manager’s idea of what a woman should look like doesn’t mean that gives him permission to attack me and allow other customers to join in, “ Friedlander said.
The manager, Edgar Orellena, has denied all allegations.
So why is this story of significant interest to me? Way back many, many years ago when I was in high school, my first summer job was as hostess with the mostest at our local Sizzler. While working there, I met the first lesbians I had ever encountered in my relatively small hometown. They were a couple and worked as bus “boys” and dish washers. One day, one of them asked me to place a call to order roses for the other one. I remember feeling a tiny bit awkward reading off the love note I had been given to the florist on the other end of the line. However, even at seventeen years old, living in a conservative, small southern town, I remember being overcome with the loveliness of her words to her girlfriend. I was not out at that time—and would not be for many years to come—but it was my first introduction to gay people in love. And I found it incredibly sweet and not at all “weird,” as I would have expected.
To this day, Sizzler and its all-you-can-eat buffet of gastronomic monotony kind of holds a special place in my heart. Way to ruin the magical aura of Sizzler, Mr. Malicious Manager!