By Jason Liu
Northwest Asian Weekly
Editor’s note: Of all our Beijing Olympics stories, why did we choose to rerun the Hooters article? Well, because all of us have already been overexposed to the victories and the scandals of Beijing. We chose this story because it captures the boisterous spirit of what it must’ve been like to have been there. We also chose this story for its humor and for its portrayal of China’s Westernization.
During the Olympics, I met up with friends at a symbol of American indulgence — yes, we went to the Hooters in Beijing. Now, I am hardly a big fan of Hooters, but I wanted a place to watch the U.S.-China basketball game. There I met my Chinese friend, a sportswriter who was covering the events, and some of my fellow Americans as well.
When I walked into the restaurant, I first noticed that it faithfully stuck to its American roots. A waitress eyed me and yelled out in English, “Welcome to Hooters!” The decor of the restaurant consisted of a sign: “Caution: Blondes Thinking.” This was ironic since all the waitresses and managers in Hooters Beijing were Chinese.
The dinner menu consisted of the typical Hooters plate of Buffalo wings and beer. The waitresses’ clothing featured short tank tops with the Hooters owl emblazoned on front, short shorts and the dark tights — the Chinese sure strive to remain true in their depictions.
Every few hours, the waitresses would get together and start to do little dance numbers where they shake to the delirious cheers of their customers.
That night, both local and foreign clientele packed the whole restaurant. In the first quarter, after Yao Ming hit an uncharacteristic three-pointer to start the game, the whole restaurant, consisting of both local Chinese and international visitors, went nuts!
The game quickly became a rout, but that didn’t stop some patrons from shouting out in joy every time the U.S. team slammed one home.
Besides the games, my sportswriter friend liked Hooters for another reason. Hooters seemed like a place to go to hang out with not just the American Olympics fans, but the Olympic stars themselves. My friend ran into the U.S. tae kwon do team, the boxing team and several other members of the U.S. Olympic team. To me, it felt like Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimming star, might walk in at any moment that night — but maybe that was wishful thinking on my part.
Several other journalists figured out that Hooters is the place to meet Olympic athletes and roamed the restaurant. One was a woman from an Atlanta newspaper. My sportswriter friend switched tips with her about the latest news and happenings. It made me remember that Beijing plays host to not just the Olympic fans, but also to the 5,600 journalists.
As my friend roamed Hooters trying to get more information and quotations for his article, I sat and talked with his colleague, a well-known and respected American sportswriter. He explained to me that many American athletes abroad (some of whom have not spent much time away from home) don’t want to have to bother with exotic cuisines and exotic places. At night, they just want a place where they can go to relax and scarf down some wings and down some beers.
I couldn’t help but think to myself — how did I end up at Hooters in Beijing to watch one of the biggest sports game of all time? What a night to remember!
Jason Liu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.