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13 Rocking Facts About Hard Rock Café

What began as an American burger joint in London has become a worldwide collection of tourist destinations. From Las Vegas to Bali, Oslo to Johannesburg, Hard Rock’s giant neon guitar looms above the fray, a beacon signaling good ol’ American food and walls coated with rock 'n' roll memorabilia. Like a seasoned band, Hard Rock has changed its tune a bit over the years, expanding into hotels, casinos, live music venues and all-inclusive resorts. And yet, much remains the same—like all those T-shirts, and the flair-loving wait staff.

1. It all started with two Americans in London.

Back in early 1970s London, rock music and cutting-edge fashion were everywhere. Hamburgers? Not so much. So in 1971, Peter Morton and Isaac Tigrett decided to open an American-style diner with a name that tapped into the local zeitgeist. There were doubters—including the landlord, who only gave them a 6-month lease—but the Hard Rock Café quickly became a hit.

2. The founders come from business semi-royalty.

These weren’t your average Joes. Morton was son of Morton’s Steakhouse president Arnie Morton, while Tigrett’s father made a fortune from—get this—holding the patent for the Glub-Glub plastic drinking ducks, which he’d purchased for $800 in the ‘50s. But in terms of rock connections, in 1976 Tigrett moved in with Maureen Starkey following her divorce from Ringo—yes, the Beatle—and they married 13 years later. Tigrett was noted as often calling her "my most authentic piece of rock and roll memorabilia."

3. The artist who created the logo is a legend.

Alan Aldridge’s artwork appeared on album covers and sci-fi books throughout the ’60s and ‘70s, earning him a legacy as one of the most influential commercial artists of the 20th century. His style tended toward trippy, but for the Hard Rock Café logo he played it straight down the middle, honoring Morton’s request to model it after the Chevrolet logo.

4. The famous T-shirts were a happy accident.

Morton and Tigrett sponsored a local soccer team in 1973 and gave the players uniforms emblazoned with the Hard Rock logo. Naturally, there were extras, so the restaurant gave them out to loyal customers, who wore them around town. Word spread, requests began to pour in, and eventually the restaurant had to set up a separate concession stand to handle T-shirt sales.

5. Eric Clapton was the first artist to contribute memorabilia.

The story goes that Clapton wanted to give Tigrett one of his guitars as a gift. Tigrett told Clapton he didn’t play, so the former Cream front man said, “Why not put it on the wall?” A week later, another guitar arrived, this time from Pete Townshend. “Mine’s just as good as his!” the note that came with it read, and so a tradition was born.

6. They went on a memorabilia binge at an auction in ‘86.

Neilson Barnard // Getty

By this point, Hard Rock Café had established itself as a Mecca for rock collectibles. So the company did not hold back at a Sotheby’s auction in 1986. The haul included a pair of John Lennon’s glasses, Madonna’s dress from “Like a Virgin,” Michael Jackson’s red jacket from “Beat It” and Jimi Hendrix’s Flying V guitar.

7. The first live concert was Paul McCartney and Wings.

It was 1973 when Sir Paul and the band made an impromptu appearance at the Hard Rock Café — the first of what’s now 15,000 live performances Hard Rock venues host every year.

8. Carole King liked it so much, she wrote a song.

Now if you're feeling just a little bit lonely
Don't sit at home just mopin'
Come on down to where the spirits flow so freely
You know the door is always open
At the Hard Rock Cafe

9. They’ve made a lot of pins.

44,000, to be exact. Since 1985, they've made everything from classic city-based guitar pins and ones commemorating various bands, to steampunk to Barbie and Hello Kitty. And one man has collected nearly 5,000 of them.

10. There’s a waitress who’s been on the payroll from the beginning.

In her job interview in 1971, Rita Gilligan told Morton, ”I’m the best you’re gonna get, so you’d better hire me.” He gave her the job on the spot. Forty-five years and countless celebrity clientele later, Gilligan is officially retired but still appears at openings and promotional events.

11. They’re now owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

In 2007, the Seminoles, who owned two Hard Rock casinos in Florida, went all in and bought the company in a deal worth nearly $1 billion.

12. Haven’t been there in a few years? You’re not alone.

Hard Rock Café has a bit of a problem: It doesn’t attract regulars. The restaurant has always been a tourist destination, but even customers who could be relied upon to stop in while visiting grandma’s condo in Tampa have gone missing. “There’s a particular segment that we particularly want to reach out to that hasn’t really, for whatever reason, thought about us or experienced us in the last 10 or 15 years,” Fred Thimm, chief operating officer of cafe operations, told Bloomberg.

13. You can get a free meal on tax day…

….but you have to sing for it. In front of the entire restaurant. Better start practicing at karaoke now—this is not the place to flub a verse in "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," especially if Bret Michaels might show up

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This Just In
Target Expands Its Clothing Options to Fit Kids With Special Needs
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Target

For kids with disabilities and their parents, shopping for clothing isn’t always as easy as picking out cute outfits. Comfort and adaptability often take precedence over style, but with new inclusive clothing options, Target wants to make it so families don’t have to choose one over the other.

As PopSugar reports, the adaptive apparel is part of Target’s existing Cat & Jack clothing line. The collection already includes items made without uncomfortable tags and seams for kids prone to sensory overload. The latest additions to the lineup will be geared toward wearers whose disabilities affect them physically.

Among the 40 new pieces are leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, bodysuits, and winter jackets. To make them easier to wear, Target added features like diaper openings for bigger children, zip-off sleeves, and hidden snap and zip seams near the back, front, and sides. With more ways to put the clothes on and take them off, the hope is that kids and parents will have a less stressful time getting ready in the morning than they would with conventionally tailored apparel.

The new clothing will retail for $5 to $40 when it debuts exclusively online on October 22. You can get a sneak peek at some of the items below.

Adaptive jacket from Target.
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Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

[h/t PopSugar]

All images courtesy of Target.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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