BOB GARFIELD: There's a bar in Philadelphia called St. Jack's with a menu heavy in Thai specialties. St. Jack's runs a little display ad in the local papers every week, often archly referring to its Asian menu. Most recently a St. Jack's ad depicted the 75 year old Royal Highness Bhumibol Adulyadej which is appearance altered to be a little younger and more contemporary. Thai diplomats in the United States became enraged and have threatened to stop issuing visas to Americans and to get the Thai military involved. Joining us now is Sherry Levin, the owner of St. Jack's. Sherry, welcome to OTM.
SHERRY LEVIN: Hi. Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Elian Gonzalez; Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot and now Sherry Levin, [LAUGHTER] center of an international incident. Can you describe the ad for me?
SHERRY LEVIN: The ad is a parody of the Thai king, and it's an image of the Thai king kind of in a-- an Addidas-like sweatsuit, and his hair has like a buzz cut; it's a little Vanilla Ice-ish. [LAUGHS] You know, he's got jeweled glasses--you know - that's how... [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BOB GARFIELD: Bling Bling king.
SHERRY LEVIN: Bling Bling king [LAUGHS].
BOB GARFIELD: I gotta tell you, the king looks pretty fabulous, all hip hopped up. He's got a --kind of like an Eminem thing going.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Yeah, I, I wasn't even sure if the king himself would have been upset by the ad, and I think I mentioned that to-- the consulate representative. I said, wow, you know, has the king himself seen this ad? [LAUGHS] I said I -- you know, maybe he would think it was funny! And she, you know, certainly didn't think that was funny.
BOB GARFIELD:Well a lot of advertising over the years has taken liberties with other monarchs. Queen Elizabeth takes it on the chin rather often with lookalikes, and I think Buckingham Palace just kind of grins and bears it. The Government of Thailand is not grinning and bearing it, is it.
SHERRY LEVIN: No, they actually had said to me it is fine to use President Bush; it is fine to use Queen Elizabeth; but it is not okay to use the Thai king.
BOB GARFIELD:So you get a call from the Thai consulate in New York and they say in no uncertain terms that this depiction is beyond the pale. You shall cease and desist. Is that what they said?
SHERRY LEVIN: I did not get a cease and desist letter. I did not even get a recommendation so strongly to cease and desist. What I did get was a lot of threats that they would take this issue to a higher power. One man, I think he was from the UN, had said that he was going to contact the minister of defense in Thailand--
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] Was he threatening war, Sherry?
SHERRY LEVIN:I've heard threats that ranged from we are going to stop issuing visas to Americans to we will stage a huge protest out in front of your business. You know I said I really don't believe we've broken any laws, so I'm not sure which authority you're talking about, and that's when they said we are going to take this to the White House. We are going to take this to the Department of Defense in Thailand. We are going to take this to your local authorities. And I thought wow! You know? [LAUGHS] It just seems so out of proportion!
BOB GARFIELD:Have you gotten a call from the State Department saying, you know, even unofficially, hey Sherry - why don't you just-- you know - back off? [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
SHERRY LEVIN: No. No. [LAUGHS] No, not at all. I've gotten so many more calls from the media [LAUGHS] than--
BOB GARFIELD: Yeah, it's been quite a kerfuffle. So who you doing next week, the Ayatollah?
SHERRY LEVIN: No, we were thinking maybe Yul Bryner as the King of Siam. [LAUGHTER] Which-- I don't think would upset anybody.
BOB GARFIELD: Sherry Levin, thank you very much for joining us.
SHERRY LEVIN: You're very welcome.
BOB GARFIELD: Sherry Levin is the owner of St. Jack's, a Thai-themed restaurant in Philadelphia. [MUSIC]