ALWAYS interested in the more serious issues of our time, I paid a visit to a controversial Harborplace restaurant the other lTC day. Hooter's. That's right; I wanted to determine who gives a hoot about Hooter's.
As a resident of the Eastern Shore, I had followed the controversy over Hooter's scantily clad waitresses from afar until a recent trip to Baltimore gave me the opportunity to see for myself. (Anyway, Hooter's was closest to where I had parked my car, and I wanted to get in out of the cold as quickly as possible.)
My wife, Margaret, was with me, and when I pointed to the sign and said, "Let's get something to eat here," she looked a little suspicious. "Isn't that the place . . . ?"
"Yes," I said. "Some people have said Hooter's caters to prurient interests. The waitresses, they say . . ." I lowered my voice. "The women who serve the food don't wear enough clothes, thus exposing parts of their bodies in such a way as to induce lewd thoughts among the customers."
It was high noon as we entered the premises. The restaurant wasn't very busy. There were more servers than customers, in fact, but the place was enlivened by high-decibel recorded rock.
I tried not to look below the pretty face of the young woman who invited us to a table -- though out of the corner of my left eye I could see that all the servers were wearing orange shorts and white blouses. My wife Margaret was oblivious to what was being worn, hastily grabbing the menu. She is into eating, not prurience.
Since I had come into the place partly to find out what the controversy was about, I took a good look around after ordering a steak sandwich. No question about it, the servers were attractive, and they were women. The costumes they wore left them lots of freedom to move about, but they hardly seemed more revealing or suggestive than those worn by the patrons at the local supermarket or joggers in the park.
Granted, I am a little long of tooth and not as subject to prurience as I might have been 20 or 30 years ago. But I didn't trust my own judgment. I asked Margaret what she thought.
"Poppycock," she said, without mincing words. "Baltimore can call off its watchdogs."
Glancing around again, I mentally cataloged some of the folks who come to Hooter's. Seated on one side of us was a young couple with two small children. On the other side, another couple with two small children. Scattered about were a few youngish men in business suits. Some other guys, more casually dressed, were seated at a bar near the entrance to the restaurant. A man and woman, possibly in their late 50s like ourselves, were talking animatedly.
There was not even a hint of prurience.
Funny thing about all these people was that they seemed intent on one thing: eating chicken wings.
In my sociological research, I had overlooked one important factor: Hooter's is known for chicken wings (definitely not steak). As the slogan emblazoned on the backs of the servers' T-shirts proclaims, "More Than a Mouthful."
I had found the answer to the question, "Who gives a hoot about Hooter's?"
Lovers of wings -- not breasts or thighs.
William A. Harper is a communications specialist who lives in Fenwick Island, Del.