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Medieval Times Gets a Modern-Day Boost

Movies: The Buena Park theme restaurant has been getting calls since ads for Jim Carrey's 'Cable Guy' featuring the eatery started running.

June 22, 1996|ALAN EYERLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

What, asks Jim Carrey's demented character in "The Cable Guy," could be more conducive to male bonding than a night of feasting and sport at "just the finest restaurant in town"?

Which just happens to be--brace yourself--Buena Park's Medieval Times.

The 70,000-square-foot Spanish castle-type structure on Beach Boulevard--a sort of theme restaurant cum dinner theater cum living history museum, complete with Andalusian stallions and displays of 11th century armaments--provides a bizarre setting for an outing-run-amok in Carrey's latest film.

The centerpiece of the place is its 1,122-seat Grand Ceremonial Arena, where valiant knights demonstrate their riding and swordsmanship skills as they fight to the death. Or at least that's the restaurant's story line.

It's here where Carrey, as a psychotic cable installer, whoops it up for the Blue Knight to emerge victorious. Not quite joining in the spirit of revelry is Matthew Broderick's character, mild-mannered architect Steven Kovacs, recently rejected by his girlfriend and having now to cope with the cable guy's desperate attempts to make a new friend. Soon the action takes a menacing turn as Steven and the cable guy are thrust unexpectedly into the fighting pit.

To accommodate director Ben Stiller and his production crew, Medieval Times--normally open 365 days a year--shut its doors for nine days in January. It was the first time the restaurant had closed in the 10 years since it opened.

Although the movie pokes fun at the restaurant (Carrey's cable guy describes it as "so weird" that it's "from another planet"), Medieval Times managers say they are delighted with the film--and the accompanying free publicity.

"It's definitely going to help every one of our castles [there are seven in North America]," said Medieval Times spokesman David Manuel. "We've been getting calls ever since 'The Cable Guy' commercial starting running."

Manuel said the restaurant doesn't even mind Janeane Garofalo's character--a bored, tattooed, body-pierced serving wench with an attitude.

"That was fine," Manuel said. "It's a Jim Carrey movie so we were expecting that." At one point in the film, Broderick complains about the lack of eating utensils, but "it's true that visitors eat with their hands here," Manuel said. "That's all real. That's part of us."

But, Manuel stressed, a customer never would be allowed to fight it out in the pit, even if he wired all the restaurant's employees with free cable.

*

Besides serving as a shooting location for "The Cable Guy," Medieval Times provided technical advice to the filmmakers and about 50 restaurant employees were used as actors or extras. Employees also appeared in costume and on horseback at the premiere screening and opening night party in Hollywood.

Greg Hopla, the Medieval Times show director, played the Blue Knight in the movie and helped out with the weaponry. "It was a blast," he said. He admits that it was strange sitting on the sidelines while movie stuntmen kept trying to get the jousting sequences down ("We can do that in one pass," noted the La Habra resident). "But the jousting in the movie looks awesome," he added.

Also seen in the film is Jennie Nelson, a Fullerton College graduate who plays trumpet at the restaurant. "It was interesting," she said. "Most of it was just sitting and waiting and getting to know the crew. It was a lot of fun, though."

At one point in the Medieval Times sequence, Carrey puts chicken skins from his plate onto his face in an impersonation of Hannibal Lecter from "The Silence of the Lambs." Manuel said that antic has yet to catch on among his customers here "but our general manager at the Dallas castle called and said he had a group of about 30 schoolkids with chicken on their faces."

Just you wait.

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