Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Slice of the 80's Is Piece of My Life

If you’re my age, 59, writing a pizzeria profile on a place called Slice of the 80's, your imagination tends to stroll down the Time Tunnel (cool show from the 60s, debuted when I was 9). As I was contemplating Slice owner Adam Matt’s glittering concept pizza palace in Westland, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, I mentally zoomed back to my formative decade, the 80's, faster than Kirk’s atoms reassembled on the Enterprise’s transporter deck after beaming up from The Wrath of Kahn.

In addition to Star Trek movies starring the original cast, the 80's were full of meaningful personal milestones and cultural monuments for me: Graduated from college (barely); got married; joined the Air Force as a writer; had two children; got divorced; got re-married; had another kid; voted for President Reagan (after voting for Jimmy Carter the first time); watched the Challenger explode (wrote about it and cried); went to a Heart concert when both Wilson sisters were hot; cried again when ET died AND ascended into outer space; told women in discos that me and my buddy were pilots instead of Air Force journalists; ate a lot of pizza; and threatened my kids that I’d complete the third utterance of “Beetlejuice” just to make them squeal in fear that Michael Keaton’s classic character would materialize in our living room. Trust me, it was cute, not abusive.

The 80's were many things to me, but movies offered a lose script for my arrested development. I particularly loved science fiction, war movies and smart-ass anti-heroes. So Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Blade Runner (1982), Back to the Future (1985), Platoon (1986), Top Gun (1986) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1988)) all offered celluloid role models with fast-talking shticks that appealed to an ADD-riddled (before anyone knew what ADD was) underachieving dreamer.
Adam Matt was born in 1983, the year that the TV series MASH ended, Microsoft Word debuted and the Jedi made a huge comeback. The still youthful-looking pizza entrepreneur is an even bigger devote of the 80's than yours truly. But nobody would confuse Adam for a slacker. Adam grew up digging 80's-kids’ must-haves He-Man and Fraggle Rock on the tube while testing his digital dexterity on pioneering gaming platforms with era-defining handles like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. By contrast, my first video game was Pong. When the high-energy youngster wasn’t padding his video game scores, he was looking forward to running his own business when he grew up.

As a new century dawned, Adam made his confident move toward his semi-charmed kinda pizza life. “I was 19 when I started working at pizza restaurants,” he recalls.  “I fell in love with the pizza business.” Adam also fell head over heels for his wife, Natalie, in a pizzeria where they both worked and, eventually, married. Adam insists there’s no truth to the rumor that the couple named their first child Peppe.

But he does cop to cutting his teeth delivering pies while radio wave boogying to his favorite 80's bands Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Van Halen. He yearned to fold his passions for pizza and 80's nostalgia into something fresh, hot and profitable. Like The Red Rocker himself, constitutionally unable to drive 55, Adam threw caution to the wind and opened Slice of the 80's in 2008, after cashing in his modest savings on a vacant, former pizza shop. Though he admired The Gipper, Adam had no intention of tearing down this wall, or any piece of the 1500-square-foot 80's time capsule-to-be. Today, Slice’s lobby walls enshrine a way-cool collection of 80’s rock posters, Freddy Kruger-featured action figures, vintage electric guitars and eclectic 80's bric-a-brac, including Rubic Cubes and California Raisins. The digital tones of video games punctuate the happy chatter of customers and the parking lot outside is show floor central for a madly wrapped delivery fleet of rolling hot rod billboards. Slice of the 80's is a Motor City mainstay. Social critics have characterized the 80's as a decade of flash without substance. For the pizzaiolo with two first names, award-winning, lovingly hand-crafted pizzas made with fresh toppings—ixnay on the canned shrooms—belie any compromise with the quality gods.
You can read much more about how Adam Matt and Slice of the 80's beat the odds as a growing independent in Detroit’s chain-dominated pizza marketplace in the April issue of PMQ Pizza Magazine, coming soon.
Meanwhile, consider an amazing, marvelous decade—one powerful, dynamic and interesting enough to support a pizzeria nostalgia theme and the biggest hair since the first Queen Elizabeth donned a frizzy wig.  That’s the decade in which I became a man and Adam Matt became a gleam in his father’s eye.  And one last irony of my infatuation with 80's flicks: After Full Metal Jacket came out in 1987, I finally fully understood why Stanley Kubrick is my all-time favorite director. Yes, he made 2001 and Strangeglove, but he also made it possible for me and my Air Force buddy to tell chicks in bars—and sometimes supermarkets—“We’d like to buy you a drink—we’re military journalists.”      
Anyone get that reference? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?


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