Fine dining with Benji and Joel of Good Charlotte
Are we even gonna make it through the front door? The plan is to take Good Charlotte’s Benji and Joel Madden — the 23-year-old twins behind the hit ”Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” — out for a taste of the real high life at one of New York’s ritziest restaurants. Now that we’re in front of Lutèce, this no longer seems like such a hot idea. After all, the scruffy brothers are a walking faux pas, with Benji sporting enough tattoo ink to print the Sunday New York Times. Will some snooty maître d’ take one look and toss us into ”zee street”?
Well…no. ”Hello, how are you?” asks the hostess with a warm smile and not a moment’s hesitation. She leads us to a prime table. ”Bon appétit!” Benji is relieved. ”They’re really nice,” he says. ”I’ve noticed that when you go to a really nice restaurant, they’re nicer than when you go to, like, a sort-of nice restaurant.”
We turn to the menu. ”I don’t know what a lot of this is,” Joel says. ”Hey, what does caviar taste like?” Benji furrows his brow. ”This is the most expensive restaurant I’ve ever been in,” he says. ”And I’ve been to some places, too.” Benji opts for the smoked sea bass with whipped potato, caviar, and baby mache salad. Joel picks the wild mushroom ”cappuccino” and the roasted lobster with foie gras, coral fava beans, and chervil foam.
Orders placed, the twins tell Good Charlotte’s story. Benji and Joel started the group as Rancid-worshiping teens in Waldorf, Md. (near D.C.), shortly after their father walked out on the family. ”It was the hardest of times,” says Benji, ”but our band got us through. It was what we dreamed about.” Luck and hard work led to a deal with Epic, but their self-titled 2000 debut didn’t really take off.
”Lifestyles” has changed all that. Their new CD, ”The Young and the Hopeless,” recently debuted in Billboard’s top 10, and they’ve built a following of young fans (and screaming girls). So how to avoid becoming the celebrity jerks they lampoon on ”Lifestyles”? ”It’s simple,” says Joel, rummaging through the breadbasket. ”By keeping it real.” At Lutèce? How? ”I don’t know. Say please and thank you?”
When the check comes ($287.95, not including tip), talk turns to the chow. ”The lobster was good, but I haven’t touched the stuff around it,” Joel says. ”It’s all kind of weird. I mean, the people here were nice. Thank you for bringing us here. But I’d rather have a plate of spaghetti or something.”