Hook, Line and Brinker

Jonah Johnson is the star of an online reality series thanks to his gig waiting tables at Chili's. Ain't America amazing?

"Chili's" and "hip." Yeah, not since, like, the early 1980s. Which isn't stopping the Dallas-based Brinker Inc. chain from trying. Oh, Christ, how it's trying.

Says in the latest issue of Billboard magazine, which isn't online yet, that a San Fran waiter's the star of a new "online reality series"--the three scariest words in succession since "please smell this"--Brinker's partnering on with Warner Bros. It's called Waiting 2B Discovered, because, apparently, some marketing genius still thinks Prince is cutting-edge. Jonah Johnson's the centerpiece of the project, which came about after he penned the song "Tip Yo Waiter." Three guesses what it's about. C'mon.

Someone in the chain heard the song, Austin-based ad agency GSD&M decided to use it in an online ad campaign to sell something called the Triple Dipper in September, and when people actually began downloading it, well, they figured they could expand on the thing and build a series around Johnson and "Tip Yo," for which he'll do a video, which, no doubt, will leave you smelling like fries and ranch dressing for a week after you watch it.

Says the music-biz trade mag:

It all started six months ago when Johnson took the gig to help finance his music hustle. After learning how much he and other servers depended on tips, he penned the rap anthem "Tip Yo Waiter." "It's about the daily struggle of making a living where you thrive through tips," the Oakland, Calif., native says. "Customer service can be fun. But if you don't get the tips, you don't make it."...

The series finale, showcasing Johnson and his band Timeless Entertainment, was taped Oct. 15 at Hollywood's Key Club.According to Chili's marketing manager Kristen Jones and Warner Bros. Online regional manager Kelli Usher, who produced Waiting, the series will feature 12-15 webisodes from which a "Tip" music video will be culled. The series is slated to debut Nov. 1. Additional details regarding the launch and other Web site viewing partners will be announced shortly.In the meantime, Johnson hasn't lost track of reality. He's still at Chili's working the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. shift. "I still have to pay my rent," Johnson says with a laugh. "However, I appreciate what's happened so far. Hopefully, people will connect with my music."

You can hear the song, which isn't nearly as good as the late, lamented Terlingua Pride, by going to Johnson's Web site or Chili's. I know which one I'd pick. --Robert Wilonsky


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