Steak n Shake and the new NEA chief

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Steak n Shake execs must be swelling with pride over the sudden, fawning attention on their restaurants from Rocco Landesman,
the blunt-talking Broadway theater producer who since August has been chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Landesman’s remarks certainly could be interpreted as praise. Or they could be taken as another example of the
reason he’s in already in the woodshed—condescension.

Tomorrow, Landesman starts a six-month tour of
the arts hinterlands, beginning in Peoria. Shortly after his appointment, he remarked, “I don’t know if there’s
a theater in Peoria, but I would bet that it’s not as good as Steppenwolf or the Goodman” in Chicago.

Oops. During his visit to Peoria, he will visit a Steak n Shake, among other spots.

This morning in a National
Public Radio interview, the St. Louis native made a point of saying Steak n Shake is his favorite restaurant. “I would
call it very high-quality fast food served on china,” he added.

There’s precedent for this from the
arts cognoscenti, and not under coercion. Roger Ebert said in a Chicago Sun-Times column early this year, “If I were
on Death Row, my last meal would be from Steak n Shake.” Read it here.

Steak n Shake’s sole spokesman, CEO Sardar
Biglari, is traveling and unavailable for comment. So we don’t know what they think.

Beyond Landesman’s
penance, how do you feel about his affection for Steak n Shake? If you were Biglari, et al, how would you receive it?

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