Molly Murphy's House of Fine Repute is gone, but not forgotten. A great new book by the widow of Bob Tayar, its creative genius, is for sale at Full Circle Books and Best of Books, and chronicles the restaurant's rise and fall. It's an excellent read, and a must have for any true fan of Oklahoma City history. If you can't get enough of Molly Murphy's history, visit sites created by its former employees - www.mollymurphys.com and www.mollymurphys.net.
Wed December 12, 2007
Restaurant couple lived â€˜soap opera'
By Sharon Dowell,
A book detailing the rise and fall of a restaurant that provided entertainment as well as controversy for almost 20 years will be published this week.
Jeffiee Tayar's first book, "Whatever Happened to Molly Murphy's House of Fine Repute?â€ (Dog Ear Publishing, $14.95) provides an up-close and extremely personal view of her roller-coaster life in the restaurant business. That ride brought sudden wealth, success, lawsuits and, finally, the big fall that ended the restaurant empire she owned with her ex-husband, Bob Tayar. He died almost three years ago in California.
Jeffiee Tayar recently spoke with The Oklahoman about her perspective on that era.
"People told me I needed to write a book,â€ she said. "I'd say it's a book, a soap opera .... But I really needed to do this because, pretty soon, no one will remember.â€
So she enrolled in a writing class at Francis Tuttle Technology Center after returning to Oklahoma to be near family and friends. "I wrote it all in about six weeks,â€ she said. Asked what details in the book will shock readers most, she said, "Probably how we had so much â€” and then nothing.â€
The self-published book covers Bob Tayar's first venture into the restaurant business, then takes readers for a wild ride in detailing how Molly Murphy's came to be one of the most talked-about local restaurants of its era.
At times, the details seem almost too bizarre to be real, as Jeffiee Tayar writes about the jewels, furs and clothes bought while Molly Murphy's was garnering national publicity. She takes readers on the journey of planning, building and furnishing the Tayars' dream home in Nichols Hills, and what happened when they could no longer afford to pay for or maintain the house. The couple eventually ended up in a modest home owned by relatives.
"I felt like I could make any place a home,â€ she said. "It didn't have to be the biggest or the most expensive. Yes, I hated to leave the Nichols Hills home, but it just wasn't fun anymore. It became a burden. I loved when we moved there and could afford it, and I loved the lifestyle. But when you can't afford it, it's just not fun.â€
Today, she said, she's happy in her two-bed, two-bath garden home. "I wouldn't be comfortable in a big home like that now.â€
Jeffiee Tayar, who grew up in Ardmore, writes about how she met Bob Tayar in 1959, when she was 19 and he was 29.
"Bob had just gone broke in a little hamburger spot in downtown Oklahoma City and didn't have a penny. He lived with his mother who was in her mid-70s, drove a blue Nash Rambler with a dented front fender and worked on commission in a men's clothing store,â€ she writes in the book's manuscript.
Most of his family had found success in the grocery business, but Bob Tayar had no desire to do that, Jeffiee Tayar writes. He wanted to open a nightclub like he'd seen in Dallas, so he borrowed money from his brother and opened the Sewanee Club in 1962, near the fairgrounds. Later, it was renamed The Dugout Club and became a strip joint.
Jeffiee Tayar said she supported the couple with her job at Braniff International Airways and saved money to buy their first home. When the club closed after a fire, the Tayars opened a burger joint on Northwest 39 Expressway that was eventually called Bonaparte's Drive-In.
"Bob never claimed to have original ideas,â€ she writes matter-of-factly in the manuscript. "Our menu (at Bonaparte's) was almost a replica of The Split-T, an Oklahoma City institution. Our food was just as good. That was due to my going over and getting hired by Johnnie, the manager at Split-T. I worked there for a couple of weeks and left with their cook, broiler man and lead lineman. The cook had all the recipes, including their hick'ry sauce and their onion ring batter.â€
They also operated a Bonaparte's Charcoaler in Shepherd Mall, with a small bar in the back.
"Bob Tayar was bored with operations,â€ she writes. "He liked the excitement and anticipation of planning and building a restaurant. Once it opened, he would hire a manager to run it. He was a tough boss, but he was even worse with the customers.â€
The couple opened a Bonaparte's in Mesquite, Texas, but it lost a lot of money. A couple of Texas restaurants â€” Bobby McGee's and The Magic Time Machine â€” provided inspiration for Tayar's next big concept, Molly Murphy's House of Fine Repute, which opened at 1100 S Meridian in 1976.
Playboy magazine described Molly Murphy's as "a Russian Orthodox Church that mated with a ranch house.â€ It included a toilet filled with flowers at the entrance, upside down flowerpots hanging from the ceiling and a cherry red Jaguar XKE salad car in the middle of the restaurant. Zany waiters and waitresses dressed in character costumes entertained diners with wacky skits and generally bizarre behavior.
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