Four months ago, Bruce Weinstein was drawing a six figure salary at a top five accounting firm. "It was the classic boom period job," he wistfully recalls, "I drove fast cars, went to all the clubs, and dined out on an expense account every night. Spago, Patina, PF Chang's, you name it, I ate it." He won't describe exactly what he did as an accountant, but notes that his clients were always satisfied, "Let's just say the statutes of limitations are still running and leave it at that."
But early this year, the recession economy caught up with Weinstein and he found himself laid off. Rather than working on contract and trying to make ends meet doing the same work he used to do for less income, he decided to go in an entirely different direction.
"I wanted to do something more hands on. I wanted to do real work that made people happy, even if it didn't make me rich. Then I thought, you know, when you come out of Staples after a Lakers game or a concert at midnight or one in the morning and you grab one of those bacon wrapped grease-bomb hot dogs from a little cart, that is one of the most satisfying meals you could ever have."
"I could do that," he thought to himself, and that is exactly what he did. It wasn't easy getting started. Weinstein spent the first three months purely on R&D.
"You know, it's harder than it looks. For the first two weeks, I was like, how do they get the bacon on there? I mean, here I was cooking up my bacon to a fine crisp and roasting up the dogs, and then I'd go to do the wrap, and the bacon would just crumble. I thought, Jesus Christ, I have an MBA, I've got to be able to figure this out. So, I went out to the Garment District to watch some of these old pros, and it turns out," at this point Weinstein moves close to me and in a barely audible whisper says, "they wrap the dogs before they cook the bacon."
Once the recipe was perfected, there was the business plan, and like any MBA, Weinstein needed to find a niche.
"I knew I wasn't going to cut it downtown; the competition there is fierce," so he headed for Beverly, Hills that is. Now he pushes his cart through the streets of this ultra-rich enclave, decked out in a business suit and tie, with a sign reading "All Natural, Slow Food, Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs." When I inquire about the sign and note the empty Ballpark Franks wrapper in his garbage bag, Weinstein shrugs and says, "Give the people what they think they want at a good price and they will be happy."
Still, life is not all roses. Bacon wrapped hot dog carts are illegal to operate in Los Angeles County, and Weinstein has had his share of run-ins with the law.
"I'm essentially working in an underground economy. What I do is criminalized, even though it's a totally victimless crime, I mean except for the cows and pigs, and whatever else is in a Ballpark Frank. For the first few months, the fuzz were totally on my ass. They wanted me to be up north of Santa Monica Boulevard, by the park up there, but I need foot traffic, and that means Rodeo or Canon or Beverly Drive. Now I wander, no more than twenty or thirty minutes in one place. I'm like a hot dog nomad."
He has also developed somewhat of a celebrity following but is hesitant to give specifics, "I'm not going to name names, but let's just say I have a couple of regulars named Paris and Britney; they know where to find me."
Asked if he might use Twitter to communicate his location like the now-famous Kogi Korean taco truck, Weinstein demurs, "What I'm doing is illegal; I can't create a record of it. It would be like gold in the hands of the DA. I've got no problem, personally, with the BHPD mind you," Weinstein gives a little wink, "I just prefer my pigs in a blanket."
Next Week: Burnt Out Talent Agent Turns Echo Park Duck Feeding Pastime into Foie Gras Success Story