Richard Pink President of Richard Pink & Associates and Co-Owner of Pink’s Hot Dogs

Interview on the Jason Hennessey Podcast 05-25-2022 - Episode 29
Richard Pink

How Pink’s Hot Dogs Continues its Hollywood Legacy

Today we sit down with the exceptionally charismatic, successful, and totally humble restaurateur, Richard Pink.
He’s co-owner of the legendary Pink’s Hot Dogs, a Los Angeles institution that has been bringing smiles, satisfaction, and snappy sausages to its clientele since 1939.
Listen in as we discover how Pink’s Hot Dog Stand went from a little push cart to a Hollywood legend and celebrity hotspot, eventually garnering an endless list of superstar patrons such as Diana Ross, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Oprah, Marlon Brando, and hundreds more.
In this inspiring episode, Richard gives us the inside scoop on expanding business overseas, the origins of his secret chili recipe, and why making a difference is always more rewarding than making a buck.
Please hit the play button at the top of the page and join us as we welcome Mr. Pink to Hennessey Studios and The Jason Hennessey Podcast. Thank you for listening.

In this Episode

[01:21] Jason introduces Richard Pink, co-owner of Pink’s Hot Dogs, or as he refers to themselves, “The Little Hot Dog Stand That Could.” Jason also tells us about his first Pink’s Hot Dog and reminisces about eating frankfurters with his late grandpa.

[03:28] Jason highlights Pink’s Hot Dogs continued charity work. Richard updates us on their latest efforts with the World Central Kitchen to help Ukraine and how Chili Dogs for Charity raised funds for 8 different charities during their 80th anniversary for 8 straight days.

[05:54] Richard gives us a Pink’s History lesson. He describes how his parents, Betty and Paul Pink, bought their original hot dog cart and transformed it into today’s iconic stand. He also describes his parent’s admirable and contrasting personalities.

[11:12] Jason is curious about what life was like for Richard and his sister, Beverly, growing up at Pink’s. He remembers doing all the jobs, meeting the stars of the era, and Orson Welles breaking the all-time record for chili dogs eaten at Pink’s.

[13:38] Richard opens up about Pink’s challenges, his parent’s reluctance to expand, and also lists three keys to Pink’s perseverance: expanding, licensing, and promoting the brand with people like Betty White, Kim Kardashian, and Martha Stewart.

[18:52] Jason recalls having Pink’s for lunch at Noah’s Ark in Wisconsin and being impressed with the same great taste as their LA location. Richard expounds on the various water parks and locations they’ve expanded to, including the Philippines.

[23:10] Jason and Richard discuss how the pandemic affected Pink’s. Richard reinforces the notion of closing their doors for several months to protect customers and employees. Richard also reveals the two celebs that have attracted the longest lines.

[26:34] Jason tries to get the chili recipe from Mr. Pink and wonders if it’s been the same since the stand’s beginnings.

[27:17] Richard tells us his background, education, and the story of how he, his wife, and sister took over Pink’s. His parents had different aspirations for him, but when the time came, he joined his wife and sister behind the counter.

[30:07] Richard reflects on the most rewarding part of working at Pink’s. He also retells the most memorable celebrity patron tales that include superstars like Oprah Winfrey, James Corden, Michael J. Fox, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, and Michelle Obama.

[38:31] Jason gets some insight on what would qualify him to get a hot dog named after him. Richard gives us the criteria of either being a chef, like Giada De Laurenitis and Emeril Lagasse; or a Hollywood legend like Ed Asner and Carl Reiner. Jason also inquires if there’s a veggie option available at Pink’s.

[40:16] Richard and Jason play a game of Pink’s Hot Dog Trivia where we test Mr. Pink’s pop culture knowledge. He continues to tell the memorable stories relating to each answer as he accepts the challenge.

[52:59] Jason invites Richard to ponder what he’d be doing if he wasn’t helping to operate Pink’s, what he’s learned about himself by being in the hot dog business, and how he’s different from his parents, the original founders of Pink’s.

[55:04] Richard and Jason begin today’s signature segment of “Hennessey Heart-to-Heart.” We learn about Richard’s views on the hot dog-sandwich debate, his proudest accomplishments, what his late parents would say today, and much more.

[01:05:30] Jason encourages people who’ve never been to Pink’s to go and that the line is worth it. Richard says to say hi if you see him, and he thanks Jason to end the interview and continue to prepare for our Hennessey Studios Mixer later that day.

Transcript

Jason Hennessey: Richard Pink.

Richard Pink: That’s right. Hello.

Thank you so much for coming down here to Hennessey Studios to be on the podcast. You are an icon in this town.

You’re very kind to say so. Thank you.

You really are.

I don’t feel like that.

For those that are not associating Mr. Pink, tell us who you are and where you come from.

Sure. Well, I am Richard Pink, co-owner of Pink’s Hot Dogs. Some call us a “Hollywood legend since 1939.” We like to call ourself “The Little Hot Dog Stand That Could.”

And my parents started Pink’s back 82 years ago.

Awesome. I want to hear that whole story here, but before I get into that, when I lived in Vegas, I was in the United States Air Force and I had a friend that grew up in LA, and it was my first time ever coming to LA.

And he drove me out here and the first place that we went was Pink’s Hot Dogs.

Well, thanks for the business.

My parents started Pink’s back 82 years ago.

Literally, from Vegas all the way there, because he’s like, “You just got to try this place. It’s the best.”

And I didn’t know, and I’m like, “Why are all these people waiting in line for the hot dog?”

That’s great.

But then, after I got my hot dog, I knew why.

Oh, terrific. I’m glad.

Seriously.

Did it snap when you bit into it?

It did.

Perfect.

Yes.

So, where I grew up, I grew up in New York. For me, hot dogs were called frankfurters.

And so, my grandfather, who passed away last year, that was our thing. We’d go after school and they would have a truck, like a hot dog truck. And so, a couple days a week, we’d go and get frankfurters.

They were cheap back then. But yeah, that was part of my childhood. And I’m pretty sure it was part of your childhood too, huh?

Well, I definitely grew up in the frankfurter, hot dog business, but I love the fact that you have some sweet memories around eating or dining on dogs.

Yeah. Let’s talk a little bit. First of all, I heard that you guys, recently, you guys do a lot of charity work and philanthropic work, something you guys are doing right now for Ukraine.

Yes. We put on the menu a “Let’s Help Ukraine Hot Dog.”

Okay.

And a hundred percent of the profits will go to the World Central Kitchen, which is the kitchen run by José Andrés. And the dog sells for $8 and a quarter and it is a Polish sausage topped with pastrami, coleslaw, and Swiss cheese. So, it’s a really great dog. It’s very popular.

And so, we’re giving, every month or so, I total up the number of dogs that are sold, I figure out what the profit was on that, which is about 50% of the purchase price and we wrote a check to the World Central Kitchen.

Wow. Now, that’s something that you guys are known for doing, a lot of charity work like that.

Well, we have an event we call Chili Dogs for Charity. And we do a lot of charity events and actually there’s a really good karma associated with that because when we do that, a famous show like yours talks about it and people say “It’s great that Pink’s has got this long line, but I really like them more because they do give back.”

And my parents, basically they grew up poor, and I know you’ll get to the history of their story, but they had to borrow the $50 to buy the hot dog cart for my grandmother.

Wow.

That’s where they were at.

Is that right?

And so, they taught me and my sister and reinforced it with my wife that there’s a lot of people less fortunate and you’ve got to figure out a way to give back.

And so, we do sell Chili Dogs For Charity. In fact, when we had our last anniversary, the big one was 80 years and we sold our hot dogs for 80 cents for 80 minutes for 8 days. And a hundred percent of the proceeds, a hundred percent, went to a different charity each day.

That’s amazing. I live by a motto, “I spent most of my life making a living and now I’m trying to make a difference.”

Great. Good motto.

I wish I took credit for it, but-

Doesn’t matter, you live it.

I live my life that way.

So, let’s go back. Let’s go back. You talked about your parents having to borrow $50 from-

My grandmother.

Your grandmother. Why hot dogs? Why that business?

My parents were in their late 20s, they were out of work. They were looking for a job in the newspaper and they didn’t find any employment, but they ran across an ad for a hot dog cart.

And my mother said to my dad, “Look at this cart, maybe we ought to go into the hot dog business and rent a site somewhere. And who knows, people love hotdogs. People have to eat. So, why don’t we do that?”

And my dad said, “Well, how much is the cart?” And she said, “$50.” My dad said, “Well, where are we going to get the $50?” And my mother said, her mother will loan him the money. And, “Where’s the cart?”

Well, the cart was about 2 miles away on La Cienega. And my parents found a site at La Brea on Melrose, which is where they’re at right now. It was available for rent for $15 a month.

Wow.

And so, my mother actually, it was her that went down to La Cienega, she wheeled the cart about 2 miles.

Is that right?

All the way up Melrose, planted it right on that site. And it wasn’t paved. It was just an open field with weeds. They chopped down all the weeds and then they said, “Well, let’s figure out how we’re going to start the cart.”

Well, the cart was electric and there was no electricity on the site. It turned out that basically a block away, there was a hardware store. They went there and they said, “Look, what do we do?”

And the guy said, “I’ll tell you what, I will sell you an extension cord. It probably need about a hundred yards long from your cart to my outlet.” And so, he said, “If you buy the extension cord, I’ll let you use my juice here to fire up your hot dog cart.”

And that’s how they fired up Pink’s Cart for the first 2 years. And in 1941, the landlord raised their rent from $15 a month to $25. Well, you say, “What’s $25?”

Well, first of all, it’s a 67% increase and my parents were just selling hot dogs at that time for 10 cents. So, the dogs were 10 cents. Cokes were a nickel, all right. The landlord raised the rent and they said we can’t afford the rent.

But fortunately there was a Bank of America branch across the street and they went over there and they said, “I think we can buy the property.” The guy said, “Well, how much do you need?” And they said, “I think we need about $4,000.”

And he asked my folks, “Do you have any collateral?” And they said, “We don’t have any collateral. We don’t own anything, but we have a really good hot dog.” And he says, “I know you have a hot dog. I eat lunch there every day.” He said, “Well, I don’t want you to move. Where am I going to eat lunch?”

So, he actually took a risk and loaned them the $4,000 so that they could buy that property. That’s where they were in that cart. They put a little awning over the cart to kind of celebrate the fact they now own the property.

And that’s the way it remained until 1946. And in ‘46, a cousin came along and he said, “Look, I want to go into the contracting business. I want to prove I can build something. I will build you a hot dog stand.”

And the hot dog stand that you see there today was actually built by our cousin in 1946. And it hasn’t changed much. We’ve just added more seating.

Whoa.

Yeah. So, it’s authentic, it’s original.

How did your parents even meet? What’s that story?

The hot dog stand that you see there today was actually built by our cousin in 1946.

My dad was graduating from Hollywood High School and he needed a date for the prom. And I think it was his brother, he says, “Well, I know this woman, girl, her name’s Betty Cohen.”

My dad said, “Well, all right, I’ll give her a call, but I don’t know if she’ll want to go out with me because I’m not that good looking. I wear glasses and all that.” And he invited her to the prom and that was his very first date to her. And about a year and a half later, they’re honeymooning in Catalina.

And your dad’s older than your mom?

Yeah. A couple years older.

He was older than your mom. Okay.

Yeah.

Got it.

Yeah. They passed away in the ‘90s, but they lived a full life into their 80s.

It sounds like it. Well, their legacy has been built, really.

Absolutely. We’re carrying it on.

You sure are. What were your parents like?

Well, my dad was a true character. If you want to think of somebody that should own a hot dog stand, it’s somebody with a good sense of humor that people just like to hang around.

That’s right.

So, that was sort of him, and my mom truly was the business person.

Really?

Oh yeah. She was the one that wanted to make sure the numbers were there, that all the bills were paid, and all that. And my dad was more, “Hang loose.”

Sure.

And actually, beyond the hot dog stand, they wound up building a flower store right next door to the hot dog stand. They couldn’t survive just on hot dogs.

Eventually my mom, who was raised in the flower business, working for her brother, knew how to make corsages and different displays for weddings and funerals and all that.

They opened up this flower stand that went from 1948 to 1958. I grew up working in the flower stand and working in the hot dog stand.

You probably have so many memories of that stand as a kid, huh? You and your sister, right?

Yes. Me and my sister. Yeah.

And what’s your sister’s name?

Beverly.

Beverly. And you’re the older of the two?

No, she’s 10 years older than me.

Okay. So, she was the boss.

She was around in the beginning.

She was the boss, huh?

Yeah. Even though she’s about 4’8”, I call her my “Big Sister.”

But you were probably doing all the bad jobs, taking out the garbage and this and-

I did it all.

You did it all.

I did it all. Absolutely. Yeah.

The fun part were customers that came in, sometimes early celebrities from that period, and the staff, they always kind of made fun of me because I had to take off and go back to school and all that sort of stuff.

It was a really good time and I’m glad I did it because it really taught me truly the value of hard work. I could not complain.

My parents, I used to say, worked from dawn to exhaustion. Okay. They were, between the flower business and the hot dog business, they rarely ate together because one had to always be at the business. So, it was a true working family.

Now that location, you’ve got all the studios nearby, right? As a kid, do you remember when you were starstruck?

I’ll go with, in that period, there were a number that came in, Howard Hughes, Spencer Tracy, but probably the all time interesting guy was Orson Welles.

Orson Welles. Okay.

Orson Welles, believe it or not, holds the all-time record for the most hot dogs eaten at one sitting.

Orson Welles, believe it or not, holds the all-time record for the most hot dogs eaten at one sitting.

Hmm. Okay.

18 chili dogs.

Not just hot dogs. He had chili on all 18 of them?

Oh yeah. It was full-on, fully-loaded.

My dad counted them and he said to him “Orson,” or he is called him. Mr. Welles, “You’re going to get fat.” You got to understand my dad’s humor, and he didn’t care.

Yeah. Huh. 18 chili dogs in one sitting.

Yeah, it’s the all-time record. It’s unbelievable.

I took my buddy out to a- We went to a Houston game, it was a baseball game, and he had two chili dogs, and man, he was just like-

Stuffed.

Stuffed. Just two of them. Eighteen.

Yeah.

Wow.

Well, Orson Welles weighed over 400 pounds.

Yeah.

Yeah. He is a big guy. Had a lot to feed.

Now, you hear about a lot of the success, were there any rough patches with the business?

I can’t say that there were rough patches. Obviously there’s competition that comes in and there’s staff that turn over, and then you got to bring in new- It’s tough.

Sure.

Restaurant business is tough because it’s very exacting. You think, “Oh, we can’t hurt a hot dog,” but you can sometimes get hot dogs delivered that aren’t up to standard and you got to send them back and you got customers.

More recently, people complain on Yelp if there’s anything that they don’t like. And I respond to them all. I do. We don’t get that many, thank God.

But honestly, if somebody’s unhappy, I give them their money back, whatever. I want to make sure people are happy.

If somebody’s unhappy, I give them their money back, whatever. I want to make sure people are happy.

As the business is growing, they had to do some marketing, people started to come and then they come back, they come back.

Did they ever have any aspirations of building another one over in North Hollywood? Another one on Sunset?

Yeah. My sister and I and my wife decided. My parents did not want to expand.

They did not.

Oh no. They just wanted that one simple hot dog stand. Less worry, less aggravation, and so forth. And they were also getting older and they went sort of like, “What for? What do I need it for?” was kind of the expression.

So, when myself and the family got more involved in Pink’s, we said, “How can we expand Pink’s but not invest much money?” So, we said, “What we got to do is build the brand.”

So, a combination of Chili Dogs For Charity. So, what we would do, we would have these charity events and every once in a while a TV station would come out and they would advertise, or not advertise, promote it.

Say, you come to Pink’s and the money goes to American Cancer or whatever it is, and people would come from greater distances than just LA. They would come from Ventura and Orange County because they would hear about it on TV.

And they said, “Gee, I like a good hot dog. Let’s go try it out.” Plus, it’s for charity anyway, and that kind of built the business beyond the usual 3 mile kind of trade area that most businesses have so that we were able to build it pretty much throughout Southern California by doing Chili Dogs For Charity.

Then the next thing that came along, and that built up the name that more people heard about it and thought, “Gee, maybe we ought to put a Pink’s in North Hollywood or some other area.”

And the other thing that came along that was a big game changer for us was cable television. That with the Food channel and the Travel Channel, and all the food shows.

People were starting to get interested in, “Well, where do the stars eat?” or “What’s a famous hot dog stand in LA that if you’re not going to the Governors party after the Oscars, you go to Pink’s?” kind of thing. And we have over 200 celebrity photos on our wall of celebs that have dined at Pink’s.

So, the celebrity connection, the charity connection, the Food channel, all of that, built the name where we actually started to expand. And we expanded by licensing our name to only experienced operators.

So, for example, right now we are at CityWalk at Universal City. We’re in the Camarillo Outlets. We’re at Brea Mall. Del Amo Mall. Those are all run by the owners of that mall. We’re at the LA Forum. In Vegas, we were in Vegas, in front of the Planet Hollywood Hotel for 14 years.

Oh, yeah. I remember when you came there. Uh-huh.

Okay. There you go.

I lived in Vegas. Yeah. I remember that. It was a treat.

Yeah. Kim Kardashian actually opened it-

Oh, okay.

Launched us.

Really?

And Betty White actually launched us at a CityWalk. And she said, “Well, I don’t like anything on my dog. So, just call it a ‘Naked Dog.’” So, the thing was “Betty White gets Naked at Pink’s

You know what’s so great about that, because that’s the best form of marketing. It really is. You’re not trying to convince anybody. It’s just people being natural, right?

Exactly.

That’s the best form of marketing.

It really is, and we have this line in front of Pink’s, and it’s the best word of mouth. You drive down La Brea, you see the line, must be good.

Martha Stewart once was in LA filming for one of her shows, and she was driving with her crew down La Brea, and said, “What is that line? What’s that all about?” And they said, “Well, that’s Pink’s.”

@marthastewart

The “Martha Stewart” Hot Dog at Pink’s

♬ original sound – Martha Stewart

“Well, let’s go back. Let’s go there.” And she wound up creating a hot dog, a “Martha Stewart Dog” at Pink’s. And we said, “Great.”

And she flew my wife and sister back to New York to be on her show. And we served, I don’t know, a hundred “Martha Stewart Dogs” to her studio audience.

That’s so awesome.

So, I got another story, last year, it was like the end of the- I guess it’s never the end of the pandemic, but it was getting closer to it. And so, we were going to go and take a vacation, and we’re like, “Where should we go?”

And so, we were thinking about going to Jamaica, but it was going to be too much of a pain, because there wasn’t as many planes flying, and it was going to take like 24 hours to get to Jamaica, and 24 hours to get back, with all the layovers and stuff.

So, instead we decided to take a trip, where we would go to Chicago, talking about hot dogs, right?

Okay.

Chicago.

Sure. Of course.

So, we went to Chicago. We had some of the deep dish pizza. We rented a car, a van rather, and then we just started to drive. And we were going to go from Chicago all the way to South Dakota.

And so, as we were driving, we went to Milwaukee, then we stopped over to Wisconsin Dells, and we went to a water park there and…

Noah’s Ark.

…guess where we ate lunch?

Fantastic. I love that.

Yeah. I was like- I’m like, “This can’t be the same…

“What is it doing here?”

…thing. I’m in, like, Wisconsin. What the heck is going on right now?”

Every summer, we always sell hot dogs at different water parks. Noah’s Ark is one, Raging Waters here in LA, Sea Life Park in Oahu.

I mean, by building up your name to the point where people a91354ctually want to operate it, and will put their own money into it.

So, that was sort of our homework assignment, amongst the family: How do we expand without risking a lot of money? Because we don’t like a lot of risk in our family. We grew up too conservatively.

So, I thought that was great.

That’s cool. I love it.

Ain’t that a cool story?

Yeah. It’s great.

Now outside of, I guess, domestic United States, you said you have one in Hawaii.

Well, we have one in Hawaii, but even further.

Uh-huh, okay.

We have two in the Philippines.

Really? How did that come about?

Well, there is a restaurateur here in LA. He’s got a great restaurant called Republique on La Brea, and he also has another great restaurant called Petty Cash. It’s sort of a taquería on Beverly Boulevard.

And he tapped me on the shoulder one day, I was eating at his restaurant, and he said, “Let’s open a Pink’s in the Philippines.” And I said, “What? That’s crazy.”

And he said, “Well, no, actually my sister-in-law is Filipino. And she is operating a chain of restaurants over in the Philippines. And they think that Pink’s would do great over there because in the Philippines, they love everything American, and let’s figure it out.”

And I said, “Well, that’s great, but I don’t think we can ship our hot dogs over there. Every country has got their certain restrictions on what kind of beef they’ll import.”

Sure.

He says, “I will duplicate your hot dog, the snap, the beef taste, the spices, everything, just let’s sign a deal and we’ll do it.”

And believe it or not, we opened two in the Philippines and it’s operated by that family over there. And they are absolutely the best to work with.

Wow.

They’re just kind, trustworthy, we love them.

Have you been there? Have you-

Oh, yeah. I’ve been there twice.

Really?

So, I get over there and he says, “Well, come see the store.” And I say, “Oh, this is really cool.” It was a very hip looking store. And he launched it with a couple of Filipino models and movie stars and all that. And that was really neat.

But the first thing I did, I went for the dog. And I said, “Oh, my God, I got to try this dog.”

Of course. Right.

And I said, “It’s the same. How’d you do it?” And he did it.

That’s awesome. So, cool. Were your parents still alive when they opened it?

No.

They were not.

No, they wouldn’t believe it.

They wouldn’t believe it.

Well, my folks were, they were very down to earth, and they would go, “What do you need it for?” kind of thing. “How do you maintain the quality? How are you going to train the people? How are you going to check it out? What if they don’t do well? Does it hurt the original?”

All of that goes along with the risk of expansion.

That’s right. Yep. That’s exactly right.

So, I’ve got some other questions for you. The pandemic, do you think that had a negative impact or a positive impact on Pink’s?

Negative.

Negative, for sure.

Oh, yeah. My God, we were closed for 7 months.

Oh, you guys were closed for 7 months.

We shut down.

Oh, wow.

First of all, it was too risky. Secondly, I didn’t want customers to get it. I mean, standing in line, crowding at Pink’s. I didn’t want my staff to get it. And I mean, it was serious.

So we closed, originally, for 5 months, starting March 15, 2020. And the takeout business was too small. No one wanted to leave their house, and the delivery business, too small. I mean, I couldn’t support the staff. We’d just be operating at losses. I mean, period, just losses. So, we closed for 5 months.

And then the pandemic kind of waned a little and we opened in 2021 from, I think, yeah, from like December and January. And then it became so bad, you couldn’t even get an ambulance in the city if you were sick.

I mean, it was that bad. And we closed again for 2 months.

And then we opened and now we’ve been open this whole time. And one benefit we had that a lot of restaurants didn’t, is that we had a lot of outdoor seating. So, at least you could think you were relatively safe eating outdoors.

And we closed down our dining room entirely. I didn’t want people transmitting and all that.

What would you say was the longest the line has ever been? Do you remember clearly, where you guys did some kind of promotion or something, and you just-

I think the longest line was two charity events. One was where we had- You know who Huell Howser is?

Yes. Uh-huh, uh-huh.

He had his own TV show, and people loved that show, and it’s still on today. It’s on PBS.

And so, when Huell Howser came out, we gave to his charity, and the other big one was we had JoJo Siwa.

Sure. Oh, my God.

That was big. And you know who was mainly in line? Three-year-olds.

Of course. I remember one time we were over in like, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and I guess JoJo Siwa goes to Gucci all the time. That’s her store.

And so, she was in there, and my son, Zach, was down there, and he’s seen JoJo Siwa. And my daughter, she was 3 at the time. And so, my son goes upstairs and was like, “Guess what? Brooklynn, guess who’s downstairs? JoJo Siwa is downstairs.”

So my daughter’s, like, running, “JoJo Siwa!” And running downstairs, she ran right up to her, gave her a big hug, and she was sweet.

She was, I mean, first of all, my wife and I are thoroughly impressed with her. Okay. I mean, all her fame, we understand, she is super smart.

Yeah. Of course.

And what a personality. And she was terrific. She got behind the counter. She made hot dogs. She served hot dogs.

Did she?

She signed autographs. She was great.

Wow.

And that was probably one of the longest lines we’ve ever had, when we had our, I think, that was our 80th or so.

Is that right?

Yeah.

So, you’ve got a famous chili recipe. Has the recipe been the same forever?

Yeah. Yeah.

It has.

The same recipe from 1939, today. Talk about consistency. The same hot dog recipe…

Is that-

…from then to today.

Yeah?

Yeah. I mean, I don’t want you to bring by your daughter- Brooklynn?

Yeah.

Okay. Bring by your daughter today and then she’s going to bring her kids, and I want them to taste the same when she brings her kids.

Get the same experience.

Exactly.

Yes. So, do you kind of keep that recipe in like a vault, like Coca-Cola, or what?

Well, it’s not in a vault, but it’s not-

It’s not in a vault.

It’s not. Yeah.

It’s secret.

It’s secret.

So, obviously, well, growing up right in the business, did you know that you were going to be running this, you were the succession plan or what?

Well, I figured that I was the succession plan, but my parents didn’t really want me to be in the business.

No, huh?

No. They wanted me to go off and be a professional. I mean, they dreamed of someday I could be a lawyer, so that was where I was headed.

I got an undergrad degree at UCLA. I got a law degree at Loyola. I got a master’s degree at USC. And when people ask me about it, I said, “Well, that’s what it takes to run a hot dog stand today.”

It sure does. Wow.

So, that was it. So, I went off into the professional world.

My parents were running it, and around, I don’t know, 25 years ago or so they got too old to run it, and they came to the family and they said, “Unless one of you guys takes it over, we’re going to sell it. Because we can’t run it anymore, it’s too hard, too much worry with staff and all of that.”

And so-

What was your sister doing at the time?

She was raising a family. And my wife was teaching school. She was a school teacher, and my wife had been teaching for 14 years and said, “I’ll come in.” But my folks were still working it.

So, you get a little bit of the family dynamic, so my wife came in and got along. Fortunately, she has a really adaptable personality and worked and ran Pink’s for the next, oh God, 15, 20 years.

And then I started to slow down in my real estate investment career. And the two of us, along with my sister, figured out how we could expand it to Vegas, et cetera, and how we could grow the business and run it.

I always knew that, at the time I retired, I would be more heavily involved in this business. I mean, because it was a going concern, and a good business and well known. So, we weren’t going to just sell it.

That’s your background. And so, do you have children?

No.

You don’t have children.

My sister has children, so we’re figuring that one or two-

The next generation.

The next generation to carry on the legacy of Pink’s. It’s something that we’re not only proud of, but we’re part of the city. I think we’re part of the culture of the city.

We’re part of the culture of the city.

For sure. Yeah.

In fact, the Los Angeles City Council was kind enough to designate our intersection La Brea and Melrose is Pink’s Square, and it talks about “from a push cart to an icon.”

And they mentioned my mom and dad’s name. And we went along with it, because we wanted to make sure that my mom and dad were remembered.

What do you think is your favorite part of being a part of Pink’s? What’s your favorite part of the job?

I think the best part is hanging out at Pink’s and meeting customers that come up and tell me their story about things like, “I met my future wife in line at Pink’s and we celebrate our anniversary every year at your place.”

Or someone that comes up and said, “My grandfather took me to Pink’s and we sat in that very table. And that’s where I take my kids today.” That’s the best…

Ain’t that great?

…the people part of it. I mean, sure, it’s fun to create new hot dogs, and sure, it’s fun to have some celebrities, but that’s not it, it’s really the people.

Sure, it’s fun to create new hot dogs, and sure, it’s fun to have some celebrities, but that’s not it, it’s really the people.

And people will come in from all over the country, and they’ll say, “I’m from New York and I ate at Nathan’s, and now you’re my Nathan’s.” And I just love it.

The nostalgia, right?

The nostalgia.

At the end of the day, that’s what we live for, is the stories and the memories that we have, right?

Yeah.

And then sometimes, reliving those memories with the next generation.

So, when you go in there, you said there’s 200 photos of celebrities, right? And do they change frequently?

Every once in a while.

They do. Okay.

If somebody passes away or somebody comes in, that’s just so super famous, you got to include it. And we try to figure out who won’t be offended if we take down their picture?

So, who’s up there that’s never going to get taken down?

Oprah will never get taken down.

What about Orson Welles, is his photo up there?

Yeah. I like the story. I mean, it’s not that- Honestly, a lot of young people don’t even know who Orson Welles is.

You’re right.

But when people come, we can point it out.

We got Jay Leno on the wall, because he did a skit at Pink’s that was on his show.

James Corden, Jimmy-

I love that episode, that’s so funny.

Oh, you’ve seen that.

I’ve seen the James Corden one. Yeah, it’s so funny.

Yeah, it’s called, “James Corden: Take a Break.” And he came to Pink’s and basically, the idea was he would take over somebody else’s job.

And he said, “You can take a break and all serve hot dogs,” or, “You take a break and all clean tables.” And he was kidding with the customers, and he’s just fabulous.

So, those are the kind of people that we always want on the wall. Katy Perry‘s on the wall, Stevie Wonder’s on the wall, Aerosmith, Tyra Banks.

But the original reason why you did that was really trying to connect struggling-

We didn’t do it.

Oh, really?

It wasn’t our idea. What happened was that in the early days when producers were coming to Pink’s, people that were coming out to LA to try to break into the movies said, “Well, I want to put my picture up somewhere where maybe I’ll get discovered.”

And so, they tacked their pictures up on the wall. Eventually, we started putting in frames, because it got such a mess.

Well, everybody in LA has a headshot, right? I mean-

Right. You’re in the business. And so, they would put it up there and then, eventually, they would write something nice about Pink’s.

Ellen DeGeneres‘ pictures are up there. She put on there, about my wife Gloria, “When I think of buns, I think of you.”

Well, I heard a story and I don’t know if this is a tale or if it’s true. So, one of my wife’s favorite shows of all time is Family Ties.

Okay. Michael J. Fox.

Yeah. I’d love to- So, you kind of know where I’m going.

Yeah.

So, is there some truth to this story? And tell the story.

Yes, we have been told, and by people that know Michael J. Fox, that he received the call on Pink’s public phone for Family Ties because in those days, I don’t know if he could afford an apartment, so he hung out at Pink’s in the dining room, and just hung out.

And the phone rings and somebody goes, “I don’t know if he’s here, who’s that?” And looks over and he gets, “Oh my God, really? I’ll be there in a minute.”

What? That’s amazing, right. Holy-

Let’s talk about being iconic, right. Wow.

I mean, I love that story. The other story that is just so endearing, and it was confirmed by Bruce Willis, that Bruce Willis proposed to Demi Moore at Pink’s.

What? Okay.

Yeah. And supposedly, I don’t know if it’s true, but as he told it, he says, I think, “I put her engagement ring in the chili.”

[laughs]

And I made sure she didn’t bite into it.

Our favorite guest, right? Our favorite all-time guest was Michelle Obama.

Oh wow. So, she came, huh?

She was there with her two daughters.

When was this?

This was when the Lakers were going for their fourth ring. She came out to see the game.

My wife was at Pink’s and a guy came up to her that was in Bermuda shorts, flip flops and asked her, “Are you the manager?” And she looked at the guy and she thought, well, maybe he was complaining about something. He didn’t get enough French fries or something.

Sure.

And he said, “Well, actually, I’m with the secret service, here’s my card. You’re going to have a very famous person come to Pink’s here in the next 20 minutes. And I just want you to know, and that’s why we’re here.”

And she looks around and she sees other guys that are kind of dressed in the same outfits.

Huh.

And they were just sort of blending in. And my wife said, “Well, who’s coming.” And he said, “Look, if you live on this planet, you will know this person.”

[laughs] Huh.

Within 20 minutes in our alley behind Pink’s, three Escalades drive up and out pops, Michelle Obama, her mother, her two daughters, Sasha and Malia. And my sister and my wife were there.

I wasn’t there. I missed it.

You took the day off that day?

I missed it. And they got all red. “Oh my God.” I mean, “That’s her.”

And they greeted her and she was just absolutely lovely and charming and nice. And they said, “Have a seat in our patio. We’ll get whatever you want. Here’s a menu.” Gave her a menu.

Michelle Obama went through the menu and, listen, we got 40 different kinds of hot dogs on our menu. It is not an easy menu, okay. I mean, if you like variety, it’s our menu.

But on the other hand, she went through it and she said, “Okay, I’m going to have the Polish dog, spicy, and put this on it and that on it and this on it.“

And we thought, “Oh my-” I mean usually people aren’t that quick to- So, she was smart.

Uh-huh.

She could figure it out. And the girls, I think, just had mustard on their dog because they were young. Maybe they had ketchup. I take that back.

And we got them the dogs. They wanded all the people that came through the door to make sure they weren’t caring and all that, who knew she was there, was all secret. She dined and she was thankful and said, “I love it.”

And they said, “No pictures.” Okay.

Oh that you couldn’t do a picture.

Yeah. I’m sure everybody else was snapping off, but we couldn’t. We so wanted a picture.

Of course.

But anyhow. And when they got up to leave, the entire place was full and everybody stood up and applauded.

Wow.

I mean, to this day it’s still emotional.

That’s amazing. Huh? Who would’ve thought $50 investment would bring-

Exactly.

Right.

The president’s wife was coming to Pink’s?

Yep. To that little field with the extension cord.

Right. Yeah. Actually as you would mention the word “field,” it’s Field of Dreams, right.

Field of Dreams.

Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. So, was there then, a “Michelle Obama Hot Dog,” did you name one after her?

Well, we didn’t do it. We were afraid to upset and offend and we didn’t want to exploit, so-

Oh yeah. Being too emotional.

A little bit, we’re not kind of like that. So, we have dogs named after people that have created the dog.

That’s what I was going to ask you.

Yeah.

What qualifies a celebrity to get their own dog?

Well, if they’re a chef. So Giada De Laurentiis, Martha Stewart. Emeril Lagasse, that was something.

We created one for Betty White. We’re probably going to create one for Ed Asner who passed away recently. But before he did, he wanted one.

Carl Reiner was on The Queen Latifah Show and Queen Latifah asked him if there’s anything in the world you want for your birthday, because they were going to celebrate his birthday. I think he was 93.

Mm-hmm.

He said, “You know what? I like a hot dog named after me at Pink’s.”

So, Queen Latifah’s staff called us and said, “What can you do?” And I said, “Well, he’s from New York. So, a real New York dog is mustard and sauerkraut.”

That’s right.

Okay.

Mm-hmm.

Yeah. Right? My wife and sister showed up at The Queen Latifah Show, brought out the mustard and, “Carl Reiner, this is your dog.”

And he was-

That’s awesome.

He was thrilled.

The “Meathead Dog,” right?

Yeah. Right. For the sign, right.

So, is anybody in your family a vegetarian?

No, not really.

Nobody.

Okay. Nobody. I mean, we’d advise people to eat healthy and all that. But we have a great veggie dog.

Oh you do have a veggie dog.

Oh absolutely.

Oh really? Oh, okay.

Oh yeah. I mean it’s a veggie dog top with grilled vegetables, we call them, and topped with mozzarella cheese. It’s really good.

That sounds good.

And it’s got a nice texture to it.

Well, we’re going to play a trivia game about Pink’s.

Okay.

To see how well you know Pink’s.

Oh boy. I don’t know.

So, here we go. What celebrity heartthrob got kidnapped at Pink’s?

That’s a good story. That’s Brad Pitt.

So, what’s that? What happened there?

So, Brad Pitt shows up in line with a hat, just the baseball hat, sunglasses, but everybody knows Brad Pitt. I don’t know.

I mean, if you’re a star, people just know what you look like.

Of course.

Even if you’re sort of disguised.

Mm-hmm.

So, he’s waiting in line and all of a sudden this van pulls up in front, on the curb, and two guys come out and they grab Brad Pitt and he goes, “Oh my God, I’m being kidnapped. I’m being kidnapped.”

With normal people just standing there?

Yeah. I mean, they’re like looking at this and they’re going, “Oh my God, that’s Brad Pitt.” They’re going, “Well, that’s possible.” I mean, he’s worth a billion dollars.

So, he’s screaming, and he is of course a good actor, and they’re pulling him and his legs are trying to resist it and all that. And they throw him into the van and they close the door with this big sound and everybody is just stunned and they go driving away.

Well, even one of our staff hops over the front counter and they get to the corner and all of a sudden then the door opens, Brad Pitt gets out and he waves, “I’m okay. I’m okay.
It’s really just the stunt. It’s just a movie stunt.”

Oh my God.

And it was from Jackass: The Movie.

Of course it was.

Of course it was. It’s funny. Because Johnny Knoxville came to Pink’s recently and I told him about that, but he said, “Oh yeah, I remember that.”

How could you forget everybody?

Right.

Wow. Well, you got that one right. Love the story.

Pink’s had a cameo appearance in which famous 2001 mystery film with David Lynch? It was directed by David Lynch.

Oh God. Yeah. We even named a hot dog after that whole thing. The Mulholland Drive.

Oh, okay.

Yeah. David Lynch filmed part of Mulholland Drive.

And we said to Mr. Lynch, “Look, we’re going to go see your movie and all that. And we will name a hot dog after that movie just because of the honor of you filming at Pink’s.”

Which celebrity loves Pink’s so much that they do a happy dance every time they take a bite?

That’s Oprah.

It’s funny that here we are, this little hot dog stand and we’re catering an Oprah Winfrey birthday party and we’ve done it like two times.

And staff will say, “Be sure to bring the spicy Polish.” And we do. And we show up and she eats it and she dances.

She does her happy dance.

Oh she does. She really literally dances. And she says, “I love that dog.”

It’s funny, we have shipped that dog back east to some really famous people.

Really?

Yeah.

All right.

Which actor was so obsessed with Pink’s that he, there’s a hint there, reportedly had their hot dogs flown over to him when he was shooting a film in Europe?

Well, that’s good research. Where’d you come up with that? That’s a good question.

Okay.

Kiefer Sutherland.

Flying it over to Europe because he was craving it, huh?

Yeah.

When Diana Ross was playing Vegas, in her day when she was performing, when she wanted our dogs flown to her.

Flying over, huh? Private jet, get a bunch of hot dogs on, good. Nice.

Aretha Franklin, she was doing a birthday party back in Detroit and she said, ” I got to have Pink’s.” So, we said, “Great. We will ship it to you. Is it okay? Can your team prepare the hot dogs?” And she said, “Yeah, they can do it.”

But it went to the wrong address. So, they called and they said, “It’s not here.” And the party’s like tomorrow or something. And so, it was Christmas time. That’s when her birthday was.

And we had one of our staff, he had to buy a first-class ticket. It was like $7,000 to fly these dogs to Aretha Franklin, right, because we didn’t want her to be mad at us.

Of course not.

And so, in exchange when Aretha Franklin played, I think it was Dolby or maybe it was Downtown, one of the big performances she had, she wore our hat during her performance.

And she told everybody that, “Okay, thank you very much for coming tonight and be sure to stop at Pink’s on your way.”

How great is that?

How great was that?

Wow.

And that was her payback for us flying these dogs.

That’s amazing, right?

Yes.

And so, did you guys do something in honor during her passing? Because she was a big-

I think we sold dogs for her charity.

I think I saw something like that, that you guys did for that.

Yeah we did. We’ve certainly hung a banner in front of Pink’s, “We will miss you forever.”

I saw. Yep.

Oh yeah. She was great. I mean she literally actually called our home to thank us and my wife picked up the phone.

Did she?

I mean, what an honor that Aretha Franklin’s on the phone. Oh my God.

Wow.

Yeah.

All right. You’re acing this test so far.

Which influential actor of the 20th century used to come to Pink’s with his kids so often that they named a menu after him and designated a day where you gave out free hot dogs to anyone who dressed like this actor?

There’s only one Marlon Brando, okay.

But you know him, so many people do, but a lot of younger people, they know the more current stars, and his kids were worried that people were going to forget his dad. I mean, a name as iconic as Marlon Brando.

Sure.

But they were afraid of that. So, they came to us and they said, “My dad used to take me here.” I mean, one of those stories, “And we sat at that table and he ordered a chili cheese dog,” dah-dah-dah-dah.

And so, they said, “Would you name a hot dog after him? And we will have a Marlon Brando Day at Pink’s, and as just sort of an idea, how about if somebody comes dressed as one of the characters Marlon Brando played,” whether it’s The Godfather or anything that he played.

Sure.

And so, they did and we honored Marlon Brando. We gave free dogs to anybody that came in an outfit. It was great.

Next question, which of these celebrity singers has never been to Pink’s. Diana Ross, Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin, Josh Groban or Jewel.

Well, I’m going to go- See, that’s a good one because we have Josh Groban’s picture on our wall. Certainly Aretha Franklin’s picture on our wall.

Yeah.

I don’t know about- And I don’t know- This is really strange because I’m like befuddled here.

So, you got Diana Ross, Bette Midler or Jewel.

No, Diana Ross definitely knew Pink’s. Definitely.

I don’t know about Bette Midler and I don’t know about Jewel. Okay. So, I’m blowing this because I don’t know-

Well, we might have got you here.

You might have.

You can call a friend.

I can call- I got a lifeline, right, right, right, right.

I don’t know. I have to ask my wife if Bette Midler has been to Pink’s or Jewel. I don’t know that answer.

Take a guess.

I’m blowing. I’m going to go- Gee, you guys know this answer and I don’t. So, this is really weird.

I’m going to go with Jewel because-

And you got it right.

Yeah. Because Bette Midler lives in LA, so there’s a good chance.

You’ve got it right.

Where’d you hear Bette Midler?

You know what? I wish I did the research, but Jenna did all that research.

Cool. Nicely done.

It’s on the internet there. Yeah.

Oh wow. Okay. I’m going to go home and say to my wife, “Did you know Bette Midler?” I mean, one of our favorite movie star singers. So, we love her.

She’s been there.

Okay, cool.

Which TV personality, when referring to Pink’s Hot Dogs said, “How can something so bad be so good.”

That’s James Corden?

That is James Corden. Yes.

And we’re going to include the video on the page so that if you really want to laugh, you have to watch that sketch for sure. We’ll make sure that people listening watch that.

It’s a good sketch.

He finishes it off, dressed as a hot dog, getting on a bus and the bus driver says to him, “Would you please pay?” And he goes, “Pay? I’m a hot dog. I don’t need money.” That was how it ended.

It was so cool. I don’t mean to spoil the punchline, but it’s so funny.

That’s amazing, and he just seems like such a like- I want to just go hang out with him and be his best friend.

True. Yes.

Right. You know what I mean? He just seems like such a nice genuine person, right? He’s not acting. It’s just him, right?

Well, he was in, I don’t know if this is one of your questions about “Carpool Karaoke.”

No, it’s not, but I love watching that. Yeah.

He was doing it with Katy Perry, and Katy Perry said, “Let’s stop at Pink’s.”

Oh, I didn’t know that.

Oh yeah. And so, Katie Perry goes in there, and she took a picture with our entire staff. So, she was great. We really liked her and liked her sister.

We catered an after-concert party for her. And she was just so regular, down-to-earth.

We didn’t know what- We thought she wouldn’t come out. She came out, she hugged us. “Oh, so nice to meet you. I’ve had your hot dogs.” And it’s like, “Whoa, okay. Katy Perry!”

I mean, we just watched her performance and she’s just off the chart. Great.

Has Pink ever been to Pink’s?

Actually she has. And we actually catered a roller-skating birthday party for her.

Nice.

But only veggie dogs.

Oh, she’s a vegetarian.

Full vegetarian.

Ah, okay. Got it. I was going to say that seemed obvious.

What is on a “Martha Stewart Dog”? There’s six additional items without looking at the menu.

Oh, Okay.

So, you’ve got, what is it? A 9-inch stretch dog. Is that what you got?

It’s a 9-inch stretch. And it’s topped with relish.

Got it. That’s one.

Sauerkraut.

Yep. Two.

Sour cream.

Yep.

Bacon.

How many strips of bacon?

Three.

Oh, yep.

Yeah. We don’t mince on that. We know people love bacon, so we always do three.

Onions.

Yep. And then one more.

What’s the other one? I’m going to go with mustard, but I may be wrong.

No.

No. I blew that.

Chopped tomatoes.

Chopped tomatoes, right.

Chopped tomatoes.

It’s a good dog.

Yeah.

I mean, I love it.

You know, we sometimes get some football players in from SC or UCLA and these guys, they’re like 6’5″ and weigh 250, and they say to our staff, “Oh, I’ll have two ‘Martha Stewart Dogs’ please.”

Really? Okay.

That’s great. All right, and this is the last bonus question.

Paul Pink, dad, established the hot dog stand back in 1939, the same year as which of these historic Hollywood films was released?

Singin’ in the Rain; 12 Angry Men; Wizard of Oz; Rebel Without a Cause; or Sabrina?

Okay. So, Wizard of Oz.

That’s right.

Along with Gone with the Wind.

Oh, I didn’t- That’s not on there.

Gone with the Wind was-

Same year.

Same year. Amazing year.

Huh.

It was a good year to start a business.

It sure was.

Those were some really epic films.

Wow.

Yeah. The other one, Destry Rides Again and something, Stagecoach.

Do you know a guy by the name of Rich Correll? He was a director.

No.

Okay. So, he lived in the same neighborhood as Disney, Walt Disney, and he grew up, and he was on the show, and he told the story how he was like really good friends with Judy Garland’s stepson, I believe.

And so, they were playing football in the back, and The Wizard of Oz had just came out.

Really?

And he went inside the house, and if you want to listen to this episode…

Yeah.

go check it out. If you are listening now, it’s a really good episode: Rich Correll.

And then he asked her, he said, “Hey, Mrs. Garland.” “Oh, call me Judy. “You know, I was just seeing your movie and it was really amazing. Would you mind singing me that song from the movie?”

And she sang it to him in her kitchen. How cool is that? This guy had stories for days.

If you weren’t in the hot dog business, I know you got a law degree and everything else. If your family didn’t start this business, right, what do you think you’d be doing right now?

I’d either be teaching.

Okay.

Or I would be doing something in sales.

In sales. Yeah, I could tell. You’re an authentic person, right? You’re not selling anything. People just like you.

What have you learned about yourself being in the hot dog business throughout your whole life?

I think I found that I was probably more creative than I realized. First of all, I created all the hot dogs on the menu, other than the celebrity hot dogs.

I found that I was probably more creative than I realized.

Yeah.

And I figured out how to expand Pink’s through licensing and how to build the brand. I think that that took something. I’m not a math wizard or any of that.

Yeah.

But I think that just coming out with that idea and figuring out how to build relationships and trust amongst people that want to do business with Pink’s and in the expansion with Pink’s.

Good answer.

Yeah.

How are you different from your parents?

The best way to answer that is really my wife’s observation because she knows my parents and knows me.

She says that I pretty much have their better qualities. My dad had a good sense of humor. So, I don’t know if I’m as funny as he is, but I liked stories.

Sure.

And my mom was very hardworking and I think that’s that, but they grew up very poor. So, I grew up with a different background.

I mean, by the time I was conscious, the business was already kind of getting established. So, I had a little more security, and I mean they never took out a loan.

Sure.

They wouldn’t even think of having a credit card. Maybe I’m a little bit more confident in that area that’s different than somebody that grew up during the Depression.

Sure.

So, we like to end our interviews with a segment called “Hennessey Heart-to-Heart.” That’s where I ask you a simple question and you just say whatever’s on your mind.

Right.

All right, here we go. First one, this is a question that’s been around for a long time: Is a hot dog a sandwich?

Yes.

It’s a sandwich. There’s a big debate about that.

Oh, there is.

Right?

And you know, it’s a form of the sandwich because it comes with a bun and there’s something in between and all that. I mean, it isn’t what you typically think of…

Yep.

…as a sandwich, and it’s a form of a sandwich, but I’m going to go with a form of the sandwich.

You heard it here first. So, we can reference this on the Wikipedia page for hot dogs now and just make this official. All right. There it is. Love it.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Los Angeles.

Yeah. Home.

What motivates you to work hard?

A combination of pride and fear.

Good answer.

What’s your proudest accomplishment?

Getting to the point where I was respected in both the real estate executive world and respected for owning and keeping Pink’s going. I think those are two.

I can’t separate them because I spent a lot of time building a good reputation as a real estate executive.

Got it. What makes you laugh the most?

Good comedians. I like psych gags, TV comedians. I mean, you know-

Car karaoke?

Yeah. I mean all of it. I just so enjoy it.

Is there a smell that is nostalgic for you?

Smell of hot dogs steaming, buns steaming, chili steaming; I know that smell well. I love it. That’s home for me.

Smell of hot dogs steaming, buns steaming, chili steaming; I know that smell well. I love it. That’s home for me.

Yeah. What would be your last meal on earth?

Chili cheese dog.

I’m so glad you didn’t say pizza. [laughs]

No. I mean, I live by hot dogs, I’m going to die by hot dogs.

There it is.

Have you ever had a nickname?

Not really.

No?

No. It was Richard, Rick.

What’s your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving.

A lot of good memories, Thanksgiving?

I like just the concept of it, gratitude.

Yeah.

Means a lot.

I design t-shirts once a month, and every month it’s just things that inspire me.

Right.

And so, the one that came out last month, which you can buy on jasonhennessey.com, it says, “Gratitude is an action, not a feeling.”

Right.

Got to take that-

I like that.

Got to take action.

So, we’re alike like that, okay.

Yeah.

We agree.

Are you afraid of anything?

What am I afraid of? Certainly, violence.

Yeah.

I would say anything that could happen to my wife or sister or family, anything bad, any tragedy that could happen.

Yeah.

Yeah. Bad health, sickness. I want to be able to keep sharp.

What’s your favorite type of exotic food?

Oh, I guess Thai.

Thai’s good.

Yeah. Thai’s good.

I think mine’s Indian. I like Indian food.

I like Indian. It depends. If Indian is cooked well, I like Indian a lot.

Yeah.

But I still would probably go back to Thai.

See, I grew up in New York. I’d eat the Frankfurters…

Right.

…as we talked about earlier in the show.

We had like one Mexican restaurant. We had so many pizza places and bagel places.

Right.

Of course, right? New York. And then we had Chinese food. That’s a big deal in New York too, for sure the East Coast, but never had Indian food in my life.

Okay.

Never. There’s no exotic restaurants in Copake, New York where I grew up as a kid on Long Island.

Yeah.

And so, the first time that I ever had Indian food, I was maybe like 30, 30 years old.

And a friend said, “You want to go get Indian food?” I’m like, “I don’t know about this.” And we went and I got the tikki masala, right? And I was just like, “Oh my God, this is so good.”

You want to talk Indian for a moment? I’m a tandoori chicken guy. I’m a vegetable biryani guy.

Oh, that’s good. Little spicy.

Yep. And I’m a paratha guy. Those are like my go-tos.

Yep.

Indian.

Yeah. Making me hungry. Did your family have any traditions?

I didn’t say we had traditions.

No?

I cannot say we did a regular thing. My dad wanted me to be a professional baseball player.

Were you a good ball player?

I was a good ball player.

Yeah.

Were you a good ball player?

I was a good ball player.

Yeah. I was a good ball player and I still to this day have regular emails with everybody that was on my junior varsity and varsity team.

Really?

Yeah, we still hang out together.

At Hollywood High School?

Yeah. Well, I was Fairfax.

Oh, you were Fairfax.

My dad was Hollywood.

Okay.

Yeah. I was Fairfax.

I mean, I knew who was short, who was second base, all that. So, we’d all hang out together, and my dad went to every single game and everything.

One of those pops.

What position did you play?

Well, I started as a catcher because my dad who taught Little League couldn’t get anybody to go behind the plate, so his son had to go behind the plate…

Yeah.

…which was frightening as hell, but eventually I became a catcher for 4 years and then I moved to third.

Okay.

So, I finished up high school at third.

And were you The Pink’s team? You know, what I mean? Were you sponsored by the Pink’s Hot Dogs?

For the summer, we were.

As I say, your dad’s got it, take advantage of that promo.

Of course, we did.

All right.

You called it, see?

Yeah. I love that.

We talked about this earlier in the restaurant, but just in general, living in LA, have you ever been starstruck outside of the restaurant or anything?

You know, it’s fun to meet somebody that is just so famous.

Yeah.

But I can’t say where I’m frozen…

No?

…to that point. My wife probably is more comfortable when she meets movie stars. She just kind of is easy, and feels comfortable doing it.

Sure.

And I mean, we’ve met many because not only do we do charities at Pink’s, but if we do an offsite charity event to raise money for breast cancer or something like that…

Yeah.

…there will be stars there and my wife’s great at that. I’m sort of more formal. I kind of get a little nervous, I guess. I don’t know, but she’s just really good.

She’s good. Yeah.

She’s good at it.

So, I’ve shared this on other shows, but for me, we’ve been living out here in LA since 2015, bumped into Jay Leno at a restaurant one day. That was cool.

Yeah.

But for us, it was me and my son and we bumped into John Travolta.

That was pretty cool.

Okay.

Yeah.

That was cool.

Pretty cool. Yep.

He was in a little coffee shop and my son went running up to him and I’m about to drop my phone because I’m trying to get the camera open. You know what I mean?

This is John Travolta. You got to get a photo and is he going to allow it? And he was just such a nice guy.

And he is like, “Relax, nice to meet you.”

That is just- The beauty of it is to realize how down to earth and regular, and at one point in time, they were probably like us, didn’t have a lot of money…

Of course.

…and all that.

I mean, because you like baseball, I mean, at one event we did, we raised money for Justin Turner‘s charity, and Justin Turner and his wife worked behind the counter and I said, “Look, there’ll be some cameras and you can get behind the counter. And as soon as you finish-”

“No,” and we couldn’t get them back. We couldn’t get them out. I mean they said, “No, this is so much fun.”

And Justin Turner without a beard.

Yeah.

He is a good looking guy and his wife is beautiful and they were just so down to earth, and to sit and just talk with a guy that made it all the way at what, age 36, in the majors?

Yeah.

Wow.

What’s your philosophy in life in general?

I would say my philosophy is number one- I mean, it sounds boring, but it’s really golden-rule-type philosophy.

I’ve often, when people will ask me what’s really important to think, I say, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Hm. I like that.

And connecting with people, knowing who they are and what they’re about and their story, that’s very big to me.

Connecting with people, knowing who they are and what they’re about and their story, that’s very big to me.

Trust is very big. I want people to really trust me. I mean, I generally want to be able to fulfill promises.

Sure, sure.

Talking about golden rules, I read something the other day that really resonated with me and said, “You don’t have to be great when you start, but you have to start to be great.”

Yeah. It’s very true. I mean, you’ll do it one day at a time…

That’s it.

…or it might take a week or it might take a year, but you’ll get there if you just start.

Yeah. That’s it. Powerful.

Last question. You’ve done a lot in your life. If your parents are looking down at you now, what do you think is the biggest thing that they’re most proud of you about?

I think they’re probably- Keeping Pink’s going, keeping their legacy going, keeping their memory going and alive, and remembering them, and being grateful for being given something like Pink’s that just is so epic, iconic, lasting, meaningful, bringing a lot of pleasure to people.

But I think having them remembered all these years is probably something they’re most proud of, that they were here and we won’t forget it.

Having Paul and Betty Pink remembered all these years is probably something they’re most proud of, that they were here and we won’t forget it.

There’s a whole city that remembers them.

Right.

Right?

That’s, I think, the most important thing, and that their kids grew up healthy and their kids grew up to continue with the business, and became good people.

Love it.

So, if you’re listening and you’ve never been to Pink’s, first of all, have you been living underneath a rock? But if you have never been there, La Brea-Melrose, the original location, got to go there.

Stand in line. It’s okay. It’s worth the wait and, heck, Richard might even be there.

Right.

You might even say hi and serve you the hot dog.

Be sure to say hi.

Right?

Yes.

Yes, yes.

I’d love to meet you.

Well, I appreciate you coming down.

We actually are having a party tonight here at Hennessey Studios and were you’re so kind enough to send over…

Absolutely.

…The Pink’s Truck.

Yes.

Yep.

And we’re going to have Pink’s Hot Dogs…

Absolutely.

…catered.

You brought some hats, t-shirts.

You look great.

You’re just a very kind man and I appreciate that.

Well, great. It’s been wonderful talking to you, being part of this, great questions, great interview.

Great meeting your staff. Jenna and Whitney are absolutely terrific.

They are.

And I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed this and grateful for the invitation.

Thank you so much.

Important Links

Pink’s Hot Dogs Official Website

Pink’s Hot Dogs on Instagram

Pink’s Hot Dogs on Twitter

Pink’s Hot Dogs on Facebook

Richard Pink on LinkedIn

Richard Pink’s IMDB Page

Directory of Charities and Nonprofit Organizations