Earlier this week Ben’s Chili Bowl’s mural was altered with a wheat paste of North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un over Bill Cosby. It’s surprising it took this long.
Ben’s Chili Bowl is a D.C. institution beloved by locals and tourists alike. For decades Bill Cosby was the unofficial spokesman for the restaurant. For decades everyone thought this was great. Things change. The Ben’s mural has to change.
Ben’s deserves a better person than Cosby. Ben’s has served enough beloved celebrities and politicians and their U Street location is full of photos of them. Here are some viable options of Cosby replacements, all of which can already be found on the walls inside Ben’s.
Serena Williams is an unstoppable force. People throw that phrase around casually but it’s 100% accurate here. Let’s start with the stats: 36 total Grand Slams, 69 Singles Titles, 6 Australian Opens, 6 US Opens, 22 Doubles Titles, 3 French Open, 4 Gold Medals, 2 Mixed Doubles, and 6 Wimbledons. The only Grand Slams most people have are from Denny’s. Sick burn! As a woman I wouldn’t mind seeing a mural of Serena in all her physical glory, especially because people seem uniquely obsessed with her body. Folks can’t seem to wrap their minds around muscular arms on a female athlete, well imagine those arms gracing the wall of Ben’s Chili Bowl. Maybe a new slogan? “Welcome to Ben’s Chili Bowl, You’ll 30 Love It!” Alternatively “Welcome to Ben’s Chili Bowl: YOU GOT SERVED.”
He’s a great actor and a charitable human. By all appearances Denzel Washington is a good man. For my money he should get the coveted mural spot for one reason and one reason only. His last name is Washington. Also, there was a brief time in 2006 when He Got Game was one of my favorite movies. It’s a beautiful film.
When you think Buddy Cop Film there is only one franchise that comes to mind. Lethal goddamn Weapon. The scene where Danny Glover is trapped on his own toilet because a bomb will detonate if he moves is perfect, top to bottom, pun forever intended. Don’t you think he should be rewarded with a mural on the wall of Ben’s Chili Bowl because he was forced to work with a man who turned out to be way more Mad than Max? Oops, Mel Gibson is anti-semitic. Danny Glover, however, is a real treasure. Painting his mural will be like the world apologizing to him for needing him to reunite with Gibson for four films. Turns out the real lethal weapon was bigotry all along. Danny puts the LOVE back into Glover.
If Ben’s wants to stick with a comedian, how about Dave Chappelle? Chappelle shot his first hour-long comedy special, Dave Chappelle: Killin’ Them Softly, at the historic Lincoln Theatre which is right next door to Ben’s Chili Bowl. Is there anything more wonderful than Dave’s face smiling at the place where it all began? I can think of nothing better.
He’s not nearly as tied to D.C. as Chappelle but he has a longer, more varied career. Like Chappelle he has groundbreaking stand up specials (1996’s Bring The Pain and 2004’s Never Scared were recorded in D.C.) and television shows (The Chris Rock Show) but Rock also has children’s films, family friendly television shows and a no bullshit, right-side-of-history public persona.
This is a selfish pick that most every Washington sports fan would enjoy. The current Oklahoma City Thunder player is a D.C. born and bred superstar. And his contract is up at the end of this season. And John Wall wants him to become a Wizard. And his addition to the Ben’s mural wouldn’t hurt.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
As of this writing, the Ben’s mural features four males. As of this writing, D.C. has no vote in Congress. Would anyone be upset with D.C.’s biggest champion who happens to be a woman replace someone who doesn’t even live in the District?
Ben and Virginia Ali
Without the founders of Ben’s, there isn’t a cultural/food institution on U Street. It’s highly unlikely people will care what’s on the side of Solly’s, The Brixton, or Starbucks in 50+ years. One of the reasons Ben’s has been able to last this long is due to the support of Bill Cosby. He was the unofficial ambassador for the restaurants for decades. While his influence can and should not be denied, he was not the most important aspect. The two most important people to Ben’s are Ben and Virginia Ali. It’s obvious. Sure, the place already has his name, but why can’t both of them replace the once beloved star? They’re well known in the area, their story is inspiring and no one, even Cosby, can be offended by being replaced with the owners.