Louisville Magazine

NOV 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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A bout a year and a half ago, in June 2011, Lynn Winter said to me, "I don't give a (expletive) (expletive) what you write." She had recently filled out this magazine's monthly questionnaire — her restaurant, Lynn's Paradise Cafe, would soon celebrate 20 years in business — and after it was pub- lished in our Derby issue, she invited me to her place to talk and drink Heineken. I brought a reporter's notebook, thinking something might come out of it, but instead decided to simply listen. What I remember is that I found Winter — who's surely gotten more local and national press than any other Louisville restaurant owner (probably more than all of them com- bined) — to be what I could only describe as reclusive. "For a long time," she said, "I just haven't wanted to be in the public at all." Tis was somebody whose macaroni and cheese had been on Oprah. We hung out once more, lost touch. I tucked away the story idea, figur- ing it might emerge down the line like a forgotten $20 bill in a jacket pocket. Tis past September I gave Winter a call out of the blue, not having talked to her in more than a year. She thought somebody from the w inter fell in love with two studios at Mellwood and decided to rent both. "I just couldn't help myself," she says. Other artists in the building call one of her spaces "the penthouse," which is where the two of us meet. She wants to construct massive mobiles here and likes this part of town because it is "frontier-ish." Te late-afternoon September sun splashes through giant windows, their sills acting as bookshelves for titles such as On Writing Well, Heidi and Te Singularity Is Near, which is about the moment in time when artificial intelligence will surpass humans as Earth's smartest life form. Winter's blousy black shirt will be the only one I see her in while reporting this story. "I have one shirt right now," she says. "I'm like Einstein. I could wear the same damn uniform and the same crazy hair the rest of my entire life and I'd be happy." She designed and sewed her stretchy "Magic Pants" — this afternoon they're gold; an- other day's seem covered in constellations — which used to sell for $85 at the World of Swirl, the retail store attached to her restaurant. Her face is without makeup, and a loose black scrunchie fails to cor- ral her so-blonde-it's-white hair. She does think about her appearance enough to say a version of what she'll repeat to me seven different times: "I was 100 pounds lighter before I had a heart attack and broke my ankle cage fighting." She has an UGG-brand slipper on her left foot and a medical boot ´*R LQ DQ\RQHᅣV KRXVH DQG \RX ZLOO ÀQG WKHLU FKDLU DQG WKHLU ÁRWVDP DQG MHWVDP LV ZLWKLQ DERXW DQ DUPᅣV UHDFK LI \RX ZHUH WR VSLQ LQ D FLUFOH µ :LQWHU VD\V ´,ᅣYH WULHG WR WKLQN WKURXJK WKDW QLQH VTXDUH IHHW RI PH µ advertising side was trying to get me to goose her for money. I rang again the following morning, asking if she'd let me spend some time with her for a piece. "I'd love it!" she shouted. We planned to meet on a Tuesday, which she canceled because she broke her foot. ("Long story," she said, which she often says. Aung San Suu Kyi, whom Winter described as the Burmese version of Nelson Mandela, was in Louisville to give a speech and was planning to go to lunch at Lynn's Paradise Cafe for her first meal at a restaurant in some 20 years. Win- ter had little notice and crammed into a pair of shoes she never wears. When she got out of the car at the restaurant, her right heel — and foot — broke.) When I called Wednesday, something had changed. At one point she said, "You can't (expletive) (expletive) with me," using the F-word in a powerful adverb-verb combo that she likes. She rambled. She said, "I'm not a normal article." She said she can't eat out in her "own country." She said, "I'm neither Democrat nor Republican. I can say that Bill Clinton is great and Ronald Reagan is great." She said I was the only journalist she trusted right now. She said that she had loved the late New York Times writer R.W. "Johnny" Apple Jr. She said, "You don't think you're better than Johnny Apple, do you? No." She said she was sorry for crying while retelling the Aung San Suu Kyi story but that it was one of the most important days of Winter's life. She said she wanted any piece about her to be controversial and funny and serious, that it had to have a rhythm and surprises and ups and downs. "It's like music in my head when I read something like that," she said. I called back Tursday. She said she felt bad about some of the things she had said and that I could go ahead and interview her. We agreed to meet on Friday at the Mellwood Art and Entertainment Center, a short drive from her Crescent Hill loft. Tat would be the beginning of more than 50 hours together. [60] LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 11.12 on her right, which she rests on a rolling chair like the one she's sitting on. "Want a good beer?" she asks. She gets up. From one of her back- packs she pulls out two bottles of La Fin du Monde and hands one to me after twisting off its cap. I bring up the restaurant. She men- tions that she signed the original lease for Lynn's Paradise Cafe, which started on Frankfort Avenue before moving to its current location on Barret Avenue, on May 30, 1991, which was her 29th birthday, and opened that Aug. 3. Now she's 50. "Can I just riff? You're sure you're cool with that?" Winter says we all basically live in a nine-square-foot block. "Go in anyone's house and you will find their chair, and their flotsam and jetsam is within about an arm's reach if you were to spin in a circle," she says. "I've tried to think through that nine square feet of me." Al- ways near: her MacBook, iPads plural, books, magazines, newspapers (she reads the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Courier-Journal every day). Winter sleeps in a La-Z-Boy instead of a bed because of an esophageal hernia that she's pretty sure she sustained several years ago while doing Olympic-style weightlifting. "Gravity helps it to be nor- mal," she says. (Tat's if she sleeps at all. At 3:11 early one morning, she sends me a text message that reads, in part, "Tere is a great two- part documentary on Woody Allen. Funny as hell!!!") For her 50th birthday, Winter bought nine identical coffee-with-cream-colored La- Z-Boys — four for her loft in Crescent Hill, two for her other space at Mellwood and three for this room, including one for the interior balcony. "Tat is so embarrassing, but I'm admitting it right now," she says. She adds, "I think about all the relationships I've had — all the wonderful men I've been with — and I think to myself, 'Jesus mother (expletive) Christ, if we could've only both slept in a La-Z-Boy.'" She laughs bursts of buckshot. "La-Z-Boys are ugly as (expletive) because the men don't care what they look like. As a chick, I want to make 'em Photos by Lynn Winter

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