Monday, July 15, 2013

Paula Deen's Tunica Vanishing Act

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Like a gambler who's had too much to drink, Paula Deen is getting the bum's rush from Harrah's Tunica Casino two weeks after her career imploded.

"Coming Soon! All New Buffet Experience" say the signs outside of the erstwhile Paula Deen's Buffet on the second floor of the casino.

Gone are the Paula Deen lifesize cutouts in the lobby, the Life-of-Paula photo collage next to the cash register, and most of the branded merchandise in the gift shop. Signs say all such merchandise is 50 percent off, but the markdowns were more than that last week on the cookware and relatively high-end stuff, according to employees.

I snagged a pink t-shirt, modeled here by Flyer colleague Bianca Phillips, for $9.99 and a pair of refrigerator magnets for a dime each (formerly $5) featuring Paula's sons Bobby and Jamie who, unlike most of Paula's corporate partners, defended her during the storm.

"Neither one of our parents ever taught us to be bigoted toward any other person for any reason," Bobby Deen told CNN's "New Day" in an exclusive interview with Chris Cuomo.

"Our mother is one of the most compassionate, good-hearted, empathetic people that you'd ever meet," he added. "These accusations are very hurtful to her, and it's very sad."

Harrah's Tunica spokesman Patrick Collins said "We have no news to report on the buffet at this time."

The 560-seat no-name buffet is still open and serving Deen's southern-style cooking and signs on the road to the casino still tout the Paula Deen Buffet as an attraction. At lunch hour Monday, the buffet was nearly deserted and some of the shelves in the gift shop had been stripped bare.

Caesar's Entertainment, the casino's parent company, announced on June 26th, the day Deen appeared on the "Today" show and five days after the story broke, that it was ending the relationship by "mutual agreement." But no details were disclosed, and employees said they did not know what would replace the Paula Deen Buffet, a fixture in the casino since 2008.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Deen has hired a new legal team to defend her in the racial and sexual harassment lawsuit. She has also parted ways with her agent who was head of media strategy for Paula Deen Enterprises.

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