National spotlight ‘surreal’ for Olive Garden reviewer in North DakotaAs Internet buzz over Marilyn Hagerty’s review of the Grand Forks Olive Garden continued to build Friday, the longtime Herald columnist said her newfound national fame was still “pretty surreal.”
By: Ryan Johnson, Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald
GRAND FORKS — As Internet buzz over Marilyn Hagerty’s review of the Grand Forks Olive Garden continued to build Friday, the longtime Herald columnist said her newfound national fame was still “pretty surreal.”
“The phone has been ringing constantly and the e-mails have been rolling in one after another,” she said. “It’s pretty wild.”
One of those calls was from producers of the popular CNN show “Piers Morgan Tonight,” who wanted the 85-year-old columnist to agree to an on-air interview about the national hysteria that started Wednesday with her restaurant review.
She is scheduled to be on the Monday show, which starts at 8 p.m.
She also is scheduled to be featured on “The Early Show” airing at 7:30 this morning on CBS.
Hagerty has taken a call from ABC’s “Good Morning America” and has an interview with NBC’s “Today” show on Monday, which will be aired at a later date.
She said she has handled the interviews the way she wants her sources to handle her own questions as she works on her columns. “I just have tried to be cooperative and answer the questions of anyone who asks me questions because I know I like people to be cooperative when I ask questions.”
Hagerty writes five columns a week for the Herald, including “Dear Shirley” and “The Eatbeat.” The newspaper soon will send Hagerty to New York City for a special assignment. Internet sensation
Soon after her review of Olive Garden was posted on GrandForksHerald.com early Wednesday morning, it began shattering records.
All five most viewed stories on Friday afternoon were the Olive Garden column, stories about that column going viral and other Hagerty columns. Two of the most e-mailed stories were also by and about Hagerty.
By 6 p.m. Friday, the Olive Garden column had tallied about 424,000 views. It had been e-mailed through the Herald website 454 times.
The second most read story, about a fireworks accident that decapitated a Fargo man in July, had 207,000 views.
Hagerty’s Olive Garden column took the Internet by storm after popular websites such as Fark, Gawker and Boingboing posted links and thousands of Twitter and Facebook users followed suit Thursday and Friday. Many were charmed by Hagerty’s matter-of-fact review of a chain restaurant and her earnest tone.
Mainstream media outlets took notice and wrote their own stories about Hagerty, including the Star Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press.
Since Thursday, the Herald has responded to several requests for Hagerty’s photo from People magazine, the Huffington Post, ABC News and several national publications and websites.
Hagerty also has appeared on multiple radio stations to discuss her Internet fame.
Still the same She said the first response she heard about her column was an e-mail with the word “pathetic.” Her story probably went viral, she said, because “somebody just ran across it and thought it was kind of dumb.”
But Hagerty said virtually everyone else who has e-mailed or called since that initial criticism has supported her column and the writing style that she has employed at the Herald since the early 1960s.
“I think the fact that people were criticizing me and saying mean things makes people want to reassure me and say nice things,” she said.
Hagerty said she still does not understand the fuss.
“I just feel mostly amused and interested and amazed that people have so much time to worry about such things,” she said. “I’ve got more to worry about than that.”
Hagerty said the Internet buzz surrounding her Olive Garden review, as well as her past reviews of Taco Bell, Italian Moon and other Grand Forks restaurants, probably will “blow over in a few days.”
No matter how long it lasts, she said her time in the spotlight will not change her approach to the job or the matter-of-fact approach she takes to review local eateries.
“I just don’t care,” she said about the attention. “It makes no difference to me. It’s interesting; that’s what I think it is, very interesting.”
But she said the hoopla over her critique of the Olive Garden’s salads and chicken Alfredo could have one noticeable impact: It will generate plenty of ideas for future columns. “It will do that for sure.”
The Grand Forks Herald and News Tribune are owned by Forum Communications Co.