One of the joys of hosting World’s Weirdest Restaurants is that I
have the pleasure of meeting a variety of weird, wacky and wonderful
characters. Without question, one of my favorite people from Season One was Jane
Bom-Bane. As eccentrics go, Jane is in a league of her own. The indefatigable
singer/songwriter/actress/host/restaurateur is the heart and soul of her
eponymously named café in the charming seaside town of Brighton.

Bob Blumer Headshot2
On the day that we taped our segment, I
met Jane early in the afternoon, a few hours before the doors of her restaurant
opened for the night. Unlike some people who turn it on for the camera, Jane is
truly the same person off-camera as she is when the cameras are rolling: a
quirky punster who sees the world through rose-coloured glasses. When she
showed me the trick tables and built-in practical jokes, her face lit up with
excitement as if it was the first time she had ever revealed the secrets to how
they work. But the true piece de
resistance
of Bom-Bane’s is Jane’s hat collection—which is part genius and
part outsider art. What I love about the hats is that they are not highly
polished, finely tuned specimens. They are more like little kinetic high school
art projects that sit on your head. It’s easy to see the love and passion that
went into making them. The hats we saw her wear on the show were only part of
her collection. At any given time, she told me she has another half dozen in
various states of disrepair in her “workshop.” When she shared that with me, I
could detect a bit of sadness, because each hat represents a period of her
life. And when a hat is out of service, it takes part of her life story with
it.

As I type this, it occurs to me that
Jane shares the same sense of wonderment and enthusiasm for all things silly as
Pee Wee Herman.  Not surprisingly, both
are equally at home entertaining adults as they are entertaining
children—largely because of their child-like spirit. And kids latch onto them
because they treat kids as if they are adults. On the evening that we taped our
segment, most of the restaurant was taken over by a 12-year-old girl’s birthday
party. I’ve never seen bigger smiles.

If
you scratch below the surface, you discover that Jane is a serious artist. Her
lyrics are clever, her melodies are sweet, and her choruses are as catchy as a
top 40 radio hit. In fact, six months after hearing her perform her brilliant
opus “I’ve got a goldfish bowl on my head”, I
can still sing the refrain.

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