Soon after remodeling the Duplex Diner in 2011, then-owner Kevin Lee asked Tony Frye to design posters to put in the lightboxes above each booth. Frye, a graphic designer and a former art director for Metro Weekly, thought to make a series starring the new chairs, posed in different positions, that Lee had bought for the space. “I thought of the whole story that happens at the diner,” Frye says. “You come in and meet someone, you hook up with them, you have drama — and then you get drunk about it.”
The popular campaign led to T-shirts and another series in which the chairs portray various Queens — from Dairy to Drag. Since then, the lightboxes have seen a steady stream of clever and funny promotions, both for the diner itself, often using gay-popular movie quotes and for the parties hosted there. The latest series displays some of Duplex’s best-known dishes, set off using lyrics from ’80s-era pop songs, a nod to the venue’s popular Breakfast Club dance party.
A couple years ago Frye created a perennial poster for Duplex’s “Tots and Tiaras” New Year’s Eve party in which he crowned a tater tot with — what else? — a tiara.
“The first thing we discovered is that tater tots don’t stand up,” he says of the photo shoot. The problem was solved by propping them up, “very carefully,” with a toothpick. Frye also notes that it takes time to find a photgenic tot: “You can bake 100 of them, and they all sort of look like the land of the mutated tater tots.”
View some of Duplex’s lightbox art below:
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