Ten crisp $100 bills, each signed by Charlie Sheen. To some, that might sound like a collector’s item. But to Rob Knelly, it was just sorely-needed cash.
Knelly was the server who LeSean McCoy famously stiffed on a tip after a Sept. 2014 meal at at neon-lit burger joint PYT. The former Eagle left just 20 cents on a $60+ check, prompting PYT proprietor Tommy Up to post the receipt on Facebook, calling out the sports star for his stinginess.
A party promoter before he got into the bar biz, Up is no social media newbie — the absurd burger creations he serves (deep-fried Twinkies as buns? A donut burger with chocolate-covered bacon?) seem custom crafted to go viral. But even he didn’t expect the response the tightwad tip received. His original FB post was shared 3,258 times, and the story was picked up by media outlets around the globe.
It spread so far that it reached the nether regions of the internet, where former Hollywood stars who have since latched onto smaller screens grasp at the remaining vestiges of attention afforded by new platforms.
More than three years after he first joined Twitter, racking up 600,000 followers in eight hours, Charlie Sheen decided the PYT tip controversy was the perfect opportunity to weigh in.
He wrote a miniature note pledging $1,000 to Knelly, and successfully got his name back in the news. And then he actually delivered.
“I got to have the most amazing back-and-forth [email] convos with Sheen’s manager and ‘receptionist,’” Tommy Up told Billy Penn. “They were pretty funny.”
After working out logistics, by the end of the month, a FedEx envelope arrived at the restaurant with those 10 C-notes and a Charlie Sheen photo inside. According to a Philadelphia Daily News report, Knelly donated $100 to PAWS no-kill animal rescue, and used the rest to pay off bills.
It was maybe the start of a kinder, gentler era for Sheen, who described his eccentric “Tiger Blood/Winning” Twitter-posting days as the result of “a ‘roid rage” during an interview with Today Show’s Matt Lauer.
Up would gladly welcome the actor to his bar if Sheen wanted to visit, although he’d have to either go to NYC or wait until May. The original Piazza location of PYT, its birthplace, closed for good last month.
“Piazza had slowly been not feeling exciting to me,” Up said.
Philly needn’t lament the lack of burgers topped with fried PBR for long, because a replacement PYT is planned across from the Fillmore on Delaware Ave. Per Up, who is targeting a May 2016 launch there: “I love the neighborhood and love music. [The new location] just felt right.”
Meanwhile, PYT Burger is burning bright on the Bowery in Manhattan, where a similarly neon-filled outpost launched this September.
“Busy. Busy. Way different!” said Up, describing his New York experience so far. Asked what’s selling best, he could hardly pick an item. “We are doing our all-time best-sellers here so they are all really popular.”
Among the hot dishes: A cheesesteak pretzel, the chocolate bacon donut burger and a Jameson pickleback burger (with fried pickles and whiskey-glazed bacon). Also on the menu is a burger that sells for a cool $64.
“It’s 100 percent Wagyu rib-eye with 25 percent fat,” Up explained. “At the shop we get it from, they serve it as beef sashimi.”
Do people buy it? That’s affirmative. “The area we’re in is a really cool mix of locals, partners and weirdos, with a lot of burger aficionados,” said Up.
He added: “I miss the hell out of Philly.”