I doubt that anyone who ever dined at Molly Murphy’s House of Fine Repute in Oklahoma City ever forgot the experience. I had the honor of going twice as a high school student (both times tagging along with my friend Jeff’s family), so I can tell you first hand that all the wacky stories you heard about the place (at least from a customer’s point of view) were true. The wait staff consisted of everybody from Little Red Riding Hood and Michael Jackson to Da Moose and Mighty Mouse, and every employee stayed in character all night long. The salad bar — excuse me, salad car — was made out of an old Jaguar. The place was as crazy and wacky as it sounds.
A second Molly Murphy’s location was later opened in Tulsa, and a Mexican-themed restaurant (“Ta’Molly’s”) was also opened, but neither were as popular as the Oklahoma City location, which sat on Meridian between I-40 and the airport. The restaurant was mentioned in Playboy Magazine and made the list of the top 100 restaurants in the country. And on January 1st, 1996, the extremely popular Molly Murphy’s suddenly closed its doors forever, an act that has left people asking for years, “Whatever Happened to Molly Murphy’s House of Fine Repute?”
The answer comes in the form of a book, appropriately titled, “Whatever Happened to Molly Murphy’s House of Fine Repute?” Written by Jeffiee Tayar, the wife of Molly Murphy’s founder and owner Bob Tayar, the 88 page self-published book answers not only what happened to Molly Murphy’s, but what happened to Jeffiee Tayar as well.
“Whatever Happened” is Jeffiee’s whirlwind autobiography, beginning with the meeting of her future husband Bob and ending, ultimately, with his passing. In between those two events, Jeffiee takes her readers through the Tayars’ romp across the Oklahoma City restaurant scene. The two Tayars most often found success by finding successful restaurants and copying their designs. Pre-Murphy’s, the Tayars opened their own “Charcoal Kitchen” right down the street from the “Charcoal Oven”. Jeffiee explains that although she and her husband were sued because their building and grounds “looked almost identical” to the Charcoal Oven’s, they won because “just as designer dresses can be copied, so can a building be copied.”
After a string of restaruant successes and defeats, the Tayars found another successful restaurant to copy — San Antonios’ Magic Time Machine — and hired the restaurant’s designer to build them a similar restaurant in Oklahoma City. The result was Molly Murphy’s, which opened in the spring of 1976.
Only 13 pages of the book (Chapter Two: “Success!”) cover the fun times at the restaurant, and half of that chapter delves into the house the Tayars had built in Nichols Hills and the parties they held there. By the time readers reach chapter three (“Losin’ It”) the Tayars are already losing money hand over fist due to failed restaurants, wild spending habits and too many hands in the accounting pot. The restaurant was already in a nosedive when sales took another blow due to the April 19th, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. And then there was “The Incident” — an altercation with a local news reporter that put the final nail in the restaurant’s coffin and led to an almost decade-long court battle.
With the restaurant closed on page 56, Jeffiee fills the final third of the book with her life post-Molly Murphy’s. The worst case scenario is chronicled here as Jeffiee parts with her house, her jewels, and her pride. Names are named along the way, and believe me, when they said “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned,” I don’t think they realized Jeffiee Tayar would be writing a book about it. In the years after the restaurant closed Jeffiee took multiple jobs just to survive, from motel manager to selling used cars. Not only do the Tayars spend years waiting for a settlement from suing a local news station, they also end up in another court battle suing each other. It is a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare’s jealousy.
Jeffiee’s rags-to-riches-to-rags story is at times both exciting and depressing. “Whatever Happened to Molly Murphy’s House of Fine Repute” answers the titular question, but doesn’t capture the fun spirit of the restaurant so many customers remember. (For that, I suggest the similarly priced but significantly thicker (340 pp) book “Who Are You Supposed to Be?“, written by ex-employee Darren Stone aka Mighty Mouse). Jeffiee’s book is a reminder that businesses that appear like fun and games take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to maintain