It could have been any number of factors that made me do something so rash. I'd just finished reading The Sun Also Rises and was

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Tim "Love" Lee

It could have been any number of factors that made me do something so rash. I'd just finished reading The Sun Also Rises and was under the spell of Hemingway's concise prose. Or maybe it was my pending layoff, which has me meticulously pinching pennies to prepare for hard times. Perhaps the restrictions of my new diet had begun to try my willpower.

Who am I kidding? The real reason I went to dinner at El Gaucho was because somebody else picked up the tab. I could never afford the pricey Belltown steak house on my own dime. But I had been asked by a golf magazine for successful 18- to 34-year-old males to pen a guide to Seattle eateries, and excluding El Gaucho—which I'd inaccurately pegged as catering to cigar-huffing, martini-swilling meatheads—seemed impossible. Expense account at the ready, I asked one of my few unattached, red meat-eating co-workers to join me, and off we went to "conduct research."

At first, the warm, candlelit dining room reminded me of the mock Brown Derby restaurant at Disney World. Then again, I don't often dine in swank environs. Yet I quickly became acclimated, and within minutes—a tumbler of Knob Creek in hand, jazz standards like "Blame It On My Youth" tinkling from the piano—I ceased struggling to estimate how much this flight of culinary anthropology was going to cost. As my date and I tucked into a fragrant appetizer of shrimp cooked in beer, cream, and tongue-tingling spices, any guilt or ethical reservations melted away.

But about halfway into our 16 oz. New York peppercorn steaks, my companion set down her knife. "It seems so extravagant," she confessed, surveying the quiet choreography of the black-tie servers.

"Think of it as a big game of 'Let's Pretend,'" I suggested.

"How so? As in, 'Let's pretend we'll someday date a man classy enough to bring us to a joint like this,' or 'Let's pretend Kurt turned straight and this evening marks the beginning of a new phase in our relationship'?"

Both scenarios seemed unlikely. "You're right," I conceded. "Just accept it for what it is: an indulgence. We're about to lose our jobs. Let's enjoy this extravagance before a lean summer of sending out resumes and catching up on daytime TV." My friend had no trouble swallowing that excuse . . . followed by a fruit and cheese platter, a lemon-flavored burnt cream, and the amusement of watching me calculate the tip on the astronomical bill.

While this little episode of Who Wants To Eat Like A Millionaire? reminded me how intoxicating it is to splurge on something outrageously decadent, it will be quite some time before another such opportunity arises. Thank God then for The Continuing Adventures of Tim "Love" Lee, The Man Who's Been Everywhere But In Love (on Tummy Touch Records), the opulent sophomore release from the U.K. DJ/producer. From the majestic bells and sensual strings of the opening "Exit 747" to the woozy finale "Go Down Dixie," which sounds like Tennessee Ernie Ford being stretched like Silly Putty, this disc delights with champagne bubble beats and post-modern exotica. Just plucking the gold-colored CD out of the jewel case makes a guy feel like King Midas, and the price is a lot more affordable.

Alas, when I rang up Mr. Lee to discuss his pending Emerald City date, he was in the throes of an uncharacteristic burst of economy, curtailing our conversation because the meter was running on costly recording studio time. By the time he'd shared his views on corporal punishment (despite penning such dance floor classics as "Ruffbutt" and the spanking anthem "Again Son," Lee favors a spare-the-rod approach to discipline) and confirmed that yes, he really did play Hammond organ in Katrina & the Waves (albeit post-"Walking On Sunshine"), the chat was nearly over.

Lee did reveal that he won't be treating us to an orchestral spectacular—this time. "I'm just doing a DJ set. This is actually going to be my last DJ tour of America." After that, he's hanging up his headphones. "I want to get a proper band together, but don't expect that till next year. So I'm going to be playing all the records I've never gotten away with playing before . . . nobody's going to invite me back to Seattle."

Let's hope that's not the case, and that Lee treats Seattle to a night of giddy disco frivolity and funkadelic fancy, then returns next year with his live ensemble to dish out even more aural ecstasy. Because we all need to indulge our decadent side from time to time. But I know my waistline—and my physician and my bank balance—will be happier if that fix is supplied by Tim "Love" Lee rather than regular visits to El Gaucho.

Tim "Love" Lee plays the Baltic Room Thursday, May 3 at 9 p.m. Call 625-4444 for details.

 
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