Come Back to Us, Hernando W.

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Hernando W. described his "sensual" experiences at St. Louis businesses in a series of unforgettable Yelp reviews. - IMAGE VIA YELP
  • Image via Yelp
  • Hernando W. described his "sensual" experiences at St. Louis businesses in a series of unforgettable Yelp reviews.
In every age, there are those who see the mundane and recognize possibility. The visionaries. The singers. The artists. They shake us from our routines in ways that are transformative and lasting.

There was once such a man — or maybe a woman pretending to be a man — who flashed across the St. Louis skyline.

His name was Hernando W. His time was 2012. And his platform was Yelp.

"After an erotic morning, my wife 'Biff' and I were craving meat. Alas, we jumped in my 93 Ford Fiesta named 'Carmella' and we were off."

So begins a four-star review of Tower Grove East restaurant The Shaved Duck. It is classic Hernando — a mix of formal language and unapologetic sexuality balanced against a charming cluelessness. Biff and Carmella are recurring characters across nearly a dozen reviews of St. Louis businesses. The writer is also occasionally accompanied by his twin brother, Fernando, and tirelessly plugs his album, Sensual Guitar.

He was often enthusiastic but also unwilling to soften his critiques when displeased. His two-star review of Chippewa sex shop Simple Pleasures — "what I imagine stepping into the Marquis de Sade's dungeon would be like" — describes his disappointment with the lack of Betamax porn tapes, as well as a supposed clash with the clerk. 

"Make haste when visiting Simple Pleasures, for the angry madam behind the counter does not appreciate true dash and romance — more of a 'wham, bam, thank you ma'am'!" he writes. "I tried to leave her a copy of 'Sensual Guitar' by Hernando on vinyl record, but she chased me away."

St. Louis has seen other parody accounts on Yelp, but the dedication to character, perfection of tone and consistency of narrative across eleven reviews stand alone as a tiny masterwork. Even the profile picture, a reappropriated portrait of the debonair science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, seemed an inspired choice.

"Hernando" did not go unnoticed. When local Yelpers planned a meetup on Cherokee Street, Hernando promised to attend and play Sensual Guitar in full. Not everyone got the joke, but several were excited by the prospect of engaging with the mysterious man of the world.

"Hernando, why don't you bring your charming wife, 'Biff' instead of the guitar," wrote Yelper Steven B. "I'm sure she'd enjoy a nice night out and an opportunity to meet new friends." 

Sadly, no one claiming to be Hernando ever showed up, Steven B. tells the Riverfront Times, nearly four years later. 

"I wish he was still around," he says. "I think he may have had his fun and moved on."

Reviewer Margo C. says she friended Hernando on Yelp, so she wouldn't miss any of his postings.

"That man has a way with words, right?" she tells the RFT. "What a gift. I wish I knew who the real Hernando was/is."

The bulk of Hernando's portfolio appeared in a flurry over nine days, beginning September 9, 2012, with five stars for McDonald's in Webster Groves — he loved the "salted frites" —  and finishing on September 17 with an introduction to the "popular Japanese entertainment 'Karaoke'" at the One Nite Stand Dance Club in Benton Park West:

"It was recently my twin brother 'Fernando's birthday, and as a mature man with a musky scent, it was decided we (he, some friends from our swingers group, and I) would take him to the 'One Nite Stand Dance Club'."

Hernando returned once more to Yelp in December 2012 after a "two month tantric sensuality" session to review Sugarfire Smoke House. Then he disappeared — an Amelia Earhart of St. Louis letters.

Today, his admirers are left to stumble across his legacy in casual searches for a bite to eat, auto repair shops and University City gyms. But if only we could have found one of those copies of Sensual Guitar.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy



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