Knoxville man gets the VIP treatment for his birthday tradition

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) - Hard Rock Cafe in Gatlinburg rolled out the red carpet in Gatlinburg Sunday to help a special guest celebrate his annual tradition.

Chris Starling celebrated his 37th birthday alongside his 12-year-old nephew Nicholas. It was the 7th Chris has celebrated here at the Gatlinburg Hard Rock Cafe.

"Everywhere we go. We go on vacation, we always have to go to a Hard Rock. He's been to Memphis, he's been everywhere, hard rock," said mom Debbie Starling.

He's arguably the chain's biggest fan, but that was a little known fact until Hard Rock was tipped off earlier this year. Now it's wasting no time reciprocating the love.

"Rolling out the red carpet. Treating him like a rock star. So we're really, really excited to have him," Hard Rock's Sales and Marketing Manager Deborah Sims-Gregory.

And for that, mom Debbie is eternally grateful.

"It makes you feel great. Just knowing people accept him for who he is," said Starling. Because it wasn't always that way. "Two days after he was born the doctor came in and said, 'He has downs. We recommend you tell all your friends he died and put him in a group home. Do not bring him home. Institutionalize him immediately."

Flash forward 37 years and Chris is a strong, independent man who's not afraid to hit the dance floor.


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