Monday, December 14, 2020

The stuff memories are made of...

End of an era
A friend just sent me a snippet from the Post
reporting that Manhattan's iconic 21 Club is
closing. Yet again the Coronavirus has killed
another ninety year old. In this case an eatery
which has played a key role in my life. Post
it's speakeasy start "21" became the "it" spot.
Where business tycoons, celebrities, and old
money mixed together like a perfect Martini.
To many it was a club house where over the
years friends became family. And each lunch
hour men like my Father ordered the same
thing in the same booth at the same time. Yet
now it's nothing but a memory of times past.
Man with a plan
As a advertising whizkid all I wanted was to
join that club. So I scheduled an client lunch
at 21. Identifying myself as "Howard Clark's
boy" I made a reservation with Walter - the
infamous table wrangler. On the designated
day he escorted us to a red leather booth in
the Bar Room downstairs. NOT "Siberia"
upstairs. Seated under a sea of hanging gee
gaws Then as arranged - a friend called and
asked to speak to me. Soon thereafter Walter
ceremoniously brought over a phone (rotary)
and plugged it in. And finally I felt as if I'd
grown up. And had made it to the big time!
Equal opportunity
While living in Chicago I became a regular
at "Crickets" the midwest's equivalent of 21.
However over the years I made the journey
back as often as possible. I'll never forget a
New Year's Eve shortly after coming "out".
Dressed appropriately in black tie - my then
beau took me to 21 to ring in the new year. 
There we were - the only two men seated
together amidst a red sea of conservatives.
Suddenly - he held out his hand and led me
onto the dance floor. Post cutting the rug we
received a round of applause. Proving that
anybody can change with the times.
Tried and true
As with all cherished old friends - 21 will
always be in my heart. Along with those
twenty one day dry aged steaks, creamed
spinach, chicken hash, and rice pudding. 
But what I'll miss most is that feeling that
I always got post walking down the stairs
and into the lobby. As if I'd come home.
A vestige of a time when New York was
"posh". Now gone, my visits to 21 won't
be forgotten. Fortunately we have Patroon
Our favorite eatery owned by Ken Aretsky
(21 alumnus). Where elegance, elan, and
booths still exist. Let's pray it survives!