Drizzly and grey in these parts; a bit raw, and the mood of the day seems to have settled in my throat. So I am eating zinc. The tasty melt-a-way tablets that make everything taste like you licked an anvil.
So rather than bore you with the particulars of the day, which I seem unable to tease out any anecdotes or tales or observations or silly extended conversations, I’m going to jump right into something prompted by a tweet. It was one of those Old Photos accounts that just puts out old pictures with a caption and says “there! Job well done. In an hour, I will tweet a dog from 1934.”
This one intrigued me so much I made a special little banner for it, thinking “this could be an occasional Friday feature!” Could it happen? We’ll see. For now we have one entry. Let's go.
Do you know where this is? I removed a building and a word that might give you a clue.
How about now?
Of course! New York! Because that's the name of the feature, of course. To be specific: Times Square, 1911. The Times Tower puts everything in context. Add Astor for good measure.
How do we know it’s 1911? The theatrical productions and movies. This site did the legwork, and managed to decipher a sign I couldn’t make out. But it didn’t address that billboard. I tried straightening it out -
The text was still unrecognizable. But you can almost make out “Every (citizen?) should read The Chief,” right?
There had to be a better copy. And so there was, here.
The copy is quite wordy. Every Citizen should read the Chief, because it
Seeks and prepares men and women to do the City’s Work.
Publishes all laws immediately after they are approved by the Governor and all legislative bills as introduced. Announces all marriage licenses giving names, ages, and addresses of both parties desiring to wed. Gives official information relative to the work of the Police, Fire, and other City Departments. Keeps its readers informed on Federal, State and local affairs.
“THE CHIEF IS DOING THE CITY’S WORK” - Borough President McAneny to the Municipal Club.
That would be George McAneny, who lived until 1953, and hence knew TV, and hence might not be surprised that people would see an old picture of his bygone endorsement on a Communication Screen.
I called this picture knickhippo.jpg at first, thinking it was the Hippodrome and the Knickerbocker hotel. It’s not - something I realized when I took a look at the sign. Flipped it around . . .
Flipped it around . . .
Ah, the Rector. Our old Bleat friend George Rector, who pops up from time to time, and whose appearance as an old gent in a magazine ad earned him inclusion somewhere in the Gallery of Regrettable Food.
Now the fun.
The site with the larger version of the picture tells a bit more about Louis Martin. It was, at first, the Cafe De L’Opera - one of the most enormous restaurant failures in history. This restaurant history site says:
The team sunk millions into gutting the old Saranac Hotel and turning it into a fantasy Babylonian stage set worthy of the Hippodrome. The bill for interior renovations and decor, under Erkins’ direction with Stern Brothers department store acting as general contractor, came to $1,250,000, a sum that borders on $30 million in today’s dollars.
The silver service alone cost a quarter of a million 1910 dollars, while a huge painting by Georges Rochegrosse cost something like $50,000. Er, or so it was gushingly reported. However another source claimed the painting was a copy, which is probably true.
Describing the Café de l’Opera meant using superlatives: the restaurant contained the largest single carpet ever laid, the kitchen range was 60 feet wide, one million sheets of gold leaf were used in the decorations, and on the Japanese level 10 miles of wisteria twined and 5,000 chrysanthemum blooms lined the walls. There were 200,000 pieces of silverware, 60,000 glasses, 250,000 pieces of linen and 100,000 pieces of china.
To facilitate the movement of waiters between all eight floors, escalators were installed—a highly forward-thinking innovation. Miles of pneumatic tubes connected all sections of the restaurant. Electric buttons at each table enable the guests to summon their steward or chef.
It took six months to go broke.
Louis Martin took it over, relaxed the dress code (the Cafe de L’Opera had required evening dress), and moved the kitchen to the basement to solve a problem the restaurant had when the kitchen was upstairs:
The food usually arrived cold.
Imagine that. Millions poured into this place - and the food was cold.
On of the menus for the locations has this notation:
The XIII Club. A few more menus pop up here and there, including one that has their logo.
The Latin motto: we who are about to die salute you
The dinner convened at 8:13.
What became of them? Do they still exist in some shadowy form?
All from one tweeted picture. And 99% of the stories in that picture will never be told. It's possible old records might show who had the car with the four-digit plate.
But as for the name of the man who lit the lamp? Like everything else except the place itself: gone.
As noted, I'm going through the entire Gildersleeve series this year - and there's a lot. We're still in the early days, when the show had found its footing.
It's the harp that really gives it a lush, generous feel.
Sometimes you got the feeling the composer just told the orchestra "just everyone do something, like you usually do."
"Try a little kindness," says Mr. Peavey. The suggestion annoys Gildersleeve so much he flubs his line.
The Diving Laylights!
AD: From 1948, a boring ad for One A Day, with a very labored tagline.
Dream what? A little dream. Of whom? Why, me.
This stuff . . . I don't know. It's so do-de-doo, and while I love the 50s schmaltz, I prefer it without vocals. The song was originally performed by Ozzie Harriet in 1931, which seems surprising for those who associate Ozzie with the 50s.
As if someone couldn't be popular in 2017 and 1995.
New this year: end-of-show aphorisms. And so we end the week.
That'll do! Thanks for coming by this week; we'll reconvene on Monday and start it all up again.