27 July 2009


Toots. A documentary.

From left to right: Toots Shor, Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason

All that's left of Toots Shor and

...this view as you stumble out.

When it's a hot weekend - - And humid - - I like to button myself up in the air conditioned apartment, draw the curtains, grab a cold beer and watch a movie. Preferably one I've seen a few times so I can listen to the commentary. Toots is that kind'a movie. A documentary made by his granddaughter, Kristi Jacobson, Toots tells the story of America's most famous saloon keeper. A man who would have probably kicked me out of his place but a story that lets me sit next to him for much of his life. Netflix this, buy it, rent it if you can find it. And please be sure to listen to the commentary supplied by Toot's granddaughter and daughter. It's strong and important. Largely for what's not said. There are some unanswered questions in the film that go unanswered in the commentary.


M.Lane said...

You've done it again! I have wandered about that block or two and looked for the spot of TS's old place and I never found it. Evidence perhaps of my level of sobriety, but I also think for some reason I was looking around on 52d across from 21 and then around the block on 51st from there.

Anyhow now I know where to find it. And I'm getting the movie asap.


tintin said...

The 2nd Toots Shor was located at 33 W 52nd just down from 21. My grandmother took me to this one when I was 12. I remember wanting to go to 21 instead( I was always an asshole). And there was a third Toots but only in name. He sold his name to a chain restaurant. It was somewhere around Madison Sq Garden. I know you'll love the film.

Anonymous said...

I like how PJ Clarke's has survived...back before the supreme court said eminent domain can be used to enrich private developers.

Richard M said...

Toots called his best friends "Ya Crumbum".

Anonymous said...

This is an edgy definition of "friendship."

Old Toots was always a kiss-up, piss-down kind a guy. The equilibrium there makes real friendship impossible. It's just transactional BS, with the occasional courtesy of a reach-around.

(Think Duke Ziebert with more famous customers.)

ADG said...

Tin...two great books you'll enjoy....The Stork Club...great bio of the club and Sherman Billingsly. His only surviving daughter lives over in Ridgewood NJ. Also, the bio of "21" ...I think the subtitle is something like "every night was 4th of July..." I knew Bruce Snyder pretty well-Bruce was the General Manager of 21 for almost 30 years. His son lived in DC while in college and worked at the old Polo shop. Puerto and I used to end our nights with a cigar at 21 and shoot the breeze with Bruce.

Gone. It's all gone.

tintin said...

Anon 16:52- PJ Clarks keeps chugging along despite a horrible burger, too damned many kids who remind me of how old I'm getting and pretty bad service...But there's something about it. A patina of history that's not pretend and so, go early and grab a stool at the bar and brace yourself for the 25-30 year old set who have no idea how lucky they are.

Richard M - And some other things.

Anon 22:14 There's always that question about a relatinbnship that involves money. "Is this guy being nice to me because I come to his restaurant a lot?" Well, maybe. But there's a lot of places I go. Often. And they treat me like they've never seen me. I did a review once for a restaurant on TV. And I was a regular. They always acted like they didn't know me. Sure, the owner was never there but I like it when I walk into a place, am greeted warmly by the owner and enjoy some small talk or gossip. I'm conflicted enough to admit how much I appreciate it when I see that same owner treat someone else like crap.

ADG- You're either a huge asshole or we were seperated at birth. I'm always amazed at some of the things we have in common.

The Stork, back in the day, was the hi end competition to Toots Shor. Toots thought the place appealed to snobs and there was a lotta bad blood between Sherman and Tootsie.

When I was working as a Ranger on Ellis Island my job was Artifact Removal. Pack up what was valuable and get it off the island. We would constantly find neat stuff from the NYC of the 40s and 50s and I once found an old phone book for Manahattan from the late 40s. First thing I did was look up the Stork Club.

I don't know Mr Snyder but I understand from the bathroom attendant that things have been on a steady decline there since his retirement. I went last winter and it was awful.

Anonymous said...

Tintin: Last time I was at PJs they had a small oyster bar open, which I enjoyed with some Guiness. Its weird, like the old town, it quickly gets packed, usually with 20ish people then they all dart off and its a few old guys drinking, then it gets packed again...

Anonymous said...

I know almost nothing of all this except that, in the movie "Rear Window," Grace Kelly wants to order something for herself and James Stewart to eat. She advises a call to 21 (Tintin's reference to 21 in comments).

I always remembered that bit. It had a subtle devil-may-care attitude about it. I think it was the screenwriter's way of indicating a socialite like her was not ever going to set foot in a kitchen to make sandwiches.


Richard M said...

tintin: My wife and I did 21 about a year ago, and it was just fine. Of course, that's when ties were still mandatory.

Anonymous said...

socialite like her was not ever going to set foot in a kitchen to make sandwiches.
during the civil war the NY 7th (tintin should know about them) were issued sandwiches from delmonico's

Anonymous said...

My father used the word "crumbum" when expressing his distatste for athletes, politicians, etc.

Thanks for the reminder. What a great word. Like many expressions of that day, it communicated a terse message wthout profanity. A lost art.

Richard M said...

ADG and tintin: If you guys are huge assholes-count me in! :-)

ADG said...

Tintin...just back from S.C. ... The anti Stork-Toots-21 world.

Yes, I am an asshole and yes, we were probably separated at birth.

Ryan said...

I saw the Toots documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival a few years back, great work, met his daughter.

My favorite part of the film was when Jackie Gleason and Toots got into a booze inspired argument of who would win in a footrace. So they decided to run around the block, start in front of Toots and run around to 52nd Street and meet back in front of the restaurant, going in opposite directions. So they get ready and the crowd pours out on the street to see the action.

On your mark! get set! GO!

So Gleason takes off zipping down with all his girth towards 6th Ave to hang a right and go East on 52nd Street, gets close to 21 Club doesn't see Toots and thinks, boy I've got him now! Comes round 5th Ave, back to 51st and dead sprints with close to 300lbs towards Toots front door and as he approaches sees Toots and the crowd all there laughing hysterically. Gleason huffing and puffing, in a near cardiac event exclaims "What the hell!?"... Toots never ran, Gleason took the bait, Toots won that race! Hahahahah.

Good stuff, keep up the good work!


Jeggy said...

I dated Rory Shor back in the day; very snobby, but cute in the languid, dissipated blonde 'boy of summer' way.

tintin said...

Anon 18:24- It was a word I remember coming from my father-in-law. My favorite orator.

Dwight Ryan said...

Does anyone know where Rory is today? He was a old family friend and lost contact with him over 15 years ago. Love to track him down and catch up.

Thanks for any help you can provide

The Stork Club said...

Hello. I found your blog and it peaked my interest coz it's about the nightclub of the yester years like 21, El Morocco, Toots and The Stork Club. The family of the late Sherman Billingsley has put up a tribute website for the Stork Club. I hope you all could visit www.storkclub.com for more about the nostalgia of these wonderful iconic symbols.

kelly said...

Hey I am Rorys daughter...he is in Fl somewhere..he is estranged with his family for the most part

buffalo sabres said...

they don't make places like these anymore..i miss the old new york

Tish said...

I just read about Rory's passing.
Sorry to hear this news ! I worked at Seiko in the same department as Rory and I was quite fond of him, we all were.

May he rest in peace !