Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Literary Ghosts of the Algonquin Hotel

LOOKING BACK by Wally Dobelis

The Algonquin, New York's landmarked hotel of literary fame, at 59 West
44th Street, fits very well in the club country, surrounded as it is by the Harvard, Penn and New York Yacht Clubs and the New York Bar Association. Through the 1920s it was home to the famed Algonquin Round Table, literary tastemakers depicted in at least two books (The Vicious Circle by Margaret Case Harriman, and Wit's End by James R. Gaines, 1977) and two movies (The Ten Year Lunch, by Aviva Slesin, 1987 Academy Award, and Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle, by Robert Altman, 1994).

The oak-paneled lobby, to the left of the entrance of the Hotel, is a well-known midtown meeting place, as the Clock of the Biltmore hotel used to be. You sit on oldfashioned brocaded banquettes and chairs and ring the brass bell to order oldfashioned drinks brought by elderly waiters from the bar. We were there to meet old friends, Harold and Joan from Louisville, and I nearly ordered a mint julep in their honor, but the time of year was wrong. Harold is a major dentist and shared with us some dental intelligence, e.g. the legally required extra precautions against infections (multiple latex glowes and the sterilising of such instruments as the head of the drill) has added $23,000 to the expense of the average dental office, against $1,000 forecast by the health people, and guess who pays. He thinks that the single case that brought this on, the Florida dentist who ostensibly deliberately caused AIDS infections, is blown out of proportion. He also tsk-tsked when I told him what we pay for root canal and crown work; their charges are less than half, commensurate with local pay and rental scales. So, if youre going South for the Derby at Churchill Downs anyway... By the way, the Downs is a nice oldfashioned (I seem to be stuck on this word today) racetrack, with flower beds, magnolias, whitewashed wooden buildings and polite crowds, or at least it was last time we looked.

Back to the Algonquin. From where we sat one sees the Rose Room, the main dining room, and Timothy Demetrakos, the maitre d', explained to me that the round central table, under the chandelier and directly against the mirror, was the location of the much larger legendary round table, the daily meeting place of the Wits. Instead of the mirror there was a service bar, to facilitate the stilling of their legendary lunchtime thirsts ("Get me out of these weth clothes and into a dry martini," were Dorothy Parker's first words when coming in from a rainy street).

The Round Table was founded by three Vanity Fair (not New Yorker) writers in 1919, la belle Parker, the humorist and actor Robert Benchley and playwright Robert E. Sherwood. The first occasion was to give a wry wlcome to the New York Times drama critic Alexander Woolcott, who had spent the war (that's WWI) writing "from the theater of war" stories for Stars and Stripes while safely ensconced behind a desk. That started the "ten year lunch," which first met in the Oak Room and were promoted to the Rose Room as their fame grew. The regulars who called themselves the Vicious Circle were, as depicted clockwise, starting from the lower left, in the Al Hirshfeld drawing, Parker, Benchley, stage stars Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontane, Frank Croninshield the publisher of Vanity Fair (the latter three were satellites), Woolcott, Heywood Brown, curly-haired Radical columnist of the World, playwright Marc Connelly, columnist Franklin P. Adams, whose Conning Tower in the New York Tribune made the sayings of the wits world-famous, and authors/dramatists Edna Ferber, George S. Kaufman and Robert Sherwood. Frank Case, the Algonquin's manager who was there since the hotel opened its doors in 1902 and became its owner after 1927, is hovering in the background.

The New Yorker magazine came into the picture in 1925. Some of the wits were poker players - Brown was one - and a parallel, not so public group, the Thanatopsis Literary and Inside Straight Club met, less conspicuously, on the 2nd floor, in all-night poker sessions. Harold Ross, another Stars and Stripes editor, came up with the idea of publishing a sophisticated, literary and humor magazine, "not for the old lady of Dubuque," (luckily for him, he was wrong and the old lady loved it). He talked another player, Raoul Fleishmann of the yeast family, into providing the seed money, $25,000, and another legend was started. Some of the wits became contributors, and the New Yorker editorial people made the Algonquin their home. A copy of the mgazine is placed in every one of the 165 guest rooms, to this day (along with three newspapers).

The New Yorker greats who lunched at the Algonquin extended its fame after the demise of the wits (they got bored around 1929). The Algonquin archives list editors Elwyn Brooks White and William Shawn (1952-87; he lunched on cornflakes) and writers S. J. Perelman, John Updike, Calvin Trillin among the regulars from the magazine.

In 1946 Ben Bodne, a South Carolina oilman realized his life long ambition and purchased the hotel, reputedly for some $975,000. In 1987 it was sold to the Aoki Corporation's Caesar Park subsidiary, reputedly for over $30 million, with a lifetime suite for Mrs Bodne. But the legend carried on. The archives qoute John F. Kennedy to the effect that when he was growing up, he wanted to be a hero of the Charles Lindbergh type, learn Chinese and be a member of the Round Table. The Nobelists came - William Faulkner had a regular suite where he wrote his acceptance speech in 1950; Sinclair Lewis, who wanted to buy the hotel, and Derek Walcott. Frederick Loewe had a suite where he and Alan Jay Lerner wrote My Fair Lady; playwrights Noel Coward, John Osborne, Peter Ustinov and Brendan Behan were Algonquin afficionados, though Behan is best known for his Chelsea Hotel affiliation (that's another article, as is the story of S.J.Perelman's residence at the Gramercy Park Hotel). The Algonquin has been the favorite of famous women - Evangeline Booth, Lady Gregory, Gertrude Stein, Marian Anderson, Simone de Beauvoir, Helen Hayes, Nadine Gordimer, Erica Young, and Southerners, - Eudora Welty, Maya Angelou, Shelby Foote, Reynolds Price. The critical H.L.Mencken called the hotel "the most comfortable in America."
As to the promised ghosts, they are only symbolic, and do not haunt the halls. Alas, being ghost-free is is an important attribute of a first-rate hotel.

243-3700 Chelsea Stanley Bard 9-4 222w23
475-4320 Gram 2 lex

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Abe Lebewohl Park Dedicated

Famed 2nd Avenue Deli Man Remembered in Playground
by Wally Dobelis

The many friends of the late Abie Lebewohl will be glad to know that a little part of his belowed East Side will be forever his. This was Abie's sacred land, this piece of Flanders, as the cannon-fodder Word War One poets spoke of the country where they died. Because he too was cannon fodder in the battle for his turf, between the forces of crime and the forces of decency. He tried to keep it nice, caring, community serving. But for the criminals he was just another piece of meat. When, oh when, will we come back to being a community!

The City Council of New York has provided $84,000 in capital funds to facilitate the Parks and Recreation Department's restructuring the triangle in front of St. Mark's in the Bowery, re-laying the cobblestones dating back to ages before Abie, rebuilding the sidewalk, adding new benches, lighting and foliage. This will now be the Abe Lebewohl Park, 10th Street and 2nd Avenue, Manhattan, forever and ever.

The dedication ceremonies took place on Thursday, October 17, 1996 at 1:30 PM. The invocation was given by Rabbi Daniel Alder of the Brotherhood Synagogue, and the proceedings were led by Commissioner Henry J. Stern. Councilman Antonio Pagan spoke movingly of the the encouragement Abie gave him to run for City Council. Abe's daughter Sharon spoke of her and the children bonding with the homeless at the park. Hundreds of people packed the narrow spaces available for attendees. Notable were the Satmar Hassidim, to whom the Abe Lebewohl Foundation (c/o Community Synagogue, 325 E. 6th Street) gave a Hatzolah ambulance to help the sick of this and other neighborhoods.

There is a Friends of Abe Lebewohl Park group, run by Marilyn Appleberg of the CB#3. The address is Box 473, 200 East 10th Street, 10003, in the process of getting a 501 taxfree status. Keep in touch.

Abe was born in Ukraine, 1931. The family survived the Holocaust, went to Italy and came to the USA in 1950. The 12-seat deli Abe opened expanded into a 250-seat restaurant on 10th street and 2nd Avenue. The resataurant prospered and Abe gave back to the neighbotrhood, food for the homeless and for neighborhood events; he would get into the truck and deliver packages to individual indigents. On March 4, 1996, while taking the weekend's receipts to the bank, he was struck down by a robber's bullet. The police are still searching for the murderer.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Garbage Will Cost You - Part II

LOOKING AHEAD by Wally Dobelis

No matter how the garbage situation resulting from the closing of the Fresh Kills Landfill 5 1/2 years from now is resolved, the citizens will pay, because sending garbage by rail or boat out of state is more expensive than sending it by barge to good old Staten Island.

Fresh Kills today processes over 13,000 tons of garbage daily, brought in by barges. That is often expressed as 27,000,000 pounds, over three pounds for every man, woman and child in the city. The numbers do not include the New York Times and the glass, metal and plastic that go into recycling.

The 3,000 acre landfill, the size of 225 Yankee Stadiums, has some mountains of garbage as high as 150 feet (15 stories), covered with dirt and grass. Confusion and lesser numbers result if an older area and staging areas are omitted from the count. The technology and the area is a tourist attraction, with interested experts world-wide coming to study it regularly. Current dumping is confined to 800 acres. Fresh dumped refuse is covered fast, cutting down on the gull population's breakfast. But there is a decomposition process, emitting methane gas (about 1/20 of the national emissions), 25 percent of which is captured and converted to fuel use. Nevertheless, the odor persists. There is also leachage (a hard word to pronounce), or leaking, since the 48-year old dump has no liner, and rainwater brings solubles with some toxins into the surrounding waterways. After closing, the city will spend another $775 million over a 30-year period to stabilize the landfill, which includes overrlaying the fill with a plastic membrane to stop future rain penetration, capturing the leachate and removing the toxins, and capturing more of the methane (it is poison; think of New Zealand, world champion producer of lambshanks, actively suffering from the uncontrollable emanations of its 70 million sheep). Fortunately methane converts into natural gas. Will the process work? Well, the smaller Pelham Bay Landfill, actively accepting 2,600 tons a day for 15 years and closed in 1978, still brings leachate directly into the more inland Eastchester Bay at the rate of 30 to 50 gallons a minute. Note that the responsibility for cleanup shifts to Parks and Recreation Department.

The Mayor's committee of 12, appointed to resolve the problem of alternate ways of disposing the 13,000 tons of New York's residential garbage every day, has to come up with a solution by October 1. It may recommend expensive export, with some pious words involving more citizenly responsibility in recycling. This is a group of professionals from city and state agencies, including ecology, health and economic development people. Names are not available, and no publicity is given to their deliberations, not to speak of hearings. Cost shifting by charging the household (building, coop) for the garbage by the bag may be proposed. Should we not be part of the process?

Parenthetically, isn't it funny how cost shifting back to the consumer has become the government's answer to social problems? We see that when the Transit Authority charges school kids for subway and bus travel, and when the hospitals put the excess costs of Medicaid and Medicare patients on insured clients' bills. What is government for, really? Just to pay civil servants' salaries?

The states that take our daily 12,000 tons of commercial garbage - Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana - really don't want an increase in garbage imports, no matter how much a starving locality needs the funds and how environmentally acceptable the imports are.The U.S. Senate has already passed a states' rights act permitting a ceiling on garbage imports, and its counterpart is pending in the House. Guy Molinari, Staten Island's Borough President, who forced the advance in the date of closig Fresh Kills from 2010 to 2001, does not want to be tagged as the assassin who buried New York in garbage, and claims that "we will beat the states in the courts." Yes, there is a Supreme Court decision that garbage movement qualifies as interstate commerce and therefore not within the purview of state laws. States cannot discriminate against chosen exporters or set arbitrary limits. This came up when in 1987 the Long Island barge with 3,100 tons of offal traveled for months through inland waterways futilely looking for a landfill site. Will this decision stand up in today's court?

So, there we are. I have made a tongue-in-cheek recommendation to buy Liberia, and ship the garbage across the Atlantic. More realistically, can we handle it within the U.S.?

Well, we can change our ways to produce a relatively garbage-free environment. Obviously the lifestyles of New Yorkers and all other urban dwellers who do not live off the land will have to alter radically to decrease the polluting and pernicious effects of garbage.

Most non-compostable, that is non-organic garbage comes from packaging. It is often said "Why do we have so much wrapping?"
Packaging came as the result of mass production of agricultural goods, ease of transpotation and less dependence on local products, public taste for off season luxuries, and therefore increased need for shelflife of food products. It killed Mom and Pop non-agribus small scale farming. As a result of more people and smaller living quarters in the cities, and therefore less shelf space in kitchens, smaller and smaller packages also became desirable.

Some of us still know of "rushing the growler," that is people going to a bar to have a reusable jug filled with beer from a reusable barrel. As a young child, I recall having reusable milk bottles filled from an open-top container, by a grocery clerk using a dipper (don't shudder, he closed it between uses, with ladle and funnel inside). And today you can still order seltzer in reusable siphon bottles from a local soda maker. And there are greenmarkets supplying fresh vegetables and fruit all through the year, by storing the harvest in local cold storage rooms, then bringing out the requisite amount for the market day. That is the way apples are supplied all year long, and the concept can be extended to some other fruit and locally grown vegetables. No need for most frozen vegetables, canned vegetables and fruit, and juices too can be served from reusable barrels. With that we have the solutions for reducing the need for packaging and garbage in five major areas - beer, soda, vegetables, fruit and juice. Remember, we have the miracle of refrigeration.

Of course, it will cost, more labor in the grocery store and less employment in the packaging industry. But it will also reduce destruction of forests and other natural resources. Again, refrigeration saves the day , the great saving factor in preserving food, which our forebears did not have. Everybody knows that the European discovery of the Far East was prompted by the need for spices that would help the taste of food turning rancid in the Winter. Salt helped, and salt pork that kept was a major staple, as was smoked meat. This is no longer our problem.

Incresing the size of packaging of goods that cannot be sold fresh will further reduce garbage production. My cat's food now comes in a 14 oz can. In the drugstore, we can get a quart squeeze bottle of shampoo instead of a pint, and squeeze hair lotion instead of spraying it. Squeeze bottles are also reusable and refillable. Think of going back to reusable sanitary napkins and diapers - not all that difficult, we now have washing machines!

There will be less people, because tax based relief payments and school subsidies for large families will go; tax-funded research to increase the life span of the non-producing elderly will go.


Booksellers Row XIII - The Old Print Shop

LOOKING BACK by Wally Dobelis 150 Lex 212-683-3950

A refugee from the Booksellers Row, The Old Print Shop on Lexington Avenue, West of 29th Street, next to the former Coffee Pot for the homeless run by the First Moravian Church until 1993, has a history that dates back to the XIX Century. Established by Edward Gottschalk in 1898 on 4th Avenue and 12th Street, it was an institution before Mr. Gottschalk moved to Lexington Avenue in 1925. It was purchased in 1928 by Harry Shaw Newman, an importer of linens, who found some Currier and Ives prints in his mother's attic and sold them. Harry T. Peters, the cataloguer of Currier and Ives worked with Newman; Bernice Abbott, one of the earlier American women photographers, produced illustrations for the shop's catalogues. These thin booklets, The Old Print Shop Portfolios, now in their 55th year, in themselves constitute a reference library of America's past in paintings, lithographs, prints and maps. The large showroom, filled with tables and deep-drawered cabinets, contains some 100,000 graphics, not limited to Americana. Then there are paintings.

Three generations of Newmans have been connected with the Old Print Shop - Harry's son Kenneth M., president since 1949, and his sons Robert K. and Harry Shaw II.

Most popular of all the graphics are the Currier and Ives and Audubon Prints.
The firm founded by Nathaniel Currier in 1835 in New York was joined by James Ives, its bookkeeper, in 1857. They produced lithographs of over seven thousand subjects, on every phase of American life, taking the buyer not only into familiar bucolic New England scenes but also showing fights with the Indians, wonders of Yellowstone Park and adventures on the rails and at sea. Such pictures as "Awful Conflagration of the Steamboat Lexington" illustrated daily events and were immediate best sellers. They were made in three sizes, 8 1/2"x12 1/2'; 10'x15',15'x20'. Today, hand-colored lithographs are priced from $100 to $10,000, with some selling for $40,000. Be aware of restrikes. Currier and Ives are very popular Christmas card subjects.

John James Audubon painted birds, and the pictures were reduced to engravings, printed and then colored by Robert Havel. The 435 elephant folio prints, published 1828 (size 25"x38") are worth upwards of $1,000 to $80,000, mostly coming from broken volumes of the four-book set (though some sets were sold unbound). The pictures in the seven-volume octavo-size set (prints 10 1/4"x6 3/4") were lithographed and hand-colored by J.T. Bowen, and sell at $30 to $200. Audubon's Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1845-48, 22"x28") are upwards of $250, and Quadrupeds (1849, 7"x10 1/4") up from $30, all done by Bowen's firm. Audubon prints appreciate well.

There are few Anerican flower and herbal prints; collected are such largish prints as those from Dr. Robert John Thornton's Temple of Flora, London 1799-1807, which in the 1940s when prints sold for pennies were worth $30, and now range in four figures, as do Pierre Redoute's Les Roses, Paris 1824.

Of New York City views, a very popular one, painted and engraved from nature in 1854, shows the view South of Union Square, all the way to the harbor The only recognizable feature remaining today is Grace Cathedral. The row of eight houses on East Union Square between 15th and 16th Streets was built by Samuel B. Ruggles before he moved on to plan Gramercy Park. One, No. 52, was demolished as late as 1904.

The better known New York city view artists include Charles Mielatz (1864-1919), a German -born etcher, who produced about 90 images of the city from 1890 on, with more than one state in each edition run, redrawing portions as he went along, using a multi-plate imprint method. His city views are heavy on reflections, and , and the prices range from $275 to $1,500.

A more recent city artist, Anton Schutz, also German-born (1894-1977), became friends with etcher Joseph Pennell, whose works sell in the $250 plus range. Schutz founded New York Graphic Society, which was the largest producer of reproductions in the world by 1946. Schutz's work, very architectural, is priced under $1,000.

Armin Landeck (Crandon, WI, 1905-84) did dense dry points, engravings and etchings, priced from $500 to a high of $42,000. Me worked with Australian-born Martin Lewis (1881-1962), a successful illustrator, water colorist and painter turned graphic artist (147 prints). prices range from under $1,000 to $15,000.
John Sloan the painter also turned out 80-90 prints, walued in low to top four figures.

The lover of cityscape can do very well by buying hand-colored prints from Valentine's Manuals, annuals recording city events. The books were published 1850-57 and ins ubsequent series, t0 1920s. The prints from broken volumes and sell for under $100. They are of better quality than the prints clipped from Harpers Monthly and hand-colored. Reproductions abound.

As time progresses, I hope to include more reproductions as part of this columnm.

Caption for the picture: Wiew South of Union Square, 1854. By permission of the Old Print shop.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Serious Beerdrinking in the '60s - the neighborhood bars of my youth pts 1/2

Serious Beerdrinking in the '60s

Kenmore fine restaurant Lou Boggia phone
Henry Loden Old Town Bar
Al Cooper Big Bill cool truckdriving
Gerdes Skidmore Owings and Merrill the great
Louie's on 3rd Av, bar on 18th Pete Donnelly getting smashed, literally
Kluge's basement this is table number one, where the hell is two
Walk to the BX Taft HS good ballgames, Mad/Lex/Willis

Golf at Mosholu, permit tennis milkman on disab $70 Pelham, Van Courtland walkover rightofway Split Rock the paradise of the plebs Latourette w/ view x hole
Permit $10? Steve Rosen and Jerry
Tennis Central Park Permit $7.50?

Bethesda fountain. Graziella on bike think of Picasso's Nightfishing at Antibes
Lucy in the sky with diamonds
PPM at Miami Auditorium garbage up some food

CCNY Mary Southern 30c meal

LOOKING BACK by Wally Dobelis

The Neighborhood Bars of My Youth

When you think of Hotel Kenmore today, fine dining will be the last thing to come to your mind. Yet, in the 1950s it had a good restaurant and a bar. My friend Luigi with whom I shared the mailroom duties introduced me to it, and we would stop there for beers (okay, one beer; my pay was $35 a week) once in a while, after delivering the registered mail to the 23rd St. post office. Lou, a prankster, would excuse himself, and next thing I knew a uniformed busboy would be walking through the dining room with a placard, announcing "Call for Mr. Dobelis."

A much friendlier and less formal bar was The Old Town, still today on 18th St., West of Park Ave South, with cut glass swinging doors and sawdust on the tile floor. Henry Loden, the nearsighted owner, would play chess for hours with some regulars, while we, at the back of the bar, would celebrate Friday night by singing the old favorites, Peg o' My Heart, Frivolous Sal, Danny Boy and the Irish Soldier Boy. We had some fine Irish tenors, particularly my corporate general counsel friend, the Old Curmudgeon, then young and attending Fordham Law at night. Fridays were big for getting together and unloading, because all of us were in night school four days a week.

One of the regulars was Al Cooper, a wizened old gent who had a trucking business out of Burroughs Calculator (now Food Emporium) back door, kittycorners across the then 4th Ave from the bar (it became Park South with the arrival of the median or mall, some years later). He survived to his late '80s on a bottle of Dewars a day - nobody ever saw him eat. Although he would drink also at the Southern, Gerdes' and Pete's, of which later, the OT bar was his office, where he would ply his clients with whiskey and soft words. Paper work was minimal. He was wll known: "Jeez, I was walkin' down Madison Avenue the other day when I saw Cardinal Spellman. I tipped my hat and sang out: 'Good mornin', Your Eminence,' and he came right back with: 'Good mornin', Mr. Cooper.' Jeez, you coulda knocked me down with a feather! But then I remembered that Mrs Cooper has been into good works around the Power House (N.Y. Archdiocese office in the Villard Houses, 50th and Madison) for years, and he musta seen us together. What a memory!"

Al was into good works himself. In 1957 my office put together a Holiday Gifts Committee, of which I was president. We collected about $1000 a year and bought 20 turkeys and assmbled 200 food packages in the company lunchroom, for delivery to the neighborhood charity groups and churches. We bought banners for Young Israel and a radio for the Madison Golden Age club, to replace the one recently stolen. We had carols and Gilbert and Sullivan songs in the lunchroom, with a special dedicatory announcements, courtesy of Musac and John Jarvis, their Texan engineer and another OT bar regular, who knew every word William Schwenk Gilbert ever wrote. He would also quote Samuel Pepys and recite Keats (he pronounced them Peeps and Kates, even though challenged on the latter) at lengths deemed excessive by some.

Anyway, Al contributed the services of his truck and driver for the day. Big Bill, with his cherubic face, was control fanatic, and would drive me crazy, sitting next to him in the cab, as he elbowed out other drivers. He played "chicken" on the road with every truck- and cabdriver, looking pleasantly expressionless past them as he outbluffed them. He never had an accident. A bunch of us would go with him on the pre-Holiday delivery, then return to the OT, where Al, John Jarvis and others of our gang would be waiting, to hear our stories. We would try to catch up with them drink-wise, and it was on one of these occasions that Henry Loden barred us, for the night. Somehow the Old Curmudgeon and I had gotten into an argument as to which of us was a more accurate snowball thrower. So we went outside and hurled snowballs at a lamppost. After a 30-throw tie the OC switched over to underhand delivery, claiming that there were no restrictive clauses in the bet contract. I objected. OC was then the local garbage ball pitching champion, and could throw a softball that would rise 15 feet and still cross the plate within the strike zone. So he won, and we returned, to the jeers of assembled company. This hurt, and we went back, assembled a load of snowballs, and bombed our friends at the bar. That was fun, and when we came back with a new supply we were greeted with a salvo made up from our old snowballs. This was enough for Henry, and the lot of us was out on the street, Al and John excepted, Christmas spirits notwithstanding.

The Southern Restaurant was another favorite of Al's. It was owned by Boris and Charlie Ackerman who eventually opened the Old Forge at 200 East 17 St., currently in it's third generation, as Mumbles. The old Southern site became the famous Max's Kansas City, of which more yet some other time. Now it is a Korean deli. Southern's lunch counter was was where I would catch a quick 50c dinner before rushing off to Baruch for classses. The bar, besides Al, was a favorite of Harry Glemby's, world's biggest hairnet distributor. Older than Al and accoutered in the style of an opera impressario (Al affected more of the classic houndstooth-dressed and hatted racetrack-tout style), with a cigar and his French Legion of Honor rosette in the lapel, he would arrive with one or more beautiful tall women with lapdogs in tow, and preside over the bar for a while before departing on his business. He was Al's oldest client, and they had shared adventures in the old bootlegging days.

Al also liked John Gerdes' Bar, across from what is now Ottomanelli's on 18th St., victim of the wrecker's ball in 1960. It was our summer favorite. When the heat exceeded 90 degrees and local companies, then not air-conditioned, closed at 3 P.M., John's was the coolest place to spend the hours before one would dare go into the street and face the rigors of the subway. Draft beer being the only effective cure to avoid heat prostration known to man, we considered that we owed it to our healths to spend five or six hours with John on these danger-filled days. Besides, the usual suspects were there, ready to share facts, opinions and trivia.

There's more, I have lots to tell about the two Connelly's, Pete's, Lui's, Luigi's, Paul and Jimmy's, Garden Bar and Joe King's German Rathskeller of world-wide fame. Another time.

The Neighborhood Bars of My Youth Part II

Tuesday's Downstairs is a fine jazz palace, the best of this neighborhood, which once sported a Condon's on 16th St, across from the Zeckendorf Towers (Condon's replaced Z, a fine Greek restaurant that was a pleasure to eat in for some 10 plus years). The Garden Restaurant and its successor, Tramps, both had some jazz, if memory serves. Tramps became a country-western-rock hall, as is its successor, Shades of Green. Only Tuesday's Downstairs has lasted, no doubt due to the rock-steadiness of its Monday mainstay, Les Paul, the inventor of the electric guitar, who continues to play with his group, at age 80, with no visible effects of age. More power, Les!

The upstairs Tuesdays and its basement was, until 15 years ago, Joe King's German Rahtskeller. I'm not quite sure of the entire series of transformations, but 40 years ago it was a fine beerhall downstairs, with plain wooden tables and a piano, and a young, collegiate crowd. You sat with your group, drinking steins, until someone started knocking his stein hard against the wood, singing "This is table Number One, where the hell is Two," whereupon another table took on the chant, and so on. The other series chants were "ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer; if one ofthem should accident'ly fall, there'd be ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall..." and."...on the dead man's chest, yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum." The piano player could do the entire college song repertoire, from the musical comedy "Buckle down Winsocki, buckle down," to the real: "To the tables down at Moreys... 10,000 men of Harvard...Up the waters of Cayuga, there's an awful smell.... Lavender, my lavender (City College)...Notre Dame," we sang them all. Nobody fought, everybody cheered each other's Alma Maters.

This was congenial, compared to the famous McSorley's on East 6th, which I found somewhat somber and morose, except when my crowd was there. At McSorley's you buy two steins at a time, to minimize the traffic at the bar, and I recall a time time when my lunch crowd of eight had 200 steins. We never made it back to the office. The round-table discussion was "The girl of my dreams (in the office)," and I find it an interesting comment on the times that the favorite eventually became a conductor on the New York Central, and the second choice joined the New York City Police Department. But I do consider it a distinction when, while walking on University Place, I was stopped by a preppy-looking freshman, saying: "Excuse me, Sir, but could you direct me to McSorley's." It was a privilege.

Across from the Rahtskeller was Lui's, an Italian restaurant of renown, best pasta for the price. If you had money, you went to Paul and Jimmy's, then on University Place, where the newest small hotel of distinction, vvvvv's, is sited. P&J ventually relocated in the Restaurant Row on 18thSt, West of Irving.

Now, up the block and around the corner from Lou's was Luigi's, on 18th St East of Third, a bar with a pool table. You could get in trouble there, if you did not act respectful of your neighbor. A smartass could get beaten up upon departure, by the boys. I had a taste of that, for being a peacemaker. But let's move North.

At 23rd and 3rd was Connelly's, the real City College bar, where Baruchites would gather to talk exams and date. They served giant prawns through midnight, and the beer was good. A bit more quiet was Connelly's West of Lex, also a collegiate place. Kluge's Reastaurant , between 3rd and Lex, was a gentleman's retreat, quiet and clubby. None of them are left. Connelly's 3rd got an offer from a bank that they could not refuse; Connely's West was a goner when the styles changed; ditto Kluge's. A bar cannot survive in Manhattan; the quiet drinker who buys two drinks an hour does not pay the rent. I admire the London pubs who make it, their landlords must be patsies, compared to the Manhattan hyenas. My blood boils when I think of the realtors who have destroyed the city as we knew it.

A friend of mine just came back from Saudi Arabia where he spent three months learning client-server systems. It was the most cost-efficient way, three weeks of training and the rest hands-on programming. A monastic life, van transport from the compound to the office and back, no booze. The first Friday the driver inquired: "Sir, do you want to go to the weekly executions?" My friend declined, and the driver thanked him profusely, because he also did not like them, but was obliged to offer. All Westerners attending were given front seats and were obsequiously escorted, because their disgust, facial expressions and occasional womiting were also part of the show. If beheading becomes part of our lifestyle, under the new laws, I insist that real estate overchargers merit public execution, or at least humiliation.

This city is ar risk of survival because doing business here costs too much, and the the interactive communications have made face-to-face contact less essential. Businesses are leaving town every day, or firing employees. The costs are too high. If we abuse it, we lose it, no matter how much the "Let's have lunch" crowd cries. They are becoming redundant in this cost-effective society, anyway. Don't blame me, friends, it is the population explosion, source of all evil. The technology explosion is just providing an alternative to the city. If Downtown USA dies, too bad. Realtors, face your responsibilities, or retire to Fisher's Island.

Once more, I have digressed. More nostalgia next time.

Wally Dobelis claims that his bar days ended in the late 1960s, and the Old Curmudgeon's, his main source, in the 1970s. All subsequent stuff is hearsay. He urges people of his generation to record oral histories of their days in this city on tape. We have all been part of the most explosive events in history of this Earth.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Lyle Stuart a sketch

Lyle Stuart had a beatific smile on his puckish face, as he sat, watching the three candles on his 73rd birthday candle burn down. When one of the small group of friends who had thrown this surprise party for him reminded him to make a wish, he replied: "I really don't know what to wish for, I have everything that I want." He patted the smooth jacket of the fresh-off-the-press copy of "The Housekeeper's Diary," by Wendy Berry, a long-time domestic in the employ of Princess Di, now hiding from British prosecution in the USA. The authoress had just completed fifty radio interviews from a New York studio. In Lyle's pocket was an injunction to cease selling the book, served on his Barricade Books by the lawyers of the Prince of Wales, which, Lyle figured, should help in boosting the sales of the Diary. And he had been in Las Vegas the month before, and done well at baccarat.

The House of Windsor was not the first royal house to sue Lyle; in 1965 he was brought to court by King Farouk of Egypt for some statements in "Pleasure Was My Business," by Madame Sherry, and escaped having to pay damages in an Italian court award only when the King died, 6 weeks after the depositions.

Lawsuits are part of Lyles life; he owed the start of his publishing empire - okay, small empire, Carol Group was priced at only $12 million when Steven Schrigis of the Doral Hotel family bought it from him and partners in 199x - to winning a $40,000 taxfree libel award in 1955 from Walter Winchell. Stuart had been an INS wire reporter, publisher of Expose, which became The Individualist, a small sensationalist weekly, and ghost-writer for Winchell's column in the Daily Mirror. When the haughty Winchell got him mad, he sat down and in a few hours wrote a piece about the columnist that eventually became his second book, "The Secret Life of Walter Winchell." It was published in 1953 by the famous pirate Samuel Roth under one of his many incarnations, Boars Head Books. Winchell did not take the revelations lightly, he sent three thugs after Lyle. Their attack made great jacket copy for the book. Then Winchell got after Roth, who had many sins of piracy, pornography and copyright infringement, and had him sent to Lewisburg for a five year term. Winchel ranted against Lyle both in his column and on TV, until Lyle sued.
(Nicholas Atlas, Phil Wittenberg tk )

Lyle spent $8,000 of the award to finance the publishing of Dr. Coca's,tk in which the physician helps the reader self-diagnose his ailments based on pulse readings. The book is still in print, part of the Carol Group'sbacklist.

Other successes followed, until in 1970 he came to the idea of publishing "The Sensuous Woman," by J, a book he had commissioned his former publicity manager to write, as a cure for her pathological fear of the blank page. The title was a take-off of another book, and it was a runaway success, selling over a million copies in hard cover and 600,000 in paperback, plus translations, plus a sequel ("The Sensuous Man"), and at $6 a copy the series brought in some $2 million for the paper-shy author, not to speak of Lyle's share.

The book that gave Lyle the title idea was "Story of O," (Paris, 1954) by a pseudonymous Pauline Reage, describing the humiliations of a woman, who, for the sake of her lover permits herself to be turned into a slave and assaulted in any way by any man who desires her. Written in a cool De Sade narrative, it is an outcry for affection. The author, recently revealed, is Dominique Aury, a distinguished writer and editor, then 46, who wrote it as a love letter to Jean Paulhan, 70, a member of the Academie Francaise, one of Frances intellectual "Immortals," and her lover of three decades. Published, with Paulhan's introduction, by Jean-Jacques Pauvert in French and Maurice Girodias' Olympia Press in English, it was subject of both immediate literary acclaim and seizure of copies by the Brigade Mondaine (French vice squad).

Lyle's book was attuned to American idea of self-help, and essentially directed women in attaining successful sexual identities, much along the lines of what Cosmopolitan and other women's magazines teach today. It was a continuation of the books by Dr Albert Ellis of the Institute of Emotional Therapy, such as "Sex Without Guilt," one of Lyle's successful authors.

George Seldes, a social critic who died in 1995 at the age of 104 while revising his old biography of Mussolini - the oldest still active author listed in "Books in Print," - was another faithful author, as was Ferdinand Lundberg, of "The Rich and the Superrich," a sequel to "America's 60 Families."

Lyle himself is a successful author. His books "Casino Gambling for the Winner" and "Lyle Stuart on Baccarat" are studied by gamblers. The theory is backed up by fact - in 1994 alone Lyle has won two baccarat tournaments in Atlantic City, with purses of $125,000 each. Gambling is essentially part of Lyle's lifestyle and ego satisfaction - the controversial books he has published have been gambles. At a certain point he was known as the "breakthrough publisher," and others sent him authors whose books they were afraid to print.

Lyle has a superb sense of the ridiculous. In the early 1950s he was the business manager of E.C.Publications,Inc., the publisher of MAD, and persuaded William Gaines, the creator of Alfred E. Newman, to pull all the comic bookpublishers together and develop a Comic Books code. This was in 1954 after the Kefauver Commission (develop) DC Comics? Tales from the Crypt?

Not all of Lyle's book selections

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


The Deadly Tax Reduction Trap

LOOKING AHEAD by Wally Dobelis

The Deadly Tax Reduction Trap

Any politician who comes here promising to reduce our taxes and balance our budget (Federal or local) ought to be tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail, as was done to Huck Finn's tricksters, the Duke of Bilgewater and the pretender King. We the voters must learn to understand, once and for all, that tax/budget relief is like the Duke's Cameleopard, a bogus animal, a political campaign mirage, held out by tricksters. They cannot fulfill it, no matter how much they cut the government bloat. Once in power, they will fool us, by shifting taxes, sometimes fairly but not always - because they owe favors to their moneyed contributors. True tax relief is impossible, first because of our increasing longevity that keeps raising the social burden for the health and living expenses of the old (the 4/1 worker/retiree ratio will be 3/1 by 2015), and second because of increasing technological unemployment that robs the economic environment of jobs for the uneducated and less mentally gifted, and turns ever more of them into wards of society.

The latest example of a tax shift to those who can afford it the least is the 20 percent transit fare increase due November 12, expected to generate $400 Million a year from the daily 1.3 Million subway and 600,000 bus rides, if ridership does not dwindle. Governor Pataki met his campaign promise to cut taxes (cost: $515 Million this fiscal year, $1.8 Billion the next) by taking $300 Million from a fund maintained with contributions from downstate tax payers for the support the TA, meanwhile continuing subsidies for the other NYS mass transit systems. Commuter railroad fares went up only 9 percent. The fares for express buses, biggest money losers percentage-wise, 2/3 of which serve Staten Island, will not be raised at all from the $4 fare, and all fare increases will be delayed a week, until after the Nov. 7 elections. The latter motion was introduced by the Governor Pataki's Staten Island appointee to the MTA board. Could these two events be related to the running of Guy V. Molinari, a Friend Of Pataki, for D.A. on S.I?

Meanwhile, another FOP and appointee, E. Virgil Conway, the MTA chairman, has pledged not to ask for state subsidies for the TA, and to buy new buses, trains and signal systems, paying for them by taking $215 Million annually from the operating income and the rest through debt, to be paid by our children. The MTA spends 1.3 Billion (15 year average) in modernization. Let's first see him attack mismanagement, and get savings from correcting bad scheduling and featherbedding. More tax money usually takes the edge off the bureaucrat's sense of emergency. This person is obviously not going to be the city's defender.

And what of our other defender, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who withdrew an $124 Million annual subsidy from the TA? He instructs his four (of 11) appointees to vote against the increase, full well knowing that they had no chance against the Governor. Your'e kiddin', Rudy! You fought off the mob in the Fulton Fish Market, in the Javits Exhibition Hall, you tried to get control of the Board of Ed gang - why don't you try to get in there and clean up the lax TA management, and the union rules that empower slackers and profiteers? Everyone knows they are there. One story: this maintenance man came to work for TA full of enthusiasm to produce, until he was worn out - not by work but by his co-workers, who threatened him about working too hard. Now he comes home three days out of four with no grease on his hands, and devotes lots of his on-the-job time to his part-time business.

And Speaker Sheldon Silver, why did he not stop this new flat tax, the fare increase, in the Assembly? It seems that all the tax shifts favor the affluent voters, the commuters. We have the people of Mott Haven, in the 2nd poorest Congressional District in the whole USA (hear it, the whole USA!), home of PS 65, one of the worst schools in the city. Jonathan Kozol's words about them (Amazing Grace, 1995) make you cry, literally. Such areas have been discarded, relegated to holding pens. The favored suburbanites do not pay the real estate taxes to keep these parts of the city going - neither our tripled-over coop and apartment taxes in East Midtown, the T&V area, nor the lesser but not less painful ones in Queens. How about increasing their contribution?

To keep the professionals and their salaries here, the Mayor has spent gobs of money in cash and tax breaks, such as $80 Million for the Coffee, Sugar and Cocoa Exchange, $184 Million for the Mercantile Exchange, fighting off the predator, Gov. Whitman of N.J., whose actions drive New York City deeper in debt. She has cleared land to offer, and tax reductions to recover, and will keep up the raids. She has no choice. The Mayor will spend and spend to discourage her, and the tax giveaways will have to be made up elsewhere. It is free enterprise; the giveaways will increase our residential taxes, but there may be jobs created. And maybe not. Another down spiral, centered on the politicians' main bait, tax reduction promises.

Which brings up the national flat tax increases for the poor, the Medicare and Earned Tax Credit legislation. The House Medicare bill will save $270 Billion over seven years, Republicans contend. Democrats reply that $90 Billion would be enough, and the balance is intended to help fund the Republicans' tax cut of $245 Billion. The direct funding of the Medicare savings is by increasing Part B premiums (from $46.10/mo to $87.60 by the 2002, vs to $60.80 under the current law); the indirect will be by moving recipients into managed care (HMO, PPO), or high-deductible plans with medical savings accounts, and by cutting medical reimbursements, which will cut covered services. People who want to continue with the present level of care and with fee-for-service providers who are not in the managed care plans will have to pay extra for it. Fixed deductibles and maximums per service or impairment in a growing cost environment will increase beneficiaries' costs. How else will the government be able to reduce its projected spending per beneficiary by 2002, from $8,000 to 6,700 (it is $4,800 now)? These are some of the hidden expenses in the plan that will increase Medicare cost to the beneficiary by more than the premium increase. No one disputes that Medicare needs reform - it is by how much, and what part of the hidden cost will go to fund the tax reduction. This bill is generating another tax shift, a flat tax that will hurt most at the low income levels. A justifyable correction would be to make the premiums more income-graded.

As to the Earned Income Credit, it is paid to people who earn barely above subsistence levels, and need encouragement not to go on relief. With the expected EIC reductions, coupled with the restrictions, inequalities and limits in AFDC and Home Relief under state administration, more people may end up homeless. The legislators who label the program as full of abuses should attack the abusers, not the struggling low income recipients of this tax benefit.

Why the tax shifts to the poor? Well, the political system is sick. The people voted for Clinton in 1992, to remedy bloated government and provide social reform. He failed, because of inept planning, and also because the opponents stopped any progress. The people lost, because the legislators and administration wasted both time and money in treading water, quarreling and not getting any results. In revolt, some of the same people voted in a Republican Congress in 1994, to remedy bloated government and produce social reform. The winners now have to propose tightened social services and spurious tax reductions, actually shifts to flat tax, to keep their promises. The President will veto the worst, and the people will lose, both time and money, again. I submit that a major reason for the bad legislation and logjams is the first law in politics: "the politician's primary responsibility is to get reelected," which means coddling the wealthy donors who make campaign contributions, and giving them benefits. The poor people lose.

The way out? There are two: either limit campaign contributions and campaign period (politicians also engage in theft of services - we end up paying them and staff for campaign work that they do on time paid for by the public); or, limit their terms of office (in the hope that at least in the last term they will owe nothin' to nobody, and will act statesmanlike. Alas, the rub - they may try to buy into post-politics jobs.) The British, world's oldest democracy (sort of, remember Magna Carta of 1215), have successfully limited campaign terms and, consequently, contributions. Limiting funds and campaign period is the best solution - today campaigners with unlimited money and ambition can literally buy the office, as the nonentity Huffington almost did, in 1994 (remember, in California, running for Senate against Feinstein). Both parties have at some points offered these remedies, but those were ruses - you don't expect politicians to vote against themselves? I suspect that a groundswell for statewide referenda will be needed to generate these, most necessary reforms. Unless we reform election rules, we - and our children - will be doomed, by the politicians we elect, regardless of party. It is a no-win for the voter.

Wally Dobelis claims to be beset by computer gremlins, who, most recently, turned a "guilty" into "not guilty" in his O.J.Simpson-inspired op-ed article (10/12/95). We offered to buy an ethnographically correct hex wand to banish bad spirits, but he is holding out for a better scanner technology. We will go by results, with a fresh eye, Kimberly, in the shop. Best wishes, Kim, and Todd, in all of your pursuits!

And congrats to Bernard and Pauline Goodman. Bernie, ex-community organizer, now an American Primitive, had an exhibition of his paintings in Atlanta.


Binkin to Galli

Irving Bink
Whay would they say if I offered to buy the whole
Oh no, they are nit like yo Ike
Med reg w/ or w/o blamk pgs I could sell them tto people who forge old letters
B is the greatest
Myrtle av will shop
old shop Clark St?
Mrs James Pierrep St

Walt Galli Bk Eag

Roth tall thin eleg pinstriped suit
Joes rests
Rembar 1st cous Mailer use fug in nak %dead
Girls lay back everywhere


Valentine for a New Year 1995

Greetings, Friends by Wally Dobelis

Happy friends, another year
gone before the grimsby reaper
cuts the blooms of yesterspring.
But we sing and sing and sing.
Doomsday cometh, Almanack,
Nostardamus tells us wither,
but we tither, tither, tither,
dance the life's immortal track.

We have got the silver bullet,
wer'e untouched because we care.
Doomsday never calls our number
'cause wer'e busy elsewhere.
So, dear friends, let's celebrate
drive the grimsby out of state,
keep the spark of life ablooming,
cause we care, we care, we care.

Raise a little glass of sake
for Mario Cuomo, George Pataki.
And that famous hedge-fund warhorse
Europe's savior, George Soros.
Smite the zither, clang the drum
With the Clinton pair, old chum;

Ring the chimes, change the clock
with Phyl, Irv and Herbie Block.

If these days your hope doth falter
try consulting Rabbi Alder,
Dr. Pike, Father Byrne,
Pastor Ames, Philip Rothman,
Sylvia Friedman,Steven Coe,
Evie Strouse, Barbara Harry,
Sam Isaley, Susan Parker.

Hospital's the place to rest
take a load off, get the test.
Make some calls to friends whor'e sick:
Gertrude Barber, Gene Dorfman,
Rex Wasserman, Mina Michaels.
And the doctors whor'e the best,
Friedbergs, Falkensteins, Levitzkys
(Frank Lopez may attest).

When your gall exceeds your ken
grab that old Ameche invention,
spin the dial, punch the code,
give the word to Barry Farber,
Lynn Samuels, Bob Grant, old fren.

If your'e musically inclined,
play a gentle obbligato
for Sens Moynihan, d'Amato,
Goodman, Abate and Fred Ohrenstein.
And for the Gramercy Park gang,
Aldon James, Peter Ryan,
James Dougherty, Jack Taylor,
Arlene Harrison, May Miculis
Arthur Abbey and the rest.

Raise a little glass of vino
To Clint Blume and Dom Crispino,
Marvin Silver, Ray Gold
Gary Papush, Nicholas Fish,
Lou Sepersky, Gerald Schriffen.

If yore kids need educallion (sp),
see Rich Eldridge, Ann Sullivan
Jean LeShaw and Jean Ramirez,
William Freedman, Robert Durkin,
that's the rollcall, I'm demurrrin'.

Now for law and order, bird:
Honor Robert Ward, Fed Court,
Hon Jay Dankberg (and Louise)
then yer life will be a breeze.

But if yer fixed on drugs or booze
Captain Duffy, Owen Hughes
will provide the right enviro
to keep you a crime tyro.

If reading be your only crime,
gentle books about the past
Carol Klein's remarks will last.
As for words that will infuri-
ate you, try some Charles Murray,
soon to be rich Newton Gingrich.

Good Antonio Pagan will enrich
your lifestyle with words and deeds,
Tom and Nan DeRosa helping,
Carol Maloney will hold hands.
Jane Crotty, Steve Sanders,
Andy Eristoff, Charles Millard;
Thomas Jefferson will watch.

Agnes Atwood, Edith Charlton,
Jack Bringmann and Al Doyle,
Jo-Ann Polise, Pete Doukas,
yes, the names will never end.

If your business needs a doctor
just one name - Carol Schachter.
If antiquity's is your thing,
give a call to Donald King.

Editors of great renown,
spelling is their star in crown,
grammar of profuse perplexion,
words from gens and gens of diction-
aries: Tod Maisel and Frank Griffin.

Company to drink a beer in
Rob Walsh, Tom Knierim,
E.K.Kane, esteemed friend
Herman Diamond, no end
of the folks who make a life.

So I wish you all a snort
of a Scotch, purefied, no blend.
Save a thought for those who bleed
make a wish for those who need,
say a prayer for the world
wer'e the ones who lucked out.
May the priestly words descend,
benediction for the world, no end.

If imitation be the sincerest form of flattery, Wally Dobelis flatters James Sullivan, Harold Ross and Roger Angell.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Brussel to Weiser

Bruce Aitken 54he thiefnyt aug15 1964 1:5 aug 12 or 11 31: tbooks5c done ii
Sam Orlinick tbooks3C done iii
Sunny Warshaw doneiii
Jack Brussel do tbooks9c
Paul Cranefield Harvey's De Motu Cordis corncob pipe Jarcho done iv
Sam Weisers occult books Donald brother break a nickel do
Milton button manufacturer Victoria done iii
chip henry chafetz sid solomon Paragon? Coop sq bks srshapiro donei
ernie suitcases do
brooklyn -dance w prs tbooksx done iii
Loveman-Johnston tbooks10D
Joe Klein art Isabelle purse factory tbooks6D
three apts phil
Connection Luchows tbooksx done iii and iv
Collector lady MOMAAdelaide Milton deGroot tbooks11C,G
Old primitive in galleries Abraham Walkowitz do
Brownout do what?
Black sun biblio Made in Paris by Hugh Ford C?
Jack THL LCL Roth who did biblio? tbooks11D tbooklawC,G
Perel-West tperelG tperelD
Norman Thomas TbooksthG
WCWilliams -TColesD
Girodias Lolita do
Kahane do
Limericks man Ndouglas do
something w Hadrian man Fred`Rolfe? do
Shakespeare & Co Joyce w/ Oconnor Gotham (Wisemen) catalog Tbooks4D
Jack B- Miller do
academy 18 also Friends Fair MDs tbooks13G,tbooks99G
Offer pieces to first edns mag? paid?
Pauline Th Wolfe tbooks7D
Forged autographs, Jefferson tbooksx
Mosher pirate do
Roth Hamalian notes rothD
Wm. E. Geist City sClickers 1987
Mike Berger, new guy

Do Politics
Koch kills MHRDC
Secty of Health
Drunk giver
Badillo Tallest PR in the world
Beth Robertson Cosnow Henry Stern

A collector/dealer whom one would often see at Weisers Bookstore on Broadway on Saturdays and late weekdays was the mysterious Mr. Klein, a short elderly stoutish gent, bent forward and peering through a magnifying glass in an art book, muttering. Mr Klein had a loft on the East side of Union Square, in which he and his brother, whom no one had ever met, manufactured leather goods. The purse-making was relegated to one long wooden table with some machinery. I once actually saw an older woman stitching at the table. Otherwise the loft was filled with stacks of paintings on their edges along the walls, statues big and small on antique tables, old glass-door bookcases filled with objets d'art and decaying art reference books in five languages. And old frames, lots of them.

"Look, I want your opinion on a painting I bought last week, I think it is a Pisarro," he would say, and I would obediently trot along to the loft, hoping that some unexpected treasure might reveal itself by serendipity, besides the spurious Pisarro.
On one such occasion Mr Klein started telling tales about an unknown Leonardo da Vinci drawing of Isabelle d'Este, and ended up digging into a trunk and unweiling a Renaissance drawing with the unmistakable features of that beautiful lady. "Look, look, look," he would open an old monograph and show the version in Uffici Gallery. It was definitely a master drawing, and when I pointed out the tracing pinholes in the paper, he shouted: "Look, they all did that, even Leonardo, to make sure that the copy was exactly like the original!" He then commissioned me to research the piece at the NYPublic Library for him, claiming failing eyesight. I did that gladly, because the posssibility of unearthing a lost Leonardo was thrilling. In the Art Room indeed there were references to more than one copy of the drawing, including one that might have gone astray during World War One. When I brought back the news to Mr Klein he thanked me perfunctorily and gave me a gift of some lithographs as a reward. The Leonardo was never mentioned again. Some years later, upon my inquiry, he told me that he no longer had it. However, during the intervening years Mr Klein gave away all his wild thrift-shop neckties, - I took some, as a good will gesture - and would travel to Biarritz and the Riviera, seemingly whenever it pleased him. He had acquired a lady-friend, a woman of a certain age, whom I would automatically address as Madame whenever we met on the street. She was not a bookstore frequenter.

Whenever we entered his loft, Mr Klein would take off his coat and don a paint-covered artist's smock, then pick up a painting that he was currently "sophisticating," and go to work. He was a crude restorer, and would clean and warnish paintings without much regard to damage. He would also reframe them, and seal the backs of the paintings. "Look, look, a Sargent!" he would shout, showing me an early XX Century flashily stroked portrait, bought at a small country auction sale. When I would suggest, with ill-concealed scepticism, that it was more like a Boldini, he would smile: "That's wonderful!" and consider the possibility. One great name or another, all his paintings were wonderful. His enthusiasm was contagious, and never flagged. Every disappointment, every painting dumped or auctioned off at a low price was superseded by a new find, a new hope of a discovery. And they were there.

One day he invited me in and unwrapped an interesting package of Renaissance-looking green papers, masterly fantasy drawings of people and scenes. "Look, look, a Piranesi suite!" I was stunned and had no words. "I shall sell it to Brooklyn Museum, they are goood!" The drawings were indeed museum quality, though whether by the great etcher of the XVIII Century I could not judge. That too was the last time the etchings were seen and talked about. "Theyr'e gone," the usually talkative Mr Klein stated, when I later inquired about their authentication.

Klein put me on to a dealer of remainder books, particularly art books, the Metropolitan an 23rd St., across the street from the insurance giant. He used it as his library, silently browsing for hours. I was impressed when, upon walking in for the first time, I heard the owners, a husband and wife and another relative, discuss the qualities of Canaletto vs. Guardi, the XVIII Cent. Venecian landscape artists, then much seen in reproductions. They obviously had more than a nodding acquantainceship with the arts. Klein had me search for some books for him, particularly a set of the Thieme-Becker art encyclopedias, which I finally located with a part-time dealer in Brooklyn, by advertising in the trade paper, the Antiquarian Bookman. When I came to the dealer's rooms, a small apartment, he took the set from under his bed. He also had a Benezit, the then eight-volume French encyclopedia of artists, which I bought for myself. That ended under my bed for a while.


Georgia on My Mind parts1/2/3

Springtime in Georgia is more beautiful than in any other place . The magnolias explode with heavy blossoms, full of numbingly sweet perfume. The visterias and dogwoods paint the trees white with blooms, the bushes of azaleas look like piles of pink snow, and the beds of blue and yellow pansies surrounding the tulips just go on forever.

Cobb County, the home of Newt Gingrich, is a rich white suburb North of Atlanta, encompassing the towns of Marietta and Smyrna.The natives are ambivalent towards the Speaker - some dislike him for taking the glory of the 1996 Olympic Games away from Cobb. It seems that while all of Georgia in a 100 mile radius from Atlanta is sprucing up and cleaning up ugly areas in preparation for the games, the Cobb County Commission passed a resolution critical of the gay life style, and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games punished the entire county by taking away their Olympic event, the volleyball competition. The 280,000 sq. ft. Cobb Galleria Convention Centre, which has a little pyramid on top, like the new Louvre structure in Paris, was the loser. But they are not groaning, with a 40% occupancy rate, surpassing the 25 % forecast, and golf and outdoors shows locked in. I saw the Holiday Inn show being taken down - people work like beavers, cheerfully, no connected cigar-smoking honchos in sight. When will the mob let us have our Javits Center back? New York no longer figures among the 25 major convention cities of the US, having been superseded by such competitors as Mobile, Kansas City and Tacoma. The way we are going, New York can really go down the toilet bowl. Maybe the mob planners should limit greed and think ahead beyond the next power hit job. They are supposed to be family-oriented. How are the kids gonna make a living when the city's down, eh?

Sinking New York is in the minds of some Cobb County people. The gay issue grates, above all. When you ask individuals how they feel about gay rights, the P.C. answer follows: everybody is entitled to earn a living. But you don't have to dig much further, to hear the undertones: "When I see these New York types on TV, during the Gay March on Washington, nude men and women kissing and acting out in public, my stomach turns. This is counter the morality, the religion and the lifestyle I want for my children." Some Georgians go further:let all these people go to New York and pull the plug, let them sink, cut the federal funds, let New York go down the drain. When questioned further, you hear them admit: sure, we have gays in Atlanta, but they do not write school books to teach kids how right they are, and they do not go on TV all the time, speaking up for their lifestyle. And it was a New York judge who knocked down the President's "say nothing, do nothing" policy, and New York Congresspeople Nadler and others got right on the bandwagon.

With all this, Mayor Giuliani's embracing David Letterman's troublemaking, purportedly to promote tourism, slogan "We can kick your city's ass!" is dopey, and Christina Lategano must had a temporary aberration to let this happen. It is obviously an appeal to the Joe six-packs and Beavis fans. The slogan has already elicited a "Kiss my balanced budget!" from Mayor Katz of Portland OR, and other ribaldry. The cities, as a whole will get their buts kicked soon enough by the Cobb County types from all over the US who constitute the freshman class in the Congress, and playing off each other's shortcomings, whether or not in fun, is divisive.

Despite Gingrich's hard stance, the majority of Georgeans are not for cutting social welfare and benefits. Granted, this is based on a brief personal survey; however, I did ask for not only personal but also peer-group attitudes. Both in Atlanta and Columbus, people are aware of how dependent they are on federal benefits. I know, for 20 years, a five-generation family, whose male members have been joining the military after highschool ever since the first Wright arrived from Scotland in 1859. They have participated in every war and military conflict including defending the US Embassy in Teheran against the mobs in 1979 and being burned in the Beirut Embassy and blown up in the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983. The women bear many children, and go back to work in cotton mills and coffee shops after childbirth, and end up going on disability only when worn out by the hard life. Both the Wrights and other ordinary people of the Deep South speak with compassion about needs of others: they resent slackers and visit their sick in hospitals every day. The South needs many hospitals, since poor people don't take care of themselves. And the poor don't protest against abortions.

But one does hear in some parts that AIDS is God's revenge on homosequals; that it is a crime to give Social Security (SSI) benefits and food stamps to alcoholics, druggies and out-of-jail criminals; that New York (this applies to other large cities too) is corrupt with sex, crime and poverty, and should have its federal funds cut; that too many immigrants come here to go on welfare, and that foreigners in business cheat on taxes and will cheat you, if you don't watch out. And conversely - let New York spend all that money to keep up its social aid programs; then all of the hinterlands' welfare clients will move there and free up the air in Georgia and elsewhere.

Looking from the point of view of of outsiders, we really don't have much to kick other cities in the butt about. How are we going to attract tourists and conventions - send the Javits mobsters out to burn the Cobb convention center? A little less mouth in the city, and a lot less politics in Albany, so that we can have law and order and cost cutting put in place whwrever feasible.

And in Washington too. I remember visiting the Little White House, in Warm Springs, not far from Columbus, where President Roosevelt sought a cure for his polio-crippled body. It was touching to see how simply they lived - Mr and Mrs Roosevelt had their bedrooms, a downstairs living room and bath, equipped for an invalid, with a room upstairs for Missy LeHand, his secretary. There was a space above the detached one-car garage for the driver. Any overnight visitor would share quarters with the chauffeur. The location had the advantage of a nearby Marines' base, to supply a guard at the entrance gate. FDR ran the entire government of the USA from that little house, with one wife and one secretary to help, for weeks at a time. Of course, he had less federal employees to govern: 1.1 million in 1940, which grew to 2.4 in 1957, 2.9 in 1980 and 3 million in 1992.

Georgia on My Mind Part II

The problems of the Deep South are the same as ours.

Greater Atlanta consists of 10 counties, more or less. Atlanta proper is Fulton County, stretching in a long diagonal strip North to South. DeCalb, on the Southeast, and Cobb, to the Northwest, are the other main components. The city is 3m strong. Inner city south of the skyscraper district (empty, except for turists, afeter dark) is mostly ruins, in need of rebuilding. This is being done, for the 1996 Olympic Games, with the new construction to serve as dorms and sports facilities for Georgia Tech and other schools. There are five black colleges alone in the Atlanta area, including Morehouse, th Black Harvard, so-called. The crime rate is still high - our hosts who drowe us around the downtown area made sure that the car doors were locked from inside, for fear of car-napping. In fact, in the morning there was a graphic report fom a local gas station, where a young mother with three children had been thrown out from her car by a knife-yielding thief, who promptly wrecked the new Honda while pursued by the police.

But there are pleasures, particularly those of food. Underground Atlanta, the entertainment center built within the skeleton of the huge XIX Cent railroad station complex, is quiet during the night. Tourists and conventioneers who come to the large downtown hotels, have been scared away by word-of mouth warnings of ripoffs, and eat downtown , or disperse to the well-known eateries, such as xxx. Aunt Fannie's Kitchen, the ancient famous chicken and Smithfield ham emporiun, from which one would usually exit with a doggy-bag containing a three day supply of fried chicken, is no more.

Columbus, 100 miles south of Atlanta, on the border of Alabama, just across the Chattahoochie River from Phenix City, the sin city of the South, is still my ideal place for Southern food. It was there that I learned to appreciate hushpuppies, a small biscuit ball, and to eat grits with butter and salt as a breakfast food. Shoney's Big Boy, a chain of diners spread throughout the South, is a good place for grits. Their breakfast bars have not only sausage, thick bacon and other artery -cloggers but also supply three kinds of melon and fresh strawberries for the vitamin-conscious. My favorite Shoney's is actually in Perry, the hotel town where the snowbirds of the Midwest stay overnight on their way to South Florida. Georgeans tend to stay in Panama City in North Florida, a 4-5 hr day trip.

Corn biscuits are not that big a thrill for me, except when it comes to sopping up the juice from barbecued beef. Country's on Broad in Columbus, occupying the 1950s art deco Greyhound station (later Trailways - what has the traveling South come to?), features, as decor, a dilapidated bus with all the proper ancient signage, permanently anchored at the loading platform, and Coke, Nehi and Royal Cola signs from the 1970s on the inside walls. An old Wurlitzer can still play the Platters (we heard them actually in Port St. Lucy, two years ago - alas, with 2nd generation substitutes) , and the shoeshine man, the unofficial host, is a 58-year old former millhand who lost a leg at work and serves as the preacher of a small ASME church. But most importantly, Country's has country-style food. They have Brunswick stew, and a Barbecue beef platter for $6.29 (all you can eat on Tuesdays), that will take your breath away. The two vegetable choices included black-eyed peas, butter beans and skillet apples. I chose a baked sweet potato, and it weighed 1 1/2 lbs. The doggie bag, including the leftovers of the three huge ribs, served as next day's lunch.

Columbus is also my ideal fish city. How can that be, 200 miles from the ocean? Well, it has catfish, fresh from the Chattahoochie - though recently, I understand, catfish farms supply the markets. But Rose Hill Fish Cabin, on Hamilton Road, offers fresh catfish platter, a mountain of about five fish, tail and all, fried in batter and peanut oil. After you carefully peel away the batter and the the bone (catfish is reportedly hard to debone, but I find it easy if you are not greedy), the flesh is sweet and the tail is crunchy. Most people stay away from the batter. Columbus is aware of cholesterol and fat problems. Around Cooper's Pond, on the edge of the Sears Woods development of a hundred upscale houses (that means about $150,000 through $250,000), ther are several walking and running trails used by the area people all through the day. The huge pond geese - a breed that looks more like a giant Leghorn chicken - sit on the pond fence or in the short grass and ignore the runners, who cheerully shout at each other in passing. Our host, who organized the first Black perpetual care cemetery in the South, long before the 1964 Brown vs the Board of Ed decision, was greeted with hoots by several and would respond with : "Take it easy, I don't want to see you too soon!" Alas, the Wildwood Drugstore on Wynton Road is no more. There Lieutenant, a chunky black chef who earned his rank through a field promotion in Korea, produced chili franks, sausage creations on a sundae dish (alas no mo either), surrounded with oyster crackers, for which people traveled from far away.

Columbus is also my favorite town of fruitcake, a sugar-laden candied strip in cellophane, given away at Christmas and despised by many because of its sneaky calories. I like it and eat it, about once every six years. The pecans of Georgia are another proposition. We love them, and have bought them on the farm, freshly picked from the ground. Pecan farming is a lazy person's occupation - one buys or preferably inherits a farm of huge decorative trees that take care of themselves, and rakes in the nuts, selling them in shell, by the pound. If one wants to work, he invites the local sheller - cracker is a dirty word - to crack the nuts, and then manually takes out the meats. I knew a rural route carrier who had equipped a small truck with a gasoline-driven shelling machine, where you feed the nuts into a funnel and they come out cracked. At 10c/lb for shelling, he was good for life, and had bought a beautiful pecan farm. But he was not lazy.

Pecan and walnut cracking is tricky - too much pressure, and your nut is dust. Smalltime buyers of nut use the Texas Nut Cracking machine, invented by Dr. Turner of Columbus, consisting of a rubber-band powered piston driven along a rod, slamming against an adjustable hollow in which you insert a pecan. It is set so that the pecan end protrudes about 1/8 of an inch. More space, and the pecan meat is broken, and the nut becomes a cracker, only suitable for pies. Taking out the meats from a nut is also a delicate operation, and perfect halves cost. Dr. Turner's machine can be bought in gunmetal or gold finish, for coffee-table decor. I haven't seen it in actual use in compny, as an ordinary nutcracker would be. It is a bit primitive, with shell bits flying hither and yon.

Pecan pie, a Georgia delicacy, is my wife's specialty, and friends from Columbus send us bags of nuts as holiday gifts. Dottie Christie's Mom's farm between Concord and Lebanon, halfway between Columbus and Atlanta, produced great pecans, and her Dad, who had gone blind, was a champion cracker, by hand. The family, Dottie, her sister the great interior decorator, and her brother, were all involved in restoring log cabins, and had bought two or three doomed ones, moving them to the farm. They were made of wide rough-hewn planks, with moss for insulation between the boards, and built in two sections, with a roofed passage - or dog-run - between them. One of the cabins was built in Ashevile, N.C., when Dottie's family moved there.

When log cabins became scarce, the Christies bought and rebuilt an old railroad station on the farm, to that all parts of the family would have their houses with Grandma. For some reason, the most remarkable inhabitants of the farm, for me, were the red woodpeckers (locally called peckerwoods) that hung around the former horse enclosure, en masse. We have woodpeckers in Upstate New York, but after appearing in the Spring, to take the gruel off the birdfeeder, they vanish, not to be seen till next year. The Georgia critters were much friendlier breed.

A great place for Georgia fruits and vegetables is Callaway Gardens, 20 miles N of Columbus, at Pine Mountain. A producer of jams and packaged foods, Callaway expanded into a botanical garden, recreational area of several thousand acres, and a hotel with a lakeside beach, attracting local as well as out-of-state visitors. Not far is the Little White House, in Warm Springs, where President Roosevelt sought a cure for his polio-crippled body. It is touching to see how simply they lived - Mr and Mrs Roosevelt had their bedrooms, a downstairs living room and bath, equipped for an invalid, with a room upstairs for Missy LeHand, his secretary. There was a space above the detached one-car garage for the driver. Any overnight visitor would share quarters with the chauffeur. The location had the advantage of a nearby Marine s base, to supply a guard at the entrance gate. Roosevelt became a local in 1924, and bought 10,000 acres of woods and fields, some for $10 an acre, for his Warm Springs Foundation therapy center with private pools for polio sufferers.

Georgia on My Mind Part III

Leaving the Southwest of Georgia we now nove East, to the Atlantic shore. Along the way we pass the Okeefenokee Natural Preserve, part Florida, the residence of Walt Kelly's Pogo ("We have seen the enemy, and it is us.") The swamp is still laden with alligators cros? and the guides will take you in a swamp boat through ypress-surrounded canals, to see the critters and the owls and other protected species.

Beyound the swamps lies Jekyll Island, with its wide sandy beaches and mild winters. It was recognized as an ideal seluded spot by New York's wealthiest, in the 1890s. The Morgans, Vanderbilts and Astors built cottages, much like Newport, and spent quiet summers and winters , isolated from the mobs, in a private enclave. it has now fallen into disuse, the cottages are inhabited by caretakers, and are being converted into museums and instit???

Nearby to the South, historic St. Simeon's Island has guns and battlefields, where in 1742 Gov. Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, beat tback the Spaniards of Florida, whowahted to move ou northwards eh and the Cloisters, a resort.

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