( Originally Published 1959 )
GREENWICH Village is described in the dignified American Guide series as "the Latin Quarter, the Bohemia of New York, where Free Love, Freudianism, Socialism, imagist poetry and fads of all shades have waxed and waned," and the Guide finds there an eccentLicity expressed even in the streets which "seem to reflect the antic spirit of the community."
Antic or no, the Village is noted as a refuge for non-conformists, possibly because Greenwich Village itself refused to conform when the steamrollers of progress started leveling the villages of Manhattan to create one vast, standardized metropolis.
It was the high cost of uptown living around the time of World War I that drove most of the young artists and would-be writers to seek cheaper lodgings in the broken-down, neglected mansions and former carriage houses around Washington Square, but long before that the neighborhood had been a milieu for the literati and artistic set of another day; such giants of the writing profession as Henry James, Edith Wharton, Walt Whitman, Ellen Glasgow, Brander Matthews and F. Hopkinson Smith.
A boardinghouse at 6i Washington Square South operated by a former Swiss chambermaid, Mrs. Katherine Reude Blanchard, spawned so much literary talent that it became known as the House of Genius. At one time or another it is reputed to have sheltered O. Henry, Theodore Dreiscr, Frank Harris, Stephen Crane, Will Irwin, Arthur Somers Roche, Gelett Burgess, John Reed, Willa Cather, Henry Longan Stuart, James Oppenheimer, Robert W. Chambers, John Dos Passos and Alan Seeger.
These impoverished fledglings had most of their meals in the little tearooms and inexpensive bistros that sprang up in the 9th Ward which embraces Greenwich Village and helped make famous the Mad Hatter, first of the many tearooms on West Fourth Street, where Willem Hendrik Van Loon's impromptu sketches on the menus became treasured items; Gracie's Garrett, the Purple Pup, Ye Pig'n'Whistle, Early Bird Breakfast Room, Christine's, the Black Cat, Pepper Pot, Romany Marie's, Lee Chumley's and others.
The intellectual renaissance of World War I centered largely around Polly Holliday's Greenwich Village Inn, a moderately priced tavern with furnished rooms up-stairs on Sheridan Square patronized by radicals, avant-garde thinkers and young intellectuals who hadn't yet made their mark. The Inn was a favored meeting place for Theodore Dreiser, Frank Harris, Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Lincoln Steffens, Upton Sinclair, Charles Edward Russell, Harry Kemp, also Susan Glaspell and her husband, George Cram Cook, who later founded the Provincetown Playhouse.
Polly Holliday is gone and the Inn as such no longer exists. After many vicissitudes it has become the Circlein-the-Square Theatre which produces superior off-Broadway dramas and has lived up to the old Inn's tradition by reviving the plays of Eugene O'Neill, who once occupied a furnished room there.
William Sydney Porter, the newspaperman who be-came famous as a short-story writer under the pen name "O. Henry," observed that "restaurants are literary landmarks." That is true of the Villiage. BILL BERTOLOTTI'S on West Third Street is housed in a former mansion where, while starving in the attic, Edgar Allan Poe wrote "The Raven." Before becoming Britain's poet laureate, John Mascfield scrubbed floors for a living at a now-vanished Village pub called the Working Girls' Home operated by Luke O'Connor at the corner of Greenwich Ave. and Christopher St. More recently, Dylan Thomas jotted down his lyrical thoughts in the men's room of the WHITE HORSE TAVERN on West 11th St., when he couldn't stand the raucous mob at the bar; MARIE'S CRISIS 1S the former home of the immortal Tom Paine, and O. Henry himself helped make several restaurants famous by merely using their tables as a desk.
The Colledge of Complexes, at 139 W. 10th St., is operated by a tall, Lincolnesque character called Slim Brundage, who claims he is trying to recapture some of the intellectual atmosphere of the Village. He has, at least, succeeded in attracting some of the Village's more off-beat and picturesque personalities.
In lieu of more conventional supper club entertainment, the "COLLEDGE" specializes in informal lectures, open forum discussions and debates among its customers. There are also quiz programs, poetry contests and other types of relaxation aimed to appeal to the "gray-matter set." As a concession to lowbrows, apparently, it does serve liquor and rather superior ham-burgers. The chief cook and bottle washer, Peter Buchan, is an actor and former customer who volunteered to help out one night in the kitchen and has been there ever since.
The COLLEDGE'S decor is black—black walls, floor, ceiling. This is so that budding writers may jot down their fleeting thoughts with chalk on whatever space is available. Recently, typewriters and paper were made available for those who wish to capture their inspirations in more permanent form.
Brundage, now 50, is a former house painter who has also earned a living as a cowboy, manure spreader in Oklahoma, farmhand in Tennessee, and other occupations. He is self-educated, which may be why college got spelled "COLLEDGE." He claims it was because a sign painter refused to correct the mistake unless paid extra.
Brundage founded the first college (spelled correctly there) in Chicago about seven years ago.
The Village Vanguard, at 173 7th Ave., more closely follows the Village tradition. Max Gordon had thought of it originally as "a better coffee joint" for Bohemian intellectuals in the 1930's. By one of those odd twists of fate, the "better coffee joint" evolved as one of the most important talent-discovery spots in the land, and Gordon can take a bow for having launched or developed to supper club fame such luminaries as Maxine Sullivan, Richard DyerBennett, Burl Ives, Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt, Wally Cox, Robert Clary, Mort Sahl, Orson Bean and at least a dozen others who went on to the VANGUARD'S uptown associate, Herbert Jacoby's BLUE ANGEL.
The change was brought about in 1938 by Gordon's introduction to the VANGUARD of a quartet of young people who wrote their own material and went by the name of The Revuers. Three of the four were Judy Holliday, Adolph Green and Betty Comden, and their pianist was Leonard Bernstein. The revue lasted two years and all thoughts of the VANGUARD reverting to a "better coffee joint" went out the window.
No one could look less like the accepted type of a nite club impresario than Max Gordon—small, baldish, graying, and conservative as to dress. When he arrived in Gotham from his native Portland, Ore., he aimed to be a lawyer and kept himself going by working alternately as cafeteria dishwasher, waiter and counterman. In his leisure moments he hobnobbed with "cafeteria society" at Stewart's on Sheridan Square and became involved with the "intellectual" set.
Gordon's first club was the former White Elephant, which he took over with $60, borrowed. Furnishings consisted of a potbellied stove, small barrels with wooden slats for seats and larger barrels serving as tables. For entertainment, Clifford Odets would render "The Face on the Barroom Floor" and Harry Kemp recite some of his own poetry. Even with no overhead, the White Elephant lived up to its name by going bust.
The VANGUARD is located in a triangular cellar down a steep flight of steps, with an obscure entrance on 7th Avenue. It seats only 125, and was opened in the 1920's as a little theatre. Today the avant-garde entertainment in which Max Gordon specializes comes high. To pay the salaries of the newer jazz bands and recording stars, he slaps on a minimum charge of $3.50 per person.
Chumley's, at 86 Bedford St., is one of the holdouts against time and progress. A onetime stable, tavern and speakeasy, in the 1920's it became a second home to such notables as Edna St. Vincent Millay, who lived down the street; Philip Wylie, William Seabrook, Heywood Broun, Elmer Rice and e.e.cummings. Here Howard Scott developed the principles of Technocracy. Other habitues were artist Willie Pogany and cartoonist C. D. Batchelor; also Rex Stout, Stark Young, Edna Ferber and James T. Farrell.
As a reminder of its intellectual past, book jackets under glass serve as a frieze around the tiny room. Chess and checkers are the favorite timekillers here and manager Ray Buillano sometimes participates in as many as four checker or chess games simultaneously while doubling behind the bar.
17 Barrow Street is another step backward into the more leisurely past. It was originally a blacksmith's shop, as evidenced by the iron rings that line the wall, once used for tethering horses, and dates from 1809. The son of the blacksmith, incidentally, still lives in the apartment overhead. In the winter months, the big twin fireplaces are in constant use and the room is lit only by candlelight. Travel posters line the walls and the only entertainment is from very recherche phonograph records requested by the customers.
Since October 1943, 17 BARROW STREET has been operated by Miss Mayme Kaye as a reasonably priced restaurant, serving only wines and beer—no hard liquor. Angelo is the resident manager.
The Coach House, at 110 Waverly Place (west of Washington Square), is in the best tradition of the Village's earlier, friendlier clays. Though owned and operated by a native-born Greek, Leon Lianides, its menu is predominantly American, leaning to Dixie specialties such as hot breads, corn sticks and Mississippi pecan pie. This is a heritage from the time the place was operated as a tearoom by Helen Lane.
The building was originally the carriage house and hayloft for Daniel's Department Store and later for Wanamaker's. When automobiles came in, the luxurious stables went out, and in 1929 the premises were taken over for a tearoom by Miss Lane, who counted among her patrons the entire Roosevelt family. In 1949 Lianides, who had come to this country as a lad and served his restaurant apprenticeship with an uncle, became manager of the former tearoom and remodeled it in its present form, retaining the antique beams, solid brick walls and even the hayloft, which is now the Hay-loft Room, catering to private parties. Gleaming copper and antique brass pieces enhance the picturesque atmosphere. There is no service after 9 P.M.
The Albert French Restaurant, located in the Hotel Albert at 11th St. and University Place, was at one time such a haven for writers that it became known as the "downtown Algonquin." Its most celebrated habitue, as it turned out, was Thomas Wolfe.
The Albert Hotel is 90 years old and its opening in 1868 was a gala occasion attended by P. T. Barnum, Gen. George McClellan of Civil War fame, and other celebrities of the day. The hotel was built by William Ryder and presumably named for his brother, Albert Ryder. Albert lived there and entertained so many of his impoverished Bohemian friends theLe, on the cuff, that the hotel went broke. There was a recent flurry in art circles over a revived rumor that the murals in the restaurant were the work of Albert Ryder, in which case they would be extremely valuable.
Joseph Brody, a French refugee, bought the ALBERT FRENCH RESTAURANT in 1946 and, reversing the usual trend, turned it into an American restaurant, specializing in steak. His slogan is "All the steak you can eat for $2.35 "
Peter's Backyard, at 64 West 10th St., deservedly one of the more popular places in the Village, has been a landmark for nearly 60 years. The original "Peter" of the title was Peter Galotti, and after his death in 1950 his wife and stepson took over. Two years later the restaurant was sold to its present owners, the three Pepe brothers (Mike, Ralph and Tom) and the two Cuneo brothers (Larry and George). All five are native Greenwich Villagers, born and raised in the vicinity, and from restaurant families.
The backyard of the title has long disappeared in the need for expansion and a unique 7-foot open charcoal pit was installed, where patrons may watch their steaks, chops, etc., being prepared. A balcony now adds to the space as well as the atmosphere.
The present owners of PETER'S BACKYARD try to carry out one of old Papa Galotti's maxims: "Run your place as if you had love in your heart for everyone who enters the door."
Marie's Crisis, at 59 Grove St., occupies the house where Tom Paine lived and wrote several of the masterpieces which helped shape American history during our Revolution, including, of course, The Crisis. At one time nearby Barrow Street was called "Reason Street," after Paine's Age of Reason.
The room where Paine died, on the second floor of the three-story brick house, is now the Pine Room, available for private parties. Paine's former living room, with original beams and paneling, is the club proper. The bar is located in what was Paine's backyard, now closed in. Over the bar are two huge mirrors etched with the legend Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite and figures of French and American soldiers of the Revolutionary period. There is also a huge painting, by some anonymous artist, of Paine in company with Danton and Robespierre. And outside the house is a bronze plaque in Paine's memory, placed there in 1923 by the Greenwich Village Historical Society.
Oblivious to these mementoes of an important past, MARIE'S CRISIS is usually jumping with the younger Village citizenry, joining in with the young female pianist in a calypso "Hold Him, Joe!"
Marie Du Mont, the owner of the CRISIS, is an at-tractive, middle-aged French-Austrian born in Vienna, who came to this country when she was 11 and in the 1920'S worked as a flower girl at Healy's Golden Glades, which had Nick Prounis as manager. This famous speak-easy introduced the Memphis Five jazz group who featured a jazz dancer named George Raft.
In 1929 Marie opened her own speakeasy, the Paradise Inn, at 4 MoLton St., where her clientele included Admiral Byrd, Floyd Gibbons, Lindsey Parrott, Sinclair Lewis and Bill Paley. Also Kitty Ursula Parrott, who wrote two of her books (Strangers May Kiss and Ex-Wife) there.
In 1935 Marie took over the 59 Grove St. house and opened the CRISIS and in 1956 bought the building. For a time Marie sang in small clubs, including her own Paradise Inn. She is an expert cook and occasion-ally obliges a privileged customer by whipping up a beef Stroganoff or her own brand of salad with a dress ing mixed with brandy and Burgundy in lieu of the usual oil and vinegar.
The restaurant itself dates from the 1880's when Ma Bertolotti (Carrie Monteverdi) converted one of her husband's unsuccessful saloons into a boardinghouse for Italian laborers. The fame of her long family table attracted neighborhood writers, artists and actors, and many a future celebrity was carLied there on the cuff, Ma Bertolotti's motto being "eat now, pay later." She never took IOU'S, else the place would be plastered with famous signatures.
Among those who enjoyed the Bertolotti hospitality were John Barrymore, Noel Coward, Edna Ferber, Michael Strange and Theodore Dreiser. Also, from the movie studios on 14th St., Clara Kimball Young, Colleen Moore, Helen Roland, Betty Blythe, Johnny Hines and Charles Twelvetrees.
One of the regular patrons at BERTOLOTTI's in the 1930's was a mystery gent, a "Mr. Campbell," who passed as a successful businessman, always carrying a brief case. Front-page stories later exposed him as one of the most notorious bank robbers of all time—Gerald Chapman.
During Prohibition Ma Bertolotti would send steaming platters around the corner to two young men who operated a speakeasy, the Fronton Club. The young men, known only as Jack and Charlie, were later to be-come famous as operators of the CLUB "21" uptown.
Bill Bertolotti, who was born in the house in 1904, has operated the restaurant since Mother passed on. There is a MOTHER BERTOLOTTI'S at 147 W. 4th St., operated by a cousin, but in no way connected with the original restauLant of that name.
Teddy's, at 219 W. Broadway, is located in another house where Edgar Allan Poe once hung his hat (that man did get around!) If so, he'd hardly recognize the place now, resplendent in its Russell Patterson decorations. TEDDY'S isn't exactly in the Village nor of it. In the words of its owner, it lies "halfway between Washington Square and Wall Street," and is one of the hardest places to get to in New York. Its popularity proves the adage that people will beat a path to your door though you live in the heart of a forest—provided you've got something they want. It takes a seeing-eye taxi driver to find 219 West Broadway because of the odd one-way routing of traffic below Washington Square. If present plans to change West Broadway to Fifth Avenue South go into effect, TEDDY'S will have that as a more fashionable and more accessible address. 140
What attracts customers to TEDDY'S is not only the quality of the Italian food but the personality of the owner, 39-year-old Sal (Salvator) Cucinotta, a robust, genial six-footer who positively exudes good nature and good health. A native of New York's lower East Side, his first contact with the Lestaurant business was presiding behind several bars ("some in very tough neighborhoods") including a 50-foot bar built by himself in Washington Market.
When Sal bought TEDDY'S BAR & GRILL, a former
German-owned speakeasy, it had only a tiny kitchen in the rear. Between serving drinks, he prepared his own lunches and the savory aroma wafting from the kitchen started customers asking to share the host's baked ziti alforno, or whatever else he was cooking. This was his beginning as a restaurateur.
Sal traces his cooking instinct to a grandfather who operated a taverna in Messina, Sicily. He still maintains personal supervision over his chefs and can cook quite as well as they do. There is no printed menu: you select your entree and usually leave the rest of the meal to the suggestions of your headwaiter, captain or Sal himself.
TEDDY'S has twice been selected for the periodic banquets of the Gourmet Society.
The White Horse Tavern, 567 Hudson St. (at fifth St.), is a saloon that dates from 1880, when Ernest Wohlleben, Sr. started attracting British customers by serving "'arf and 'arf" (half beer and porter or beer and stout) in earthenware steins, price 20O. Now operated by his son, Ernest Wohlleben, Jr., it still attracts such notables as Sir Laurence Olivier, Charles Laugh-ton, Judith Anderson and Marcia Davenport. When Dylan Thomas was living in the Village this was his favorite pub. When the crowd at the bar got too raucous, Bill tells me, Thomas would retreat to the telephone booth, or even the men's room, to jot down his thoughts.
There are no juke boxes, TV sets or radios, but chess and checkers are available in a small side room for the avant-garde. There is a portrait of Dylan Thomas in this room, contributed by some unknown admirer.
Though not a restaurant, the WHITE HORSE serves a specialty, a baked meat loaf, hot or cold, in sandwich form. Wohlleben says, "We don't advertise and we don't seek publicity. If we got any more customers we'd have to hire another bartender to handle the mob."
The Village Barn, at 52 W. 8th St., is, next to EL CHICO, the oldest fun spot in the Village, still functioning after 30 years. It calls itself "New York's only country nite club" and carries out the illusion with whitewashed walls decorated with milk cans, saddles, rakes, scythes and harness. It goes in for audience participation—square dancing and country games under the supervision of a master of ceremonies. The entertainment is corny—intentionally so.
It was at the BARN, back in 1931, that Rudy Vallee discovered Judy Canova. It was also the starting point for the Hartmans and Don Cornell. Quite a few stars who no longer venture below 14th St. got their start at the BARN.
Bon Soir, at 40 W. 8th St., properly belongs in the little supper club category but it has much in common with Max Gordon's VILLAGE VANGUARD and features the same type of entertainers, two of its prime favorites being Felicia Sanders and Mae Barnes.
For the past eight years Jimmie Daniels, himself a former international singing favorite in the London, Paris and Riviera resorts, has presided as master of ceremonies. (Shut your eyes and you would think you were listening to Julius Monk.) Before becoming BON SIR, the place was Don Julio's, a small Latin bistro which attracted the dancing crowd.
BON SOIR attracts much the same clientele as the VILLAGE VANGUARD, the BLUE ANGEL and JULIUS MONK'S. A superlative three-piece band serves as back-ground for the singers.
The Showplace, at 146 W. 4th, just off Sixth Ave., is in the old brownstone building which once housed the Pepper Pot, where (legend has it) Al Jolson once sang for his supper and Norma Shearer served briefly as a waitress. It is now Jim Paul Eilers' SHOWPLACE but the old Pepper Pot doormat is still used outside and that will always be its best remembered name. In the 1930'S there was a speakeasy there called the Chantilly Club, a place of ill repute which ran afoul of the law more than once and was closed permanently after a murder had been committed there. In the 1950'S another little club called the Chantilly opened there but didn't last.
On the top floor is an apartment which served as one of playboy Mayor Jimmy Walker's hideaways when he was courting Betty Compton (who later became his second wife). It boasts a multicolored glass skylight over the bed and what was, in those times, an extra fancy tiled and oversized bathroom. Jim Paul Eilers now occupies the apartment and in keeping with its background has painted the bedroom bright red, ceiling and all.
Eilers is an actor who turned photographer's model to earn money to produce shows and it was his modeling fees, estimated at $25,000 a year, which enabled him to finance the SHOWPLACE. Producing has been his ambition since he staged shows in the family garage at Dayton, Ohio. His first local success is Nightcap, a brilliant little revue with four characters and lyrics, book and score by one man, a 25-year-old novice named Jerry Herman, who turned out varsity shows for the University of Miami. (Herman, regarded as one of the most promising new revue composers, neither reads nor writes music—does it all by ear.)
Underneath the main room at SHOWPLACE is a bar labeled "Speakeasy."
Bianchi & Margherita, at 186 West Fourth Street, is one of the genuine fun places of the Village, though you must like grand opera to appreciate it. Along with your Italian pasta you get operatic selections hurled at you from every direction in an almost continuous performance. Everybody sings—waiter, bartender, hatcheck girl, even the chef, who winds up the show by leading the singing ensemble in a rousing performance of the Anvil Chorus from "Il Trovatore." There are, of course, excellent professional singers also, and more talent per capita than you're likely to find at the Metropolitan Opera House. Amateur vocalists, if they are good enough, are sometimes permitted to display their talent.
The Margherita of the title is Margherita Inzerillo, for six years one of the prima donnas of the San Carlo Opera Company. For 14 years she led the singing group at the Asti restaurant at 13 East 12th St., which introduced this type of entertainment. Her partner, Eduardo Bianchi, was for 16 years headwaiter at the Asti. Bianchi, incidentally, is the only member of his organization who doesn't sing.
Important in the entertainment setup at BIANCHI & MARCHERITA is Pietro Gentile, Margherita's handsome younger brother, whose rousing bass-baritone is particularly good in the songs made famous by the late Ezio Pinza. Pietro at 17 was welterweight champion boxer of Panama when he was stationed there with the U.S. Army some years ago.
Julius, at 159 W. 10th St., is listed as a restaurant, but it much more resembles an old fashioned saloon, and that's what it was in the Prohibition era. Whereas most speakeasies demanded "membership" cards of admission, or some other form of identification, Julius' kept the door tied open. According to Village legend, JULIUS was bought by a young Italian truck driver, Johnny Boggiano, with profits he made from beer running. Whatever the source of his wealth, Boggiano, while still in his 20's, is said to have lost $180,000 in the Wall Street crash of 1929 but recouped sufficiently to finance the swank Versailles restaurant in the East 50'S, in partnership with Barney Gallant (they later sold out to Nick Prounis and Arnold Rossfeld). Johnny is now president of the Palm Beach Kennel Club and lives in Florida.
JULIUS has two entrances now, and both doors are wide open. It is usually jammed with the younger villagers who haven't much money and aren't given to conventional dress. They refer to Julius as "the downtown P. J. CLARKE'S."
Verney's, at 106 Christopher St., is the handiest restaurant in the Village for those who attend the Theatre de Lys, where Threepenny Opera seems to be a permanent tenant.
The Cherry Lane restaurant is actually a part of the building which houses the Cherry Lane Theatre, and the restaurant is much more pretentious than the theatre.
The Penguin, at 21 West Ninth Street, represents a complete departure from Village tradition. Nat Simon's restaurant is a smart, uptown operation which just happens to be located on Ninth Street instead of the East Fifties, and draws most of its patronage from uptown.
Greenwich Village coffee houses are too numerous for our space. At least three of them claim to be located on property once belonging to Aaron Burr.
Among the best known and better patronized coffee houses are the Bizarre, at i08 W. 3rd St., which goes in for art exhibitions, poetry readings, chess and checker games, also one-act plays during the winter months. Serves some ingenious off-beat sandwiches and drinks such as clam dip on bagel, pizza-burgers, "breath of Venice" (for teetotalers). There's a 500 minimum on weekends, when the place is open until 5 A.M.
Others worthy of mention are:
Lion's Head, at 116 Charles St., is very Early American in decor, Early Village as to clientele.
Limelight, 91 7th Ave. South, caters to a better dressed group which can pay more for coffee or a complete dinner.
Via Appia, 353 Bleecker St. (between W. 10th St. and Charles), is possibly the most arty of the Village coffee mills. Small and quiet, popular with resident Villagers and college students.
II Nib (meaning "The Nest"), at 61 Grove St., is the smallest of all. Italians like the espresso there.
The Peacock Caffe (proper spelling) at 149 West Fourth St., is a Village branch of a coffee house at 158 West 58th St. that caters to Carnegie Hall patrons and musicians. The Village branch also has a long-hair musical following.
The Seven Arts Coffee Gallery, at 596 Ninth Avenue (near 43rd Street) is a sort of midtown version of a Village institution and when the Villagers go "uptown slumming" that's where they hit for. Features paintings, photography exhibits and occasional lectures and poetry readings.
The Coffee Mill, at 46 West 56th St., probably started the uptown vogue for coffee houses. It features 18 different varieties of coffee, domestic and foreign, and goes in for candlelight, high-glossed mahogany tables, antique pewter and china bric-a-brac. Caters to sophisticates who can meet the rather high prices.
Orsini's, at 43 W. 56th St., is in the top brackets of coffee houses, catering to coffee minded celebrities. A touch of Rome, Milan and Venice.