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Taking an annual trip to New York City

Making trips to New York has always brought about stirring emotions.  You just cannot wait to get there, Manhattan being one of the most electrifying places there is.  London, Paris and Rome — each has its own uniqueness, but “the City” is unsurpassed when it comes to getting a buzz when you walk down the street.

An annual trip in December, until COVID hit, was on my calendar since the mid-seventies. There is much to explore from museums — especially the American Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art — Madison Square Garden, the overall sports scene and the countless restaurants from the off-the-beaten-path neighborhood diners to those which make the headlines.

No restaurant address has had a longer run than “’21’ Club,” until now.  COVID again; According to Internet reports, ‘21’ has been shuttered in the short term. Apparently, we will know in March whether closure will be permanent or not. 

Located at 21 West 52nd street, ‘21’ dates back to “speak easy” times and has been a popular address for the “rich, beautiful and powerful” for over 90 years which the New York Post wrote about recently.

The Post review included photos of Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds.

The Post’s history of ‘21’ was as lively as the atmosphere, itself: “Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton both stashed bottles of pricey wine in the restaurant’s cellar (and some are said to still be there). Ernest Hemingway made love to a girlfriend of gangster Legs Diamond on a kitchen staircase.

(Luckily, Legs was gunned down before he could seek his promised retribution). Novelist John O’Hara routinely got blind-drunk and was liable to throw punches at anyone within proximity, while a sad and solo-dining Jackie Gleason insisted on swapping his pool cue from “The Hustler” (which remains on display) for a model train encased behind the bar.”

The first time I went to ’21,’ was with sportswriter and novelist Dan Jenkins, who lived in New York a great portion of his life. Before I could assess the menu, Dan ordered a well-done hamburger.

A man named Trump frequented the restaurant for years always ordering a hamburger and a Diet Coke, which spawns this question: How could any man be given to such erratic behavior without being under the influence?

In recent years for the annual induction of the College Football Hall of Fame, the elite of the college football world gathered in Manhattan during the first full week in December. Archie Manning, the President of the National Football Foundation, dating back, has hosted a luncheon for several of his friends at ‘21’ in December. Sons Peyton and Eli have joined him on occasion. Now that Eli has retired, they may well be regulars, especially if ‘21’ enjoys a rebirth. Coach Tommy Tuberville usually joins Archie’s lunch group. As Senator Tuberville, not sure what his plans will be.

With Archie’s wide circle of friends, his luncheon has stimulated an “old home week” atmosphere. My hotel has always been in walking distance to ’21.’ You walk a few blocks up to 52nd Street amid the cacophony of traffic sounds in brisk, but enlivening, temperatures until you reach the famous address where dozens of iron lawn jockeys stand silent sentry to diners who are attracted to the atmosphere and reputation of ‘21’ as much as the food which brings up this interesting note.

While the restaurant has one of the best reputations there is, it also is known as a place where “nobody went for the food.” Carol Channing, reportedly, brought her own meals.

Long-time manager of ’21,’ Jimmy Snyder told the Post that Frank Sinatra “liked those red cherry peppers that came in a jar at the supermarket.”

The staff always kept a jar in the refrigerator when he came to town.

“(Sinatra) enjoyed drinking Sambuca Originale, which was not the best Sambuca. You could not find it in the Manhattan liquor stores. So we had to bring it in from New Jersey.”

There you have it.

The place where Carol Channing brought in her own boxed meal, Frank Sinatra preferred cheap Sambuca, Donald Trump ordered hamburgers well-done and Marilyn Monroe celebrated her film, “The Seven Year Itch,” is dark and empty.   

For the record, I like the food at ’21.’ They have the best sautéed salmon and their well-done hamburgers are good, too. I ate one with Dan Jenkins not Donald Trump. Narcissism really ruins a good hamburger.