High Life

Master Class

April 29, 2017

People stayed up much later than they do now. Even after a 6 a.m. drink, there was always Lexington and 51st Street for breakfast. Bickford’s served good but cheap all-night food, and as there were no drugs back then, people actually ordered food when hungry. From the end of the war in ’45 until well into the ’60s, Manhattan had more cabarets than anywhere in the world. The Little Club was owned by Billy Reed, a gay man who had taken a shine to me and gave me his best table despite my rather definite announcement the night we met that there would be no hanky-panky, table or no table. It was at the Little Club that the baseball great—greatest ever, as far as I’m concerned—Mickey Mantle tried to pick up my date, Linda Christian, wife of Tyrone Power, but took a liking to me instead and invited me to the Yankee dugout and left Linda alone.

There was a romantic sexual electricity in those small cabarets back then, or perhaps it was the fact that I was in my 20s that made it so. There was a definite magnetism to those places, and they made one feel on top, especially when escorting a beauty. The big-band era was coming to a close, but there were still over twenty ballrooms in the city where one could go and dance his legs off. Many hotels had their own supper clubs, the Persian Room at the Plaza, the Cotillion at the Pierre, and the Wedgwood Room at the Waldorf Astoria. I once even entered and came in third in a cha-cha-cha contest, but I’ve been too embarrassed to write about it sixty years on.

Anyway, that’s how things were back then, and when it gets dark I sometime miss them. Lesson to be learned: Don’t get old.

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