When I moved to NYC in 1986 to go to NYU for graduate school I knew that there was one place that I had to see. One of my first destinations upon arriving in the Big Apple was going to be The Algonquin Hotel on 44th St between 5th and 6th Ave. I had to go there to see The Algonquin Round Table of Dorothy Parker fame. How could you not? It held a fascination for me that, to this day, still has a hold on me.
Franklin Pierce Adams, columnist,
Robert Benchley, humorist and actor,
Heywood Broun, columnist and sportswriter (married to Ruth Hale)
Marc Connelly, playwright
Ruth Hale, freelance writer who worked for women's rights
George S. Kaufman, playwright and director
Dorothy Parker, critic, poet, short-story writer, and screenwriter
Harold Ross, The New Yorker editor
Robert E. Sherwood, author and playwright
John Peter Toohey, publicist
Alexander Woollcott, critic and journalist
What I discovered at The Algonquin was music. I discovered its treasure, The Oak Room. What I fell in love with was Jazz and Cabaret. I would spend many afternoons, studying in the front lounge, drinking coffee and laughing that a cat always had the run of the hotel. The Algonquin has had a stray cat as a mascot since the 30's I think. The males are always named Hamlet and the females are always named Matilda.
As often as I could afford, on a graduate students expense account, I would go listen to music on the weekends. No matter who was playing, I was never disappointed by my experiences and I felt a deep connection to the room, it's mood and it's ambiance held my in it's spell.
Well, I moved to San Francisco in '91 and I was desperate to find a replacement for my beloved Oak Room. And what did I find? One evening, after searching the Pink Section of the Chronicle for music, I came across "The Clift Hotel" and The Redwood Room. It was a smokey, wonderful Art Deco bar whose walls were covered in the veneer of a single Redwood tree.
|Not much had changed in the Redwood Room from this view in the 60's|
Then to my horror in 2000 Ian Schrager of Studio 54 fame and Phillipe Starck bought and decided to "redecorate" the Redwood Room. Gone was the music, gone was the quiet, gone was the intimate nature of a landmark. It was replaced by a large, noisy and trendy nightspot that played loud mixed taped music and catered to the young affluent Dot-Com crowd.
I was heartbroken but I still had my Algonquin. I would go back to NYC whenever my work would take me there of I would take a vacation to NYC for the museums and no matter what I would make time to go listen to music at the Oak Room
Then one amazing evening I discovered the voice and talent of Andrea Marcovicci. That evening was almost 15 years ago. I listened to her sing for the first time and I was actually smitten. I have to admit that even to this day I have a HUGE crush on her. I enjoyed her music so much so that I would make sure that I would go and see her perform in San Francisco whenever she came to town.
|Andrea Marcovicci at the Oak Room|
Then to my dismay, it has recently been announced that The Oak Room was to be closed and renovated into part of the hotels "Blue Bar."
There are just some things that should not change and The Redwood Room and The Oak Room were two of those iconic places that are dwindling away to never be apart of our culture again. Sometimes, change is not such a good thing!