SLA Scandal & Dom DeLuise RIP

imageFor many, the recession has driven them into a survival mode. In these desperate times, jobs are rare, and the nightclub community is providing temporary work for not only the usual suspects — actors, artists, musicians, etc. — but also the unusual suspects. It is now also feeding masses of people who have lost their day jobs. In this environment, there are 1,000 liquor licenses on hold. Each license would provide, let’s say, 25 to 50 or more jobs (I’m better at rhetoric than math), throw in the related work like garbage pickup, liquor suppliers, restaurants, and cabs, and think of the positive impact a speedy issuance of these licenses would bring. Money earned is money spent in the community. You can see that snowball thing going on, but unfortunately, those that run things in Albany have been slow in catching on.

Every scandal needs a villain, and sometimes that person is a scapegoat. I know a little about such things, and in this case the villain has a name. While the city and indeed the world suffers, Daniel Boyle — a clueless ex-cop and Pataki appointee from upstate New York — has held our community by the throat. This has been reported in other forums, but I have been asked by many to weigh in. In what appears to be a pandering to special interest groups, real estate giants, and community boards, Boyle has illegally turned the usual three- to four-month application process into a six- to eight-month affair. This stupidity and arrogance discourages investors from putting up money in a business sector that can provide jobs, tax revenues, and important relief from the stress of our lives. In a meeting of the New York Nightlife Association on Wednesday, City Council candidate Bob Zuckerman (Park Slope, etc.) pointed out that 75% of all private sector jobs are in firms that employ 50 people or fewer. That is the club/restaurant industry. When he was appointed, Daniel Boyle wasted no time in putting a 90-day moratorium on licensing. The very anti-business-minded Boyle — whose term has long ago expired — has been in office while Governor Patterson decided on a replacement. Dennis Rosen has been tapped for the job, and according to chit-chat around the table on Wednesday, he is an intelligent and reasonable guy.

The scandal that has been widely reported on — that a few State Liquor Authority employees took bribes of gift cards to move applications from the bottom of the pile to the top — has shocked many. Why is it shocking that businesses desperate and with no one to turn to got creative and did things the old-fashioned way? It should be clear that there have been no allegations that anyone who didn’t deserve a license got one, and it seems that no one has been arrested, although a few were disciplined. Rumors that licenses were obtained in as little as two weeks seem to be false. I was told that, “Temporary licenses were obtained in two weeks, which is the norm.” Let’s hope that Dennis Rosen returns sanity and fair play to the SLA, and this leads to jobs and tax revenues.

The recent passing of comedian, actor, and chef Dom DeLuise brought back memories for me. Back in the day, I was asked to handle the promotions of a new club opening on the bones of an old one in Times Square — the new club was called (over my strenuous objections) The Blue Penguin — and to this day I have no idea why. The old club was the legendary Latin Quarter. I arrived a month or so before the opening gala and saw what was left of the old gal. Showgirl costumes were still on their racks, while others were behind glass preserving the memory of someone or some event that everyone had by now forgotten. I was taken to the roof, where the remains of a one-bedroom house stood at that moment where Broadway invades 7th Avenue (you know, where that big Coke sign dazzles?). I was told that Barbara Walters’ dad Lou ran the joint and had this little house not-on-the-prairie up there to entertain. I remember wondering if the significance of the encased dresses had been solved. Sinatra, Sophie Tucker, Milton Berle, and a thousand others played the room. It had previous incarnations as the Palais de Royale with the Moulin Rouge in the cellar, and The Cotton Club lived there after it had died up in Harlem just before WW2.

Opening night was hosted by Charlie Sheen, Taki, Anthony Hayden-Guest, and a flock of others. The cast of Platoon was on hand, as some of the producers of the film were tied into The Blue Penguin. One of the producer/promoter types, a beautiful and sharp gal, couldn’t stop gushing about Johnny Depp, who it seems was in the movie and was catching everyone’s eye except mine. I watched it about three times before I saw him carrying a child through a burnt-out village. The first guest to arrive was Dom DeLuise, who lingered by the door just long enough to have everyone working and standing on line hysterically laughing. He was a funny man. He then whispered in my ear, “Where’s the food?” and I took him to it. Although very little was spent on decor, the food spread was unreal. Mr. DeLuise parked himself by the good fare and told not-made-for-TV jokes as if he needed to earn his meal. At a small table on the flip side of the room — suits who had come to witness the potential of fresh ideas into the new club — were making a fateful decision: Blue Penguin wasn’t to be. It was knocked down and is now buried under the Ramada Renaissance hotel in all the flashy gimmicks of the new Disneyfied Times Square. There isn’t a plaque or even a plexi-encased showgirl’s costume to show you where it was. 48th Street has a sign declaring it Lou Walters Way to confuse the tourists. Dom DeLuise passed away the other day and is remembered fondly here.

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