A First Glimpse At What’s Opening and What Never Should Have Closed

A very fat – or is it phat – quiet cat is out of the bag. I am sworn to secrecy about Toy, the new Tony Theodore/Koch brothers-driven spot in the Ganesvoort Meatpacking. I was graciously and quietly given a tour the other day while workman readied the Jeffrey Beers-designed space. I promised to keep it all on the low but once a PR firm sends out invites… it’s time to talk. Toy looks like it will be fun to play with. My goodness that was corny but expected I guess. Daniel, Derek, and Tony gave me the $2-tour and I was impressed. There is a wonderful outdoor space, an oyster bar and multi-levels and faceted mirrors all over the ceiling, fabulous blue booths and ebonized tables, and the whole place is better suited than previous incarnations to embrace those seeking the good life down in the Meatpacking District.

The event the PR peeps are hawking is this Monster Diesel party Thursday night. No, that’s not a truck and an energy drink soiree rather it is the clothing company announcing the launch of its "Noise Division" and a headphone company. Noise at the event is offered up by Theophilus London, Solange Knowles, and Brendan Fallis. I promised everyone I would attend and will do so.

On Saturday night I was hobnobbing at Snap and Stash where bon vivants gathered to watch that wonderful fight where Tim Bradley whipped Manny Pacquiao. After the fight, the models, promoters, and owners poured into the street and then over to Darby Downstairs. I heard Ryan Gosling and a slew of others like that attended. I didn’t see them in the crowd. I did get to chat up a bearded Leonardo DiCaprio who I hadn’t seen in a minute. He used to hang with us at Life and other joints we ran. He’s as cool and down- to-earth as ever and it was great to small-talk with the big star. I don’t much like to talk about celebs in clubs, but when they’re on the sidewalk talking to me I figure it’s OK.

After all the hoopla, I joined my party downstairs at Snap for a bottle of Beau Joie Champagne. My group included Jenny Oz Leroy of Tavern on the Green and Russian Tea Room fame. It’s amazing to me that this city pushed her out of Tavern, the joint her dad created from nothing and now, years later, the building is rotting. It’s a testament to bureaucracy gone bad and it’s complete and utter bullshit from the pencil-pushers involved.

Tavern was part of the fabric of this town. It was weddings and galas and lights and magic. It was visited and revisited by generations. It was memories. It was jobs and tax revenues from one of the highest grossing restaurants in the country, until Vegas exploded the undisputed truth in restaurant revenues. It lays empty, and every warm summer day underscores the huge mistake made by this administration. Admit it fellows…admit that you royally fucked up, dropped the ball, blew it, and beg Jenny to take it back.

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Doing Good: Auction Date With Editor Tonight & Sandy Fundraiser Next Week

Back in September, I posted about an auction of some lovely ladies to benefit the National MS Society. People were encouraged to bid on a date with these gals. My editor, Bonnie Gleicher, one of the great women who stand behind this humble servant, was put up for sale…or at least rent. I agreed to write about it and help curate this date .Well, that date is tonight. A gallant young man named Craig Clemens (who everyone believes is not an ax murderer) will take the brilliant and beautiful Bonnie out on the town. Craig paid $500 for the honor. The young couple will look for love in all the right places starting with a couple of tickets to Rock of Ages, that Broadway musical full of ’80s hits. Bonnie, associate editor of Blackbook, will be mixing business with pleasure as she is reviewing this show for an article due next week. I must weigh in: 

Craig, Bonnie is a career girl with promises to keep and no time to waste. You must be on top of your game. Dress for success and for heaven’s sake don’t come smelling like the first floor of Macy’s. Open doors and smile a lot. Have a couple of little jokes scribbled on a little piece of paper or inside your wrist. Be a good listener; Bonnie has a lot to say.

 I’ve never met Craig but he has been described as "good looking" and "pretty young.” I have been told he is a "worldly traveler" and a "lover of nightlife.” I can’t wait to meet him as we have so much in common  (except maybe the good looking..ok, and the pretty young  and I guess worldly traveler part). After Rock of Ages, the young couple will come to Hotel Chantelle to hear me spin rock anthems and cool, cool new stuff. I DJ with the always-debonair Luc Carl and bad boy Sam Valentine. Our weekly rock party will celebrate them, their newfound love, and love in general with a bottle of Beau Joie Champagne and a table right in the middle of the action. I will pose for pictures with the couple on their first, maybe of many, date. At one point, I will say, "Goodnight Mr. Clemens, and make sure Bonnie gets home safe and not tooooo late. She does have to make me sound good for you guys tomorrow.”

All over town the story of the haves and the have-nots is playing out. Even more so than normal. It’s easy to forget that many of our neighbors have lost everything and some just a little less than that. I’m still without heat and am writing this in long underwear and a space heater way too close. Sorry, no pictures. In places all over town, a roof or clean clothes is a luxury. People are hurting, and New Yorkers, as they tend to do in a crisis, are stepping up. Some are stepping up by stepping out. There are events all over town making contributions to people who are desperate. Yesterday’s snow and the frigid weather that came with it didn’t help. One of the haves helping out is the wonderful Jenny Oz Leroy (ex-Tavern On The Green, ex-Russian Tea Room) who is poised to do something to write about but it’s a little too early to write about. One thing I can mention is a fundraiser she is hosting at the Leroy residence, 65 W.13th St., next Thursday, Nov. 15th. It’s called “Shove Off, Sandy” and there will be food  and cocktails sponsored by her LeRoy Redux company. Contributing to the event are the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, other restaurants, and Baked By Melissa. I asked Jenny about it:

"So the fundraiser idea started last week when I was frustrated with how to help more.  After doing the standard donation to the Red Cross and packing up supplies from the house, I wanted to dig deeper.  I decided at the very least I could try to raise money in the building. The Greenwich has many successful and seemingly kind tenants.  We are opening our home to invite people to drop by to donate or stay for some delicious food and cocktails.  

When: Thursday, Nov. 15th, 5pm-10pm

Where: The LeRoy’s home, 65 W. 13th St. apt 8B

Email info is LeRoyreduxinfo@gmail.com.  

No donation is too big or too small. We will also have a sign-up available for people who want supplies picked up from their house/apt. Contributing sponsors so far are: Knickerbocker Bar and Grill, Baked By Melissa, and my new company LeRoy Redux consulting & private events. We’ll be providing the food, cocktails, flowers etc.”

Meeting the Munchkins at Tavern’s Swan Song

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up in the high 60s, is this very special place called Tavern on the Green. The 70th anniversary party for the most wonderful, most watched and most classic film of all time was held there last Friday in an event to benefit Elizabeth Glazer’s pediatric AIDS foundation. I hung out with good friend Jenny Oz Leroy, Tavern’s “current” owner and host of the gala. My nightclub career has allowed me to meet legends such as Pelé, Wilt Chamberlain, Stevie Wonder, a Beatle, a few Stones, Madonna, Sting, Bono, some Zeppelins, Prince, and some Sex Pistols. But maybe my biggest thrill came at this event. Here were Jerry Maren, Margaret Pellegrinni, Reinhardt Raabe, Ruth Duccini and Karl Stover — little people who starred as Munchkins in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz.

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They sang their famous songs and told amazing anecdotes as I deja vu’d. There were ruby slippers everywhere — artwork, poppies, a yellow brick road, a witch’s broom, a Scarecrow, a dozen Dorothys, a Lion and a Tin Man. Lorna Luft, Liza Minnelli’s sister and the daughter of Dorothy, was on hand as well. Judy Garland’s kid broke precedent and sang a medley of songs from the flick. Jenny Oz Leroy’s speech gave me goosebumps as she gave us a little bit of her history and that of her famous family and The Wizard of Oz. I learned how her dad, the legend Warner Leroy, got Toto after the movie but gave him back as he was a “nasty little dog,” and that the tornado was a sock. The city has yanked the magic carpet from under Jenny’s feet and given the joint over to Boathouse operator Dean Poll. This was an unclassy move by a Parks Department that will, I believe, ultimately regret it. Somewhere in the back of her mind as she stood on stage brandishing that family smile and Oz-like optimism, Jenny must have been hoping that a few clicks on the heels of those ruby slippers accompanied by a bunch of “there’s no place like homes” would make it all go back to the way it was.

Her dad and my idol in this biz, Warner Leroy, turned Tavern on the Green from nothing to something. He spent $10 million in 1973 dollars on a renovation and gave us an Emerald City. It opened in 1976 in a tornado of publicity and success. Until those Vegas joints opened, Tavern was the perennial highest-grossing joint in the USA. Jenny will take the name with her, and the new joint will be just another place. Tavern was made of steel and concrete and glass for sure. It was decorated with fine chandeliers and moldings and furniture, but its soul came from dreams, and soon — January 1 — those dreams will move on. It won’t be the same without the magic, and you can’t buy or outbid for that stuff.

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Jenny’s history is yet to be written. On October 6, she will turn 31. When her great-grandfather, the legendary filmmaker and studio boss Harry Warner was 31, he and his brothers (flush with a $1,500 profit from their film Dante’s Inferno) formed Warner Studios, which of course became Warner Bros. Her grandfather Mervyn Leroy is credited with discovering Clark Gable and Lana Turner and a bunch more. At 31, his breakout film was Little Caesar, propelling himself and his star, Edward G. Robinson, into celebrity. At 31, Jenny’s dad Warner opened his breakout restaurant nightspot Maxwell’s Plum. Her sister Carolyn has Plum as a middle name. Maxwell’s was the home of Manhattan’s fastest set; it was Joe Namath and Warren Beatty and every model in town long before there were promoters to wrangle them. From his New York Times obituary:

”Nobody can out-showbiz Warner in a restaurant, and probably nobody would want to, but in defining the edges so authoritatively, everybody took notice,” said Danny Meyer, a New York restaurateur. ”He forced the rest of us to reckon with how people are going to feel in terms of the drama of our atmosphere. You cannot open a major New York restaurant today and not be aware that showbiz will play a role.”

Warner Leroy did lots of other cool stuff, like the Russian Tea Room and founding Great Adventure. When Lorna Luft was about to sing, she explained that she never sang the songs from The Wizard of Oz. She was “never comfortable” with her “legacy.” Being Judy Garland’s daughter does I guess have its pressures, and her medley was nice, or pleasant, and for a worthy cause, but it did lack the magic, the intangibles that her mother brought to the crowd. Jenny Leroy is not uncomfortable with her legacy, and she owns that name. Tavern on the Green without a Leroy is the Yankees without Jeter. Already the unions are starting to complain about what they hear regarding plans to reduce their loot . This union has a serious track record with successful, long strikes at the Rainbow Room, the Plaza, and at Tavern. This is going to be war.

As I looked up at the Empire State Building, turned ruby red for the celebration, I thought of King Kong and how the imaginary ape created the legend of a building which will always be the grandest in the world, even if some are built with more stories. The story of the Empire State Building being built in the midst of the great depression, of romance and film, make it a must-see for every tourist long after it wasn’t the biggest. The stories that count are the ones told by fathers to sons and in books and flicks. The charisma of the place hits you like a ton of ape whenever you see it. Tavern without the crystal, furnishings, and dreams will be just another place, and why would any tourist even bother?

I heard they’re putting public restrooms outside, so the new dining guests won’t have to mingle with the joggers and dog walkers and other park users anymore. The Leroy family welcomed them inside; they were a part of the city’s fabric, and they understood the concept of hospitality a bit more than Mr. Poll ever will. He just doesn’t have it in his genes. Just like Lorna Luft, the new restaurant where Tavern (the King Kong of all joints) lived will be pleasant and nice. But just as Lorna Luft is no Judy Garland, Dean Poll ain’t a Leroy. Jenny Oz Leroy is turning 31, a magical age for her clan. She was thrust into control at 22 when her dad passed. Now she has a lot of experience, an infectious charisma, and she owns the Tavern on the Green name, but that of course is a horse of a different color. I’d spend some time and try to figure out her next move, if I only had a brain. I probably wont return to Tavern again, and the new place probably will not interest me. It just won’t be the same without Oz.