Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Famous New York Saloonkeeper Toots Shor

Toots Shor was certainly one of America's most famous saloonkeepers of the 20th century. His place was located at 51 West 51st Street in New York City, and operated, at its peak, in the 1940s and 1950s.

The place is the subject of many legendary stories and is often cited in biographies of famous New Yorkers. The place was frequented by Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Gleason, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Orson Welles, Mickey Mantle, Frank Gifford, Edward Bennett Williams, on and on. Yogi Berri, after being introduced at the bar to Ernest Hemingway one evening, famously ask him,"who do you play for, Ernest"?

Somewhat notoriously, wives were not welcomed in Toot's saloon. Baseball players were especially welcomed, along with actors, writers, and politicians. Then-Chief Justice Earl Warren considered Toots one of his closest friends. It was said Toots cultivated his celebrity following by giving them unqualified admiration, loyal friendship, and a kind of happy, boozy, old-fashioned male privacy. It was, of course, suits and ties only in Toot's place in those days.

The above video clip gives a wonderful "flavor" for the bar. Can you imagine going back in time and spending a few hours there? The place was very crowded and very popular at its peak. Once Charlie Chaplin was made to wait 30 minutes in line, and it's said that Toots, with drink in hand, went out and told Mr. Chaplin to entertain the others in line while he waited.

In 1971, the place was padlocked for non-payment of federal, state, and local taxes. Toots opened in another location, but for a variety of reasons, his famous clientele never regularly returned. Toots died indigent in 1977. Toots always said he didn't care if he was millionaire.....so long as he could live like one. A character of our time....Toots Shor.

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