JACK IN THE APPLE
( a far cry from Jack In The Box or McDonalds for that matter )
John J. Spooner circa 1906
THE LONG COLORFUL CAREER OF JACK SPOONER
NEW YORK'S MOST CELEBRATED WAITER & MAITRE D' AND THE GOLDEN ERA OF CAFE SOCIETY
OFF TO A GOOD START
This is where Jack started out in NYC in 1906. The original Waldorf - Astoria that was located at 5th Ave & 34th Street. Built in 1892, The Waldorf was just 14 years old, when 19 year old Jack Spooner fresh out of the Marines ( he joined at 15!) and back from the Phillipines, began waiting on tables there. He had followed his older brother Charlie, a vaudeville pianist, who came to NY in the 1890's. Jack was long gone by 1929, when the Waldorf was torn down at a cost of $900,000 to make way for something bigger,
THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING.
THE WALDORF's ROOFTOP REST
MAIN DINING ROOM
Tending bar here in '06 was Billy LaHiff, a gentleman who would become a lifelong friend to Gramps. Billy would hire Jack when he opened his Toast of The Town Broadway eatery, LaHiff's Tavern in the teens which was where he stayed until Billy passed away in the early 1930's
BETWEEN THE WALDORF & THE TAVERN GIGS, THERE WAS ANOTHER
NY CITY LANDMARK SIMPLY CALLED
JACK'S WAS RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE HUGE EXHIBITION HALL KNOWN AS THE HIPPODROME
WILL THE REAL JACK... PLEASE STAND UP! ... HE IS STANDING, 5th ROW 3rd FROM THE LEFT
The fellow sitting down front center with the flower in his lapel is either Jack Dunston or his son. Jack Dunston owned the place. Grandpa Jack had moved on about a decade before then millionaire Dunston passed away in 1928.
It was here Grandpa Jack became the leader of a three man team known as "THE FLYING WEDGE" who would swiftly deal with unruly and trouble customers, who would find themselves lifted up by the arms and tossed out the door before they knew what hit them.
THIS IS PART OF A MUCH BIGGER ARTICLE ON JACKS THAT AUTHOR DAMON RUYNON WROTE
DUNSTON OPENED HIS PLACE IN 1880's AND STAYED OPEN TWENTY FOUR-SEVEN.JACK'S WAS THE ONLY PLACE IN THE THEATRE DISTRICT THAT HAD AN ALL NIGHT LICENSE. WHEN THE MAYOR FINALLY REVOKED IT BRIEFLY IN 1914 TO FORCE CLOSING IT AFTER 2 AM, NO ONE COULD FIND THE KEY FOR THE DOOR. A FEW MONTHS LATER JACK WAS BACK ROCKIN' ROUND THE CLOCK.
JACK'S WAS AS UNIQUE AS ITS OWNER DUNSTON WAS
SOMETIME BEFORE 1910, JACK MARRIED HANNAH ACKERMAN, A GERMAN IMMIGRANT. THEY LIVED UP AT 177TH ST ACCORDING TO THE 1910 CENSUS. HANNAH DEVELOPED TB AND DIED A FEW DAYS SHY OF HER 31st BIRTHDAY IN JAN OF 1918 FROM COMPLICATIONS OF PNEUMONIA. AS FAR AS I KNOW PHOTOS OF HER DO NOT EXIST.
BILLY LaHIFF's TAVERN
A CITY PROPERTY TAX ASSESOR TAKING A PHOTO CIRCA 1937
156 W.48Th STREET WAS THE BROADWAY PLACE TO GO FROM 1922 THROUGH 1934
AFTER THAT ANOTHER HISTORIC LANDMARK OPENED ITS DOORS THERE
ANY SHARP EYED MUSICIANS OUT THERE RECOGNIZE THE ADDRESS ?
(Hint The Front Of Building Next To It On The Right Is Still The Same
But Probably Not For Much Longer)
.... In other years when the world was a cream puff and the reporters lived on the hourly excitements of the nineteen-twenties, you and I would of met at Billy LaHiff's Tavern on West Forty Eight Street.Quite understandably you would not of paid close attention to me in those days - nor today for that matter - since I spent much of my time in the basement kitchen trying to write a novel on a table next to the meat block. Jack Spooner, the big blonde captain of the waiters, and former member of the historic flying wedge at Jack Dunston's all night cafe, saw to it that I had an occasional drink "on the house" Prohibition laws not withstanding, for the sake of modern letters. Gene Fowler - Beau James, The Life & Times Of Jimmy Walker
MARCH 26,1932 TESTIMONIAL TO BILLY LaHIFF FROM THE BIG APPLE'S MOVERS & SHAKERS
Over on the far left against the wall is a smiling Jack Benny.5 guys up the wall from Mr. Benny, is the deadpan Ed Sullivan. Sullivan had a furnished room upstairs at the Tavern. Gramps used to loan Ed money & feed him too. The sign near Jack Benny says "LaHiff Only Seems Like A Big Hearted Guy Because SPOONER Trusts Everybody" Down in front second from right, Is None Other Than Irving Berlin's Song Plugger & Future Real Estate Tycoon, Walter T.Shirley. Gramps "The Old Marine" is with his troops in the back of the room.
YOU TALKIN' TO ME ? MIGHT OF BEEN A ROUGH DAY?
AS JACK HAS A "WHADDA YOU WANT" LOOK.
BESIDES SHOW PEOPLE. LaHIFFS WAS A REGULAR HANG OUT FOR JOURNALISTS, SPORTS WRITERS AND THEIR SUBJECTS
BOXERS, WRESTLERS, FOOTBALL & BASEBALL PLAYERS
LOU GEHRIG's AUTOGRAPH
Just one of the close to a thousand autographs he compiled for my mother. There's more in
The Stork Club Pages
Many Magazine Illustrators,& Cartoonists of e.g. Moon Mullins,Blondie,Popeye,Joe Palooka
Became Jack's Friends
Sometime circa 1918-19,widower Jack worked at French Restaurant, whose name I wish I knew. It was there he met young Anna Olsen,a Swedish immigrant and chefs assistant. Besides romance blooming in the kitchen, both of them became expert cooks. They were married in July of 1919.
ANNA OLSEN SPOONER
Only difference was Jack got demonstrate his abilities for appetites in the entire Big Apple, whereas Grandma Spooner made eating at her house always a delight, whether it was just a sandwich or a Thanksgiving dinner.Her pastry expertise with pie crust was incredible. And her Apple Pie could of been a contender anywhere in the world. One time for laughs she tried her hand at making Mock Apple pie. It too was incredible.
I HAVE THE RECIPE FOR HIS STEAK SAUCE THAT BECAME LEGENDARY. IT WILL MAKE YOUR CARDIOLOGIST
DROP YOU AS A PATIENT, BUT JULIA CHILD WOULD CERTAINLY ENDORSE IT. IT'S YOURS FOR AN E MAIL
THIS ONE WAS ON THE POST'S FRONT PAGE
HE WAS KNOWN FOR HIS WISECRACKS TOO ... SOMETHING I THINK I INHERITED
AFTER BILLY LAHIFF PASSED AWAY, JACK MOVED ON TO HIS LEGACY IN LIFE
THE STORK CLUB
JACK'S THREE DECADE HISTORY AT THE STORK CLUB IS FEATURED ON MULTIPLE PAGES
One Of The Places He Left The Stork For Briefly In The 1930's, Was To Work For His Old Friend
JACK DEMPSEY, A FORMER HEAVY WEIGHT BOXING CHAMPION OF THE WORLD
DEMPSEY'S PLACE WAS ON 8th AVE OPPOSITE MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
THEY KNEW EACH OTHER SINCE 1916, THREE YEARS BEFORE DEMPSEY BECAME CHAMP
HERE THEY ARE REUNITED AT THE STORK CLUB IN THE 1940's
This Next Column From The Mid 1930's Is One Of The Many To Be Found On
LUCKY SO & SO 1944
M. Todd Was Broadway & Film Producer Mike Todd Liz Taylor's 2nd Husband
Gramps was an investor in one of his Broadway Shows "Pickup Girl" In 1944
JACK WAS AN AMAZING MAGICIAN WITH CARDS, COINS OR DICE
JUST ROLL THE DICE ... WALTER
I DO NOT THINK GRANDPA EVER SAW EVEN 25% OF THE NEWS ITEMS THAT COLUMNISTS WINCHELL, SULLIVAN, LYONS, KILLGALLEN, SOBEL & WILSON WROTE ABOUT HIM. HE WAS A VERY SOFT SPOKEN & LOW KEYED GUY. I KNOW HE WAS VERY PROUD OF THE AUTOGRAPH BOOK HE MADE FOR MY MOM AND HE DID INCLUDE A HANDFUL OF NEWS TID BITS LIKE THE JOE PALOOKA CARTOON IN IT. IT IS ONLY BECAUSE MOST OF THESE COLUMNISTS WERE SYNDICATED NATIONALY THAT I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO FIND AS MANY AS I HAVE AS MORE AND MORE OLD NEWSPAPERS GET DIGITIZED. I NOW PROBABLY HAVE AROUND 50 SOME ODD ITEMS.
EASTER 1947 AT THE STORK CLUB ... CHECKING OUT THE BUNNIES
I was just weeks away from becoming his last grandson. But far stranger than that is how I got this photo. Viola Kelly, the hat check girl in the foreground, would wind up living in our Mastic Beach house years after we left it. Her daughter spotted my house on the website in 2005 and VIOLA ! The wonders of "the internets" ...
JACK LEFT THE STORK FOR THE LAST TIME IN 1955.DOROTHY KILLGALLEN REPORTED IN HER COLUMN THAT HE WAS AT HOME & SERIOUSLY ILL. IT WAS THE START OF PARKINSONS DISEASE, FOR WHICH THERE WAS VERY LITTLE TREATMENT AT THAT TIME. BUT HE REBOUNDED ONE MORE TIME A YEAR LATER & WENT BACK FOR ANOTHER LAST GO ROUND. THIS TIME AT THE
Gone But Not Forgotton
Grandpa probably never had a clue about this one from 1961. He had been fully retired since 1958 and living with us in Mastic Beach since 1959, when this item about the late creator of Sherlock Holmes and Gramps appeared in Leonard Lyons syndicated column.
I Turned 14 On May 11,1961. I Remember It Well Because The Night Before,I Played My
First "Paid" Band Gig And Began My Sojurn Into Grandpa's World Of The Nightlife.
On November 19, 2010, While I Was In New York On Business, I Made It A Point To Visit The One Remaining Place I Could, Where Jack Spooner Made His Mark. 3 East 53rd Street just off the corner of 5th Ave. In 1966, CBS President, William Paley Bought The Stork Club And Wasted No Time In Tearing It Down. ( I guess he may of been one of the many big ego people who wound up on owner Sherman Billingsley's Shit List) Many like Humphrey Bogart were banned repeatably from the Stork, yet seemed to come back. Paley Made A Vest Pocket Park Out The Place In His Late Wife's Honor, ( Perhaps she was snubbed there once?) I Dunno & Don't Care,
THE CITY OF NEW YORK SHOULD CERTAINLY PLACE A PLAQUE, TELLING VISITORS WHAT ONCE WAS THERE. BESIDES THE ONE THAT HONORS MRS PALEY'S MEMORY. THE MEMORIES THAT WERE MADE IN THE STORK SO OVERSHADOW HER IT IS ALMOST INCONCIEVABLE. EVEN THOUGH THE PROPERTY MAY STILL BE IN THE PALEY NAME , ( I DOUBT THEY PAY TAXES ON IT ) THE CITY COULD EASILY AFFORD A SMALL BRONZE PLAQUE. IF NOT THE CITY, THE CURRENT MAYOR CERTAINLY COULD.
When I visited I asked several tourists who wandered in to take photos of the fountain if they had any idea what once was there.
No One Had A Clue
Your Table Is Ready