The most famous nightspot in New York City comes back to life in a new book by Ralph Blumenthal just published by Little,Brown.
My grandfather, Jack Spooner was both head waiter and maitre de' at the Stork for many years during its hey days,from the 1930's - 1950's.
He may of been the only employee of the notorious Sherman Billingsley to leave the Stork (several times) and be allowed to return, actually wooed back by Mr. "B"
Jacks popularity with celebs from all walks of life was legendary and chronicled by journalists such as Walter Winchell, Ed Sullivan,Dorothy Killgallen,Louis Sobel, Bugs Baer and more.
During the 1930's, he started an autograph collection for my mother. "Spooners Book" as it was known, soon became the talk of the town and it too found itself in the columns of Sullivan, Winchell etc. Many celebs not only wrote elaborate musings, they also illustrated them.
Sherman Billingsley was a true original character. Mr. Blumenthal has done a fine job of chronicling that and the cafe society world he helped create. One of Sherman's many hard & fast rules to his help was "If you know them....they don't belong in here" Well here was another place where Jack Spooner broke Billingsley's Law. Not only did he know his customers, he fraternized with them on his time off. Joseph P Kennedy, The Marx Brothers, George Raft, Ethel Merman,James Farley (Coke chairmen) were longtime friends and confidants. He would start addressing his Christmas Cards in August as he sent over 1500 per year,for over 30 years.
The autograph book has over 500 celebs in it including.... Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jack Dempsey,Buster Keaton, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, FDR, Admiral Byrd, Milton Berle,Lucille Ball, Greta Garbo, Ozzie & Harriet, Irving Berlin, Norman Rockwell, Groucho Marx,Al Jolsen,Fay Wray,Gary Cooper, James Cagney etc. Also included were many cartoonists such as Chic Young (Blondie) Ham Fisher (Joe Palooka) Willard (Moon Mullins) newspaper journalists ,broadway show people,authors,playwrights and heads of state.
Here is a glimpse of the NY night life from the Roaring 20's - early 50's. I'm interested in hearing from anyone who may of been there or had family that was.There is currently an exhibit by the NY Historical Society on The Stork Club that will run till October 2000
Jack Spooner, Damon Runyon, Sherman Billingsley
UPDATE JUNE 2004 SEE LAST PAGE FOR INFO ON A NEW STORK CLUB PHOTO BOOK