A 20-dollar bill doesn't go far in Manhattan, but it's enough to cover the price of the signature Red Snapper at the King Cole Bar inside the St. Regis Hotel at 2 E. 55th St. and over which you can see not only Maxfield Parrish's sublime and recently restored Old King Cole Mural above the elegantly paneled bar but also the means by which you can experience New York through rose-colored glasses.
The "Red Snapper" is the name for the St. Regis Hotel's "Blood Mary," the now-ubiquitous concoction the hotel introduced to the United States. When I visited the bar yesterday afternoon, I already knew I wanted to try one, rationalizing mid-day vodka consumption with the conviction that tomato juice and pepper would help me get over the final stages of a cold. Amply served in a tall curvy glass and with just the right amount of peppery spice, the drink, accompanied by bar snacks of wasabi crunches, pretzels, and mixed nuts, along with the visual wonder of the Old King Cole narrative playing above, helped propel me to a higher state of consciousness.
I visited the bar and the St. Regis as part of this week's exploration of the Classic New York of Mame Dennis. Before I set out on my midtown trip, knowing my destination in advance, I dressed myself in Classic Fashion, ransacking the closet for tailored black clothes and appropriate accessories. I let the spirit of Mame transform my appearance from the scholarly spectacled Agnes Gooch of my morning attire into a dame that seemed at home in the St. Regis. It's not the clothes that open doors to Classic New York, I know, but rather qualities of confidence and posture. Still, it's best to dress up. I also wore dark sunglasses, a powerful fashion addition for reporting from the field.
When I walked through the lobby of the hotel and past the dining area toward the King Cole Bar, at that point shifting the sunglasses to the top of my head, I couldn't count the number of well-groomed service staff members waiting to help the hotel guests. Classic New York, I learned, involves a high ratio of well-trained and polite experts to the willing, and preferably monied, customer. When Mame becomes Mrs. Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside, she moved to ten rooms at the St. Regis Hotel, lifting her out of the impoverished embarrassment of a carriage house in Murray Hill. Lucky her. In the timeline of Patrick Dennis' memoir, she would have arrived at the hotel at just about the time (give or take a couple of years, who's counting?), in 1934, when bartender Fernand Petiot took a job at the bar and invented the "Red Snapper."
Website for the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis Hotel
Next up: After the King Cole Bar, negotiating the conga line of Henri Bendel makeup experts.
Image: Arriving at the St. Regis Hotel. April 8, 2008.
See related posts:
Classic New York: A Walk, and a Map
The Classic New York of Mame Dennis: A Coda, on Bank Street
Classic New York: 59th and Fifth: A Slideshow
Classic New York: The Algonquin
Classic New York: A Visit to Macy's, in April
Classic New York: Henri Bendel
Classic New York: The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis
The Classic New York of Mame Dennis
A Walk in Turtle Bay: Beekman Place, the U.N., Tudor City, and E. 42nd St.
The Liberation Theology of Mame Dennis
Grand Central Theatre, and A New Walk Begins