20 May 2008

One for the Ladies



I apologize in advance if this post is off-color. But I was standing at the bar at P.J. Clarke's, the grand old tavern on Third Avenue, and I was struck by the thought—as I have been before—that it is an awful shame that the female patrons of the classic bar never get to see men's bathroom.

Let me explain. The gentleman's lavatory—unchanged for many decades now—is a remarkable enclosure. This is primarily due to two absolutely monumental white porcelain urinals that have to be seen to be believed. These are not the tawdry, utilitarian objects you see in most restrooms. They are pinnacles of the ceramic arts, the ultimate in lavatory decoration. They are tall and wide and winged. Combined with the dark wood walls and the vaulted stained-glass ceiling, they make a visit a bathroom at Clarke's a rather grandish experience. It's a toilet that Cole Porter might write a line about in "You're the Top."

And half of the population never get to see them! That seems like an injustice to me. So I took pictures of the interior, for all the world to see. If they offend, I apologize. Sorry I couldn't get the full effect in the pictures. The bathroom if a cramped place. To capture the full length of the urinals, I would have had to open the door and take the shots from the bar. And that would have just been strange.


9 comments:

BaHa said...

My favorite P.J. Clarke's men's room story may be apocryphal, but here goes. The story is that the Giants were celebrating a win, and two of their running backs were in the men's room. The bartender asked: "What will the backs in the boys' room have?" I think you might have to be of a certain age to remember the line, "What will the boys in the back room have?" (From a Mae West movie)

Dan said...

The urinals at McSorley's are exactly the same- except more women have seen them because they always go in there by mistake. I wish I had one like that in my apartment.

Carol Gardens said...

Well, you haven't seen the ladies' room at Fedora's, which is quite a sight in an entirely different way.

Roosevelt Island 360 (Eric) said...

The appropriate companion piece to this perhaps should be about the mens room at McSorley's as the porcelain is about the same in each bar.

RI 360 said...

Looks like McSorleys.

Anonymous said...

My uncles used to own a restaurant on the corner of 23rd Street and 11th Avenue (after they lost the lease, it later became the Vault, and later still the strip club Privilege... I think it's empty now), and it had a majestic men's room just like PJ Clarke's. I remembered it from when I was about 7 years old -- and was shocked 23 years later when I attended a bachelor party at Privilege and discovered that the men's room was completely untouched. Amazing.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. I'm aware of the urinals at McSorley's. The reason I didn't spotlight them is the men's bathroom there is pretty much an open book. The door's ajar a lot of the time. Any girl who wants to glimpse inside pretty much can. The Clarke's bathroom is a fairly enclosed space.

Nesta said...

I have a drunken memory that the urinals in the Old Town Bar on 18th(?) are similar.

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