I dread every change that is made to the "21" Club. Every alteration takes us that much further from the original item, that much along the road away from a New York historical marvel that needs no change. When they eliminated the coat-and-tie dress code, my stomach turned. When they removed the original bar and replaced it with a shortened facsimile, a bit of my soul died.
Recently, the owners, Orient-Express Hotels Inc., decided to sweep out the front lounge area and replace it with a modern cocktail bar, complete with stools and draft beer (something never before seen at "21"). The bar would displace the restrooms. My heart sank a bit at this news. While I welcomed the bar—which makes it easier for humble folk of limited means, such as myself, to patronize "21"—I worried about the bathrooms. The men's room—which has long been presided over by a men's room attendant, a gracious, loquacious character called "The Rev"—was home to some wonderful and witty murals.
The artworks, executed in the 1930s by the now-largely-forgotten society artist Charles "Top Hat" Baskerville, depict various well-heeled ladies and gentlemen relieving themselves in whimsical, highly unlikely ways. I worried about the murals' fate.
But while the entrance to the men's bathroom has been shifted from the south wall of the lobby to the west, the bathrooms are essentially to the same, and the murals are untouched. It was a great, uh, relief to see them again.