For my money, the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel was one of the most sophisticated spaces in all of New York. I felt like an absolute New Yorker there wherever I slipped behind a white-tableclothed table, my back to the paneled wall, tucked into my Martini and waited for the show to begin. No one every misbehaved in that room, and everyone dressed to the nines. Grace, politeness and ebullience reigned effortlessly.
I saw many great artists there. Diana Krall, long before she became famous and musically uninteresting and Mrs. Elvis Costello. The late, lamented chanteuse Mary Cleere Haran. Married jazz cats Jessica Molaskey and John Pizzarelli. Once saw Skitch Henderson in the audience.
My chances of catching further legends are gone. The New York Times reports that "After a 32-year run the Oak Room, the fabled supper club and cabaret at the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street in Manhattan, will no longer operate when the hotel reopens in May after an extensive renovation, the Algonquin’s general manager, Gary J. Budge, announced on Thursday. He cited declining audiences in spite of 'top-notch performers.'" Gary J. Budge. What a name. Sounds like the husband of the New Yorker's famed Old Lady from Dubuque (a creation of New Yorker Harold Ross, who used to hang at the Algonquin).
Even though it was renovated just four years ago, the Algonquin has been undergoing another extensive renovation since the start of 2012. A year or so ago, the hotel joined the Marriott network's "Autograph Collection." We're to expect "some exciting changes to our guest rooms and lobby." If the closing of the Oak Room is one of those exciting changes, I dread to discover what they're doing with the rest of the lobby.
The Oak Room began as the Oak Room Supper Club in the 1930s. It closed down when WWII broke out. It didn't reopen until 1980.