06 January 2013

Harvey's Chelsea House Recalled By Former Waiter


Two weeks ago, I reminisced about the long gone Harvey's Chelsea House. One week ago, I published the reminiscences of a couple readers who remembers the bygone Chelsea landmark. Now I have a lengthy memory shared by a former Harvey's Chelsea House waiter! Here it is:
Thanks for covering one of the great NYC institutions of the 70's and 80's. I was a waiter at Harvey's from 1977 into the early 80's. Some more details that you might not be aware of - or might enjoy remembering:
Sandy Dennis did come into Harvey's regularly. In fact, I remember working a late lunch shift on one of those cloudy Manhattan days when the sky suddenly opens up and a wall of water descends suddenly and with very little warning. Sandy Dennis must've been in the neighborhood and totally got caught in the downpour. She came running into Harvey's practically drowned holding a newspaper (fast becoming paper mache) over her head. In her haste she practically ran into me and we both started laughing like school kids. I said "Honey, I am sorry, but you look just like you did in 'The Out-of-Towners.'"
We also had a number of other celebrity regulars in those days... I remember waiting on Rock Hudson, the late great Lynn Thigpen, Pamela Reed... the costume shop Brookes Van Horn was located around the corner. And a lot of those people ate lunch at Harvey's Norma "the bead lady," Academy Award-winning designer Ann Roth, designer Gary Jones. 
Dick Harvey was one of the best employers and restaurant owners I have ever met in my life. He was fair, generous and once you had proven yourself, you were part of his family. And that family was diverse—most of the waiters (all men) were gay, the kitchen was Chinese, the bartenders were straight and the busboys were Egyptian.
Oh, a bit of historical detail—I believe 108 W. 18th St., aka Harvey's, was one of the original Annhauser-Busch bars. The first floor was the original space, then Dick opened up the basement as a private event dining room (JFK Jr. came to a bachelor party held there one night). Dick loved historical detail—and there was a barbers' chair in that area that Louis B. Mayer had gotten his regular haircut in. (I think Dick also purchased Gloria Swanson's classic Rolls Royce which he drove and his wife would sit in the back). Dick also expanded onto the second and third floors of the building recreating the look and feel of the main floor—paneling to match the honduras mahoganny, brass fixtures and beveled mirrors. The second floor was regularly used for dining and the third floor was used mostly for private events. Dick had an elevator put in to expedite getting the food up to the third floor and to save the waiters' and busboys' backs.
Hope you've enjoyed this trip down memory lane your article inspired.
Peter L.

4 comments:

albert einstein said...

good article..

BabyDave said...

Thanks, Peter, and thanks, Brooks, for bringing out people's reminiscences. I passed by the place many a time, impressed by its classic old-time entrance, but never stopped in. Clearly my loss.

steven kidman said...

A very informative blog, i never know about the Harvey's Chelsea House. I live near to the Tribeca Parking area. but i really interested in to visit the Former Waiter.

Deirdre said...

Wow! Thanks for reminding me of a long forgotten memory. I stopped in that bar during the summer of '79. I was with my mother and her boyfriend on a very hot weekend day. We were walking downtown from our loft in the Coogan building to see a movie.
It was one those days so hot you think you are going to puke. So what do you do? Stop for an alcoholic libation. I remember the abrupt change of temperature made me feel faint as did the sudden dark illusion I had time traveled several decades, at least, into the past.
Thank you, Peter and Brooks, for the memory as well the info about the bar and it's interesting denizens.

Also the comment that the staff there was:" diverse—most of the waiters (all men) were gay, the kitchen was Chinese, the bartenders were straight and the busboys were Egyptian" reminded me almost exactly of the staff at Dish of Salt restaurant (also now gone) where I worked a few years later. Odd.