27 March 2006

Swank Nite Life Hits Cellar

The press weasels at the Hotel Carlyle won't fess up to it—probably because they know they're making an awful mistake, and New Yorkers will hate them for it—but word is widespread that The Cafe Carlyle will be shut down this summer and relagated to some dank, subterranean room in the Upper East Side hotel's basement, thus making cabaret habitues feel more like second-class citizens than they already do.

The Cafe Carlyle and the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel are the last of the old-guard, elegant cabaret stages in Manhattan. Feinstein's at the Regency does a fine job, but it is less than ten years old and has no sense of history. Joe's Pub is an agreeable enough space, but made for ironic, downtown fare. The other places—Don't Tell Mama, etc.—are strictly amateur hour. Barbara Cook, who is currently playing the Cafe and is emblematic of the kind of top tier talent the hall attracts—announces the coming demise of the place nightly, speculating that the plush rose-colored banquettes and famous murals might be retained.

Why the Carlyle, which is supposed to stand for a kind of sophisticated Manhattan long since passed into history, would do this, heaven knows. But the hotel is owned by some mysterious, foreign conglomerate, probably based in Dubai or some other shady, profit-making country-slash-moneystate. So I guess the answer is probaby the old one: more money. No doubt, the space will be given out to high-end retail. The Cafe may charge $100 a pop to see Babs, but when I recently attending (on a Saturday night, no less), the room was half full, and the sound system lousy.

Is this anyway to treat the memory of Bobby Short?

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