27 June 2006

Time in a Bottle

So I was given a tour of the fabled wine cellar at the more fabled "21" Club last week. (Don't ask why.) What a wonder of a place. Few place drip in one-of-a-kind New Yorky history like this cavern, which was constructed back in Prohibition days—thus, the 5,000-pound, brick-and-mortar secret door fitted snugly under one of the arches in the building's foundations. The hidden chamber is opened by inserting an old meat skewer in a termite hole until it meet with a metal plate and triggers a mechanism. (Dunno how that works. They explained it, but it's hopeless. I'll never get it.) Prohibition must have been a fun time to be alive. Who wants to buy drinks legally? I wanna drink gin in teacups!

Inside, it's 61F degrees, 44F in the white wine room. Ceilings are low, space is limited, the woodwork is all original. Jimmy Walker, the law-breaking-est Hizzoner New York ever had, and the best-dressed (walking stick, derby, spats,etc.), used to come down here with his showbiz mistress. His private booth remains as it was.

Back in the day, the owners obliged their guests by storing bottles they purchased from the wine list for future guzzling. That tradition ended 10 years ago because people kept forgetting they left bottles down here, and "21" has only so much square footage for errant booze. Still, about 2,000 bottles of vino wait down there for the rich and famous to uncork them. Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, Richard Nixon, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jackie Kennedy, and a bunch of titans of industry.

Obviously, some of these worthies will pass no more through the iron gate of "21." Their children are welcome to some nice Bordeaux, Burgundy and Dom Perignon, though. Trish? You out there?

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