My Uncle Jerry is a character. He lives in Santa Monica, California and performs frequently at community centers, singing jaunty versions of “If I Was a Rich Man” and “Put on A Happy Face.” His mother (my great-grandmother; Jerry is my grandfather’s brother) was a performer too: we have a VHS of her on The Gong Show singing “Kiss Me On A Monday” to Milton Berle and Soupy Sales. They kissed her instead of gonging her–so she must have done well.
Uncle Jerry made a visit this weekend to New York and we made “an appointment” to meet for lunch on Saturday. “Where should we meet?” he asked on the phone, and two ideas sprang immediately to mind: The 2nd Avenue Deli or…or…that place in Times Square that Neil Simon wrote a play about…what’s that place?
I Googled it with Uncle Jerry on the phone. “45 Seconds From Broadway” was the play and after a few clicks and searches I got my answer: The Hotel Edison.
“Ohhhh sure,” said Uncle Jerry, “I know that Hotel very well…it’s on 47th and Broadway…I stayed there when I came to New York. What a terrific idea. I’ll see you Saturday at 1 o’clock.”
Saturday rolled around and I hopped into a cab (I was running late) and said: “The Hotel Edison or bust!”
“Say wha?” responded the cabbie and I gave him directions.
Upon arrival I snapped this photo:
It’s right across the street from “The Glass Menagerie”—the Cafe Edison is truly in the heart of Broadway.
I walked into the Cafe and didn’t see my Uncle Jerry. The inside has a great atmosphere: it feels like you’re walking into a museum display of an old time Broadway cafe.
After searching around the tables, I went down the hallway into the hotel lobby. I heard a voice saying: “I’ll definitely check out his web site…let me write that down…Amateur Gourmet, you say?”
It was the security guard: there was Uncle Jerry bragging about me (what are proud uncles for?) The security guard looked at me and said: “Ah, that must be him.”
Uncle Jerry gave me a big hello and then we walked inside to the Cafe. On the way he saw the owner of the hotel and shook his hand. “You have a wonderful establishment here,” he said. “I stayed here many times and everyone was very courteous and professional.” The owner nodded his head and gave Uncle Jerry a card.
We sat at a round table that had a card on it: “Minimum 4.50 person.”
“What’s that say?” asked Uncle Jerry. He thought that might mean minimum 4 people at the table but I told him it said $4.50 a person minimum.
“Ah,” he said, sitting down. “It’s so good to see you.” We began studying our menus.
“That owner of the hotel is a very well dressed man,” said Uncle Jerry. “I worked in men’s fashion for years and that man knows how to dress.” (Uncle Jerry, in his time, sold suits to Louis Armstrong and Mohammed Ali.)
When the watier came over, Uncle Jerry ordered the brisket and mushroom barley soup. I ordered an egg salad BLT and a Coke to drink.
Here’s Uncle Jerry when his soup arrived:
I won’t tell you his age, but we have to admit he looks very good for his age, no? One of his secrets is blueberries. “I put blueberries in my salads,” he told me once on the phone.
As Uncle Jerry ate his soup, I reminded him that Neil Simon wrote a play based on this place: “45 Secons from Broadway.”
“You don’t say,” said Uncle Jerry. “You know I once sold a suit to Neil Simon’s brother: Danny Simon. There’s a funny story, you should write this down.”
(I didn’t write it down but I committed it to memory. Let’s hope!)
“You see my manager came down one day and said, ‘Jerry, Danny Simon–Neil Simon’s brother–is coming in and he’s a very finnicky man. Well he wasn’t kidding: he said, ‘I want the hem 1/4-inch exactly. And take up the leg another 1/8th of an inch.’ I’d never seen anything like it. He came back and nothing was right; he made me readjust the jacket, the collar, the pant leg.”
(Uncle Jerry was barely touching his soup.)
“Anyway, what I later found out is that Danny Simon had a roommate. He and his roommate were both divorcees: Danny was the neat one and his roommate was a slob. Well, Neil Simon came over, saw the situation, and wrote a play—The Odd Couple!”
“Ha!” I said, proud to be so connected to world-famous fictional character.
Soon my sandwich arrived:
(I know, that pickle looks enormous.) I enjoyed how egg salad went with bacon: it gave it a kick of saltiness that egg salad sometimes needs.
Uncle Jerry and I continued talking until time rolled by and lunch was over; there was school work to be done and I had to do it. Did I mention that Uncle Jerry walked from 97th street (where his hotel was) to 47th street to meet me for lunch? Well, we took a cab to my apartment so he could see it and then he asked me to show him the subway. I took him to 23rd and 9th to put him on the 1, 9 and he said, “You know what? It’s so beautiful out—I’m going to walk.”
Walk from 23rd to 97th? Even I, the peak of health (haha, yeah right) couldn’t even fathom the notion. But Uncle Jerry did it. At least I think he did it. If you live in New York and you come upon an old man walking and singing “If I Were A Rich Man” please point him in the right direction. That’s my Uncle Jerry.