Saturday, 10 March 2012

Holidaying in Rio, New York and Big Sur

Rio was as remembered, except better, this time we stayed in the Copacabana Palace Hotel in the Presidential Suite for a week, which cost a bomb.We were all doing OK financially so money was not a big issue, as it was on my last visit. As I had local knowledge from last time we decided to go to all the great parties  during Carnival. 

At one of them, the Grand Palace Ball, we had secured tickets through the hotel concierge, and as this was the " Big One" which was attended by Brazil's 'whose who' we  dressed up in dinner suits.
Looking smart and enjoying the night, every thing was cool, when Monte...... who must have had to much of whatever !!! was flirting with some Brazilian babes at the next table, telling them " Australians were great dancers", to prove his point, he jumped onto their table and 'dancing the light fantastic' to the band which was playing, fell arse over head and destroyed  there table for eight.

 Later on, about 10.30 in the evening, our table was approached by  security and two couples,the women were beautifully dressed and looked sensational, apparently we had been sold their table. As we could not understand Portuguese, we were not privy to questions being asked about issues and what was going on !! We had paid big bucks for our tickets, however having a table was not that important as we knew the three of us would be floating and Monte had ' done a job on the neighbouring table'. We  decided we would give up the table and just circulate. Just as we decided to explain that to them, one of the women lent over the table where we were seated, an lifted  the champagne bottle out of the ice bucket , she then picked up the ice bucket and dumped it over my head. With that done, there was no  deal- we stayed there. It was a very hot night and I dried off quickly and the night then just kept on getting better.

Our days started late, normally a quick surf, our  saving grace was the beach across the road and then we would adjourn to the hotels pool which was  half Olympic size and was surrounded with cabanas and hundred of lounges and 'the beautiful people'. 

 The hotel's "Veranda Restaurant,"overlooked Copacabana Beach and the other side overlooked and catered for the hotel's cabanas around the pool. Style - very colonial, great service and  live music -  Latin with  African drums, rhythmical, so much so that every one was  either dancing or walking to the beat, this was constant from early afternoon right through the night.The nights around the gardens and  pool  were dreamy and magical, as each evening progressed into night  and  early mornings would see the three of us with entourage at the "Black Rhinoceros"another sensational Rio Night spot.

After Rio the other two winged it back home and I took off for New York via the West Indies staying with friends, (the Bridges)  In St John, the Virgin Islands. Rod Bridges was professor of music at the College of the Virgin Islands and an old New York muso who played the flute with the big bands such as Benny Goodman, everything was "solid" with Rod - * You guys ready - solid". Rod introduced me to Tommy Smith the black athlete who won gold at the Mexico Olympics and gave the black power salute. Tommy was in charge of students staying on campus and track and field for the college.

My next port of call was Barbados where I stayed for a few days at "Sandy Lane"one of the great  hotels on the Caribbean, every thing about this hotel is right on point, the location on one of the whitest, softest, sandy beaches, the hotel is gentle and low rise, unobtrusive and laid back.Then off to New York.

I stayed in New York with another Australian friend Phil English who was working as an actor on one of the  television soaps.I contact Ray Holberton who was the Australian Trade Commissioner who I had met before  when he was in Montreal. I explained that I wanted to meet up with and visit some of the great restaurant and their owners and be taken back of house.  From the list I rattled off, the one the he knew was the 21 Club, knowing one of the owners Jack Kreindler  and would ring him on my behalf and get back to me which he did and arranged me to  meet. 

The "21" as it's known, is three brownstones, that when I was there in '74 had been operating as a restaurant for 70 years. Jack Kreindler and his partner Charlie Berns, both in their mid seventies,had had it since prohibition times. He was so hospitable, he had lunch with me and I sat in his booth next to the kitchen in the grill/bar room. Prior to that I had been taken on a morning tour throughout the function rooms of which there were ten, by Joe Dinan who was the nephew of Charlie Berns and, the cellars - which housed private bins for any one who was anyone - Onassis, the Kennedy's, there was a small wine museum, a secret wall which opened, when a steel rod was inserted into a nondescript hole in the wall, on a swivel used for keeping booze hidden during prohibition.

After my tour and during lunch I was asked what I thought  about the memorabilia hanging from the ceiling, which I had not noticed. Looking up I could see what looked like large toys suspended from the ceiling.I asked "what was the story",  Jack recalled, he was lunching  with Howard Hughes in the same booth where we were having our lunch, not long after they had opened, and  Howard Hughes thought that the ceiling was to high, and that he would give them the model of the "Spruce Goose" to suspend and by the reducing the height of the ceiling. Then he suggested Jack should contact Henry Ford and Jack Chrysler and get their models, which was done, and now they had a virtual museum of American transport suspended from the ceiling.

They very kindly organised me introductions to the rest of the restaurants I wanted to visit which included - Four Seasons, Luchows, Sardis, Maxwell Plumbs and PJ Clarks.

Of those, "Luchows" impressed me the most as  this was enormous restaurant opposite Steinway in Gramercy Park, near Union Square. It was the size of the GPO in Sydney. A block long between 13th and 14th Streets  and specialised in German cuisine. The General Manager was a young Lithuanian and controlled a staff  of about 300, the place ran like an international hotel with its own baker, butcher, patisserie and turned over 1500 covers a day and had been operating for ninety seven years.The uniforms the staff wore were modelled on Prussian officers, dark blue with gold epaulet's, with gold crown for ten years of service.

The function rooms were named after famous New Yorkers who were regular customer like, Diamond Jim Brady who apparently had the appetite of ten men and the actress and his dining companion, Lillian Russell.The German food specials were : schnitzels, wild game, knackwurst and sauerkraut. Decor art Nouveau- bevelled mirrors, artwork and oil paintings of Bacchus, ornate crytsal chandeliers,high ceilings, carved joinery,loud atmosphere, a cross between a German beer hall and Palm Court with live oompah orchestra in the background.

The other two I liked was; PJ Clarks, an Irish Bar which was a one story corner building set amongst Manhattans Skyscrapers,  over 110 years old, that served great martinis in it's front bar which was the quintessence of Manhattan Bars, from the apron clad no nonsense barmen to the amazing stock of alchoholic beverages displayed and shelved above, below and behind the bar.  Brunch and diner served in the back dining room specialising in Eggs Benedict, Goat Cheese Omelet and Egg Sandwich Burger.

The newest edition of restaurants opened in New York was the Four Seasons Restaurant on the ground floor  in the Seagram's Building. Opened  in 1959 with huge fanfare due to its cost of three million dollars,touted as the most expensive restaurant  opened in the world. It broke new ground by providing it's clientele with seasonal menus, all American wine list, and artwork by Picasso, Jackson Pollock and the restaurant designed by Mies van der Rohe.

San Francisco beckoned and old mates to meet up with, Richard Ovington was there as was Paul Olin, both whom  I stayed with and  married to American wives Arlene and Marion respectively. From San Francisco I went to Carmel and met up with another friend Paul Quiney who had just opened a small restaurant in Cannery Row in Monterey, called "Quiggs Downunder". He was battling along so I decide to give him a hand and stay awhile. 

We saw an advertisement for a "cabin for let" in the local newspaper, in Bixby Canyon in Big Sur, a part of California I have always liked and the opportunity to stay there was to good to be missed.  We drove down to check it out and not to our surprise we discovered this two bedroom log cabin of our dreams, beside a fast running stream, which was a hundred yards from the beach, in this private canyon,which had only five other similar type log cabins. Key entry via  three meter high wooden gates making it all the more secluded.We met the owners a young couple who had inherited the cabin from their parents and were off to LA to work on a movie and they wanted to rent it for three months which suited us, as I intended to only stay for a couple of weeks and Paul thought he could rent my room when I left.

Big Sur is a majestic part of California, acouple of hundred K's south of SF,where the mountains come down to meet the coast and Highway One is cut into the cliff face with sheer drops of hundreds of feet to the crashing waves below with sheer cliffs above and then open sky, with  breaks in these cliffs that are indented by canyons that lead into the mountains, forests and wilderness.Over Bixby Canyon there is a viaduct that Highway One traverses over and hundreds of meters below you can see the beach.

Here I hung out for a month walking in the redwood forest, running on the beach, jumping into the ocean which was freezing and barking at the seals that used to come right into  the shoreline. I think they must have heard about these mad Aussies moving into Bixby Canyon and they came down for a bow peep. Virginia a friend of Pauls who was staying for a weekend up from LA, thought I should get back to civilization after seeing me running up and down the beach in the nude,  jumping into the water playing"Catch" with the seals obviously the Angel Dust was having an effect.

 I flew back to Sydney to be confronted by Warwick Moss and Graham Shields who in unison had decided that I was not wanted as a working partner and as I had run up the "Grapes" Amex overseas, I was considered irresponsible, considering the debt they were in, which was  a fair enough point. So after negotiating with Jack Moss, Warwick's father who was the partner and Geof Paarl our bank manager, I decided I wanted a payout in total from the business and property, as I was not wanted, I wanted totally out,  for which I was paid for my third share in the business and the property.

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