Simanaitis Says

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A WRITER’S DRINKS—AND DIAMONDS PART 1

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD wholeheartedly took part in delights of the Jazz Age. Indeed, among other examples of this era between World War I and the Great Depression, he wrote about drinks and diamonds. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits on both.   

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, 1896–1940, American novelist, essayist, short story and screenwriter. Image, 1921, from Wikipedia.

A Catalogue of Cocktails. In The New Yorker, May 25, 1929, Fitzgerald published “A Short Biography,” recently republished as part of the magazine’s retrospective of fine writing. Fitzgerald describes his life in terms of beverages quaffed between 1913 and 1929. Here are quoted excerpts, together with my usual Internet sleuthing.

1913. “The four defiant Canadian Club whiskeys at the Susquehanna in Hackensack.” 

Defiant, no doubt, because Scott was in his late teens at the time.

1915. “The Sparkling Burgandy at Bustanoby’s. The raw whiskey in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, when I got up on a table and sang, ‘Won’t you come up,’ to the cowmen. The Stingers at Tate’s in Seattle listening to Ed Muldoon, ‘that clever chap’ .” 

White Sulphur Springs, Montana. Image from Crown of the Continent.

Scott’s Montana adventure may have inspired his novella published seven years later in The Smart Set, The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, of which more tomorrow in Part 2.

The Bustanoby Bros. In 1902, three Basques brothers, Andre, Jacques, and Louis Bustanoby, opened the Café des Beaux-Arts in New York City at 40th Street and 6th Avenue. They later feuded, with Louis opening the Taverne Louis in the basement of the Flatiron Building. 

The Flatiron Building, New York City, completed in 1902. Image from boweryboyshistory.com.

Alice Sparberg Alexiou notes in The Gotham Center for New York City History, February 24, 2020, “Every night the Taverne Louis was mobbed with people looking for a good time. Always among the clientele were groups of gay men, who, already knowing the Flatiron as a pick-up spot, now found themselves being warmly welcomed by Louis Bustanoby into his night club, at a time when other night club proprietors most certainly did not welcome them.”

My Cocktail Disc.

1920. “Red wine at Mollat’s. Absinthe cocktails in a hermetically sealed apartment in the Royalton. Corn liquor by moonlight in a deserted aviation field in Alabama.”

Volstead Act’s national prohibition began on January 17, 1920. But many Americans weren’t having any of it. The Royalton, still very much in business, is on East 44th Street, just east of Times Square across from the Algonquin; the latter, home of the fabled Algonquin Round Table. 

The Algonquin Circle. Fitzgerald was an occasional participant in the Circle’s verbal exchanges. Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen writes in The New York Times, July 20, 2019, “The wattage of ribaldry and verbal dexterity around the table was enough to electrify all of Manhattan.”

Ratner-Rosenhagen continues, “Dorothy Parker’s claim that ‘you can’t teach an old dogma new tricks’ was no giggly sendup of Victorian notions of propriety and respectability. Rather, it was, much like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation in ‘This Side of Paradise,’from 1920, a confession of the profound uncertainties wrought by modernity: ‘Here was a new generation,’ he wrote, ‘grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.’ ”

1927. “Delicious California ‘Burgundy-type’ wine in one of the Ambassador bungalows in Los Angeles. The beer I made in Delaware that had a dark inescapable sediment. Cases of dim, cut, unsatisfactory whiskey in Delaware.”

The Ambassador, long a landmark on Wilshire Boulevard, was demolished in 2005–2006 to make way for the Central Los Angeles New Learning Centers #1 K–3 and 4–8/HS, together with the Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park.

1928. “The Pouilly with Bouillabaisse at Prunier’s in a time of discouragement.” 

Prunier’s, Paris. Image from jazzageclub.com.

Prunier’s, founded in 1872, was a popular Parisian restaurant during the Jazz Age. It still is. 

1929. “A feeling that all liquor has been drunk and all it can do for one has been experienced, and yet—“Garçon, un Chablis Mouton 1902, et pour commencer, une petite carafe de vin rose. C’est ça—merci.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll travel to Montana to see The Diamond as Big as the Ritz. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021

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