Friday, May 19, 2006
the salisbury hotel

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about The Hotel Salisbury, on West 57th street in Manhatten, where I lived for about 5 months during the rehearsal period and the run of "Spoon River Anthology" on Broadway. I mentioned that Betty Garrett stayed there too, and that Joyce Van Patten was across the street at The Great Northern Hotel, now Le Parker Meridian....

I first became aware of The Salisbury when I was going to Drama School. The Feagin School Of Drama in The International building of Rockerfeller Center. I spent two years there and met my dearest and most treasured friend Sammy Reese, my sweet talented soulmate until he died one day after his 55th Birthday.
Sammy was from Montgomery Alabama and so was Miss Lucy Feagin, the founder of the school. I know this was how Sammy came to this particular Drama School...I heard about it through a friend from High School who was going there and so when I began, Jane Smith...(yes, that really is her real name) was a Senior, and I was a Junior. Most of us were in our late teens or early twenty's, except for one woman who looked quite old to all of us. She was in fact, only 53 years old at that time, and though a very beautiful woman, she did look quite a bit older than that.


We were told her name was Rita Gilman. And there was no reason to doubt that in any way. We were told she had had a stroke sometime before and was in the school to work on her memory and her speech, which seemed fine to all of us. It turned out she lived at The Hotel Salisbury and that was my introduction to the name and to the hotel, itself. It was not a hotel I had ever heard of. It also turned out that Rita Gilman had a daughter who was going to The American Academy Of Dramatic Art, and so both mother and daughter were involved in Drama Schools and The Hotel Salisbury was convenient to both the schools, plus it was a very nice clean hotel. One of the pluses that The Salisbury rooms all had was a 'pantry'. You had to supply the Hot Plate, but they supplied the refridgerator.

The hotel had single rooms and two bedroom room suites. (Though I believe they considered The Living Room as the second bedroom.) The Hotel was owned by The Calvery Baptist Church, which is right there with the Hotel kind of surrounding it, and as far as I know, The Salisbury is still owned by them. I've always thought that the reason the Hotel was always pretty clean was because of The Church. During all the years I have stayed there, they never had a real restaurant in the hotel. They had a coffee shop for a period of time during the 70's but that went bye bye, and I'm not sure why. Anyway...more about Rita Gilman. Unfortunately I cannot find any photographs of her anywhere...which is too bad...she was such a very beautiful woman. Her hair was prematurely gray-white....we surmised that somehow it turned gray-white after her stroke. Rita was a lot of fun and as she got to know people and began to feel more comfortable with them she would invite them to tea at her hotel. She really liked Sammy and she really liked me, too. So, one day we were invited to The Suite. At that time, the two elevators were operated by people. Live people, who were very very nice. Sammy and I arrived at the hotel at the appointed hour and we were announced at the desk and got in one of those elevators and were whisked up to the floor where Rita and her daughter lived. They had a suite and this photograph which is probably a recent one could have been taken back then on the afternoon we were about to enter this suite. The picture is probably a little nicer than it actually was...I don't remember these suites having this much furniture in the living room, but...maybe they did in some of the fancier ones. Every time I ever stayed there the hotel was always renovating and upgrading the rooms. I never had one of those "newly renovated" rooms, but I'm sure, somebody did. At least I hope they did.

Rita opened the door and greeted us warmly and ushered us past the pantry and into the living room. The very first thing one saw in that
living room was a huge Black & White photograph of a very familiar face. The photograph was of the actor Wallace Beery, who was a very big star at MGM during the '30 and 40's until he died in 1949. (They say that he when he died his estate was worth about Two Million Dollors! In todays money that would probably translate to $200,000,000.)


So indeed Rita was Rita Gilman, but she was also Rita Gilman Beery the widow of Wallace Beery. And her daughter who was going to The American Academy was Carol Ann Beery, their daughter. I remember that both Sammy and I didn't want to look too surprised at this BIG picture....we kind of pretended that we didn't even see it, but after we left there we were like two little kids...all excited about the fact that Rita had been married to this very famous "movie star". And he had been a big big star. He was most definately a character actor, but he 'starred' in most of his films..."The Champ", "Min & Bill", "Bad Bascomb"...just to name a few...and one of those all star MGM extravaganza's, the Edna Ferber-George S, Kaufman play "Dinner At Eight"...directed by George Cukor...(Parenthetically: I was at a dinner party many years ago, a small intimate dinner party of about 8 people and George Cukor was there...and he was, more or less, the guest of honor...as the evenig progressed we all asked him many many questions about his films and some of the many great people he worked with...like Marilyn Monroe...he talked about how she kept everyone waiting on the set and how it was so incredibly unprofessional....someone said, "What about Judy Garland...wasn't she always late, too?"...Cukor nodded and said simply, "Yes, she was...but Ahhhh THAT was worth waiting for....". He was honest as well as magnificently talented...)

Maybe because of that time with Rita Beery and my introduction to The Salisbury being rather glamourous, it always held a special place for me. And most especially when a year or so later, my oldest friend in the whole world who I had known since I was five years old, (And am still close to I might add) moved into The Salisbury with her parents until she married about six months later.


After the extended "Spoon River" period there, I stayed at the hotel a number of other times when my mother was struggling with cancer and had to be in the hospital three or four of times. Years later I stayed at The Salisbury for another extended period...about 6 weeks...when having terrible back problems I had come to New York to see a specific doctor...the visits to him were for a special twenty minute treatment and one had to go twice a day. His waiting room was like going to Lourdes. People hobbling in (or being carried in !) and then walking out no longer hobbling. I met a lot of interestimg people there, every day, twice a day...The Salisbury was once again a haven for me...and it was during that extended stay that one of the maids at the hotel had a stroke in my bathroom...THAT was horrendous I tell you...but that is another post for another time...

There was a funny story about the Deli that was around the corner from the hotel on Sixth Avenue...Oops, I mean, Avenue Of The America's.
As many of you no doubt know, there is a Deli on almost every other corner in New York, at least there used to be....this one on 6th was a tiny tiny storefront and it was packed to the ceiling with everything and anything, including fresh fruit and vegetables...how they did it, I'll never know. And the Deli food was delicious and they carried Hagen Das Ice Cream! (I was a regular customer during the "Spoon River" days.) And, on top of all that, they delivered. A great luxury at the time. Most all of the guys that worked in this little place were older men and were Jewish...I felt right at home. I would call and order stuff to be delivered and one old guy in particular was very very nice and friendly on the phone...if I was sick or something he was very concerned. He knew me. So one day I called and someone answered and I said "This is Naomi at The Salisbury, are you my friend?".....this guy, without missing a beat said: "Wer'e all your friends, lady, Whatdayu want?" Soooo very New York! I told that story to everyone in the cast and to everyone in L.A., too....Talk about a good laugh...yes, I laughed harder than anbody. I love love love New York.

That stretch of 57th street held two iconic places, one...now gone. The great great Carnegie Hall, where I spent many inspiring afternoons and evenings as a child and as a young woman, listening to some of the greatest concerts artists of our time playing some of the most beautiful music ever written...still one of the greatest concert halls ever built in our country.
And another place which I have mentioned before---the one, the only, Russian Tea Room. Immortalized forever in the film "Tootsie" where the famous scene of Dustin Hoffman dressed as 'Dorothy', goes and meets his agent for the very first time when dressed in the 'Dorothy' drag; this is where that scene took place.I have had many a lovely meal there over many many years. But probably the most memorable was when Joyce Van Patten and I flew to New York to begin rehearsals for "Spoon River" and went to The Russian Tea Room that very first night for a late supper of their magnificent Borsht and Perogii's and a Glass of Tea in the totally traditional Russian manner. This was a beautiful elegant somewhat gaudy yet very stylish restaurant with it's lovely leather booths. It was frequented by theatre people and the classical music world as well as the world of ballet...It was a very sad sad day when it closed it's doors forever. I don't think we will ever see another restaurant quite like this one. All the greats in the worlds mentioned above came here from the time it opened it's doors in 1926, till the day it closed it's doors for the very last time. It was a truly memorable experience to be there in every way and I don't believe anyone who ever went there during it's hey day was disappointed. It was special and unique and unforgetable...I wish I could go there right now....Yum.



More To Come....







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45 Comments:
had this to say:

Naomi, you have led a fascinating life and I thank you for sharing little bits of it with us. Michele sent me this time.

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 3:47:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, it all goes back to his monumental ego, as I mentioned in my comments. He was a football star back in high school and his ego was unbounded then. Now he has a trophy wife (many years younger) and I suppose he has to impress her over and over. And yes, it is a bit obscene!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 5:30:00 AM PDT 

Blogger Sue
had this to say:

WOW!!! I am here from Michele's but let me just say that you so beautifully described everything. Made me feel like I was there. What an interesting life!!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 7:43:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love posts like this! I really enjoy reading about all the interesting things people have done over the years... I wish the older people in my family would share like you. Thanks for visiting me last night! :)

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 7:50:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You know how I feel about times, places and people that are no longer part of our reality. I'm extremely nostalgic, and I love reading the richly detailed vignettes that you paint for us.

I can't help but think that they somehow live on in your words and images. We may not be able to go to the hotel, eat at the coffee shop, meet the people of whom you speak. But for the few moments when we get to read this entry - and the additional times we come back to simply linger - it's as if we're right there. I can imagine standing on the sidewalk as I drink it in.

History lives in all of us. Thanks for keeping it alive.

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 7:53:00 AM PDT 

Blogger mar
had this to say:

Ahhhh, wonderful stories, delightful reading and now I am off to make myself a nice cup of tea, happy friday :)

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 8:05:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Hello Naomi!

Love the stories. I would like to take a trip with you as a guide, it would be lovely and interesting!

Thank you for your visit yesterday!
(love your new template BTW)

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 8:13:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Fascinating post, as always. What a life...I'm so envious.

I'm also hungry for a reuben, thankyouverymuch!

visiting from Michele's this time.

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 8:15:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, you have an amazing and memorable experience in your life! Your narrative is so vivid, so well written that it's a truly pleasure reading it! Thank you for sharing with us this great post and great pictures!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 8:16:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, I love what you've done with the place - it's gorgeous!

And your stories are...simply amazing! You must write a book someday - really!

Here via Michele's. Hope you're well....

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 10:44:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Love your new blog design, Naomi....

Just a flying visit as I am exhausted....

:-)

I missed you.......

cq

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 11:09:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

So fascinating, Naomi! I looked myself for a photo of Rita Gilman but came up blank. I did see the May 2, 1939 New York Times article about their divorce. It sounds like their marriage ended very badly so it's interesting she still had a big photo of him up in her room years later. Apparently their daughter Carol Ann was really the daughter of one of Rita's cousins and she and Wally adopted her? Is Carol Ann Beery still around? Did Rita talk to you much about Beery's first wife Gloria Swanson?

Kendall and I still can't believe that the Russian Tea Room is gone, how insane is that? The last time I was there Carol Channing was having lunch there. She was dressed all in red, passing out fake diamonds to total strangers, and eating some kind of healthy lunch that she brought in a paper bag and the Russian Tea Room staff placed on fine china. What a character! Do you remember a dairy restaurant in New York called Farmfood? I think it might have been on 45th Street but it is long gone. I loved that place!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 11:31:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi.. Great story and pictures!!.. how funny it would include Wallace Beery when I just mentioned him in a post a few days ago, having watched Bad Bascomb on TCM !

Really love your "new" blog..far nicer then what I have and what you had before ;o)

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 1:30:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

LOVE LOVE LOVE your new blog design, and this post, ah it was wonderful, as usual. Brought back a lot of memories of my childnood. My mom kept a suite in the St Regis so she could go to NYC for shopping, and to visit her parents before they moved out to LA. We would fly back several times a year to shop at Bonwits and Bergdorfs, and my grandfather, who was born in Russia, would take us to the Russian Tea Room for blinis with beluga and a 'gless tea'. Oh, what a great place it was. My friend Nina and I went right before it closed for one last meal there.

I love NY.

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 3:53:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

This is my first visit and I'm so glad I came, Michelle sent me!
You trul y made me feel like I was right there with you, experiencing this moment of your life!
I look forward to reading more!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 3:58:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

happy friday! WOW, I haven't been by in a while, so the new look surprised me! I like it!
Andrew

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 4:02:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

what a wonderful journey you have provided for us here!!!

Michele sent me!!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 4:49:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Well once again Aunty Em you have succeeded in transporting us all back with you to another time and place.
I love coming and sitting for awhile and listening to your stories.
Have a wonderful weekend. I am being a golf widow again :)

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 6:23:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh my goodness!!! I am SO hungry right now and I need that sandwich! :) Hello from Michele's tonight!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 7:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I also need that sandwich, but I'm sure I can't get anything like that delivered around here!

Here from Michele.

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 9:34:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I love your stories! I am facinated by them. I also love the cactus pictures. My mother had a quite a bit of cactus. They were always so beautiful!

Here from Michele's!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 10:06:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

You just always amaze me. No matter how long your post, you keep me glued to the page. What wonderful memories you have!

Thanks for stopping by Crayons tonight (via Michele :))

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 10:12:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

That sandwich looks DELISH! I think I know what I am requesting for dinner tomorrow night :) The tea room is one of my favorite places to visit in NYC, thanks for the memories...haven't been there in about 10 years! Another nice visit, thanks Naomi!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 10:46:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I've never been otu of my LITTLE neck of the woods.. your posts leave me longing for something more than SE Texas..

Michele sent me tonight!

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 11:46:00 PM PDT 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

We've eaten at the Carnegie Deli, boy they really pile on the food. We also went to the Russian Tea Room before it closed. I think by 1995 it had lost some of its atmosphere and they were simply trying to cram as many people in as possible. There was very little elbow room.

Chicago has a Russian Tea Cafe, near the Auditorium Theatre where Phantom played. They blend their own tea and it has just a hint of raspberry and it is fabulous.

Here from Michele, this AM.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 2:26:00 AM PDT 

Blogger srp
had this to say:

We've eaten at the Carnegie Deli, boy they really pile on the food. We also went to the Russian Tea Room before it closed. I think by 1995 it had lost some of its atmosphere and they were simply trying to cram as many people in as possible. There was very little elbow room.

Chicago has a Russian Tea Cafe, near the Auditorium Theatre where Phantom played. They blend their own tea and it has just a hint of raspberry and it is fabulous.

Here from Michele, this AM.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 2:27:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love reading about your life. You mention so many people and places that I have only heard of.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 6:01:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

"we are all your friends, lady"
it is still true

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 7:07:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, this is beautiful. A you know, I knew he neighborhood in the 1990s, and was lucky enough to have some memorable lunches at the Russian Tea Room. Once when James Champy, a business consultant who had just written a blockbuster book, the first on "reengineering," called and asked if there was a place where we could meet for lunch near my office, I told him I knew a place. We mostly discussed Walt Kuhn--he is a collector and was inspired by the art in the place. I used to stay at the Salisbury one night at a time when I had very late meetings. My last stay was on the day the war started three years ago. I was at a banquet at the Waldorf--basically a business dinner--at which Bill Clinton spoke. He didn't discuss current events much.
Ah, but your memories--that part of New York has changed so drastically. Thanks for your account, and please give us more!

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 9:30:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Michele sent me here, Naomi.

These glimpses into your past, and the history of the performing arts in your lifetime, are very interesting Naomi but I'm glad that you also balance them with posts on your current interests. I think of you as being very vibrant and personable and I'd hate to think you're merely living in the past. But what a glorious past it is. It's a treasure to read about your life, Naomi.

And your mention of the doctor reminded me of a joke:

A fellow goes to a doctor and see an older gentleman hobble into the office looking so unsteady on his cane, like he'd never make it back out again. A mere 10 minutes later the same man shuffled out, using his cane, steady as can be.

"My God", he exclaimed, "is this doctor a miracle worker to allow you to walk so well?"

"No" said the old gentleman, "he just gave me a cane of the right length".

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 11:43:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this post! Like you, I adore NYC! When we lived in Boston, we'd fly there 3-4 times a year for long weekends.
I'm wondering if you're familiar with "Mimi's" on 2nd and 52nd? A small Italian restaurant/piano bar, but after the shows closed the actors would wander in, take the mike from Jackson the piano player and sing for the patrons. Incredible place...especially at 3 in the morning!
You've had such great experiences....loved the description of the Salisbury....and you tell THEE best stories! Thanks for sharing.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 11:53:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love your posts about NYC! I loved The Russian Tea Room too.... caviar...blinis...borscht...mmmmmmm!!!!

And LOL about Cukor and Garland. Love stuff like that.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 12:59:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

darling that was soo interesting as usual!.

i also scanned down and saw the beautiful cacti have flowered, gorgeous! but as i'm so far behind- not visited for a week or 2, i will have to come back tomorow to do that. its way too late here!

have a lovely weekend sweetie.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 4:16:00 PM PDT 

Blogger T.
had this to say:

Naomi! You've gone and got yourself a makeover! I love it! I'm a sucker for nostalgia, so I love this post. But I gotta fly, so I'll come back when I can visit longer!

Michele sent me, but I was gonna come by anyways!!

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 4:52:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Darling MOT Naomi,
Lucy here. Just thinking we're probably one of the 100 percent MOTS left. It's a good feeling. Our fam had to cut short our getaway. But that's fine. Now I can catch up with you. The incredibly exciting era that you knew and share with us is something never to be repeated in our lifetimes. Thanks, dear Naomi for sharing it with us!
love,
lucyd

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 5:11:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi! Visiting from Michele's. It's been a long time since I've visited your site. Nice redesign!

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 5:37:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

what a great story! a friend of mine, whom i grew up with and went to school with and all that, who is studying for his Masters at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. i just cant get over how cool that is. A cronie of mine in NYC. im going to recommend the hotel to him, i think.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 5:50:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh how exciting this all is Naomi. Your memories are wonderful and you write them so well, that I feel like I can see it in my mind's eye and there I am! Great stuff!! Love reading about this. You have led an exciting life.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 7:18:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi, thank you for your nice comment about Flora. I agree with you and I think many times about her destiny. Really she is having a life she might never would have had. She is very lucky and so do I. I am very close to Flora and she is a great companion to me. But she has a single imperfection... she barks too much! Lol!

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 7:37:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh Naomi, I love coming and walking down memory lane with you! Your life stories are so exciting and fascinating I get lost when I read your psots! Thank you for sharing these precious memories with us! I, for one, am very grateful, my friend!

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 8:13:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I was quite pleased with this hotel.Unique Qualities:
The restaurant on the ground floor offered huge breakfasts. The rooms were large enough to play basketball in. The neighborhood is quite safe at night. Overall the hotel, which prides itself for being excellent for both business client and families, live up to that claim.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 8:51:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

A lovely view, thanks for sharing.
Michelle sent me

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 9:42:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

This is the New York I fell in love with in the 70's, after watching countless late night movies about the city and visiting it on annual field trips. We used to go to an Italian restaurant after Wednesday theatre matinees that was always decorated for Xmas. I wish I made time to visit when I was in CT 2 weeks ago, maybe next time!

Michele sent me.

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 10:38:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

It's so neat to read about all these places that I've heard of! :)

Sunday, May 21, 2006 at 10:46:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Naomi, Jim wants to know if the deli you are referring to is the Stage or Carnegie? Plus he said to tell you that one of his favorite places in NYC was Fontana de Trevi. Do you know it?

Monday, May 22, 2006 at 4:13:00 AM PDT 

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