Moriarty’s Wonderful Saloon


Paul Palmer remembers that Jack used to get up, with some difficulty, at 6 P.M. , don a dinner coat and proceed to work, returning to his cubicle at the Hotel Tuscany at eight or nine next morning to retire to a good day’s sleep. After Moriarty’s martinis had corroded a rather large hole in the lining of his stomach, his doctor advised him never to drink without eating. From that time on, Jack carried a sandwich in his coat pocket and would carefully place it on the bar alongside his drink. The same sandwich lasted him eighteen months. He only emerged from Moriarty’s, after three years of intense research, to be carried to a Broadway undertaking parlor.

All the regulars went to Jack Thomas’ funeral. Dan closed the bar for an hour so that the entire staff might attend, an accolade comparable on a somewhat abated scale to a day of national mourning for a public figure.

Moriarty’s was resolutely and successfully an altogether masculine resort. No woman ever, so far as any of its alumni can recollect, penetrated its premises, all legends to the contrary notwithstanding, including the one that Connie Bennett, in the Twenties the town’s first prom-trotter, had gained access to the bar in masculine attire. Knowing they were barred, innumerable flappers of the John Held period demanded that their gentlemen friends should secure entry for them to this notorious preserve of masculinity, but Dan turned a deaf ear to all importunities.

“They can wait in the cab outside,” he said severely, and they did.

One of those who waited outside with the least disguised impatience, Frank Sullivan remembers, was Ruth Hale, wife of Heywood Broun and a Lucy-Stoner with firmly rooted ideas about equality of the sexes and in particular about her own ability to hold up her end in any masculine company she might find herself in. She and Dorothy Parker, sometimes parked by careless escorts who were trapped into tarrying in the convivial precincts, could be an abusive pair after waiting in the cold interior of a Yellow cab for the better part of an hour.

Sullivan, who had originally been introduced to Dan’s by one of the institution’s most aristocratic patrons, Lord Jeffrey Amherst, was an earnest and thoughtful drinker who at times suffered from the delusion that the other customers were making mock of his alcoholic capacity, which, in all truth, was entirely sufficient. Once this writer recalls being at one end of the bar while Sullivan in lonely glory at the other kept darting savage glances of distrust and annoyance in our direction. At length he was moved to speech. “I know what you’re all saying about me up there, you smug sons of bitches and Princeton men. You’re thinking old Frank Sullivan is stoned and doesn’t know what’s going on. But I’ll tell you one thing: I’m a thick qitinkcr, I am!

Paul Mellon, as a Yale undergraduate in the late Twenties when his father was Secretary of the Treasury, was a distinguished patron at No. 216 who occasionally became bogged down in wine there, as who did not? His most shattering contretemps was on the occasion when, suffering from Irish palsy to a disastrous degree and extremely averse to travel, he woke up in a bedroom at the Commodore Hotel in Manhattan the morning after he was supposed to have been in Pittsburgh as a member of a first cousin’s wedding party. Paul, whose absence had been conspicuous and who, in any event, lived in terror of the frosty Midas who begot him, got on the phone to explain to his parent that he was bedded with an acute attack of bronchitis and had been forbidden by his doctor to move. At that moment a sympathizer who had rushed from Dan’s to the Commodore with a restorative bottle of champagne pulled the cork with an explosion that must have been clearly audible at the Mellon National Bank.

Mellon was of two minds whether ever to go home.

As I have noted, romantic passion seldom intruded upon the almost wholly masculine preoccupations of the Moriarty regulars, but everyone felt that a high level of romantic tragedy had been reached in the Wagnerian overtones that attended the death of Jeanne Eagels, a Broadway actress who had achieved sensational acclaim in Rain not so many years before. Miss Eagels, it was widely understood among the Broadway gossip columnists, was the affianced of Icky Outhwaite, a real-estate salesman who was a daily customer at the bar.

Miss Eagels died in the midst of their romance, and lier demise set off a chaos of public grief second only to the taking oft of Rudolph Valentino a few years earlier. Miss Eagels lay in state at Campbell’s, a favorite undertaking parlor among members of her profession, and maudlin thousands pressed around her bier to be photographed for the tabloids in attitudes of stricken bereavement.

Icky was shattered, and friends gathered at Dan’s bar to help shore up his morale against the day—postponed for the better part of a week on account of public demand to view the deceased—when, as her bereaved betrothed, Icky should be the principal official mourner at a state funeral of formidable dimensions.