A commenter here mentioned swizzle sticks, saying, "remember when bars put PLASTIC stirrers in drinks, not those tiny straws? They were very different, various colors, many had name of the bar. They're like jewels. Wish you'd write about them sometime."
This isn't a whole post about swizzle sticks, but I did come upon one--at Sardi's "Little Bar" in Times Square.
It's not the most exciting swizzle stick in the world. It's black, with a ball on top, and doesn't bear the name of the bar on its shaft. But it's a nice touch in a great place.
Sitting in the Little Bar on an afternoon, before the theater crowd rushes in, actual theater people come to drink. (The "theater crowd" comes to see a show, while "theater people" create the shows.) Four other drinkers share the bar with me on this day: a gray-haired producer, a gray-haired actor, a gray-haired writer of musicals, and a singer who looks old enough to dye her hair.
This is not the Dave & Buster's gang. It's an old-timers' place. Joyce Randolph, the last living Honeymooner, has made it her regular place. And the bartender, Jose, has been handing out the swizzle sticks for 20 years.
The theater people drink while memorizing lines in bound scripts. They take typewritten scripts out of manila envelopes to show each other how the writing is coming along. They talk about languishing in industrials, doing dance arrangements in small productions, and recall trying to break into acting back in the day, when rent on a Central Park West apartment cost $80 a month.
And they give each other advice. As one says, "I was put here on Earth to run the world, and I do it one person at a time, but nobody listens to me."
Sardi's Little Bar is one of the last places in Times Square where you can drink and be in the real New York at the same time. McHale's was one of those places. There's still Jimmy's Corner. But the Little Bar is extra special--it's deep New York, old history, an oasis from the multiplying chaos of the city. There's "out there," and then there's "in here."
"How was St. Patrick's Day in here," the gray-haired actor asks the bartender (this was weeks ago now). "Was it crazy?"
"Oh no," says the bartender, "Thank God we don't get that crowd. Thank God."
"It was crazy out there," says the actor. "I nearly killed three people on the street."
"Thank God we don't get that crowd in here."