Thursday, January 30, 2014

Barnes & Noble Flagship


The Barnes & Noble flagship store on 5th Avenue and 18th Street closed for good on January 6, and while I generally don't bemoan the loss of chain stores, the death of bookstores makes my blood run cold. Also, this particular Barnes & Noble was special.

Bonus shot of Loehmann's goodbye sign

First, the store had been in this spot since 1932.

It was old and crummy, with the feel of a real bookstore, not a shiny shopping mall experience. The floors crackled when you walked on them. Their selection was vast--not just the bestsellers--you could find almost anything. They sold serious books. And textbooks.

When you followed one of the painted lines on the floor, you were led to the way, way back, to a room filled with textbooks arranged on old metal shelves that climbed to the high ceiling. Here, perusing professors' selections, you could find obscure titles on every subject. Students could also save money by buying used textbooks here. And you could sell your old textbooks back to the store, saving money again.

Bottom line: Yes, Barnes & Noble did their part to kill our independent shops, but this antique felt like a bookstore in New York City and not a place to pick up the latest mass market sensation and a kitten calendar at the Mall of America. (Not that I have anything against kittens.)

About a year ago, I went in to take a few photos, knowing this B&N could not last. It was too rundown, too old, too good. And just look at those bones! (You can hear the realtors gushing.) Greek columns that will look just spectacular in the new Victoria's Secret or American Eagle Outfitters or Abercrombie to come!

Reader George M. wrote in to say: "A store manager said that it will likely become a Duane Reade."

George continued, "When I moved to NYC in 1986 there were at least 30 academic-oriented bookstores spread out all over Manhattan and Brooklyn. Now there is arguably only one left (Book Culture near Columbia U) which is rapidly transforming into a general interest bookstore. As one of its employees recently commented, it's 'Out with Ovid and in with Oprah.'"

Around the corner from 18th and 5th remains the Barnes & Noble super-store on Union Square, a space that is rapidly filling up with crap--board games, stuffed animals, decorative candles, coffee mugs, kitten calendars--more crap and fewer books.

It's a grotesque process to witness, as bookstores become toy stores...

...and books become disposable.

Actual sign in the shuttered store

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Park Place & Flatbush

Last month, One More Folded Sunset alerted us to the imminent closures of a group of old-school businesses at Park Place and Flatbush in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. The landlord has sent letters of eviction, giving them weeks to vacate.

The Dominican restaurant El Gran Castillo de Jagua has been on the corner for nearly four decades, according to a Daily News piece on the closures. “We’ve lost our business,” 63-year-old Sergio Olivio told the paper, while holding back tears.

As of today, the restaurant is still there, but not for long. I went into El Gran Castillo de Jagua for lunch recently. It was some of the best food I have ever tasted. Chicken, plantains, avocados, rice and beans, washed down with Morir Sonando--"to die dreaming." All made perfectly, tasting fresh and clean.

El Gran Castillo de Jagua has a large dining room in the back, as well as a small lunch counter with swivel stools. People come and go, sit on the stools, wait for their take-out meals. The atmosphere is warm and friendly.

Coconut cakes sit on pedestals looking like ghosts from the past.

Next door, the Benoit barbershop has been there for over 40 years. I peeked in. I was not in need of a haircut, but wished I was. The barber dozed in a chair, his feet up. Music played from a radio. The smell coming out was that wonderful barber-shop smell--Clubman talc, osage aftershave, the works.

“I feel helpless,” Sylvain Benoit, the 62-year-old owner of barber shop, told the Daily News. “It just seems like there is nothing we can do about it. Only people who have the money make the law. There is just nobody to talk to for help. You work your whole life in one place, and then one day the landlord comes and just kicks you out on to the sidewalk.

This can happen easily in New York because there is no rent control for businesses, and no laws in place that would regulate how a landlord can negotiate rent increases and lease extensions.

Also to be evicted is Benoit's neighbor Little Miss Muffin 'N' Her Stuffin', a Trinidadian patty and muffin shop that One More Folded Sunset says has been serving some of the best patties in the city for 20 years. Miss Muffin has luckily found a new location, though in a less desirable spot.

Folded Sunset writes, "the whole deal here stinks--another story of small, family businesses pushed aside, replaced by the unremarkable, the unaffordable, the unspeakable. The true wealth of the city counts for nothing."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Save the Pavilion

People for the Pavilion is a group fighting to save the New York State Pavilion, a ruin of the World's Fair in Flushing Meadows park. Recently, they hosted a kick-off event to share their plans and engage in conversation with the community to strategize the future of this un-landmarked landmark.

I asked co-founder Matthew Silva a few questions about the project.

What's the story with the pavilion? Is it being torn down--and why?

The New York State Pavilion was built for the 1964 New York World's Fair and was meant to showcase "The best that New York had to offer." Basically, it was a showcase for New York industry. Some of the unique features were its three observation towers, the large elliptical tent of tomorrow, and its floor, which was giant Texaco road map made out of terrazzo. [See it here.]

It was meant to be retained as a tourist attraction after the fair but due to some unfortunate circumstances politically and economically, the building quickly became a low priority and essentially sat with little maintenance for decades.

At this point there is no order to tear it down, and I don't know of any governing body that WANTS to tear it down. The latest buzz came from results from a city-funded engineers report that was released in late November that provided cost estimate for the building's demolition, stabilization, and adaptive reuse. Basically, it will cost about $14 million to demolish it, and about $70 million to turn it into something new.

Why do you think it's worth saving?

Herbert Muschamp said "The essential feature of a landmark is not its design, but the place it holds in a city's memory." I think that sums it up. The building has become a symbol and a recognizable landmark of our city, especially Queens. Some argue that world's fair pavilions are only supposed to be temporary and that this should have been taken down years ago. Although that might be true, the fact is that it has endured, and has become a iconic building that people have come to recognize and admire. It's a part of the backdrop to so many people's lives, and to remove it would be to erase a part of their own history. Not to mention it was designed by world-class architect Philip Johnson, who was a major advocate for the arts and architecture. He was jointly responsible for saving one of New York's greatest treasures, Grand Central Terminal, and it's now our job to repay the favor.

How can people get involved?

People can get involved by staying informed and participating in the various events that our organization, People For the Pavilion (PFP), plan to hold in the new year. Visit our website, follow us on twitter, and like our Facebook page to keep up with the latest.

Matthew recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for his film, Modern Ruin, on the history and life of the Pavilion. Please visit the page, view the trailer, and give your support.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Famous Oyster Bar


Not the Oyster Bar in Grand Central, which is under dubious renovation, but the other one, the one with the fantastic neon sign on the corner of 7th Avenue and 54th Street, that one. It shuttered last night after 55 years in business.

Opened in 1959, the Famous Oyster Bar was run by the same Greek family until the owner, Angelo Agmonostopoulo, died in 2010, when partner Ajit Saha took over.

The restaurant's nautical theme includes a hand-carved model of the Titanic, brass port windows, an impressive seashell-filled ceiling lamp fixture, a lifebuoy printed with the name "Oyster Bar," sea captain statuettes, and a 20-foot oil painting of Greece.

All of which are up for auction today at noon, with a preview at 10:00 a.m. (more info below).

I'd never been in to the Famous Oyster Bar before, but always admired their vintage neon sign. Thanks to reader Charles for letting me know about the closure, I did not miss my last chance for a meal in this comfortable, friendly classic.

I talked to the hostess who'd been working there for 15 years, and she explained why they were closing.

She told me that their old landlord lived in South America and didn't bother much with them--over the years, they paid their rent and he renewed the lease. Then his daughter took over, and she didn't want the Oyster Bar anymore. According to the hostess, this new landlord refused to renew their lease, even when the restaurant's owner asked for a month-to-month agreement. "I think she'll keep it empty," the hostess told me. "I think the building is coming down."

Later, the restaurant put a sign in the window stating that the closure was "due to exorbitant rent prices." Update: The owner told DNA Info that it was the rent, saying, "Four years ago, the rent was $12,000. Now we pay more than $30,000."

One way or another, after more than half a century, the Oyster Bar was not permitted to endure.

I talked to a couple of regulars who'd been going to the Famous Oyster Bar for years. "It's sad," said one, "People grow up with a place. They fall in love with it. And then they just get rid of it, like it doesn't matter."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sweet Gifts at Video Cafe


A couple of readers have written in to let us know about the closure of Sweet Gifts at Video Cafe on 9th Avenue and 48th Street in Hell's Kitchen.

On their Facebook page, and in a note on the door, Sweet Gifts writes: "To our extended Family that have supported us for the past 20 years. We are sorry to inform you that we can no longer serve our beloved Community. It breaks our hearts to have to say these words, but as you can see from the changes to our Community and rising rents, we can no longer continue our operations. We thank you for your support, kindness and memories that will remain in our hearts forever."

Reader David M. writes: "This one hits hard for us as it's our neighborhood and we go there a lot after school with my kid. They were an old local video store that still rented DVDs and blu rays, but had tried to adapt in the past decade by adding candy, clothes, and toys. Everyone working there looked really sad and people coming inside seemed really heartbroken about the closure. The rent is just going too high."

Reader Roy S. says, "So sad to see this family-owned business going under. As a Hell's Kitchen resident for 20-some years, this store has been where I rented movies, bought candy, and chatted with the owners. If they didn't have it, they'd get it for you. Another victim of skyrocketing rents. I'm not sure how long they can hang on. Could you give them a little publicity and help them sell off their stock?"

Sweet Gifts' DVDs are currently on sale.

the old sign

Wednesday, January 22, 2014



The following is a guest post, written by Chris, a writer living in Chelsea:

Before the Friends of the High Line flooded Chelsea with millions of tourists; before real-estate developers, chain stores, mommies and Middle America invaded; before Chelsea was America’s leading gay ghetto, there was Camouflage.

But soon it will be no more. In December 2013, after 38 years in business, Camouflage’s rent more than tripled, from $7,000 a month to $24,000 a month. The owner, Norm Usiak, offered the landlord $12,000, but was turned down. Camouflage’s internationally renowned Downtown annex was rented to a Subway sandwich franchise, the third to open on the strip in the last few years. Norm has to vacate the corner store by January 30. A chain ice-cream store, a chain tea store, and a chain pie store have all been vying for the spot. 

Opened in 1976 on the northwest corner of 8th Avenue and 17th street by Norm Usiak and Gene Chase, Camouflage was Chelsea’s first upscale 8th Avenue boutique. “At the time, that strip of 8th Avenue was mostly just bodegas, some shoe shops and hair salons,” says Norm. “We basically wound up there because we could afford it.”

Quickly becoming the go-to men’s boutique for the Village and Chelsea’s professional artist class, Camouflage didn’t follow trends--it set them. It was among the first to introduce labels such as Paul Smith, Jeffrey Banks, Perry Ellis, and Alexander Julian to the New York market.

Camouflage, 1976

“What we did was interpret the fashion for our customers,” says Norm. “They were New Yorkers who didn’t need to draw attention to themselves by wearing clothes with giant logos. In that sense, Camouflage wasn’t just a clothing store – people came in to find out what was going on in New York because we translated it into clothing.”

The Camouflage fashion formula became so successful that Norm and Gene rented the space one store south of the corner boutique, calling it Camouflage Downtown and specializing in clothes that men would wear “below 23rd street.” The shop drew the attention of city-wide, national, and international celebrities like Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Steve Rubell, Robert Redford, Steve Martin, and Gregory Hines.

“At the time," says Norm, "Chelsea and the Village were the most modern neighborhoods in North America, full of photographers and art directors and actors and writers, and the energy was just mind boggling.”

Camouflage in GQ

As the epicenter of gay life moved to Chelsea, Gene and Norm anchored what would eventually become known as “the strip.”  

In the late 80s through the 90s, 8th Avenue transformed into a promenade of almost totally locally owned and operated restaurants, bars, and boutiques, including: The Joyce, The Starting Line, Eighteenth and Eighth, Rawhide, Rogers and Barbero / Food Bar, P. Chanin, Viceroy, Giraudon, LightForms, Service Station, Candy Bar, Paradise Café, Rocking Horse, Re:Vision/Nasty Pig, Big Cup, Rocking Horse, Rainbows and Triangles, Roger and Dave, Barracuda, Bendix Diner, Bright Food Shop, and The Break.

“Even when Chelsea became a gay mecca, Camouflage was never ‘gay’,” says Norm, who happens to be straight. “It wasn’t ‘straight’ either. Gene and I used to say we were a clothing store for men.”

8th Avenue’s economic renaissance, circa early ‘80s

In 1996, Gene died from AIDS. “We had a perfect partnership and were best friends,” says Norm. “His death was also a huge loss on the creative level. It was an example of the devastating loss of talent to New York that AIDS brought.”

During the AIDS crisis, Norm took care of a dozen or so employees who contracted the disease, including providing health insurance and paying their rent.

“Norm took amazing care of his employees and his customers,” says the playwright Paul Rudnick, who has been shopping at Camouflage since the 80s. “He was the best friend the gay community had, and he did it when it wasn’t so easy.”

By the 1990s, thanks in part to Gene and Norm, 8th Avenue had become valuable commercial territory. “But we were fine because our rent only went up 5% a year,” says Norm.

Running Camouflage without Gene, Norm survived the economic crisis and turmoil of September 11, continuing to thrive into the 2000s without a website, PR, advertising, e-mail, social media, or even a cell phone. Soon, “the strip” fell prey to developers, and outrageous rent hikes transformed 8th Avenue from the thriving local economy it had been for decades into a desert of banks, chain drug stores, nail salons, and fast food restaurants. The High Line flooded the neighborhood with tourists looking for a mall experience. Middle America invaded and the neighborhood fabric fell apart. 80% of the block was bulldozed and replaced with an office park. Practically all of 8th Avenue’s commercial and cultural pillars fell. Still, Camouflage held on.

“Although the incredible commercial foot traffic we had on 8th Avenue for decades helped, we were also a destination store for people around the city and around the world,” says Norm. “That’s how we survived after September 11. And it’s how we survived after the High Line filled this neighborhood with tourists who only want fast food and either cheap trendy clothes or expensive trendy clothes covered in logos.”

Gene and Norm in DNR, 1988

But few small businesses can survive tripled rent.

Although Camouflage’s physical store will vanish, what Norm and Gene provided its customers cannot. Ask any longtime customer – such as myself – and they will tell you the same thing: They have every garment they ever bought from Camouflage.

“I still wear clothes I bought from Camouflage 20 years ago,” says Rudnick. “People are so loyal to Camouflage because there would always be things you loved and that you needed – it was never about impossible luxury but about genuine taste.”

8th avenue hot spots Bendix Diner and 18th and 8th

In classic Norm Usiak temperament, he isn’t bitter about the closing, even though he inadvertently helped create a commercial environment as valuable as Chelsea’s 8th Avenue strip today. But he isn’t happy either. 
“This is the end of stores like Camouflage,” says Norm. “And because it’s so expensive to live here, a young man like Gene, who was from Nebraska, can’t move to New York anymore and create something like Camouflage.”

Norm says that the loss has more to do than just with rent hikes. “The neighborhood was full of people with ideas,” he says. “Now it’s transient people who talk about how much they spend on their apartment.”

“Norm is a legend,” says Rudnick. “In the store you had a wonderful sense of being welcome, which is unusual for such a sophisticated store. Camouflage was never intimidating. You go around the world and you see Banana Republics and The Gaps, etc., but there was only one Camouflage.”

And the love is mutual. “The biggest thing I’m going to miss is the people,” says Norm, who plans to go into consulting and teaching, and is considering an online Camouflage rendition. “This is a part of life, and I am thankful that I had such an incredible 38-year run.”

To get in touch with Norm, contact

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

John's Pizzeria

From the department of scary rumors, reader Jack sends in this note: "A generally reliable source, with experience in Village real estate, told me John's Pizzeria in the Village (yes, the original) will be biting the dust soon, but luckily I've not yet seen anything in print to that effect."

I went into John's and asked if they were closing. "No way," was the answer I got, accompanied by a good-natured scoff, as if to say Don't be ridiculous.

Rumors crop up now and then. Much of the time, they turn out to be true. Sometimes, not. In any case, I pass this one along because it's a good reminder to take the time to enjoy the authentic New York places we still have. We know now that anything can vanish, no matter how successful and revered, at any time. And, yes, even if they own the building.

Originally founded by John Sasso, formerly of Lombardi's, John's Pizzeria has been serving up delicious pies in the Village since 1929. They still don't do slices.

The neon sign in the window refers to Port'Alba, the first pizzeria in the world. In Naples since 1738, the Port'Alba pizzeria has ovens lined with lava rock from Mount Vesuvius. I don't think John's has lava rock lining their ovens.

There are two faded murals on John's walls--one that has to be the Blue Grotto on Capri, and another that depicts a summertime scene, perhaps off the coast of Naples (does anyone recognize it?). Both are simply done, by an untrained hand. Call it art brut. The paint is peeling.

The walls and wooden booths are covered in scratchitti, with the names and dates and hearts of customers who came to eat the pizza.

And there are many autographed photos. Sinatra's in a prominent place, though most are from athletes--football players, boxers, wrestlers.

And a couple items from Vanilla Ice, who must have been a regular at one point.

If the city ever does get a historic restaurant protection measure, John's has to go at the top of the list.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Caffe Dante

VANISHING (sort of)

This note came in from a reader: "I live above Caffe Dante on MacDougal St between Bleecker and Houston St, and I've heard rumors in the building that Caffe Dante's last day will be this Sunday."

Alarmed by this information, I went to check it out. I was told by an employee that the cafe is closing this Sunday, but for renovations--and a change of concept. The owner's son is taking over and will be putting in a full kitchen and bar, changing Caffe Dante into a restaurant. The coffees and pastries will remain, but to a lesser degree.

Reopening in about six weeks, it may or may not still be "Caffe Dante."

Dante has been in business since 1915. One of the once plentiful Italian coffee shops of the Village, it was frequented by the Beats, and by folksingers like Bob Dylan.

It's an old-fashioned, comfortably lived-in cafe, with wobbly tables and faded photos on the walls. It remains one of the few spots where you can sit quietly and read, sipping a beverage, unbothered. (While I sat in the quiet, a man came in and asked, "Is there a place where I can plug in my phone? I need to make a lot of calls." The answer was no and, thankfully, he left.)

Let's hope that Dante remains Dante, and stays a quiet, contemplative spot.

To be safe, if you want to experience the old Caffe Dante, go before Sunday. In a couple of months, one way or another, it won't be the same.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nicky's Magazines


Back in 2008, the great Nikos magazine shop on the corner of 6th Avenue and 11th Street shuttered. It was replaced by Nicky's magazine shop, which was far less great, but still had something going for it. Now Nicky's has vanished.

Reader John Charles Nuss sent in these photos of the closed shop.

When Nikos shuttered, after 31 years on that corner, people were devastated. The place was a dusty warren of un-glossy magazines--odd titles, obscure stacks, everything. Back then, as I peered into the window one last time, an older man stepped up and peered in with me. He summed it up, saying, "You could get anything here. I knew this would happen. It was only a matter of time."

When Nikos turned into Nicky's, I said, "I doubt we'll ever see Daedalus, Dislocate, Lacanian Ink, or the New York Quarterly in this new place." But I was wrong. While Nicky's sold mostly mainstream magazines, they kept a few shelves in the back for the hardcore stuff--and by hardcore I mean intellectual and literary. Usually, you could find some salty Villager back there, muttering and shuffling through Lapham's Quarterly or Lacanian Ink. That back section was a small, semi-secret oasis.

I kept going to Nicky's, stopping in to buy a magazine whenever I passed by, probably because it felt, in some way, like a continuation of Nikos. Maybe it felt that way for a lot of people, because since Nicky's closed just over a week ago, I keep getting emails, Tweets, and Facebook messages about it. People are upset.

Alex in NYC wrote about this closure: "Like so many other fixtures of a once-thriving, healthy community, [the old Nikos] was snuffed out like a fucking candle by a landlord's greed. In its place, a new but strikingly indistinct newspaper emporium opened. For the last few years, that business has anemically held court on a spot previously renowned as a nuanced haven for the literate and knowledge-hungry. Well, balls to all that now... Once again, the neighborhood loses."

Across the street from the shuttered Nicky's is the shuttered Famous Roio's Pizza. And so this crossroads has become a dead zone, waiting for the Chase banks, Starbucks, and yogurt shops that can pay the ever climbing rents.

in Nicky's window


Nikos closed
Nicky's moved in

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Carmine's IHOP


After setting off a panic when it opened in 2012, and "Effectively Stabbing Village in Heart," it appears that the IHOP on Carmine Street has one foot in the grave. Still open for business, a FOR LEASE sign recently appeared on its front.

Originally, IHOP signed a 49-year lease for this corner of Carmine and Varick, paying $300,000 per year. The real estate agent who brokered the deal told the Wall Street Journal that Carmine, "was a dumpy street. Now it's top-notch." IHOP is "a big brand, and it'll help me convince other big brands to follow. People don't even know where Carmine Street is--yet. We'll fix that."

Not so fast.

As a bonus, this news comes just after a self-professed "New Yorker from Elsewhere" waxed nostalgic in Downtown for this very IHOP, recalling a recent snowy night on Carmine when "tourists and locals alike gathered at clean, florescent-lit, flavored-syrup laden tables" for a taste of Ye Olde Suburbia. She explained why Manhattan's glut of chains appeals so much to the newest newcomers to the city: "We go to IHOP or Denny’s or Applebee’s because when you walk into a place like that, a place that speaks of other-state suburbia with every wheeze of the vinyl padded booths, every crack of the egg-yolk spattered menus, it reminds you that you are from Somewhere Else, and for a half hour you can settle back into your accent and some mediocre but utterly familiar food."

It is utterly depressing to think of young people coming to New York and dragging their suburban worlds with them, like separation-anxious teenagers carrying their old teddy bears off to college. Manhattan is not Waukesha, or Toledo, or Walla Walla. Nor should it be.

While it's likely that a bank or another chain will take IHOP's place, I'd like to enjoy this For Lease sign as a hopeful sign that the revanchist onslaught of suburbanization is failing. The controversial 7-Eleven on St. Mark's Place closed last month, now this--what's next? Will we go through a process of de-suburbanization?

Carmine's IHOP
Before IHOP
Chain Stores in the City

Rainbows & Triangles


Last month, a reader sent in a bit of "reliable gym gossip," saying that Chelsea's long-time gay gift shop Rainbows & Triangles would soon be closing. I checked it out and the owner confirmed that he was not going to renew his lease this coming spring--the rent is too high, it's time to pack up shop--but he wasn't ready then to announce the closure.

Now, with a big sale, the word is officially out. Kenneth in the 212 broke the news yesterday, saying, "the closing date is not firm but should happen within a month."

Since 1994, Rainbows and Triangles has been the gay Chelsea spot for greeting cards, LGBT books, t-shirts, jock straps, snow globes, novelties--and merman Christmas tree ornaments with six-pack abs.

There's also a special section in the back with XXX adult items. On their Facebook page they've announced: "STOREWIDE SALE! All merchandise is 25%-50% OFF! Christmas merchandise is 70% OFF!" 

Even the leather slings are on sale. Get them while they last. Chelsea's Eighth Avenue is growing duller by the day.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Milady's Last Call


Zagat says it's been there for 81 years. Others say since 1947 or sometime in the 1950s. Either way, Milady's has been around for a long time. And now it's gone.

All photos courtesy of Gudrun Georges

E.V. Grieve shared the Twitter rumor on Saturday that the bar would be closing--along with a realtor's listing for the building that advertises: "Building has been completely gut-renovated... will be delivered vacant. Incredible opportunity for luxury residential conversion."

The rumor of the closing turned out to be true. Last night was Milady's last call.

Reader Lois went in to Milady's early yesterday with her husband to say goodbye. She reported: "The crowds trickled in. People were drinking beer and shots of whiskey. Making toasts. Everyone was upset and talking about the closing. Some were crying. I saw one older woman walk in, talk to the bartender, and shout FUCK! when she heard the news. The bartender said they were just told on Friday about the closing. She said the landlord refused to renew their lease. One lonely looking guy at the bar just kept saying, 'I'm devastated, totally devastated.' It was a sad day."

By the late afternoon, it was "a regular Irish funeral," said reader Daniel. He reported: "the scene is teary but full of village stalwarts and so good cheer abounds despite the fucking calamity of losing this bar. my mother, who's been coming here since '73 is a mess. she doesn't where she's gonna go now. it's plain old sad as hell."

At night, Milady's was packed, running out of beer, and six packs were being brought in from the delis across the street, tweeted Robert O. Simonson. Still, the funeral party went on into the deep morning hours.

Reader Lisamarie Grosso, a long-time bartender at Milady's, let us know that the bar "has been owned and operated by the same Italo-American family for 60 or so years. Neighbors used to refer to it as 'the Frank Sinatra Bar' because of the many photos of Old Blue Eyes hanging on the walls. The massive avocado plant in the window that faces Thompson Street was grown from a seed by the owner's Mom. She's long gone. The plant remains."

In 1982, Frank Genovese bought the place. The Times reported in 1992 that Frank "grew up a few blocks from the bar, and later worked there." He told the paper, "I thought of making this place much fancier than it is. But then in my experience the chi-chi places make a lot of money for a very short time -- but then?"

Milady's was not a fancy chi-chi place. It was a dive, a neighborhood bar, an Italian joint dating back to when this part of Soho was still considered the Italian South Village. (For many, the boundaries remain highly contested today.) Madonna ate there. So did Sylvester Stallone. Connie Francis was on the jukebox and Frank Sinatra's portrait hung on the wall.

In more recent years, the Zagat description summed it up well--"a magnet for rent-stabilized locals," "some wonder how it survives":

In today's New York, nothing affordable, nothing old, nothing for the rent-stabilized locals is allowed to survive. And what's to come? We can imagine something chi-chi, something that will make a lot of money for a very short time, and then shutter. The long line of history has been broken.

See more from Gudrun Georges here