Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Not Responsible

Back in 2011, La Nueva Rampa closed its doors on West 14th Street. It was one of the city's last Chino-Latino restaurants--and the last one in Chelsea, where they had once been abundant since the 1960s.

It then became El Paraiso, keeping up the Chino-Latino menu. Then El Paraiso shuttered in 2016.

And now?

It's a temporary "immersive installation" called Unspoken. (At least it was when I wrote this post--it closed last week.) Strands of shimmering strings hang from the ceiling.

According to Untapped Cities, the installation by activist artist Ann Lewis is presented by "social impact production company Killer Impact." Viewers are asked to reflect on 'different questions regarding mortality such as “Do we actually exist?' and 'Can death be an adventure?'”

The part I found the most compelling, however, was a revelation in the wall. (I was told it was original and not part of the installation.) I'd never seen it when dining at the restaurant/s, and it's possible I missed it, but I'm assuming it was behind something and now has been revealed -- a beautiful tile wall with hand-lettered signage saying NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HATS & COATS.

What decade was this from?

According to Lost Womyn's Space, this location was home to Kooky's Cocktail Lounge in the 1960s and 70s. The blog quotes the following description from Karla Jay's Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation:

"Kooky, the proprietor, had the air of a retired prostitute or poorly put-together drag queen. She favored pastel prom dresses--the kind that required several crinolines to inflate them properly, were zipped in the back, and called for a strapless bra and large bust to keep the dress up. Perhaps she fancied herself the Scarlett O'Hara of Greenwich Village. Her hair was shellacked into a large golden beehive that suggested that she had last set, teased, and sprayed her hair in the 1950s and then left it permanently in place."

Good stuff there, but that gold-lettered wall looks too early to be Kooky's. If anyone knows what was here before, please let us know.


eddiepunch said...

Back on 1999-2000 I loved going to the Chino-Latino resturant on the Upper West Side on Broadway left side going up between 106th and 108th. It took me a while to figure it out because being Irish and European I'd never come across this culinary combination before. Such fabulous food and at a nice price too.

I asked the staff about it and they said, "well Chinese travel everywhere and cook including South America and them some of them made it to New York from South America and brought their style of cooking and recipies with them." - I'm so glad they did and sad it's vanishing too.

Eddie Punch

James said...

My guess is that the tiled wall (with or without the declaration about coats and hats) dates to about 1905. I'm thinking that the space was a cafeteria or restaurant. Porcelain tiles on the wall meant sanitary - something very important to the time, given some the recent revelations about cleanliness and health. It's a beauty.

Unknown said...

I just came across your page, and this particular post has sent me on a 2 hour search on the internet for the source of that coat and hat sign. according to the 1940 tax photo page, in 1940 it was a "Cut Rate Clothing" and "Slim Fit Shoe" store.

here is a link to the photo:

The top of the building has changed just a little, but I matched it up based on the split in the roof on the building next door to the right. Site says it was built in 1920, so the coat/hat sign could be from then and covered up, or from something between the years of the clothing store and the club. Without a city directory, it's hard to say.

Love your blog by the way. I am from the South and have never been to NYC, but my heart hurts for the loss of history that gets worse everyday.

Nathaniel Rahav said...
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