Ed Driscoll

From the Law Office of Ginsberg & Wong, Philip, Mies & Hugo

We’ll get to what’s in the above photo, in just a bit. But first, since I didn’t link to James Lileks’ review of Mad Men’s season five kick off last week, here’s a belated link, in case anyone on the right is still watching the show after the sucker punch hit to Romney’s father. (From the character who’s working for John Lindsay, who will soon run Manhattan deep, deep into the ground.) Also, after Lileks’ recommendations over the years both at the Bleat and at PJM, I went back and rewatched the first season of Michael Mann’s Crime Story series from 1986-’87 on Netflix, which Lileks once described as the dark Deep Space Nine to the sunlit Vice’s ST:TNG. Crime Story had great drive to its stories, and much more consistent writing than Vice, even if they tended to be somewhat formulaic cops-versus the mob at the core. But Dennis Farina and Anthony Denison as Elliot Ness and Al Capone Mike Torello and Ray Luca are classic cop and gangster adversaries. And the season finale is…explosive, to say the least. (The show’s Wikipedia page gives it all away, if you’re interested.)

Last September, when the networks were all rolling out their Mad Men rip-offs (did any of these survive past 13 weeks?) Crime Story would have been the easiest high-concept series to pitch to a network: “Boys! It’s Mad Men with guns!” “Sold—give me 13 weeks; let’s hit the links!”

As I mentioned when my mom passed away at age 87 in mid-February, I brought a treasure trove of photos and memorabilia back to California from her home in New Jersey. (Dad passed away in 2006.) And speaking of the Mad Men era, after the page break, which I’m putting in to ease page loading, and to not waste the time of those who are here (understandably) just for politics and the like, here are a few snapshots of mom and dad from the Mad Men era, followed by the matchbooks from a few of their favorite restaurants in the ’70s and early ’80s.

First up, my mom in early 1965, in perhaps the most mod-looking outfit we’ve come across in all the photos. This was taken at Miami Beach, I believe. They vacationed there often, as her brother was developing real estate in the region:

My dad at the same location, in a dark brown suit, with matching bluchers:

From a few months earlier, dad at the Stardust in Vegas:

And because dad loved his Cadillacs, a photo of, I believe, his ’67 or ’68 Coupe de Ville.  (Perhaps a car aficionado could pin the vintage down a bit more.) It was taken at Holiday Lake Resort near Bridgeboro, New Jersey, which he and his brothers-in-law owned and ran during the summertime for decades, before selling it around 1975, I believe. (The land currently has an old folks home on it, which tells you everything you need to know about the demographics of the region):

And while Lileks has the lock on the Internet’s matchbook concession, I wanted to share a few that I found while cleaning out my parents’ house, since they bring back some fond memories — right after the next page break.

First up, a matchbook from the mighty Four Seasons restaurant in the lobby of the Seagram Building on Park Avenue. Mies van der Rohe designed the Seagram Building; Philip Johnson, the Four Seasons, using Mies’s furniture and other Miesian leitmotifs. Wikipedia says that alphanumeric telephone numbers began being phased out in the mid-1960s, so I’m assuming this matchbook was picked up when my parents took my paternal grandmother there shortly after she retired from the New York Central Railroad, which was not long after the restaurant first opened in 1959. They would take me there when I was toddler annually for my birthdays, riding Penn Central (later Amtrak’s) Metroliner up from New Jersey. When I began my obsession with first modern architecture in general, and then zeroing in on Mies van der Rohe specifically in the late 1980s and early 1990s, memories of these trips came flooding back to me, and afterwards, I’ve tried to dine there at least once a year, and still do so, whenever we visit friends and relatives in New York. (During one particularly memorable evening shortly before we were married, Nina and I took our parents to meet for the first time there. Another memorable evening there was in July of 2002, when Nina and I, and mutual friend had dinner there before I headed over to Broadway to interview the now sadly deceased Les Paul; we returned to the Four Seasons afterwards to close the bar. Click here to read an early blog post where I was still pretty high from the whole experience the next day.)

Next up, the matchbooks from two of the restaurants in the lobby of the Cherry Hill Hyatt House, which opened in the mid-1970s, where my parents loved to dine, during breaks from their store. (It later became a Hilton for a time in the 1990s, if I’m remembering correctly. It’s now a Crowne Plaza.) Lunch time would be spent occasionally at Ginsberg & Wong, which, as the name implies, was a shotgun marriage of Jewish and Chinese food, with a lunch counter, and oversized Naugahyde circular booths. They served the world’s thickest, gooiest hamburger, smothered in cheddar cheese and bits of bacon and onion. And also an incredible corned beef and pastrami on rye, with giant pickles and slabs of seasoned French fries. While I believe Hyatt eliminated the Ginsberg & Wong brand around 1986 or ’87, I’m pretty sure I’m still working the calories from these lunches off at the gym.

The matchbook below, with my dad’s name on it, was from Hugo’s, which was the upscale restaurant in the lobby of the Hyatt House. It’s odd that the matchbook describes the place as “a rotisserie restaurant,” which to my mind conjures up images of El Pollo Loco. Hugo’s was anything but. The only memories I have of the place, which my parents drove to mostly on Sunday evenings, the one day of the week when the store closed early, was that it was dark, swanky (it must have been—they had custom-printed matchbooks!) and they served an incredible tomato bread. They also served intermezzo, which consisted of a tiny dollop of lemon sherbet, in a tiny ice cream cone, which the head waiter would deliver to the table in a brass tray with holes cutout to hold the cones. Hugo’s was rebranded into another restaurant in the mid-80s, before Ginsberg & Wong was also rebranded, if I recall correctly.

This concludes our look back at the past; our usual hit and run forays into the pugilistic politics of the present day will return momentarily.