For the record his first name was Bernard but yes, Toots sounds much, much better. His restaurant/saloon, was located in downtown Manhattan and was frequented by the who’s who of the time; the likes of Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin etc., etc., etc. They loved it because it was a place they could feel comfortable in without having to duck and hide in some roped off area in a back room.
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Toots Shor was a tale spinner and master of the “needle” (put-down), and the big rollers as well as movie stars and sports celebrities were not excluded from his silver tongue. Hollywood mogul, Louis B. Mayer complained about waiting too long for a table and replied coldly, “I trust the food will be worth all that waiting.” Toots shot back, “It’ll be better than some of your crummy pictures I stood in line for.” He knew how to swing fast and hard to be sure though in the end a warmth resonated and they always came back for more; part of the magic that was singular, real, from the streets, his streets, and the realness, in a world of illusion and knuckle kissers gave life and a couple of extra laughs that we all seek and desperately need in one way or another. Toots Shor was like his favorite drink: Brandy Sweet, (to some a Brandy Old Fashion): bitter and sweet.
It is fitting, that one of the most legendary stories surrounding Toots had to do with Jackie Gleason. One night, Toots and Gleason decided to have a drinking contest in the bar, a friendly one, and after hours and hours of throwing back the drinks, Jackie got up walked a few steps and fell flat on his face. Toots left him there for a couple hours before picking him up off the floor, all the while customers were coming in and out of Toots’ saloon. Could you imagine something like that happening now? It would be plastered all over the news for days, maybe weeks, coughing up millions of Twitter and Facebook droppings. At Toots' funeral, Gleason left a signed card surround in red roses next to his the coffin which read, "Save a Table for 2”.
Obviously, this mix of saloon keeper, hustler, jokester, genuine good willed warmth came from his childhood that was far from perfect. His mother was killed when he was a teenager, struck by a car while sitting on the front steps of their home, then five years later his father committed suicide. Maybe, this was the primer that turned Bernard into Toots. The primer that made Toots Shor's Restaurant, in Manhattan a place of legend, firmly etched into a place and time where the rich and famous mingled with the “regular people” and everyone was the same.
Bernard "Toots" Shor (May 6, 1903 - January 23, 1977).
1 oz brandy 1 tsp sugar 5 drops bitters 2 oz 7-Up 1 splash grenadine
Standing outside his “joint” with Frank Sinatra in front of a crowd of screaming fans being held at bay by police, Toots reached in his pocket, pulled out a dollar bill and said to Sinatra, "Here kid go across the street and buy me a paper."
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