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75 Years Ago on Seventh Avenue

Open-Faced Reuben.   Photo by: bryce_edwards "No one goes back home bragging they had a nice chopped salade." -- The Stage Deli

Open-Faced Reuben. Photo by: bryce_edwards “No one goes back home bragging they had a nice chopped salad.” — The Stage Deli

In 1937 a Russian immigrant opened the Stage Deli on Seventh Avenue just two blocks from Carnegie Hall.   Over the years Broadway celebrities and theater-attending tourists patronized the premises, consuming mounds of hot pastrami and chopped liver, buckets of Matzah ball soup, and plates of kreplach and knishes.  When I was a girl, my family drove from Cleveland to Brooklyn on school breaks to visit my grandparents, making the Stage Deli our first stop in Manhattan.

The restaurant was always crowded; the waiters, middle-aged bald guys, always brusque.  Studying the menu intensely, but ordering the corned beef on rye, I’d wonder about the well known and renown who were honored with sandwiches named after them.  I knew who some of them were, entertainers like Milton Berle, Danny Kaye, Ethel Merman, probably from television, but not much else about them.  Yankee greats Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Roger Maris were venerated, too.

As times changed, new names were added to the selection. The Alex Rodriguez Triple Decker was made of turkey, chopped liver, lettuce, tomato and onions, while the Derek Jeter came with roast beef, turkey, and muenster cheese

Instead of an Ed Koch, the Rudy Giuliani Hero consisted of corned beef and pastrami and topped with muenster, swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing.

But even with Sid’s Caesar Salad going for $15.95 (add chicken or steak for another three bucks) or a Conan O’Brien priced at $22.95, it wasn’t enough to keep the Stage’s doors open.  Citing a downturn in business and rising rent, the current owner closed the restaurant at the end of November.

Five years ago the restaurant put out a poster saying, “ We are all so happy about our 70th anniversary, a waiter almost smiled.”  No one is smiling today.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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70 Years Ago: A Yankee Doodle Fourth of July

A grand old flag, a high flying flag. Photo by: jcolman

Looking for a rousing Fourth of July?  Watch Yankee Doodle Dandy.  This 1942 biopic based on the life of George M. Cohan will have you singing and dancing and feeling downright patriotic.

Cohan, known as “The Man Who Owns Broadway,” was a singer, dancer, composer, lyrist, playwright, and producer.  His story, told as a flashback, began on the vaudeville stage with his parents and sister.  He always closed the act by saying, “My mother thanks you.  My father thanks you. My sister thanks you, and I thank you.”

Near the end of his career, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal for his contribution to morale during World War I, the first entertainer to be so honored.

Do you know “You’re a Grand Old Flag”?  That’s one of Cohan’s songs.

What about “Over There”?  That’s another.

So is the song “Yankee Doodle Boy,” which harks back to the Revolutionary War days:

Yankee Doodle went to town

A-riding on a pony,

Stuck a feather in his cap

And called it macaroni.

Chorus:

Yankee Doodle keep it up,

Yankee Doodle dandy,

Mind the music and the step,

And with the girls be handy.

But Cohan made the song his, too:

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,

A Yankee Doodle, do or die;

A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s,

Born on the Fourth of July.

I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart,

She’s my Yankee Doodle joy.

Yankee Doodle came to London,

Just to ride the ponies,

I am the Yankee Doodle Boy.

James Cagney won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Cohan.  He was a natural. “Once a song and dance man, always a song and dance man,” Cagney said of himself.  “Those few words tell as much about me professionally as there is to tell.”

Cagney made Cohan proud and, in turn, makes us proud. So put on your marching boots and join the parade.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

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To put you in the mood this Fourth of July:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StDpLge_ITM&feature=related

Or do you prefer the Andrew Sisters:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pfCFU3Mqww&feature=related