Harry Stedman on 'Diners' Part 2
April 15 2014, 0 Comments
Sailing across the Atlantic to the east coast of North America, the counterpart and older brother to the unassuming, working class British caff was of course the all American diner. Shining beacons of chrome, glass and neon lighting plus the very latest and most sought after music spinning in the jukebox, a Diner would draw in customers off the sidewalk and from all walks of life. In New York in particular, they offered an immediate environment to kick back, let loose and enjoy post war America in all its glory. No blitz ravaged streets here, instead the emergence of the teenager was well into its stride, and with disposable income available to fuel the construction of a new found identity. Open 24 hours a day-seven days a week, the glow of a diner would have no doubt been a welcome sight to guys and girls looking to party into the early hours. Not least for a merchant seamen like our Harry, with rest the last thing on his mind as the ship slotted into pier 92, he and his ship mates would’ve been itching to get back on terra firma and nestled into the faux leather of the nearest diner booth, a girl on each arm and good grub in their bellies. One of the most popular joints in town was The Market Diner over on the corner of 43rd st and 11th avenue. It was owned and ran by a Mr Joe Zellin, a legend to those lucky enough to have been to the diner at its peak, he would know exactly when a ship was due to dock and be sure to have the place suitably booming upon their arrival. The clientele at the Market Diner was a typical reflection of New York at that time. Said to be a regular late night hang out for Frank Sinatra and his entourage, merchant seamen of course, as well as the usual cabbies, police officers, general public oh and the odd mafia member. After rolling out of the Market diner a visit to to Village vanguard might have been on the cards. It’s been the centre of the Jazz universe for musicians and fans alike for almost eighty years now, first opening its doors in 1935. During those hedonistic late 50s and 60s the descent down the 15 steps to the subterranean triangular room would’ve blown many a music-loving mind. Legends like Theolonious Monk, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Hank Mobley are just a few of a plethora of jazz titans to have provided the soundtrack to a spate of Manhattan excursions. Among other notable NY establishments is the Empire Diner on the corner of 22nd st and 10th avenue. Making cameos in numerous Hollywood movies since it’s doors flung open in 1946 (Woody Allen’s Manhattan probably the most memorable) its slick monochrome décor gives an instant shot a New York class. Another is the triangular shaped Square Diner down on Leonard street Tribeca, beautiful wood-panelled walls and ceiling provide that blue collar charm. As with the caffs over the pond, these charismatic dining cars are rapidly dwindling. A few remain however, digging in their heels refusing to relinquish the stories of good times and bad, of superstars, movie stars, gangsters, great food and of course the music. Long live the NY diner!