Freeman Chum

October 30th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

In the early 1950’s HG combined his career as a journalist with Broadway press agentry. HG had a part time (three months a year) girl friend, a showgirl at the Copacabana night cub. The young woman liked change. She worked five months of the year in Las Vegas, four months in Paris and the rest of the time at the Copa. When in New York, she lived in a hotel around the corner from Freeman Chum, a Chinese restaurant on Manhattan’s E. 53rd Street and that’s where she and HG drank martinis and nibbled egg rolls and spare ribs before her show. Much taller than HG, she would pat HG on the head and call him, in her inimitable Cockney drawl, “my little ducks.” When not in scanty show biz attire, she favored dowdy, tweedy English countrywoman clothes. Her ambition was to retire in the English countryside and raise beagles. Back to Freeman Chum. Odd for a Chinese restaurant, the martinis were superb, prepared by barman Hoy Wong. HG later learned that Marilyn Monroe came in every Wednesday and had a two martini liquid lunch prepared by Wong. Joe DiMaggio, the great Yankee star, would come to Freeman Chum on Saturday nights, recalled Wong, and spend secluded hours drinking scotch. (Surprisingly, he and Monroe never met there). Judy Garland was another customer and discreet Wong noted she had many drinks. Wong left Freeman Chum in 1963 and became the barman at the Blue Bar in the Algonquin Hotel. Two of his favorite customers were scotch drinkers John Lennon and Henry Kissinger. (Sometimes, this oddly matched duo shared a cocktail table). Wong had a lengthy career. He was still active at the Blue Bar when he was in his 90s. The Algonquin honored Wong on his 90th birthday (when he was there oldest barman in New York) with a cocktail party in the hotel’s Oak Room. Scores of customers were in attendance. Wong was never befuddled by odd drink requests. He said the Duke of Windsor ordered a “House of Lords martini in and out on toast.” A waiter was about to summon the kitchen. Wong stopped him. He knew the Duke wanted a gin martini with lemon peel. The lemon peel was to be burnt with a match before going into the glass. Wong said the Duke liked his version so much he ordered another.

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