Over the Rainbow

Tonight’s ROOFTOP DRIVE-IN movie at Highbar will be The Wizard of Oz. The W of O is one of my favorite flicks and I’m going to rush over to Highbar right after that Pharrell N.E.R.D thingy at Irving Plaza. My dear pal Greg Brier, the wizard of Highbar, is wonderful because because because because because because of the wonderful things he does. I’ll be there to support and ooh and ahh and tell how I met actual Munchkins at the 70th anniversary party at Tavern on the Green. Tavern was a bit like the Emerald City, a place where dreams were fulfilled, but is now for all intents and purposes buried under a sea of bureaucratic red tape, in-fighting, bad intentions, and greed.

Last September when I wrote about the impending doom, I said, “Tavern was made of steel and concrete and glass for sure. It was decorated with fine chandeliers and moldings and furniture, but its soul came from dreams, and soon—January 1—those dreams will move on. It won’t be the same without the magic, and you can’t buy or outbid for that stuff.”

I love quoting me. Sometime tonight a nine-foot projected Dorothy will say those magic words “Toto, I’ve a feeling were not in Kansas anymore”. New York isn’t quite Kansas yet but the city that never sleeps sure is yawning a lot these days. I would love to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain but Mayor Bloomberg just doesn’t seem to get the underbelly of New York. He just hasn’t spent enough time there. The great and powerful Oz said about himself that he was a good man but a bad wizard. Our billionaire Mayor may indeed be a good man and even a good mayor most of the time, but he’s lacking in his understanding of the symbols and distractions the hoi polloi need to just get by. Without billions of dollars to entertain ourselves, we seek refuge in bars and clubs and have romantic attachments to places like Tavern on the Green. It’s been a summer without Tavern. A summer spent without cool breezes and cocktails, starry skies and topiaried trees. Dean Poll, that boathouse mogul who would have been the new wizard, couldn’t make a deal with the wicked witches at the Hotel and Motel Trade Council, and Mayor Mike couldn’t successfully intercede .The Donald waits in the wings to help if called upon. I read in The New York Times that Mr. Trump, who sometimes understands the stuff that dreams are made of said, “If I could help the city and the city wanted me to get involved, I could be open to running Tavern.” He added: “It really is a special place. Only a person with a lot of money can rebuild and resurrect Tavern. And I have a lot of money.”

Maybe those involved should click their shoes together and repeat “If I only had a brain… a heart… courage. In 1939 director Victor Fleming directed a story that told of brains, heart, courage and the meaning of home. Dearest Dorothy and her entourage fought off demons, witches and even those scary monkeys to get things back to where they should be, and more importantly, with a greater appreciation of them. That same year, Victor Fleming did another very similar film, Gone With the Wind, which is at it’s core about the same thing. That Victor Fleming had a pretty, pretty, pretty good year. The costumes were tweaked but the message was clearly the same. Home and the values it represents are our heart and we must fight and prevail, to preserve them. Dorothy and Scarlett O’Hara were young women who came of age chasing and eventually finding their dreams. Somewhere out there is Jenny Oz Leroy, the daughter of the Warner Leroy who’s dream took Tavern over the rainbow. Tavern wasn’t much before Warner Leroy invested millions into it, and more importantly his heart, his brains, his courage and his love. Now that the Leroys have been kicked unromantically to the curb it may never return. Warner Leroy’s dad Mervyn Leroy produced the Wizard of Oz. His dad Harry Warner was one of those Warner Brothers who founded the movie studio. All of them understood how to mix magic in with the money and stir it up to make something special. The hallowed grounds where so many memories of engagements and weddings and birthdays and events and anniversaries and dreams were made lays decaying. So many people from all over the world continuously returned to Tavern because like a very few icons, the Empire State Building and it’s King Kong, Radio City and the Rockettes, the Plaza and it’s Eloise and so very few others, represent the soul of New York, the legend of the great town. Tiffany’s without breakfast (at Tavern) is just another jewelry store.

The union seeking to restore the nostalgia and their jobs is appealing the ruling of federal judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum. Judge Cedarbaum ruled that the all important name, Tavern on the Green, does not belong to the Leroy family, who copyrighted it, but to the city which had prior claim. Judge Cedarbaum doesn’t make too many mistakes. She was the judge in that Pacha case and I watched her work. She’s a very bright woman. She was on the bench for Martha Stewart as well. The city will most likely retain ownership of the name but the pending appeal will surely delay a final settlement and deter new investors and operators. While the crows pick at the carcass of the great place Jenny Oz Leroy stands ready to restore the dream. Mayor Bloomberg needs to lease Tavern back to the Leroy family because they’re so much a part of the dream. Mayor Bloomberg must understand that all roads that lead to restoring this important part of the fabric of New York City to legendary status are yellow brick roads. Corporate interests must be tempered. Dreams must return to the formula or we might as well be in Kansas. Mayor Bloomberg must recognize that generations of people from everywhere came to Tavern not for the food or the union service but for the dream. Mayor Mike does great things for the air we breathe and the traffic, and I’m sure he’s brilliant at keeping this town running, but he needs to step up here and show some heart and courage to go with his big brain. Maybe Tavern was a bit imperfect and maybe there are Trumps, Cipriani’s, Dean Polls and Seth Greenbergs who could be more efficient. Give it back to Jenny! There is a time for efficiency and there is a time for dreams.

Later tonight, my goose bumps will have goose bumps as Judy Garland sells it. Maybe Judy’s voice wasn’t as efficient as others but her heart, her charisma her persona made her better than those other sweet voiced sirens. Judy always spoke to us down here in the cracks. Tavern, the Leroy’s magic kingdom, took us on a magical journey over the rainbow. The other would be operators will just give us a nice meal. There are plenty of places in this town to get a great meal … very few understand or offer dreams. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, watch The Wizard of Oz tonight at Highbar or Youtube this part: “Someplace where there isn’t any trouble… (tossing a piece of her cruller to Toto)…do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or train. It’s far, far away… behind the moon… beyond the rain.
 (singing) Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.
 Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue,
 And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”

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