Posts Tagged ‘Pete Hamill’

The 1960s heyday of Village bar the Lion’s Head

May 22, 2017

It had an early incarnation on Hudson Street. And even past its heyday, it lingered on as a popular neighborhood bar until the taxman shut its doors in 1996 (left, during last call).

But the Lion Head’s glory days as a legendary Greenwich Village watering hole was during the 1960s.

That’s when the downstairs bar at 59 Christopher Street equally attracted literary types and longshoremen, and drinkers could rub elbows with writers, newspaper reporters, Irish folk singers, politicians, and a pre-fame Jessica Lange, who waited tables.

Pete Hamill, a writer at the New York Post in the mid-1960s, recalled the energy and excitement there in his wonderful 1994 memoir, A Drinking Life.

“In the beginning, the Head had a square three-sided bar, with dart boards on several walls and no jukebox,” he writes.

“I don’t think many New York bars ever had such a glorious mixture of newspapermen, painters, musicians, seamen, ex-communists, priests and nuns, athletes, stockbrokers, politicians, and folksingers, bound together in the leveling democracy of drink.”

“On any given night, the Clancy Brothers would take over the large round table in the back room. . . . Everybody joined in singing, drinking waterfalls of beer, emptying bottles of whiskey, full of laughter and noise and a sense that I can only describe as joy.”

The Lion’s Head has been shuttered for 21 years; in its place is the Kettle of Fish (below), another old-school Village bar that moved over from MacDougal Street.

Kettle of Fish still packs in crowds, but too many of the regulars who remember the “glorious mixture” Hamill recalls at the Lion’s Head are not with us anymore.

There are accounts like Hamill’s in many books and memoirs, but more and more of the memories of nights at the Lion’s Head are lost to the ages.

[Top photo: Chang W. Lee/New York Times; third photo:]

Park Slope’s Victorian Hospital

August 8, 2008

A turn-of-the-century view of Methodist Hospital on Seventh Avenue in the Slope. Originally known as Methodist Episcopal Hospital, it was built with a $400,000 gift from Brooklynite George Seney, who, according to a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article, did not want his name associated with the hospital.

The Eagle article says the hospital has “75 beds, many of which are endowed.” In other words, they were reserved for sick people who could not afford a room. Endowing a hospital bed was a popular way for wealthier citizens to “give back” back in the day.

In A Drinking Life, Pete Hamill remembers his mother working at the hospital after his father lost his job in the 1940s: “My mother wasted no time with either blame or consolation; she started work as a nurse’s aide at Methodist Hospital, leaving at three in the afternoon, coming home around eleven. Sometimes Tommy and I walked her to work, passing the bars of my father’s world, and watched her vanish into the hospital.”