Friday, June 27, 2008

The Naughty Pine: A History by Tabletops 3

The table in Booth 109 is the only oval table in a first-floor booth. It used to sit in William “Bill the Butcher” Poole’s Christopher Street living room, but after his death in 1855 it was bequeathed to Isaiah Vanderlynn, who was, like Poole, one of the leaders of the Know Nothing party. The table sat in Vanderlynn’s study until the Draft Riots of 1863, during which the original table in Booth 109 was shattered in a fight between the Bowery Boys and the Dead Rabbits, and Vanderlynn used the Poole Table to replace it. The legend that John Morrissey, Poole’s arch-enemy, broke into Poole’s house in 1854 and nearly killed Poole by beating his head forty times against the table has never been documented, but that doesn’t stop servers from telling customers that the large discoloration in the center of the table is the bloodstain from that attack. In fact, the bloodstain didn’t appear until 2001, when Daniel Day-Lewis, researching his role as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, paid 500 dollars to sit in Booth 109 and bang his own head 40 times against the table just to see what it felt like.

Booth 113 is usually referred to as the Break-Up Booth. This is where Uma Thurman walked out on Ethan Hawke, Martha Gellhorn threw a drink in Ernest Hemingway’s face, Bob Dylan stood up Joan Baez, Stan Lee told Jack Kirby to fuck off, Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits broke up four times in one night, and Lauren Bacall and Jason Robards Jr. nearly killed each other (4 stitches for her, 25 for him). It has more comped meals than any other booth or table in the Naughty Pine –- in this booth, the beer goes flat, the wine tastes sour, plates drop and shatter as food is delivered, and perfectly-served appetizers suddenly have long strands of hair in them. It’s the hair that make everyone think the booth is haunted –- the strands are always at least nine inches long and blonde, and they’ve been showing up since an unidentified woman was found dead of arsenic poisoning in Booth 113 on October 31, 1935. The identity of the dead woman remains a mystery, but Luc Sante, among others, believes that she was the mysterious “other woman” who appeared in letters and pictures found after Dutch Schultz was killed at the Palace Chophouse on October 23, 1935. Whether her death was murder or suicide is still unknown; autopsy results confirmed that she had enough arsenic in her to kill five people, as well as remarking on the natural color of her slightly-curled nine-inch-long blonde hair.

The kitchen of the Naughty Pine has been the temporary home of many professional and amateur chefs, but the most mysterious is Giuseppe Budino, who went by the name of Joe Boda when he was the Pine’s head chef from 1917 to 1929. Although there is no documentary proof to support the allegation that Budino/Boda was related to Sacco and Vanzetti associate Mike Boda, there is enough circumstantial evidence to make him the prime suspect in the famous JP Morgan bombing. At noon on September 16, 1920, a horse-drawn wagon containing 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of metal slugs exploded in front of 23 Wall Street, killing 33 people, injuring over 400, and causing over $2,000,000 (in 1920 dollars) worth of property damage. The bombing was blamed on Italian anarchists, but no arrests were ever made, even though Budino had been heard several times railing against the government after Sacco and Vanzetti’s arrest, had taken the morning of the bombing off, and had a cousin who worked at a scrap metal dump in Brooklyn. Budino died in a hit-and-run accident in 1940; perhaps coincidentally, the FBI closed the Wall Street Bombing case two weeks later; and the scars from the explosion can still be seen in the stone of 23 Wall Street:

The old Pine Street Courtyard behind 69 Pine was the site of two famous duellos. On May 9, 1849, two days after the infamous Astor Place riots, British actor William Charles Macready challenged American actor Edwin Forrest to a duel. As the challenged party, Forrest chose walking sticks as their weapons, and after a congenial dinner the two men and their seconds adjourned to the Pine Courtyard and proceeded to whale away at each other with their hickory sticks until each man was half-dead and covered with bruises. They then returned to the bar and drank till dawn. In 1873, after a performance of Scouts of the Plains at the Astor Theatre, Buffalo Bill Cody, Texas Jack Omohundro, and Wild Bill Hickock got “violently lickered up,” as Omohundro later wrote, and went out into the courtyard to see who was the best shot among the three of them. The challenge was to come as close as possible to hitting each other, a contest that each failed on the twelfth go-round when Cody nicked Hickock’s ear, Hickock winged Cody’s shoulder, and Omohundro shot off the little toe of his left foot.

The only surviving photograph of the Pine Courtyard, circa 1898.

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