Summary

Birth:
06 May 1903 1
Philadelphia PA 2
Death:
Jan 1977 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Bernard Shor 2
Full Name:
Toots Shor 1
Also known as:
Toots Shor 2
Birth:
06 May 1903 1
Philadelphia PA 2
Death:
Jan 1977 1
Burial:
23 Jan 1977 2
New York City, NY 2
Residence:
Last Residence: New York, NY 1
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Social Security:
Card Issued: New York 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-4944 1

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Stories

Toots Shor's

In the 1930s and 1940s, Toots Shor’s restaurant was the place to be in New York City. It was also DiMaggio’s home away from his hotel room and a place where the day’s famous athletes, ambitious politicians, or Broadway stars would go to brush their fame against another’s. The restaurant was one of the first to not bother with music; the stars and star watchers were there to entertain each other.

Crooner Frank Sinatra frequented Shor’s, as did comedian Jackie Gleason, who always ate there for free (Shor was known for his give-aways).

In one of the many stories that are part of the restaurant’s folklore, Yankee Yogi Berra is said to have met Ernest Hemingway there one night. Hemingway was introduced as "an important writer." Berra, true to form, is said to have replied: "What paper you with, Ernie?"

While it was called a restaurant, Shor’s could be considered a men’s club. The liquor was hard and the food was mediocre. Patrons would often stop by for a drink before eating elsewhere. The place allowed women, but they weren’t welcome. Wives were referred to as "the Missus," and if she was brought too often, the husband also became a persona non grata. 

Eileen Henrich, the wife of Tommy Henrich, a player who batted in front of DiMaggio in the Yankees line-up, once complained to her husband about standard procedure at Toots Shor’s. 

"You know I hate going there, Tommy," she said to her husband. "That maitre d’ looks at you if you’re a woman and looks right through you. Can’t we please go to Sardi’s? They treat me as well as they treat you there."

The center of Toots Shor’s was the man himself, who was big, boisterous, and legendary. He was both charming and cantankerous, and liked to brag about keeping Charlie Chaplin waiting for a table. Chaplin complained, and, as Shor tells it, he told the comedian, "Let’s see you be funny for the people [in line] for the next twenty minutes."

In New York in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties, baseball was king, fueled by the three teams in New York: the Yankees, the Dodgers and the Giants. Toots courted baseball executives, baseball writers and most of all, baseball players. But after 1936, he catered to the best player on the best team in New York: Joe DiMaggio, of the Yankees.

"We hit it right off," said Shor of his first meeting with DiMaggio. "Joe was just a great guy, very humble, very shy, but he was very wonderful to my family." When DiMaggio was at the restaurant everyone would look at him, Shor said, but no one would bother him. In our joint, if a guy wants to give autographs, fine, but if he doesn’t, we don’t let the customers bother him." After a good game, DiMaggio would come in and eat and entertain questions from sports writers. After a bad game, DiMaggio would drive by the restaurant and send in word via the doorman to go get Toots. The two would walk up and down Fifth Avenue. "No talking, not a word said about the game or my family or anything," Shor remembered. "He just felt like going for a walk."

DiMaggio and Shor were friends until the day Shor brought up Marilyn Monroe to DiMaggio (an off-limit topic with the Yankee Clipper) and apparently insulted her. As DiMaggio would do with many other friends in his life, he cut him off. The friendship was over. 

As New York City and its sports center changed, Shor’s restaurant declined. In DiMaggio’s era, writers could file their stories after day games and join the ballplayers afterwards for an early drink or even a meal. But with the advent of night games, writers did not finish their stories until the wee hours of the night -- often too late to socialize. Eventually, the Dodgers and Giants would leave New York, and baseball would give way to football and basketball as the city’s sport of the day.

The decline of Toots Shor’s restaurant was accelerated by Shor’s poor financial management: Shor neglected to pay taxes. He died penniless in 1977. 

Toots Shor's Restaurant

Toots Shor's Restaurant was a restaurant and lounge owned and operated by Bernard "Toots" Shor at 51 West 51st Street in Manhattan during the 1940s and 1950s. Its oversized circular bar was a New York landmark. [1]

It was frequented by celebrities and together with the 21 Club, the Stork Club, and El Morocco was one of the places to see and be seen. Joe DiMaggio often went there to eat, and that helped make it famous. Toots was said to do personal favors for Joe as well, at no cost. [2]

Jackie Gleason always ate there for free. Other notable guests included Frank SinatraJudy GarlandMarilyn MonroeOrson WellesYogi Berra, and Ernest Hemingway (Berra and Hemingway allegedly met there), [2]

While the food at Toots Shor's Restaurant was known to be “nuttin’ fancy” — standard American, sports-bar fare such as shrimp cocktail, steak, baked potato — the establishment became well known for who frequented there and how Shor interacted with them.

In a famous incident, Shor outdrank Jackie Gleason and left him on the floor to prove the point. Somewhat notoriously, wives were not welcome in Toots’s saloon; it was known, in the argot of the day, as a place of "booze and broads," where ballplayers, actors and politicians mixed. Baseball players were especially welcomed; in particular, Shor admired Mickey Mantle; he also adored Joe DiMaggio. Shor always ensured that DiMaggio got first-rate service without being hassled or asked for autographs by restaurant staff, other patrons , or fans. Another prominent figure who frequented Shor's restaurant was famed trial attorney Edward Bennett Williams.

Shor was a raconteur and a master of the "needle," jibes or quips directed at the famous. Celebrity alone was not enough to receive first-class service in Shor's restaurant. According to David Halberstam in his book The Summer of '49, guests had to observe the unwritten "code" which prevailed in Shor's establishment. Charlie Chaplin, who was not privy to that code, was made to wait in line. When Chaplin complained, Shor told him to entertain the others who were waiting in line. One day, MGM head Louis B. Mayer complained about waiting twenty minutes for a table and said, “I trust the food will be worth all that waiting.” Shor replied: “It’ll be better’n some of your crummy pictures I stood in line for.”

Toots Shor cultivated his celebrity following by giving them unqualified admiration, loyal friendship, and a kind of happy, boozy, old-fashioned male privacy. Those whom Shor really liked were called “crum-bums”. Shor reputedly said that he didn’t care if he was a millionaire—so long as he could live like one.

Shor was rewarded after a fashion with a mention in the 1954 Bing Crosby film, "White Christmas." Bing comments to Rosemary Clooney, while both are raiding the restaurant refrigerator of the Vermont inn where they are staying, that the food is not as fancy as Toots Shor's.

In 1959, Shor sold the lease for his 51st Street restaurant for $1.5 million. The following year he opened at a new location at 33 West 52nd Street and tried to emulate the decor and atmosphere of the original. The then-Chief Justice, Earl Warren, considered Toots one of his closest friends, and "The Chief" showed up to be photographed with a shovel full of dirt when Toots broke ground on his 52nd street "joint."

In 1971, authorities padlocked the doors of the 52nd Street restaurant for nonpayment of federal, state, and local taxes totaling $269,516. Shor vowed to open again in three weeks, but 18 months passed before his restaurant at 5 East 54th Street opened. For a variety of reasons, however, his famous clientele never returned with their former regularity. In 1977, the 52nd Street restaurant became a disco called "New York New York".

"Toots" Shor died indigent during 1977. [2]

Restaurateurs, including Shaun Clancy, owner of Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant (18 W. 33rd St.), have emulated Shor's bonhomie and sought to recreate the ambiance of the legendary establishment. Foley's has instituted an annual “Toots Shor Day” featuring selections of the legendary restaurant’s menu offered at 1950's prices. The first annual event was held on Oct. 21, 2008, in conjunction with the DVD launch of TOOTS, a documentary by Kristi Jacobson about her grandfather, the famous Manhattan saloonkeeper and friend of the stars.

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