Art Nerd City Guides: New York · Los Angeles

The Monkey Bar and Hotel Elysee

Monkey Bar_Donna Alberico

Photo by Donna Alberico

Lit Nerd Wednesday!

I have mixed feelings about Midtown — like the rest of the city, I find some of the modern architecture kind of awful but I really like the hidden relics that hide between for their architectural goodness and great stories. The Hotel Elysee on East 54th Street between Madison and Park Avenue is just one of those places and the two stories that win the prize for saddest and weirdest involve F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams.

By the late 1930s Fitzgerald was in bad shape financially and in health — his finances were nearly drained paying for Zelda’s care and years of hard living was finally catching up with him with sporadic times of drying out. He moved to Hollywood to join other writers to hash out screenplays for quick money — it was there he was assigned to work on a script with Budd Schulberg, then fresh out of Dartmouth (he would go on to write the script for On the Waterfront). They were both put to the task on reworking Schulberg’s script Winter Carnival based the annual Dartmouth festival. Upon arrival in New York City they stayed at the Warwick Hotel on East 54th and Sixth Avenue and holed up in their hotel room to bang out a treatment. With both suffering from writer’s block, Schulberg stepped out for just an hour only to come back and find one of the saddest notes ever:

“Pal you shouldn’t have left me Pal because I went down to the bar Pal and then I came back and looked for you Pal and then I went down again to the bar Pal and I’ll be waiting for you there Pal when you get back Pal”

First checking the bar at The Warwick then others on 54th, Schulberg finally tracked down Fitzgerald at one of his old haunts, The Monkey Bar, and in pretty bad shape — his delicate trip on the wagon stopped once again.

The Monkey Bar is situated below the Hotel Elysee which has a grim claim to fame. Playwright Tennessee Williams lived  here for fifteen years often keeping other guests up from his all night typing binges or parties. On February 25, 1983 he was found dead from choking on eye drop cap — a fatal byproduct of his habit of balancing the cap on his mouth while using the dropper.

Sorry about the downer, folks.

What: The Monkey Bar and Hotel Elysee

Who: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams

Where: 60 East 54th Street

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