All Silk by Ray Strauss
Provenance: Acquired directly from The Jack Kreindler Estate
The first version of the "21" Club opened in Greenwich Village in 1922, run by cousins Jack Kriendler and Charlie Berns. It was originally a small speakeasy known as the Red Head. In 1925 the location was moved to a basement on Washington Place and its name was changed to Frontón. The following year it moved uptown to 42 West 49th Street, changed its name to the Puncheon Club, and became much more exclusive.
In late 1929, to make way for the construction of Rockefeller Center, the club moved to 21 West 52nd Street and changed its name to Jack and Charlie's "21". It opened at that location on January 1, 1930, when it was estimated there were 32,000 speakeasies in New York City. Although raided by police on many occasions during Prohibition, the premises staff had methods to protect the club from the authorities. As soon as a raid began, a system of levers was used to tip the shelves of the bar, sweeping the liquor bottles through a chute and into the city's sewers. The bar also included a secret wine cellar, which was accessed through a hidden door in a brick wall which opened into the basement of the building next door (number 19). Though still used as a wine cellar after Prohibition, part of the vault has been remodeled to allow a party of up to 20 guests to dine in private. The club also stored the private wine collections of John F. Kennedy; Richard Nixon; Gerald Ford; Joan Crawford; Elizabeth Taylor; Hugh Carey; Ernest Hemingway; the Nordstrom sisters; Frank Sinatra; Al Jolson; Gloria Vanderbilt; Sophia Loren; Mae West; Aristotle Onassis; Gene Kelly; Gloria Swanson; Judy Garland; Sammy Davis, Jr.; and Marilyn Monroe. The bar is mentioned several times in David Niven's memoirs, Bring on the Empty Horses; he was given a job by J+C selling liquor following the end of prohibition, and went there with director John Huston on their return from the war.