The Carlyle Hotel is part of the things that books are written about. It’s a legendary place where John F. Kennedy would meet women such as Marilyn Monroe. It is also a place for famous people like Mick Jagger who stay there when he is in town and the many singers who perform in the very little club that inhabits this hotel. The most famous of whom has been Bobby Short who sang here until he died. I’ve had the privilege of going here a few times, once to hear Bobby Short where I sat at the bar and another time to hear Barbara Cook. This time I was here to see Woody Allen who has been playing here on Monday nights for quite a while. Being a fan of his movies, I really was looking forward to seeing him perform musically.
Woody Allen & Eddy Davis
As we entered the place with the intentions of having dinner, you could immediately tell this place was pretty exclusive. Just the flower arrangements alone gave you the feeling that this is where the elite meet to eat. As we turned to go into the club, there was a huge picture of Bobby Short, never looking better. This was his compound back in the day. Now we were here to have a great dinner and to see the legendary actor, movie director, comedian and writer play the clarinet with his band.
As we walked in, I began to get the feeling that we were in a Woody Allen movie. There was a bizarre looking group of people gathering. You didn’t find these people in church too often and as the three of us were pushed into a little area, we began to look around at the ambiance of this little club that was almost claustrophobic when everyone started to gather for the appearance of Woody Allen. You got the feel of a 1930’s supper club with the huge murals and the curvy walls that surrounded this very elegant place. The murals looked like something from Toulouse-Lautrec, but later I find out they are by the Oscar winning French artist, Marcel Vertes. Either way, they make the place look unique and like something out of a small French club in Paris. I had read that Richard Rogers was even the first tenant of the Carlyle. Somehow you could tell that this place was haunted with the usual famous suspects. If the walls could talk, we’d all be dead.
Yet amidst the elegance of a classic MGM set, with people out of central casting eating dinner and as the band was making odd noises tuning up, an old, balding thin man with big glasses and khaki pants walked onto the stage from out of nowhere. Was that Woody Allen? Yes it was. He’s not looking at anybody; he’s looking and putting together his instrument from out of a box. The place is really getting full now, it’s two and three deep at the bar and people are wandering in and standing at the door. We’re still waiting for a drink. Our waiter seems to come by every two hours.
Soon the music begins. Woody Allen is surprisingly good. He’s blowing his brains out on a clarinet and seems to be doing it masterfully from what I know about clarinet players. It’s all great and I feel like I’m transported into a simmering little jazz club with a New Orleans band. Half way through, we still haven’t gotten our food. The table down from us is talking as if nobody was performing. A long time later, the wine still has not come, the food was cold and if you threatened to say anything bad to this waiter, he could pour the wine in your lap or not come around again for another day or two. It’s all a little bizarre; with people taking pictures with their cameras from all angles of this man that looks much older than I thought. He tries not to make eye contact with anyone the whole night; he’s looking down at the floor when he is not playing. Finally at the end, with all of the clapping, he is left there sitting next to an old banjo player who has logged many hours in places like this, perhaps next to Woody Allen himself all these years. Allen sits there not making eye contact and begins to clean his clarinet, then suddenly with his partner, begins to sing softly some tunes. The banjo guy is smiling and is sort of the “Ed McMahon” who can pull a Johnny Carson out of a funk type of guy. He makes Woody Allen look even better. Finally, Allen says thank you to everyone and walks off and is hugged by some woman standing in his way. I’m almost ready for someone to hold up a director’s boards that says “Take one, scene one”, but instead of saying “cut”, the guy says “here’s your wine.” It’s funny when you order your wine at the beginning of your meal and it comes at the end, but that’s the stuff that Woody Allen movies are made of.