Luncheon at Sardi's on April 5, 2011
Noted movie and theatre critic-turned author Jeffrey Lyons was our special guest speaker this month.
Jeffrey’s father was Leonard Lyons, who wrote the iconic Broadway column “The Lyons Den” for the New York Post over a forty year period. From 1934-1974, Leonard Lyons chronicled people in the public eye who frequented places like Toots Schor’s and Sardi’s, where they would open up to him and tell him colorful stories about themselves.
Now these revelations are the core of Jeffrey Lyons new book: Stories My Father Told Me: Notes from “The Lyons Den.” In his talk, Jeffrey took us back to the Golden Age of New York City nightlife with snippets from the book that focused on the celebrities and stars of Broadway.
His reminisces included Noel Coward, Tallulah Bankhead, Phil Silvers, Ethel Merman, Ernest Borgnine, Ernest Hemingway, and Barbra Streisand.
Some of the behind-the-scenes stories told:
Phil Silvers’ brother decided to keep a scrapbook of Phil’s press clippings. When Phil saw it, he was amazed how thick it was considering he was just starting out. Examining it closer, Phil discovered that his brother had clipped every article that mentioned the word “silver.”
A little known tidbit about Ethel Merman was that she was a shorthand champion and that she wore a bracelet with her name spelled out in diamonds because she always wanted to see her name in lights.
Irving Berlin was a prolific writer of campaign songs and Barbra Streisand left her sickbed when she heard that Burt Lancaster was going to be in the audience of her play.
Bernard Baruch once mediated a fight between Lyons brothers; Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to a sixteen –year-old Jeffrey; and Joe DiMaggio was the “best guest” at the home of a six-year-old that included the likes of Orson Welles, Noel Coward, Tallulah Bankhead, and Lauren Bacall.
These excerpts from Leonard Lyons’ columns and other personal anecdotes of how the famous touched the lives of the Lyons family are in the book.