About Some of My Friends at Figaro’s

Tom himself was spending very little time in Café Figaro, leaving its management entirely in the hands of Royce, who in turn hired managers-cum-espresso machine operators to assist her.  Besides myself and the “pearl diver” (what we called the dishwasher) these were the only men working at Figaro.

If you wanted to get to the Lion's Head, this was your stop

Alan Koblen, was one of the managers.  He was a former advertising executive who had decided that he’d be happier doing something else.  Alan was from the Boston area but during World War II he had served in the Army as a meat buyer stationed in Greenwich Village, not a bad assignment considering.  After the war, he simply remained where he was and never left. Although a manager of the Figaro, Alan had other plans.  He opened the Lion’s Head on Sheridan Square, which for some 30 years was one of the more famous bars s in New York, a gathering place for newspaper people and artists of various kinds, and even for politicians.

Bob Keller was less fortunate as a manager.  He was a tall, gaunt man, somewhat humorless, but energetic and fast at filling orders, with a loud voice and bad teeth. He lived way over on the West Side, in the vicinity of Washington Street, when no one else lived there.  He usually came to work in a white shirt with small brown burn holes near his collar, which none of us thought too much about.  It was just a Bob oddity.

One day, I arrived for work and Figaro’s was hushed.  I was told that the night before, Bob had died in a fire.  Evidently, he was in the habit of smoking while reading in bed.  He’d doze off, his cigarette would fall out of his mouth, land on his shirt, burn its way through to his skin, which would usually wake him up.  This seemed to have been a regular part of his life, as all his shirts had many of these tiny burn holes.  This last time he had fallen asleep, the cigarette must have rolled off his shirt and landed on the bed, possibly he’d had too much to drink,  but that was it for Bob Keller.

Royce also had her problems.  Tom was spending more and more time drinking and hanging out with other women.   She decided she needed a vacation from Tom and the Figaro.  While hitchhiking in Spain, she was picked up by a man in a fast little sports car who drove a bit too fast, and crashed off a cliff. Royce survived the accident, but after some operations, she was aphasic, with one side of her face permanently frozen, and speech that was blurred and difficult to understand.  She also had a slight limp.  Suddenly, this charming woman who had been one of the most beautiful and sought after in Greenwich Village found herself one of the most lonely.  I would see her occasionally walking her dogs, two boxers, but never with anyone else.  After I left the Village, I never saw her again, but I heard that she had died in Paris some ten years later.


About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the "Final Solution" by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.
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1 Response to About Some of My Friends at Figaro’s

  1. Karell says:

    Poor Royce.

    Also, thanks for teaching me a new word–aphasic and aphasia. Did you know that “Aphasia” is also the name of a rock band in CA? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphasia_%28band%29 (and in Japan! Weird.)

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