Sunday Afternoon, West 44th. St., NYC: Michelle Obama And A Sardi's Goodbye

Image by angela n. via Flickr

It was a classic Manhattan Sunday afternoon.

As we filed into a fourth-floor room at Sardi’s, the legendary midtown restaurant whose walls are lined with framed caricatures of the famous, some dating back decades to people we couldn’t recognize, (Brooke Shields’ was above the fourth-floor podium), an NYPD helicopter buzzed overhead and six gleaming Suburbans — the surefire sign of a political heavyweight — sat parked on the north side of the street.

One, silver, had thick, green-tinted glass — bulletproof — and distinctively smaller rear side windows and the giveaway, the DC plates that are put on wherever that Presidential vehicle is flown to.

Inside the Shubert theatre, FLOTUS (First Lady of the U.S.), aka Michelle Obama, was watching a Sunday matinee of “Memphis”, a new musical. Outside, cops in dark blue and Secret Service agents in suits wearing earpieces, made sure no one came anywhere close. One eyed me unhappily as we counted the number of Suburbans.

We were at Sardi’s to mark the passing of Mort Stone, a man who for 40 years served as a picture editor at The New York Times, where he worked with my partner and with many of the colleagues, past and current, who came to pay their respects. Speakers ranged from Times writers and editors to Mort’s 11-year-old grand-niece, who was funny, sweet and a terrific speaker.

Mort was an amazing guy and we were honored to be invited to his service. He started his career as a war correspondent for the International News Service in the South Pacific and was a deskman for Life magazine.

I met Mort a few years ago for lunch at a Village institution, Cafe Loup.  He was near 80, lean as a teenager, wearing a pale gray wool crewneck sweater, blue Oxford cloth shirt and thick black Ray-Bans — his unerring style for decades. After knowing me about 10 minutes, he turned to my sweetie and announced firmly: “If you don’t marry her, I will!”

He skiied every winter for a month in Austria — for 55 years in a row — at the same hotel, who now have a room with his name on the door and whose manager sent a long, lovely letter to be read aloud at the service. His companion of 40+ years was a Baroness, Boszi (pronounced Boozhee), whose apartment sat beside his in the Village and who cooked his breakfast every morning. He was 21 years her junior and, when she died at 90, as she requested, buried her ashes in the patio at Tavern on the Green, which recently went into bankruptcy and closed.

In his elegance, style, class, eccentricity, mystery and passions, Mort — as my sweetie said in his remarks today — was a New Yorker cartoon, in the best way possible.

We will, and do, miss him.

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