The 44 Restaurant in the Royalton Hotel at 44 West 44th Street is a pretty suave and worldly Manhattan lunchery. So at any rate it seems to my provincial, country-mouse Washingtonian optic. I am sometimes taken there for a treat by my editors at Condé Nast, who use the place as a sort of staff canteen. My old friend Brian McNally, demonstrating that le patron mange ici, occasionally lets me sit at his table. I have learned not to point and squeak and say: 'Look, isn't that the girl from Dirty Dancing!' Everybody acts very unconcerned about celebrity, though you get the occasional 'Hi, Tina.' The deliciousness of the food and the epicene beauty of the staff absorb most of one's energy in any case. So I have a distinct memory of the occasion - not very many months before her last illness - when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stopped by for a snackette. I happened to be browsing and sluicing myself there that day, and was amazed to see hardened New Yorkers acting like the most abject stage-door Johnnies, and indeed Janes. The former First Lady sat in the main booth with her friends, looking serene and detached, while all sorts of people took their time collecting their hats or whatever, and rubbernecking shamelessly.
LRB 14 November 1996 | PDF Download