Since I was a student at NYU, the School of the Arts has moved over to Broadway and become The Tisch School of the Arts. But in the 1970s, McSorley’s was pretty much at the geographical centre of our operations. That would be 7th Street, between Cooper Union and Second Avenue. The Hell’s Angels head office was not far away on 9th Street, Bill Graham’s Filmore East was on the corner at Second Avenue, and we could almost see McSorley’s from the front door of our studio.
So, we got to know McSorley’s pretty well. Wood burning stove, sawdust on the floors, two kinds of ale, cheese plates. Actually, nothing much has changed since 1854, except the legal access granted to women in the late sixties.
Abraham Lincoln, who delivered a speech at Cooper Union, down the street, reportedly drank at McSorley’s; George Washington slept around, but never slept there.
e e cummings took note and was moved to write: “splurging smells waltz the glush of squirting
taps plus slush of foam knocked off and a faint piddle-of-drops”.
Then there is Joseph Mitchell’s 1940 New Yorker piece “The Old House at Home”.
This neighborhood is still authentically grimy and McSorley’s is an only slightly grimy safe haven—a good place to settle on a dark, cold night.
Nearby, on Second Avenue, is Veselka, a restaurant serving Eastern European food, and which opened in 1954. It feels like the kind of place that would have catered to every one of Roy Cohn’s suspects.