Chumley’s was a speakeasy during the prohibition and became known as a place for writers to hang out. I started out waiteressing there and eventually moved up to bartender. I say moving up, because a bartended could make a lot more money than a waitress.
There was no sign (and still isn’t today, to my knowledge) outside the restaurant. You have to know about it by word of mouth. It’s in the West Village of Manhattan and it was literally a block from where I lived on Barrow Street.
I got this apartment by waiting on the owners of the building when I worked at Columbus Restaurant. It was a very unusual building in that it had a large central courtyard and ivy growing throughout. It was not rent controlled, but it was still quite a find for me. For those of you that don’t know, housing in New York City is some of the most expensive in the country. Also, it’s really hard finding an apartment there.
I remember the owners’ names, Michael and Joanne Grabow. I used to wait on them all the time. We got to be friends and after revealing to each other that we were both of Jewish descent the conversation came up as to what Michael did for a living. When he mentioned that he owned several apartment buildings in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, I was intrigued. By this time I had moved down to Chumley’s in the West Village. The address of Chumley’s is 86 Bedford Street. My apartment was at 72 Barrow Street, just down the road.
There were a lot of interesting characters that frequented Chumley’s. One such character was Horton Foote Jr. He was the son of Horton Foote Sr. (obviously). I was reminded of him recently when a Jeopardy! Game show contained the answer:
“Native Texan writer who wrote the screenplays To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) and Tender Mercies (1983).”
No one on Jeopardy! Knew the question, but I did; Horton Foote. He also wrote the film script A Trip to Bountiful and the film script Tender Mercies (starring Robert Duvall, who I met at Columbus Restaurant years earlier).
Horton Foote Jr., who I became friends with, is the second oldest of playwright/novelist Horton Foote's children. Like his older sister Hallie Foote Horton Jr. became an actor--and, like Hallie, he made his first professional appearances in films adapted from his father's works. Specifically, he was co-featured with Hallie in “1918” (1984) and On “Valentine's Day” (1986), which ran briefly in theaters before being incorporated into a "Horton Foote trilogy." Horton Foote Jr.'s subsequent credits include the 1992 cable-TV adaptation of David Mamet's The Water Engine.
Horton was a pretty nice guy. As bar regulars go, he frequented the place almost daily. Chumley’s is known for its delicious hamburgers and steaks. As well as carving your initials in the tables.
Even though it doesn’t have a sign, you now have the address. So make sure to visit when you are next in New York City.