Secrets of the St. Regis' King Cole Bar & Salon
December 04, 2013 | by jeffrey slonim | Food & Drink News
The Old King Cole mural at The King Cole Bar & Salon.
Despite a starry guest list (Uma Thurman, Emily Mortimer, Hilary Rhoda) all eyes were fixed on Maxfield Parrish’s recently restored mural at the reopening fête for The King Cole Bar & Salon at the St. Regis Hotel. Now under the purview of chef John DeLucie (The Crown, The Lion), the historic watering hole has been given an elegant update. At the unveiling, we learned a "secret" about the gilded Parrish mural: under his regal robe, King Cole is, ahem, cutting the cheese, hence the smirks of jesters.
John Jacob Astor IV originally opened the St. Regis Hotel in 1904. Two years later, he commissioned the Old King Cole mural for his Knickerbocker hotel. Apparently Parrish, a Quaker, was reluctant to accept the gig, until Astor upped the offer to $5,000. Astor was tragically lost aboard the Titanic in 1912. And the Parrish mural was installed at The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis in 1932.
In 1934, St. Regis bartender Fernand Petiot, who is said to have experimented with a tomato-vodka drink in Paris in the 1920s, served America's first Bloody Mary to Russian prince Serge Obolensky, for a time married to Astor’s daughter, Ava. The bar later renamed the now famed drink “Red Snapper” to make it sound less déclassé. So naturally, at the King Cole Bar's reopening, waiters served Champagne and shots of the Red Snapper (delicious, by the way) to the crowd filled with celebrities and notables. Over the decades, Ernest Hemingway, Marlene Dietrich, and Salvador Dali (who lived at the hotel for a decade) also partied here. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio and John Lennon and Yoko Ono, too, lived at the hotel.
“I probably have seen the mural,” offered The Newsroom's Mortimer on her way into the courtly fête cordoned off by stone balustrades. “But I’ve probably been pie-eyed,” she said, holding a tall flute of Champagne. “This is the soberest I have been at this bar.”
“I have been here many times,” noted designer Jason Wu. “I had my first big show at the St. Regis. It’s just so well-preserved.”