Twice daily on my way to work for the past 18 years, I’ve passed one of the longest-running shows on Broadway. But I was so eager to reach my destination (my office at Rockefeller Center to start the day, my home at the end of it) that I never stopped to look at it—until this week, when I took the photo accompanying this post.
A “long-running show”? No, I don’t mean an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, but a tradition that’s been around far longer: the restaurant Sardi’s, a favorite hangout for both established and aspiring actors in New York’s theater district. It opened in 1921 as The Little Restaurant, but since 1927 has been at its current 44th Street location with its more famous name (taken from founding owner Vincent Sardi Sr.).
Sardi’s gave rise to the Tony Awards in the late 1940s. When actress-director Mary Antoinette Perry, a longtime customer of the restaurant, passed away, producer Jacob Wilk decided to commemorate her while dining there.
But it may be even more famous for what you can see even from outside: its caricatures. As many as 1,200 have hung from its walls over the years. Some actors (e.g., Maureen Stapleton, Bette Midler) have not been fond of their admittedly exaggerated likenesses and even have had them redrawn. But there is no doubt that they constitute a kind of de facto Broadway hall of fame.
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