Friday, May 10, 2013

Scott and Zelda and the Plaza Hotel

With Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby being released today in eye-popping 3D (it's either "overwrought, asinine, exaggerated and boring" [Rex Reed] or "the first must-see film of Hollywood’s summer season" [The New York Post]), the F. Scott Fitzgerald hype machine is in overdrive. We thought we'd join the party with a quick look at the New York City locale most associated with the Fitzgeralds: the Plaza Hotel. Scott and his wife, Zelda, loved the Plaza, dining there, staying there, and--if the rumors are true--even frolicking fully clothed in the Pulitzer fountain out front one night.

Not long after Scott and Zelda married in 1920, they rented an apartment at 38 West 59th Street. Since neither liked to cook, the Plaza's Grill Room--the casual basement restaurant/speakeasy--became a regular dinner haunt. Scott kept his own personal bottle of liquor stashed there and when his second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned, came out in 1922, the Grill Room was featured. As the novel is widely thought to be based on the Fitzgeralds' own life, that seems only fitting. When The Great Gatsby was released three years later, the Plaza again played a crucial role, with a fiery showdown between Tom and Gatsby taking place in one of the hotel's suites. Considering Scott's combative nature when he'd been drinking, one wonders how much of him is present in Gatsby (or Tom, for that matter).

After they'd moved out of the city, the Fitzgeralds returned to stay at the hotel or have tea at the Palm Court with friends. (Fitzgerald's affection for the hotel was so great that Ernest Hemingway once joked that when Scott died his liver should go to Princeton and his heart to the Plaza.)

Then there's that fountain escapade, which--like most good stories from the Roaring Twenties--may be apocryphal. Some versions have Scott and Zelda going for an evening swim in the fountain, drunk. Other versions insist it was Scott alone, and stone-cold sober. Either way, it can't have been too much out of character. In 1922, painter Reginald Marsh designed a scenic curtain for a show called Greenwich Village Follies. He crammed every Twenties luminary into the scene and placed at its center--rising from the fountain in the middle of Washington Square Park--Zelda Fitzgerald.

Most of the Plaza that the Fitzgeralds knew is gone, of course. The Grill Room didn't even make it to the end of the 1920s. In conjunction with the new film, there is now a Gatsby/Fitzgerald suite (so that you can have your own wild parties, presumably). However, if you really want to commune with the spirit of at least one Fitzgerald, head down to Battery Park, where a wild turkey, named in honor of Zelda Fitzgerald, carries on the spirit of twenties.

* * * *
Read more about the Roaring Twenties in




To get RSS feeds from this blog, point your reader to this link.
Find us on Facebook.
To subscribe via email, follow this link.
Or, follow us on Twitter.

No comments:

Search This Blog

Loading...

Blog Archive