Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Manhattan's Legendary Maxwell's Plum ...

Advertisement for the sumptuous Sunday buffet at Maxwell's Plum
The most 1980s restaurant ever, a riotously overdecorated Art Nouveau/Deco/Etc. pleasure palace that “reminded some of Maxim’s in Paris”.  New York’s Plum did not survive the 80s

Maxwell's Plum, the flamboyant restaurant and singles bar that, more than any place of its kind, symbolized two social revolutions of the 1960's - sex and food.

Warner LeRoy, the owner of the 22-year-old establishment on First Avenue at 64th Street, likened its demise to that of an affair that had gone on too long, in the end losing its spontaneity and adventure. 

Maxwell's Plum opened in April 1966, at a time when largely residential First Avenue was undergoing a commercial boom of restaurants and nightclubs. The restaurant's outlandish Art Nouveau decor - kaleidoscopic stained-glass ceilings and walls, Tiffany lamps galore, a menagerie of ceramic animals, etched glass and cascades of crystal - was an immediate hit, and before long it was serving more than 1,200 customers a day. Habitues included such celebrities as Richard Rodgers, Cary Grant, Bill Blass, Barbra Streisand and Warren Beatty. The sprawling bar became a favorite watering hole for the ''swinging singles'' set. 
Mr. LeRoy, the son of famed Hollywood film producer Mervyn LeRoy, was no less theatrical than his restaurant. He paraded around the dining room, his 230-pound frame enveloped in screaming paisley-patterned suits. In fact, it was at Maxwell's Plum in the late 1960's that Mr. LeRoy met an airline stewardess named Kay O'Reilly, whom he eventually married.
 Warner LeRoy, owner of Maxwell's Plum, NYC
In the early 1970's, Maxwell's Plum received four stars, the Times's highest rating, from Craig Claiborne, the newspaper's food critic. The wide-ranging menu featured everything from hamburgers and chili con carne to Iranian caviar and stuffed squab. In its last 10 years, its Times rating slipped to one star, then went back to two. Since 1985, the 175-seat Restaurant had suffered an identity crisis as chefs came and went and the menu lurched from traditional American to flashy California cuisine, then to continental, Pacific Northwestern and French.
In 1985,  the revolving door of chefs began at the Plum. Mr. LeRoy recruited two leading California chefs, the husband-and-wife team of Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton, both from Spago, the influential California-style restaurant in Los Angeles. They lasted less than a year. In 1987, a young star from Seattle, Kathy Casey, was brought East to transplant her eccentric interpretation of Pacific Northwestern cooking. She lasted only three weeks, shortly after she tried serving triangular hamburgers to tradition-bound Maxwell regulars. The last casualty was Geoffrey Zakarian, an alumnus of Le Cirque and the ''21'' Club.
 One of the Plum's stunning Tiffany windows, 
purchased for $28k by Donald Trump
Maxwell's Plum did not survive the 80s. Due to changing tastes and weak reviews that a succession of chefs could not remedy, LeRoy closed it in 1988, announcing that he wasn’t having fun anymore.
"A restaurant is a fantasy—a kind of living fantasy in which diners are the most important members of the cast." -” Warner Leroy
He sold the First Avenue building for a nifty sum, while Donald Trump plunked down $28,000 for one of its Tiffany glass windows. At the same auction, the Tribeca Grill acquired the Plum’s large island bar.

Hope you've been inspired - please visit the other participants of Beverly's Pink Saturday blog hop.

...and then go make something beautiful!
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*´¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´? Tristan
Maxwell's Plum is not to be confused with that other famous Manhattan "Max" hot spot - 
Max's Kansas City - THE nightclub for the hip and jet set crowd of the 70's and 80's.
An average dinner table at Max's Kansas City - Paul Morrissey (far left)
dining with Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin and Tim Buckley. 1968.


Sisterhood of the Muse said...

Love this post...and your others as well! :-) Really gives the flavour of the period.

Jeanie said...

I've heard of this place forever but never seen photos. Wow -- those Tiffany windows! Looks fabulous!

Thanks for coming to the Gypsy. You asked about the play Suzanne and I were in way back when (high school days!) -- it was Barefoot in the Park! Your upcomiing theatre tix sound terrific! I almost think I'd rather see Bernadette in Dolly than Bette, though it would be quite the toss up! Boys, Carousel -- you are good to go! I hope you'll post about it!

Curtains in My Tree said...

I had never heard of either place since I wasn't a rich swinger back then LOL
I had heard of all the famous people however,
I always wanted a pair of Andy Warhol tomato can shoes, still would like to have a pair, I seen in one of my Charles Faudree books he had a pair

Jackie PN said...

Another FAB post!
I am sure many felt this was an exquisite place to hang out, but I feel it was a bid on the gaudy side.
Pity a-hole purchased the Tiffany, should be in the Met or other museum.
Jackie xo

Norah said...

I enjoyeed reading this

Anonymous said...

Donald and Ivana Trump first met here in the 70’s