William O’Shaughnessy

Interview

with

Teddy Suric

General Manager, “21”

The Return of the Jockeys!

October 21, 2015

 

William O’Shaughnessy:

The jockeys are back at “The Numbers” on 52nd Street.  We’re here in the iconic, hallowed halls of the fabled “21” Club in Manhattan because this is a big deal day.  With us is the managing director of the “21” Club – Teddy Suric.  He’s a restaurateur, highly respected in his profession.  I’ve never seen you this excited …

Teddy Suric:

Well, it’s an exciting moment, Bill.  This club has been here for 85 years.  Anything you do in 85 years is really something special.  Just the history within these walls and the way it all started with Jack and Charlie in 1929 and here we are at “21” in the 21st century!

WO:

Teddy Suric, general manager of “21” … this started as a saloon, a speakeasy. 

TS:

It’s one of the oldest speakeasies in the country.  The Prohibition-era wine room is still operational and very active.  It’s a special chef’s table underground for 22 special people.  It’s available for lunch and dinner.  Historically when “21” opened – it opened up at 21 West 52nd Street – Jack and Charlie then purchased number 19 and then the building at number 17.  They then combined the three homes into one. And that’s where all the wine and liquor went, in the “Prohibition” room.  They called it “21.”

WO:

Teddy Suric, major domo of “21” … there’s a lot of colorful stuff, a lot of excitement out on 52nd Street tonight.  Your jockeys are back! 

TS:

Huge for us!  I think it’s really huge for our fans as well and bar patrons and clientele here in New York and all across the country.  In fact “21” is truly an international destination.  After 85 years they had never been refurbished.  In 1930 the Van Urk family donated a jockey back then. You see it was the “horsey” crowd that used to occupy the seats here … then and ever since.  The rich and famous you might say!         

WO:

Do you still get the rich and famous?

TS:

Constantly …

WO:

Are these real jockeys? 

TS:

They are real jockeys, Mr. O’Shaughnessy, almost life-like statues thereof.  They represent all the great breeders and stables.  They’re actually donated to “21” by the famous stables.   The maker of these jockeys, you really can’t find any one like him anymore was down in Virginia.   The gentleman passed away nine years ago.  But these jockeys were donated for “21” … they weren’t purchased.  And this year we have a new addition … the Triple Crown winner – American Pharaoh, by Zayat Stables. We added the Triple Crown winner for the first time in the past 40 years.

WO:

So all these rich guys, the horsemen, with their own racing silks, have their colors.  And thus each one of these jockeys is attired differently.

TS:

Six or seven months ago when I initiated the project, I reached out to the stables and there were a couple of silks that were just wrong.  And they were so happy I reached out to them because a lot of these – at least 80% – of these stables are still active.  So they gave me the correct silks.  I then ordered the jockeys to be taken “off property” and we carefully and lovingly refurbished them away from “21.” 

WO:

As I listen to you, Teddy Suric, I’m reminded you’ve been a friend of ours for many years all the way back to your Le Cirque days … will you trust me to conduct myself properly, as I put this microphone before you …? 

TS:

I will trust you for another 100 years, Mr. O’!

WO:

Teddy, I then can safely say that you’re a pretty hot guy right now in your profession … in the restaurant business.  You’ve re-invigorated this beloved old lorelei.  It had had – not exactly fallen on hard times – but there was a bit of a “lull” hereabouts.  And, if you’ll forgive me, nobody was having any “fun.”

TS:

There was a “lull,” I guess you could say … it’s my second year here.  I view it as kind of like “refurbishing” or “restoring” – or “revitalizing” is what I want to say … because the bones were still good.  It’s owned by a great company.  And look – there are a lot of gentlemen out there who still  want to wear a tie and have a nice martini.   And a lot of lovely and attractive women who want to dress up.

WO:

You said the racing guys … the rich guys who own horse farms in Virginia and Florida used to put their backsides in your seats.  Who does it now?  Who do you get?

TS:

Their grandchildren!  Their sons … their daughters!  On any given night we can have 10 – 15 famous clients … from athletes to politicians to actors in here.  It’s just another regular dining experience for them.  And always special for us.

WO:

Teddy Suric, whose name do you need to get into “21” these days?  Sometimes people are a little “reluctant” to enter the threshold of a famous place like “21.”  How do you crash through the “Iron Gates?”

TS:

I still have a greeter here named Shakir.  He’s been here for 38 years which is pretty remarkable in this business.  And I’ve been in this business for my entire life.  My cell phone is out there.  You can call me or my right-hand man Aaron.  Actually the only “name” you need to get in to “21” is your own.

WO:

Teddy Suric … are you glad to have your damn jockeys back? 

TS:

I love it … the Family is back!

WO:

Which is your favorite jockey?

TS:

My favorite jockey is probably … I’ll go with Secretariat! 

WO:

Once I’m reminded they had a charity in this very room up here on the second floor and famous designers decorated a jockey with their colors.  Like de la Renta did one.  Cartier did one.    I had a couple of them up in the country.  But my ex got one. 

TS:

I do remember that occasion.  It was for charity. I wasn’t here at the time, but I read up on my history of the jockeys.  And that was a great night.  One of several.

WO:

Why don’t you do that again?

TS:

We’ll try.  I’m trying to bring back a little bit of the good old times that used to make this place rock. 

WO:

How do you have to dress these days to get in this joint, this high class saloon?

TS:

A tie is not required.  We relaxed the tie requirement in 2009.  But a sports jacket is required.  No jeans in the bar room.  And in the lounge we actually relaxed it to “casual,” but neat.

WO:

Teddy, do you get a better table if you wear a tie?

 

TS:

No comment …!

WO:

Thank you Mr. General Manager.  The place looks great.  You’ve got 52nd Street buzzing tonight.  Your beloved jockeys are back!  It’s a true New York night …

 

 

 

William O’Shaughnessy, a former president of the New York State Broadcasters Association, was chairman of Public Affairs for the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington.  He has been a point man and advocate for the broadcasters of America on First Amendment and Free Speech issues, and is presently chairman of the Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America national charitable organization.  He is also a longtime director and member of the Executive Committee of the foundation. He has operated WVOX and WVIP, two of the last independent radio stations in the New York area, for 56 years as president and editorial director.
 
He is the author of “AirWAVES” (1999) … “It All Comes Back to Me Now” (2001) … “More Riffs, Rants and Raves” (2004) … and “VOX POPULI: The O’Shaughnessy Files,” released in January, 2011. He is currently working on his fifth book for Fordham University Press, an anthology which will include this interview with Teddy Suric of the "21" Club. He is also completing a Reminiscence and tribute to his late friend Governor Mario M. Cuomo which will be published early in 2016.
 

 

 

Contact:

Cindy Gallagher

914-235-3279

cindy@wvox.com

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