Dal New York Times del 24.5.10, la vita molto abitudinaria di Mr Herz e della sua tazza bianca da caffè.
For 77 Years, a Regular at Sardi’s
Published: May 24, 2010
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Mr. Herz is the only patron of one of the best-known restaurants in the world who gets his own cup: He is 93 years old, and he prefers using a mug with an easy-to-hold handle. After lunch on Tuesday, the mug was washed and returned to its usual place, on the shelf of a cabinet in the coat room, because the management and staff at Sardi’s know Mr. Herz will be back.
He always comes back.
For about 77 of his 93 years, Mr. Herz has eaten at Sardi’s. The theater district restaurant opened at its current location, at 234 West 44th Street, in March 1927. Mr. Herz said he remembered first going there about six years later, in 1933, an out-of-town teenager in awe of Broadway.
When he was a drama student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, then called the Carnegie Institute of Technology, he went to Sardi’s. When he started working at the Mercury Theater with Orson Welles after graduating from college in 1937, he went to Sardi’s. When he performed on Mr. Welles’s panic-spreading radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938, he went to Sardi’s.
“I go to other restaurants, but I don’t feel at home at other restaurants,” said Mr. Herz, who turns 94 in August and typically eats at Sardi’s about twice a week. “It’s comfortable. I’ve had parties there. My mother and father’s 50th wedding anniversary was upstairs. My father’s 95th birthday party was upstairs. I’ve grown accustomed to its space.”
In a city that is forever changing, some people — stubbornly, blessedly — never do: they eat and drink at the same place at the same tables on the same days for a very long time, and to merely call them regulars seems an insult.
Mr. Herz used to go to opening-night Broadway shows with Sardi’s longtime hatcheck girl, Renee Carroll, and found his apartment on Central Park South in the 1950s after she told him that a unit was available in her building. He usually goes to lunch once a week with the waiter who served him on Tuesday, Jeremy Wagner, 35. They go to a dine
r on West 57th Street on Fridays, a routine they started about three years ago because Mr. Wagner’s shift changed and they never saw each other.
“Just like two friends,” Mr. Wagner said. “We just happen to be, you know, 60 years apart.”
Mr. Herz has been going to Sardi’s longer than any employee has been working there, and he is one of the few patrons old enough to remember Vincent Sardi Sr., the restaurant’s founder, who retired in 1947 and died in 1969 at age 83.
In recent years, he has had lunch at Sardi’s on Tuesdays, usually sitting at table No. 4, a corner table in the main dining room, the autographed caricatures of Antonio Banderas and Liza Minnelli above his head. On occasion, the restaurant has made the mistake of sitting another party at the table before Mr. Herz has arrived, an error that has been corrected when those at table No. 4 have been asked, ever so politely, to move to another table.
“He’s a treasure,” said Sean Sardi Ricketts, 37, a co-owner of the restaurant, the great-grandson of Vincent Sardi Sr. and the grandson of Vincent Sardi Jr., who took over the restaurant when his father retired and helped make it a Broadway institution. “He’s not even a customer on Tuesdays. He’s like part of the family.”
Sardi’s has long been at the center of Broadway life — the idea for the Tony Awards was born there over lunch, according to Vincent Sr.’s 1953 book — and Mr. Herz said it was only natural for it to become the center of his life as well. And there is another reason he has been returning to Sardi’s for roughly 77 years.
Shortly before a play he had produced closed after just a week at the Lyceum Theater in 1940, Mr. Herz was eating at Sardi’s when Vincent Sr. asked him to join him for dessert and coffee. “And he said to me, ‘I know your show is closing,’ ” Mr. Herz recalled. “He said, ‘I just want you to keep coming to Sardi’s, and don’t worry about the bill.’ So I burst into tears, and that’s why I’ve been a customer of Sardi’s for so long. I was touched and moved by it, and I thought it was damn nice of him.”
These days, Mr. Herz picks up his own bill.