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For the last four years around Labor Day, he threw an elaborate prom on the concrete patio outside his building, complete with refreshments, decorations, and hours of swing dancing. One year Don donated all his prom proceeds to a neighborhood arts group and another year to the widow of a nearby Russian cobbler who'd been killed in a brutal holdup. He was friends with nearly everyone. Don hosted meetings for tenant organizers, scheming landlords, and political groups both left and right. He counted among his customers local actors, directors, and radio personalities, as well as hundreds of more plebeian folk. For their comfort and entertainment he featured nothing but thrift-store furniture, yellowed lighting, and a backdrop of 40s big-band music. During one period of sagging revenues, he tortured patrons by playing "Gal From Kalamazoo" in an endless loop. His only break from the big-band era came when he got into a Donna Summer album he'd picked up in a junk store. Customers begged him to stop playing it, so he didn't.
[Tadros] was going to paint the walls for the first time in years, and tear up the carpet. He was going to get some new chairs and tables. Don agreed that the place needed sprucing. The landlords, he said, were planning to tear out the back wall, which bears a tropical palm tree mural, and replace it with glass.In case you're wondering what the vibe at Coffee Club was like back in the 90s, here's a video from one of Don's legendary parties.
"I asked them if they would put a mustache on the Mona Lisa," Don said. "They looked at me like I was crazy."
Phil said he'll have a revamped menu when he reopens this weekend. He will serve espresso and cappuccino, as well as sandwiches, salads, and a variety of other items.
"I'm gonna slice my own meat," Phil said.
Don looked alarmed.
"With a meat slicer?" he exclaimed. "Slice your meat? Ohhhhhhh! Nooooooo! Don't slice the meat. Buy it. You'll get busy and slice your finger off. It would be fabulous, God, but meat slicing is a pain in the ass. I'm telling you. I once ran a deli for a friend of mine. It was horrible."
"Well, Don," said Phil, "that's a risk I'm going to have to take."