Peggy Lee


My Manhattan

by Peggy Lee

I have been told that one of the hardest words in the world to define is “glamour.” But I don’t agree. I can define glamour in a single word: Manhattan

As far as I’m concerned, if you take every positive cliche uttered about Manhattan, you will find that they are all true. I ought to know. When I first saw this town I was a walking cliche myself – a young girl right off the farm (literally) who was seeing the Big Town (we didn’t call it the “Big Apple” then) for the first time. Until my arrival here, the largest city I had seen was Minneapolis. But New York – Manhattan – was in a league all by itself.

The thrill, the excitement of that first visit has never left me. When I’m at my home in Beverly Hills, I begin to get excited a week before I return to the Big Apple, and feel an unmistakable tingle every time I step off the plane at LaGuardia Airport. T. S. Eliot wrote of “mixing memories with desire,” which sums up my feelings for Manhattan. When I arrive here, many of my greatest, happiest memories come back to me, and yet I’m also eager for the new experiences that never fail to occur during each visit.

Music of all types is a major part of my life, and no place other than Manhattan provides so many opportunities to gorge oneself on a virtual music feast. On any given night of the week there are more live musical performances in town that in all major cities in America combined. And what choices they are – concerts, Broadway shows, cabarets, jazz clubs, the famed hotel rooms at the Algonquin and the Carlyle, even the dozens of little piano bars scattered around town.

There is one significant change I have noticed in the city, however. New York in the Forties and Fifties was much more of a “late-night town.” I notice that things seem to wind up much earlier these days (or is it just that I wind up much earlier now?)

Every time I return here I’m a “born-again Manhattanite.” People who live a part of their lives away from this town , as I do, always say that they come to Gotham to recharge their batteries. It’s true, I feel ready to tackle almost anything after getting my “Manhattan fix.”

I discover new places during each visit. One of my current favorite discoveries is a restaurant I’ve fallen in love with on East 79th Street, Remi. And every time I walk into the Cafe des Artistes on West 67th Street, I feel it’s a bit of New York that has been there since my very first visit all those years ago.

Another reason I enjoy returning to Manhattan is for the opportunity to turn on the radio and hear my favorite radio station – WNEW-AM (1130 on the dial). Do you think that might be because they like to play Peggy Lee records? Perhaps. But they also have a marvelous line-up of on-the-air personalities including Jonathan Schwartz, Ted Brown, and (late at night) Al “Jazzbeaux” Collins.

To put it simply, if you want the best, it’s all here in Manhattan. The top restaurants in the world are located here (I doubt that anyone will argue with me on that one). One of the things that makes appearing at the Ballroom such a joy for me is that the restaurant in the Ballroom (there is both a restaurant and a separate cabaret – where I’m appearing) is operated by good friend Felipe Rojas-Lombardi. He prepares magnificent Continental dishes, and his tapas bar is the best in town.

The hotels in New York are also among the finest in the world. A current favorite of mine is the Ritz-Carlton on Central Park South. I also love the Algonquin, which appropriately captures the feeling of an ageless and glamorous Manhattan.

My favorite interior designer, Mario Buatta, is also based in Manhattan. Now that he’s designing fabrics he always gives me a private showing of his new line when he’s in town (and it flatters me that Buatta holds the record for the number of times he’s seen my show at the Ballroom!).

I also adore going for walks in the city. There are so many neighborhoods to see and sights to behold. Does this sound like a love letter to the Isle of Manhattan? Well, it is. I fell in love with Manhattan the first time I saw it and (unlike a few other episodes of my life) I have never fallen out of love with this town. And I never will.