“I’ll by no means go away this place,” Glenn Bernbaum, proprietor of the unique New York City restaurant Mortimer’s, repeatedly advised me as his good friend and legal professional.
In the small hours of Sept. 8, 1998, Glenn died along with his boots on, peering into his murky lavatory mirror, all of the sudden suffering from liver failure. He keeled over backwards, smashing his head towards the tiled wall. During all his shaves and showers, he by no means thought a shower mat could be his final stand, and Glenn did “not go mild into that good night time.”
He landed on his again within the tub—and in that on the spot Claus Von Bülow, Henry Kissinger, Dominick Dunne, Bill Blass, Kenny Lane, Nan Kempner, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie O and shiny luminaries of all styles and sizes had been not going to toss their salads over Palm Beach gossip and Locust Valley plans at lunch.
For greater than 20 years, Mortimer’s had been a magnet for everyone who was anyone. (A brand new guide, Mortimer’s: A Moment in Time, by Robin Leacock, Robert Caravaggi and Mary Hilliard, has simply been revealed, recalling the vertiginous heights of social climbing by the likes of Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, C.Z. Guest, and Brooke Astor.)
Now Mortimer’s could be closed, shuttered perpetually.
My only particular instruction, as recited in Glenn’s final will and testomony, which I painstakingly drafted, was: The minute I die, shut Mortimer’s, padlock the entrance door.
At 7 a.m. that day I used to be referred to as by Mortimer’s charming, battle-scarred maitre’d, Robert C. informing me of Glenn’s demise. Robert, not by eavesdropping, immediately knew I had mentioned the tip many instances with Glenn at Mortimer’s throughout our late afternoon conferences relationship again to the ’80s.
Glenn would name after lunch: “Mr. Golub, in case you have nothing higher to do, come over and let’s discuss about my property, I want a brand new will.” (Later in life I discovered that almost everybody wants a brand new will as a result of so many heirs show to be undeserving.) Whatever I had on my plate that day was not going to be as a lot enjoyable as speaking to Glenn about his testomony plus the rest below the solar together with his favourite topic—his web price.
There had been extra tales in his repertoire than socialites in his tackle guide and lots of of their travails had been half of our consultations. Needless to say, all people who was anyone ate or wished to eat at Mortimer’s. In one will that endured for 10 years—a number of others adopted—he bequeathed all of his worldly possessions to the animals within the Bronx Zoo. I urged him to be particular however he refused to call any of them personally.
In a will supposedly drafted within the late ’70s by Roy Cohn, not Esquire at that time, Glenn named maître d’ Stefanos Zachariadis as his sole inheritor. However, after Stefanos was convicted of plotting to homicide Glenn with a view to expedite his inheritance, there was greater than ample purpose to draft a brand new doc.
On the day of Glenn’s demise, after I arrived at Mortimer’s to satisfy his directions (stopping on the way in which at Lexington Hardware to buy a big padlock and 6 ft of chain) I used to be escorted to his non-public rooms above the restaurant by the police. A burly nineteenth Precinct cop stood guard contained in the condominium in entrance of the lavatory and presumptively briefed me. “There is not any proof of foul play.” The fake audition for Law and Order continued: “The physique is behind that door, Mr. Bernbaum is lifeless.”
I must take his phrase for it. No civilian could be permitted to see the corpse though in terms of drafting wills and the eventual comply with up, I often like to watch the cadaver or the mortua persona. Professional courtesy, no cost.
Glenn and I didn’t have a lot in frequent however we had been good associates, in all probability as a result of I grew up in a tenement proper above my father’s grocery retailer. The meals business is a tie that binds. Every time I handed Orsay up to now few years, recognized for its positive French delicacies, Frenchified bistro décor and for taking on Mortimer’s area, I sensed a nudge in the direction of the entrance door. Think Pacino in Godfather III: “Just after I thought I used to be out they pull me again in.”
As time glided by, the nook of Lexington and East seventy fifth Street was getting harder to keep away from. Early this April I relented and determined to have lunch at Orsay without a reservation.
Upon my arrival, Olivier, the gray-suited maître d’ unhesitatingly guided me to the left. It was the room the place I at all times met with Glenn, and Olivier’s outstretched hand indicated the exact banquette and desk. Naturally I sat there.
After the same old acclimation, I ordered the grilled Scottish salmon filet, a frisée salad, and a glass of iced tea. I’m on a strict food plan however I oddly hesitated and regarded the rooster hash or the well-known Mortimer’s twin burgers, as a result of I heard Glenn’s unmistakable gravelly voice confirming, “They are to today the perfect issues on the menu.” I whispered “Stop it Glenn, the kitchen is closed.”
The waitress, a pretty brunette named Devon in her twenties, introduced me the iced tea. It was then I felt compelled to inform her who I used to be, together with an irrepressible want to speak about Mortimer’s and Glenn. I wasted no time informing her how he’d handed away and that I closed the place. I included the truth that Glenn died upstairs. Then unconsciously I muttered, “If these partitions may discuss…”
Devon didn’t hesitate.
“You imply the outdated man upstairs? I’ve seen him strolling around along with his cane, his hand is at all times trembling. I do know he’s the proprietor—I imply, was the proprietor a very long time in the past. I acknowledge him.”
I requested, “Did you recognize the upstairs, now the occasions room, was Glenn’s condominium?”
She merely stated “Yes,” and walked away.
After that revelation, I idiotically regarded around for the outdated man, telling myself to eat and go away whereas I nervously picked away on the salmon. My urge for food was gone.
Minutes later, Devon returned accompanied by one other waitress who couldn’t wait to inform me one thing. “I’ve seen the outdated man many instances upstairs, it’s scary to go up there as a result of he’s strolling around, there’s a lot of exercise up there. Even the exterminator talks about seeing him, he’s right here within the morning and you may come and communicate to him.”
A number of days later in furtherance of my analysis into the occult, I loved one other lunch at Orsay. This time I spoke to Claudio, the Wednesday maître d’ who in a businesslike style knowledgeable me, “I’ve seen the outdated man, he’s at all times sporting a darkish go well with, upstairs he’s strolling around, I can hear him. His picture seems on the restaurant’s safety cameras. Even the exterminator (nonetheless anonymous) has seen him early within the morning. He goes into the get together room and disappears. The whiskey bottles, wine glasses on the bar late at night time generally make noise, they contact one another, clinking. I don’t concentrate, as a result of if I do, the rattling turns into extra intense.”
If that didn’t prime Tales from the Crypt, my waiter, Ryan, who regarded like a part-time GQ mannequin, added out of earshot of Claudio, “There was a Bengali busboy right here who stated in the course of the early pandemic that he noticed the outdated man and heard the serenading bar bottles and glasses. I’m planning to convey a Ouija board to work very quickly and let’s see.”
Now I’m decided to seek out the outdated man within the go well with. This isn’t my first rodeo. When it involves eerie and peculiar, Psycho actor Tony Perkins was my brother-in-law. Norman Bates would insist that I’m going upstairs at Orsay and convey mom and Glenn their dinner.
Aaron Richard Golub is a distinguished New York City trial lawyer who has labored on high-profile instances involving Tom Brady, Donald Trump, Martin Scorsese, Brooke Shields, and Gisele Bundchen. He has been featured on the quilt of New York journal and in GQ’s “12 Guys You Should Know.” He is the creator of The Big Cut and not too long ago completed a brand new guide, Ruckus.