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New York: Oldest bartender still works

india Updated: Aug 22, 2006 10:02 IST
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Marilyn Monroe came Wednesdays for lunch and ordered a Beefeater martini, very dry. Danny Kaye pulled his jacket over his head to avoid being recognised. Judy Garland sat in a corner drinking Johnnie Walker Red.

"Judy Garland, very sad," said Hoy Wong. "She always had a cocktail glass in her hand."

Wong, or Mr Hoy, as he is known, has been working as a bartender for 58 years.

He got a job in a bar in 1948 at a now-defunct Chinese restaurant called Freeman Chum. It was there that he encountered Monroe, Garland and other notables including Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin and Bob Hope. "They were all nice people," he said.

He served in the US Army Air Forces from 1943 to 1946 and was stationed in India and China. Among his cherished mementoes is a menu from Thanksgiving Day 1945, when he was a mess sergeant in Canton. The bill of fare included roast capon, candied yams and 'Corn O'Brien'.

There were more famous faces at the Algonquin Hotel, where Wong has worked since 1979. Once, he recalled, a woman sitting at the bar next to Anthony Quinn got so nervous she shook.

Wong is about to be feted by the Algonquin Hotel, on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Unless another candidate steps forward, his bosses seem safe in calling him the city's oldest bartender.

"He never misses a day," said Bill Liles, the Algonquin's general manager. "If the weather's bad he shows up early.

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