Mu­ral at his­toric ho­tel tells era’s tale


IT’S WHERE BABE RUTH was sold to the Yan­kees and where the mar­tini was al­legedly in­vented. In the 14 years the Knicker­bocker Ho­tel was open in Times Square, it was the hottest spot in town. An end­less pa­rade of celebs and power play­ers drank, mixed, min­gled and drank some more. Prohibition ended the party in 1920.

But now the Knicker­bocker has re­opened — and to com­mem­o­rate its sto­ried past, the ho­tel com­mis­sioned artist Molly Crabap­ple to re­call the char­ac­ters and de­bauch­ery that made the place so fa­mous.

“I al­ways worry about New York City be­com­ing less wild, and so it’s very im­por­tant to cel­e­brate the times that were wild,” said Crabap­ple. “I hope this mu­ral in­spires many drunken hal­lu­ci­na­tions.”

The mu­ral will be un­veiled when the Knicker­bocker’s rooftop bar opens in the com­ing weeks. The Daily News got an ex­clu­sive first look and presents this an­no­tated guide to the old Knick.

1 MAX­FIELD PAR­RISH: The famed painter and illustrator was com­mis­sioned to do the now-iconic Old King Cole mu­ral for the Knicker­bocker’s bar. When the ho­tel closed, the mu­ral was moved to the St. Regis, where it re­mains.

2 TEDDY ROO­SEVELT: In TR’s time, a “Knicker­bocker” was a wealthy de­scen­dent of the first Dutch set­tlers of Man­hat­tan. He was Pres­i­dent when the ho­tel opened, and the mu­ral de­picts him be­ing tended to by the in-house staff of nurses.

3 OS­CAR HAM­MER­STEIN: Leg­end has it that this theater im­pre­sario, grand­fa­ther of Broad­way lyri­cist Os­car Ham­mer­stein II, was sucker-punched by a jour­nal­ist at the Knick. Af­ter Ham­mer­stein got up, the jour­nal­ist’s edi­tor came over and punched him again.

4 THE MAR­TINI: His name was Mar­tini di Arma di Tag­gia, and he was sup­pos­edly the head bar­tender at the Knick when he in­vented the most fa­mous cock­tail of all time.

5 CAR­RIE NA­TION: She was known for smash­ing up bars with her hatchet in an ef­fort to show the evils of drink. For­tu­nately for the Knick, Na­tion was es­corted out be­fore she could do any dam­age.

6 GE­ORGE M. CO­HAN: The most cel­e­brated Broad­way ac­tor of his gen­er­a­tion, Co­han held a leg­endary din­ner party at the Knick in 1907 that was, ac­cord­ing to a news­pa­per at the time, “the liveli­est eat­ing and drink­ing and speak­ing af­fair Broad­way has known for sev­eral moons.”

7 WIL­LIAM RAN­DOLPH HEARST: The orig­i­nal New York me­dia mogul was a regular. At a mas­sive ban­quet at the ho­tel in 1908, he was asked to run for mayor on the In­de­pen­dence Party ticket. Hearst lost the elec­tion.

8 FA­THER KNICKER­BOCKER: In­spired by Wash­ing­ton Irv­ing’s 1809 book “Knicker­bocker’s His­tory of New York,” this char­ac­ter rep­re­sented the Big Ap­ple in po­lit­i­cal car­toons as a kind of lo­cal Un­cle Sam fig­ure.

9 TAM­MANY HALL: The in­fa­mous (and cor­rupt) po­lit­i­cal ma­chine of­ten held meet­ings at the Knicker­bocker.

10 ELEC­TRIC CAR: In 1908, Oliver Fritchle drove his elec­tric car from Ne­braska to the Knicker­bocker, a jour­ney of 1,800 miles that took him al­most a month.

11 ARNOLD ROTH­STEIN: The most no­to­ri­ous Jewish gang­ster of his era, he was im­pli­cated in the 1919 Black Sox World Se­ries-fix­ing scan­dal. Roth­stein ran an il­le­gal bac­carat game at the Knick, and is known as the in­spi­ra­tion for Meyer Wolf­sheim in “The Great Gatsby.”

12 THE TABASCO SAUCE BAN­DITS: Af­ter rob­bing a ho­tel guest of $100,000 worth of gems, th­ese brazen crim­i­nals shot po­lice of­fi­cers in the eyes with hot sauce. They were even­tu­ally cap­tured by the fu­ri­ous cops.

13 BABE RUTH SALE: The deal to send Ruth from the Bos­ton Red Sox to the Yan­kees went down at the Knicker­bocker in 1919. Base­ball would never be the same.

14 ANNA PAVLOVA: The most fa­mous dancer of her time, this prima bal­le­rina of the Rus­sian Im­pe­rial Ballet stayed at the Knick in 1910 while per­form­ing at the Metropoli­tan Opera.

15 AL­BERT DE BRAHMS: The house vi­o­lin­ist at the Knick, De Brahms mur­dered his wife in 1912 and then sealed her body in a crate full of plas­ter.

16 THE VEL­VET ROPE: Leg­end has it that his­tory’s first red vel­vet rope was strung up in the Knicker­bocker’s restau­rant. Be­fore that, wait­ing pa­trons would just mill around the ta­bles. The idea of cor­ralling them be­hind a rope near the en­trance quickly be­came popular around the world.

17 GI­A­COMO PUC­CINI: The fa­mous Ital­ian com­poser stayed at the Knicker­bocker in 1910 and hosted lunches there that were big news on the gos­sip pages of the era.

18 EN­RICO CARUSO: Known as the “Man with the Golden Voice,” Caruso was the most fa­mous singer in the world when he moved into a suite in 1909. He lived there un­til the ho­tel closed in 1920, and died a year later.

19 EVE­LYN NES­BIT: This 16-year-old beauty was se­duced by the fa­mous ar­chi­tect Stan­ford White, who was later killed by Nes­bit’s hus­band. Dur­ing the trial, the ju­rors were se­questered at the Knicker­bocker. A few years later, Nes­bit un­suc­cess­fully sued the ho­tel for em­bar­rass­ing her.

20 F. SCOTT AND ZELDA FITZGER­ALD: Leg­endary drinkers both, the Fitzger­alds were known to drunk­enly throw $20 and $50 bills around the bar­room, mak­ing them popular reg­u­lars. Scott lived at the ho­tel in 1919 and wrote a short play called “Mr. Icky” there.

21 THE DOLLY SIS­TERS: Gor­geous iden­ti­cal-twin dancers Rosie and Jenny Dolly had a nightly show in the sum­mer of 1917 — mak­ing it one of the hottest sum­mers on record, at least in­side the ho­tel (rim shot!).

22 JACK BOU­VIER: Ten years be­fore he sired fu­ture First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Bou­vier sued the Knicker­bocker be­cause man­age­ment had kicked him out for skip­ping down the halls.

23 23 JACK JOHN­SON: When heavy­weight champ John­son took on Jim Jef­fries in 1910, the prize was so large — $80,000 — that it was kept safe at the Knicker­bocker un­til af­ter John­son won the fight.

24 REX BEACH: The fa­mous adventure nov­el­ist liked to hang out and talk about writ­ing and gold prospect­ing.

25 BAT MASTER­SON: Best buds with Wy­att Earp, this buf­falo hunter and saloon­keeper be­came a U.S. mar­shal in New York City and a regular at the Knick.

26 MA­BEL HITE AND MIKE DON­LIN: They were the most fa­mous celebrity cou­ple of the early 20th cen­tury; she was a star of the Broad­way stage and he a star for the New York Gi­ants up at the Polo Grounds.

27 ROALD AMUND­SEN: The first per­son to visit the South Pole, this Nor­we­gian ex­plorer later raised money at the Knicker­bocker for an ex­pe­di­tion to the North Pole.

28 CHARLES HAMIL­TON (HOUS­TON): This might be the mu­ral’s only er­ror. Avi­a­tor Charles Hamil­ton, who was white, was the first to fly round-trip be­tween New York and Philadel­phia and was a celebrity at the Knick’s bar. But Charles Hamil­ton Hous­ton, who was black, is the face in the mu­ral, even though he likely never set foot in the Knick. That said, he was the lawyer known as “the Man Who Killed Jim Crow,” so that’s good enough for us.

29 ALEXAN­DRE GASTAUD: The Knick’s pas­try chef was fa­mous for his huge desserts, like a model ocean liner made out of colored sugar.

30 30 EUGÉNIE FOUGÈRE: A fa­mous vaudeville actress, she was kicked out of the Knicker­bocker in 1907 af­ter ho­tel de­tec­tives found her shar­ing a room with her male manager — even though it later turned out they were mar­ried.

31 “GEN­TLE­MAN JIM” COR­BETT: This dap­per heavy­weight boxing champ was re­tired by the time the Knicker­bocker opened, but that didn’t stop him from hold­ing court in the bar­room.

32 MARY PICK­FORD: The actress who even­tu­ally be­came known as Amer­ica’s Sweet­heart lived at the Knicker­bocker in the late 1910s be­fore mov­ing to Hol­ly­wood.

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