Great Dives of New England #3:
Dorrian’s

Last weekend, I journeyed down to New York City in order to visit friends and take in the Park Avenue Armory art show. I occasionally visit Manhattan for cultural events […]

Last weekend, I journeyed down to New York City in order to visit friends and take in the Park Avenue Armory art show. I occasionally visit Manhattan for cultural events and typically enjoy my visits. I briefly lived in Hell’s Kitchen in my mid-twenties and still have fond memories of that period in my life. I lived on West 39th and 9th streets in a cold-water, walkup apartment. My immediate neighbors consisted of three Puerto Rican blue-collar working families, a friendly expatriate Irish couple and two attic-dwelling Brazilian homosexuals who also performed as a duo drag act on the weekends. This disparate collection of humanity did not know what to do with me at first and we maintained an uneasy coexistence. I first broke the ice by killing a cockroach on the hallway floor after one of the wives had seen it and screamed. After dispatching it with a size eight cordovan, we started conversing and became friendly.

I was clearly an enigma to them as I kept regular hours and left every morning wearing a Brooks Brothers grey suit,  a white shirt and a regimental tie. I found out later that they initially thought I was a Mormon missionary because of my Nordic features and conservative dress. I burst out laughing when one of the Puerto Rican mamas told me this and assured her that I was NOT a Mormon and that I also found the Church of Latter-Day Saints just as banal as they did. After this we all grew close and I would occasionally be greeted with kindly calls of “Hey Peeta, what’ choo doin?!” as I went grocery shopping and on weekend bar excursions around the neighborhood. Although I became quite comfortable in the local streets, I often found myself on the Upper East Side for socializing and recreation. While there, I became a regular at Dorrian’s Red Hand Restaurant and I decided to revisit an old stomping ground on my most recent trip to the city.

Dorrian’s is a legend in its own right. Situated on East 84th and Second Avenue, its mahogany paneled doors have welcomed generations of overprivileged, WASP children from the Upper East Side, Newport, Beacon Hill, Georgetown and Greenwich. It serves a wide variety of beers and pours Scotch quite generously. Its menu offers typically American fare with cheeseburgers and New England clam chowder proving quite popular choices. Red and white checked tablecloths are festooned throughout the dining room and various Eighties tracks waft through the air. Predictably, singles by Foreigner, Journey, Phil Collins and Genesis are frequently played on the imposing jukebox located in the rear dining room. Dorrian’s is also infamous for being the former haunt of Robert Chambers, the Preppie Killer. This past history clouds its reputation and dissuades some people from drinking at the bar.

Chambers was a minor celebrity in the mid-Eighties. A native Upper East Sider, he was also a brute and misogynist who had been kicked out of several prep schools and Boston University. In the hot summer of 1986, he left Dorrian’s with a young coed in tow and promptly strangled her to death during a fit of anger in Central Park. When confronted by the police over his facial wounds from her fingernails, Chambers explained that she’d clawed him during throes of unwanted passion. This prompted the acerbic investigating attorney to remark that Chambers was the first man he’d met who’d been raped by a woman in Central Park. He was released on bail while the court assembled a jury and began proceedings.

The resulting deliberations were avidly covered by both New York newspapers and the national media. During the trial, a videotape surfaced that showed Chambers at an apartment soiree. Drunkenly clutching a Barbie doll, he twisted its head off and loathsomely remarked, “Oops, I think I killed it!” to the raucous partygoers. Public opinion turned against him, the jury found him guilty and Chambers was sentenced to fifteen years. He proved a violent inmate and after serving his full sentence was later tried and found guilty of cocaine distribution. He is currently serving nineteen years ‘up the river’. All of this clouds Dorrian’s and gives the restaurant a reputation for snobbish, chauvinistic prep school lacrosse players, younger Wall Street bankers and the blonde, Coach bag clutching gallerinas who love them.

I very much enjoy that subculture.

Above all, Dorrian’s is quite refreshing because it attracts a reliably white, educated and conservative crowd. Boys will wear Lacoste polos, Ray-Ban Wayfarers and Sperry Topsiders WITHOUT attempting to be ironic. Girls will attempt to look like their mothers and even wear their grandmother’s pearls. When you speak with someone, they will either be outgoing or dismissive depending on their interest, (intellectual, familial, sexual) in you. However, they won’t subject you to the kind of passive-aggressive, mocking tone that passes for discourse in SWPL circles. It’s one of the few places in Manhattan where I can get a good Scotch, a decent bowl of clam chowder and can avidly talk about small coastal towns in Maine with another young person. Many of the girls are assistant editors for publishing firms or auction house art specialists so I can discuss English literature and art history. There’s a sense of genuine camaraderie at Dorrian’s for white Americans of a certain class and age, which is so refreshing in the Big Bagel.

This past Friday, I left the Waldorf-Astoria wearing a navy blazer, blue shirt, repp tie and faux-Gucci (Cole Haan) loafers. I took a taxi to Dorrian’s, entered and spent the next three hours socializing and conversing with the bar’s customers. I met a lovely young girl who graduated from Bryn Mawr and was working for a smallish publishing house specializing in British literature. She reminded me of Chloe Sevigny’s character in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco. I also spoke to a bright young man who was working for the Met as an intern in their European paintings department. Later on, the night became much more wild as phalanx after phalanx of baseball cap wearing Duke University and Trinity College boys descended on the bar. The songs became louder as did the patrons. Politely excusing myself to visit the gents’ room, I found that I had to delicately step over a puddle next to the urinal caused by the drunken incontinence of patrons and faulty plumbing. I always find the antics of youth so amusing. After finishing my Laphroaig, I took my leave and exited into the brilliantly-lit Manhattan night.

I am drawn to Dorrian’s for the same reasons that hipsters are repelled by it. It’s preppy, conservative, ‘heterosexist’ (?) and provides a wonderful chance to meet other young people. Although I’m now at an age when I prefer Swifty’s or La Grenouille, Dorrian’s still provides a good night’s merriment and potential companionship for the rest of the evening!

Rating:

Five shots out of five.

About Peter Sayles

Peter Sayles ist eine junge rechtsextremistischem und glühender New Englander