Birds of Play

J.F.K., Sinatra, Hemingway and Monroe were just some of the names that turned the Stork Club into America’s most famous night spot. And while they partied and paired off, writes Stuart Husband, a former bootlegger from Oklahoma was pioneering the art of celebrity marketing…
Yul Brynner at the Stork Club in 1953.

It’s a modestly utilitarian object that you’d look at for a long time before the terms ‘high’ and ‘falutin’ came to mind. A round, black ceramic ashtray, five inches in diameter, circa 1950s. The reason that this unassuming receptacle for ground-out butts sold for nearly $24,000 at Bonhams in 2018 has everything to do with its provenance: imprinted three times in white raised lettering on its side is the legend ‘Stork Club’ — a name that, like Proust’s madeleine, conjures up a vanished world, in this case of New York café society, when the Stork ruled the roost as the world’s most soignée and storied night spot.


Stuart Husband


February 2023


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