Because, at Terry's suggestion, we're going to stay at the Waldorf when we attend Micah's NYU Law School graduation in May, David sent me this New York Times article about the Waldorf Astoria Presidential Suite today and placed me squarely on a more glamorous than usual Memory Lane.
In March 1973, about a month after my father returned from the deprivations of his sojourn in the Hanoi Hilton, Ross Perot gifted my original family with a week at the Waldorf and a week of the delights of NYC. When I've bragged that we stayed in the Presidential Suite, I was sincere, but having read this article and seen the pictures, even I think maybe my memory doesn't serve well on this one. It was certainly the fanciest hotel I've ever been in, but not as sumptuous as the pictures from the article.
Fact-checking myself, I emailed my siblings and this is pretty much all Don, Mike or Mary remember. No feedback from the rest of the clan....
We played, quasi-volleyball-like, with the celebratory balloons in the room and, true to form, Michael went up and down in the elevator, exploring every nook and cranny. We saw and Michael met, Dean Martin (his drink on the piano was apple juice), the Rockettes (long legs), ate at the famous Sardi's (dated and shabby). We rode in limos. Camera crews filmed us going into a Broadway play at which we were acknowledged guests. My dad, culture shocked by the changes that took place between his 1965 imprisonment and this 1973 trip, found it too risqué and made us get up and leave in the middle of the play. There's some confusion over the title and plot of the play, but my memory of gathering program and purse up from the burgundy velvet seats and slinking out of the darkened theatre is crystal clear. Mom took me shopping on Fifth Avenue and I know just what I bought. Michael celebrated his March 14th birthday with a cake decorated with green icing in a New York that that loves St. Patrick's Day. We went to a Chinese restaurant and Dad's fellow Alcatraz inmate, George Coker, joined us. I drank mai tais and flirted with that man, that hero, fresh out of a most brutal POW camp, who was too gracious to let on that his experiences had put him way, way past thinking that sort of behavior was entertaining. My parents kidded me about it (the mai tais and that I'd walked arm in arm with George, not that he'd probably been horrified. My parents weren't cruel.) for four decades. I've seen him a couple of times in the last year and, embarrassing to admit, he never seems all that happy to see me.
Don says he has more memories of our big city experience, so maybe he'll share...
Don at the bar in our suite. The print on the wall wouldn't have caught my attention, then, but it does now.
George Coker and me. Cringe. That's my new New York outfit. I think it came from Macy's.
I don't recognize the man on the far left, nor the woman in the very front, but the rest are family plus George Coker (left front) with Dad's (right front) hand on his shoulder. Though they hadn't been face to face often, if ever, during their seven shared years in prison, their knowledge of each other and connection to each other probably rivaled everyone else's in the group. George was an incredibly young 23 years old when he was shot down yet proved to be one of the toughest of them all and paid the price.
Ready to make new Waldorf memories in May.