Rockefeller Center by Adam Kluger
He was one of those guys you just
He knew how to make you laugh and laugh at
himself. He was clever like that but he had a huge heart and spread his mirth
like Santa Claus.
Who else but Henri-Pierre could bang a hot
waitress at Spillane's Senior year in High School or win the dance contest at
our summer camp 5 years in a row. The kid had style and the kid had
He was handsome and athletic and never had a
bad word to say about anyone unless it was the type of inside joke that friends
and comrades share and enjoy in moments of youth that outsiders might not
understand. The type of bawdy humor that brothers and close male friends share
without second thought.
Henri-Pierre was popular alright. So it was no
surprise that some years later on a snowy New York night I would walk by a
packed bar with a French flag in the window and the letters HP in gold leaf
with fleur de lies in accompaniment. I asked the Maitre D who the owner was and
of course as it turned out it was my old friend Henri-Pierre. I quickly ran
across the street to an old curiosity shop that was still open and I found a
small silver statue of a smiling monkey - perfect I thought. I gave the
gift to the Maitre D with a note that read "for continued good luck &
success - your old friend Craig."
Two weeks later I got an invitation plus a
guest to a wine tasting event at HP's with a little note from the marketing
executive that told me how much "HP loves his little monkey"- Clearly, Henri
Pierre was going places. After the event I convinced a wealthy artist pal of
mine to book his birthday party there and Henri ever the convivial host made
sure to speak with all the guests, charm the ladies at the table - the old
scamp! and offer complimentary champagne. A wonderful night. Manfred
Gogol, a trust funder who was rarely impressed by anyone did not share my
enthusiasm for HP.
"Small Potatoes" Gogol said echoing a line
from The Godfather.
Dismissive as Gogol always was about anyone
but himself getting attention, I knew in my heart he was totally wrong about
Henri-Pierre wasn't small at all - he was as
big as a mountain when it came to making other people feel good.
There was value in that, I was sure of it.
As time moved on, HP grew into HP2, HP3 and
finally HPX. Henri was all over the society papers. His bars were getting great
write-ups and his smiling face would pop up in high end magazines that could be
found lining the lobbies of 5th Avenue. It was nice to know. He was an
So it was with great delight to run into Henri
Pierre on the West Side of New York not too far away from his first bar with my
wife. He was in a hurry but he asked if I would like to grab a quick drink. Of
course I could not refuse. My wife was not pleased to be left to take a cab
home in the snow but she understood, eventually.
As it turned out one of my other old pals,
Attorney Harlan Strundley had just been with Henri Pierre - getting him out of
a place - where he was stuck overnight--a place I prefer not to mention here -
because of a business dispute relating to one of his bars out east.
During our conversation I could tell that
Henri was out of sorts and all over the place. He told me about his plans for a
new bar and asked me my thoughts on decor and location and all sorts of
business matters that I truthfully was ill-equipped to provide much valuable
feedback on. The whole time we spoke I felt like Henri was fishing for
something but I wasn't quite sure what it was.
So I just said straight out, "Henry, we're old
friends - are you in trouble? Can I help you in any way?"
" Oh Craig, you have no idea how much I
appreciate having a friend like you - the bar business is full of snakes and
scorpions and all sorts of individuals with colorful nicknames that want a
piece of my businesses - if you know what I mean. This is no affair for you to
be involved with. Harlan is a killer in the courtroom but these people who want
my businesses they do their killing elsewhere."
"Are you going to be ok?"
"Henri Pierre is always ok my friend,"
he said smiling, "beautiful bartender!! two shots of Los Arango Tequila
Blanco - and please - hold the worm!.. just like my old friend here. " We
hugged and laughed and drank our shots and the years quickly fell away...and
just as quickly he was gone again - back out onto the snowy streets of New York
City - going who knows where.
I know what the newspapers all wrote about
Henri Pierre after all the legal battles and scandals that followed the
shuttering of all his bars - I know how he was painted as a bad
businessman who wrote bad checks - but I also know he probably trusted the
wrong people. Bad people. I know that because the same thing - trusting the
wrong people - once happened to my dad. That's business. It sucks, but the more
successful you become, the greater risks become for something to screw up.
Also, the economy completely tanked so there was really nothing Henri Pierre
could do - people just weren't going to go out and celebrate and buy wine and
Or maybe that little silver monkey was only
good luck for 10 years I guess. If you believe in that sort of stuff. Who
I tried to reach out to Henri Pierre to see if
I could do anything to help him in some minor way. He accepted
gratefully. If I could have done more I certainly would have. I think we all
would have He was that kind of guy.
The kind of guy you just automatically