the monkey's to blame..
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That Kind of Guy
by Adam Kluger

tree at Rockefeller center

           Tree at Rockefeller Center by Adam Kluger


He was one of those guys you just automatically liked.

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 personality.

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 HP.

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 old friend.

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 champagne.

Or maybe that little silver monkey was only good luck for 10 years I guess. If you believe in that sort of stuff. Who knows?

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 liked.



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