Oscar and Carol

16 Aug

Here’s a brief extract from the biography of Oscar Tschirky (1866-1950), a.k.a. “Oscar of the Waldorf”, the long-serving maître d’hôtel at that luxury lodging-house in Manhattan. The final sentence may just be one of the saddest ever composed in the English language:

The transatlantic ferry was busy all that year [1919] bringing over European Royalty. Within a few months the Waldorf-Astoria again was playing host to a prince of the purple. This time it was Prince Carol, later King Carol, of Rumania, then one of the happy playboys of the Western World.

“He arrived during the summer of 1920, and though his stay in New York was a short one, it was nevertheless exciting. And to him it was a little disappointing, I am sure. For the Prince was most interested in American cocktails, and of all the times in American history to be interested in cocktails, the year 1920 was one of the least productive.

“‘No cocktails in this country,’ said to me reproachfully. ‘What memories can I take back to Rumania? We have heard so much about American cocktails.’

“I did the best I could for him under the circumstances. I set to work and gathered the recipes for a long list of popular American drinks. This I gave him, with the envious remark that he could use it back in Rumania to discover American cocktails.

“The recipes pleased him so much that when the day for his departure came I found myself the recipient of another medal—this time the Order of the Crown of Rumania. But this second time I was not alone. Mr. Nye, the official guardian, received one. And so too did six very much surprised New York policemen, who had been assigned to watch over Prince Carol during his stay in the city. One of them, a tall, strapping fellow with a thick, unmistakeable brogue, who answered to the name of Mulligan, murmured to me at the ceremony: ‘Sure and won’t the missus be surprised when she hears of this. Roo-manian I am now.’

“Mr. Boomer congratulated me when he saw the medal. ‘For such distinction,’ he suggested, ‘we ought to do a little more for the Prince than give him recipes, don’t you think, Oscar?’

“He hit upon just the right gift—a monstrous silver cocktail shaker, relic of a happy past. ‘A cocktail recipe is no good without the shaker,’ said Mr. Boomer.

“He presented it to the Prince just as he was preparing to leave the hotel.

“The young man’s eyes brightened at the sight of it. ‘But this is too splendid a gift,’ he protested. ‘Surely you will have need of it yourself, for some of these great parties you give.’

“Mr. Boomer shook his head sadly. ‘No, Your Highness. A cocktail shaker is something we can no longer use in America.’”

— Karl Schriftgiesser, Oscar of the Waldorf (New York: Dutton, 1943), pp. 195-6.

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