Jackie's friendship with Toots smut have begun at the old "Club 18." Toots
had started as a bouncer, did well and opened one of the most popular restaurants in New
York known for hearty food, steaks, chops, huge slabs of roast beef, etc. Before
Jackie struck it rich, he used to patronize Toots' because Toots would carry him on the
Toots said to me, "How do you like that bum?" (Toots' favorite term
of endearment used only for those he loved.) "He'd come in here with his
friends, dead broke, order everything in the house and when the check came, he'd sign with
a big flourish, leaving a large tip for the waiter and captain, and I'd have to give them
the tip! At one time he was into me for over $10,000. I gotta hand it to him,
thought,when he got into the big money, he came by and handed me the cash, saying,
"Here's what I'm sure I owe you."
I used to go to Toots' a lot. One night he told me a couple had come in
from Omaha and complained to him bitterly about their steaks. They said, "We
have much better steaks than this in Omaha." Toots, ever the genial host, said,
"So what , when you're through eating, you're still in Omaha!"
Possibly inspired by the ranks of New York professional athletes sharing the
festive board one night, Jackie suggested that Toots and he have a race around the block
for double or nothing on the bill. A race between two men of such girth that the
tying of their shoes required planning and stamina, had the patrons loud in their comments,
none of which will be repeated here. Jackie had only one stipulation. If they
both ran the same direction, a copy might take out the two of them, thinking he had felons
fleeing the scene.
Jackie would run west on 52nd, north on 56th Avenue, east on 53rd,
south on 5th, and west on 52nd to the restaurant. Toots would do the same course in
reverse. There is no record of any bets being laid by the gambling crowd at the bar,
as the "sprinters" took their marks and then hurled themselves down the
sidewalks. Pedestrians leapt for cover rarely having seen fat, middle-aged men
charging down the street either running from or to cardiac arrest.
Glider Gleason flagged a taxi on 6th, sank into the back seat as they covered
53rd and pulled up halfway down the block at 5th. Five bucks for one-block ride was aces
with the hackie. Swifty Shor panted to his own door only to find Jackie toasting him with
his own Scotch.
When Toots finally could breathe again and the blood returned to his brain,
he recalled that he had not passed or been passed by Jackie at any time in the race.
Toots never used foul language but he came close that night. Jackie paid.
He never said whether it was doubled or not.