From the Publisher
“These stories are wonderful! I saw Leonard Lyons on a lot of nights out in Manhattan and if he told these stories, they're true!”Kirk Douglas
“Leonard Lyons genuinely admired the people he wrote about. And knowing this, they would open up to him and tell him the colorful stories that were his bread and butter, and that the readers loved.” Charles Osgood, from the Foreword
“No one did more to promote New York’s deserved reputation as a capital of glamour and culture...a century after his birth, the legacy of Leonard Lyons lives on. The names on the marquee may have changed, but the memory of Leonard Lyons remains a guiding light in New York City’s cultural community.” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
“For four decades ‘The Lyons Den’ was an institution and will be invaluable to historians seeking behind-the-scenes glimpses of that long era.” Clyde Haberman, formerly of the New York Post (1976 tribute)
A veritable storm of outtakes from Leonard Lyons' "Lyons Den" society column from theNew York Post,which dazzle rather than titillate.
Lyons wrote his column for exactly 40 years, from 1934 to 1974—six columns a week, tallying 12,479 at 1,000 words each—about people in the public eye. He would leave for work as the sun went down, heading for a variety of hot spots—Toots Shor's, Downey's, Sardi's, El Morocco, the Stork Club, the Little Club, or all of them—gathering choice items for his readership. "Leonard Lyons genuinely admired the people he wrote about," writes Charles Osgood in the foreword. "And knowing this they would open up to him and tell him the colorful stories that were his bread and butter." Here, his son, TV and movie critic Jeffrey Lyons, sews together pieces from his father's columns into vest-pocket profiles of the famous, from Irving Berlin to Shelly Winters. For those who have never dined on Lyons' work, this collection is a treat: Lyons was a champion at getting telling quotes, material as pithy and vivid as the Algonquin Round Table—e.g., Lauren Bacall's response to whether she would curtsy to Prince Philip: "If he curtsies to me, I'll curtsy to him. In this world, you get what you give." Or Joe DiMaggio: "Never wake a ballplayer on a rainy morning." There are terrific comments from a stunning range of characters—Einstein, Rocky Marciano, Groucho Marx, Chagall—and if Lyons can seem a bit eager and star-struck ("There was never anyone like Oscar Levant"; "Orson Welles...the most amazing person you'd ever meet"), he takes such obvious pleasure in the telling that readers will be swept along with him.
An intoxicating selection of snippets from a columnist that journalist Pete Hamill called "an ornament to the profession."
Read an Excerpt
by Charles Osgood
In 1999 my CBS Sunday Morning TV program marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ernest Hemmingway with a broadcast from Finca Vigia, the Havana home where the great writer lived for twenty years. When I got home to New York, a neighbor in my apartment building told me he especially enjoyed that show because he'd been to Finca Vigia with his father to visit with Hemmingway and that Papa (Hemmingway) had taught him to shoot. How many people do you know who could say that?
&nsbp;&nsbp; That neighbor is Jeffery Lyons, the gifted writer, critic, television commentator, and author of this book. Jeffrey's father was the incomparable Leonard Lyons, who over a span of forty years, from 1934-1974 wrote a column called "The Lyons Den"which was published in the New York Post. and in 105 other newspapers around the world. These columns contained fascinating anecdotes about comics, singers, songwriters, painters, poets, politicians, presidents, dictators, restauranteurs, all sorts of people. Leonard Lyons disliked the word "celebrity". He used to say that if his sister in Brooklyn became newsworthy, he'd write about her. And when she did, he did.
&nsbp;&nsbp; Leonard Lyons was a lawyer by training. He got the job as a columnist, beating out five hundred other applicants after writing for the English page of the Jewish Daily Forward. "The Lyons Den" was decidedly not a gossip column. Lyons did not write about who was "running around", as George Burns used to put it, with whom, who was cheating or being cheated on, or who was arrested again for drunk driving or drug possession. You might find that sort of thing in Walter Winchell's or Earl Wilson's column, but never in "The Lyons Den." Jefferey's father believed, as do I, that good journalism does not require that you keep your fangs bared or you claws unsheathed. Lions might do that but not Lyons. It was not his objective to embarrass the people he wrote about or destroy their reputations. Like Charles Kuralt, Leonard Lyons genuinely admired the people he wrote about. And knowing this they would open up to him and tell him the colorful stories that were his bread and butter, and that the readers loved.