I came to know Robert when we were both writing for Bloomberg. We became fast friends and kept in touch over the years. I wrote about art (or tried to) and Robert wrote about music, theater and film. Back then Bloomberg’s culture desk was a ridiculously difficult place to try to do anything approaching good or accurate work, and without Robert’s humor, good cheer and ability to handle the boss I never would have lasted as long as I did. In part because Bloomberg — for whom Robert wrote for five-plus years, at least — has yet to run an obituary or remembrance, I thought I’d share a Robert story here.
I particularly recall a late afternoon Robert and I spent in the Marc Newsom-designed eatery at Lever House, in New York. Neither of us were restaurant critics, but our boss decided that we should each end our next review with a dining recommendation. As a result, I was impelled to join a review of Jean Helion at the National Academy of Design with a Cafe Sabarsky recommendation and a look at Tony Oursler at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a visit to Lever House’s restaurant.
Robert and I thought the assignment was weird, our boss’ latest way of saying to us that I don’t care about your knowledge about your field and critics are disposable dilettantes who can write about anything, so just do what I tell you. Bloomberg had a dining critic and we were sure he’d rightly feel like we were stepping on his toes if we took the assignment seriously, so we decided to see how quirky a Bloomberg-mandated endorsement of the chosen eatery we could create.
With a totally over-the-top, campy mission in mind, we chose Lever House Restaurant, a Newsom design straight out of a Sean Connery-era James Bond film. We yukked it up good, made jokes about whether SPECTRE was listening to our conversation, guessed about whether the average age disparity between male customers and their dates was over or under 30 years, and so on.
Sometime over the course of looking at the dinner and drinks menus Robert hit upon how we should handle the assignment: I was the one who was writing up this meal, so I should order a drink that was completely incompatible with my entree and then present the pairing as the world’s most natural duet. (Of course this plan left Robert eating something sensible and tasty.) Here’s what I wrote:
I ended my art crawl at the Lever House Restaurant, a hyper-air-conditioned cavern designed by Marc Newson, a Brit who designs everything from eateries to watches and utensils with a sensibility that is simultaneously retro and futuristic.
Lever House Restaurant is in that vein: If Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, which opened three years after Lever House, had included an jet cabin of the future, this is what it would look like. Several of the dining areas are even recessed into what look like over-sized airplane windows.
A friend and I supped over foie gras (for me) and poached turbot (for him). He accented his meal with a wine from Long Island, while I couldn’t resist a summery watermelon-puree margarita. Our early dinner cost $125.
Washing back foie gras with a watermelon margarita was vintage Robert: Cloying, knowing, and completely silly fun. If you’re in midtown tonight, order it up and think of him.