Did You Ever Whirl on a Rainbow? I Did One Night.
Mother was a romantic. She loved the movies and peppered her conversations with descriptions of scenes or quotes, such as “Remember what Clark Gable said to Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind…” or “she has that vulnerable quality like Katherine Hepburn in Holiday….” Life was a movie reel. I inherited the gene.
My own life was a movie reel also—only not quite as romantic. However, there were moments. Ah, yes, there were moments. And one that I remember fondly occurred at the Rainbow Room, atop the NBC Building in Rockefeller Center.
If you’re younger than me—and who isn’t?—you might not have heard of the Rainbow Room, but this iconic restaurant in Rockefeller Center was like stepping right into the silver screen. Picture a round room with all glass walls on the 65th floor with incredible New York City skyline views. Add the fact that the room rotates, so wherever you are, your panoramic view is ever changing. Throw in a large dance floor, a full and fabulous dance band complete with singers with romantic voices and beautiful people dressed in elegant evening clothes dancing and dining on exquisite food. I can hear the music now.
Rumor has it the ghosts of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse, and Gene Kelly live in the broom closet off the kitchen. They come out at night after the last band member has packed up his horn and gone home, to waltz around the room and gaze at the view. No really, this is true, I swear! They’ve been seen and the music can be heard two floors below.
It was a place I always wanted to go, so you can imagine how delighted I was when my husband, Bob, announced he was taking me there for my birthday. More than one notch above our usual, the Sherwood Diner! Bob wasn’t known for extravagance.
I pulled a gown from my closet that I had purchased for a black-tie wedding and got my hair done. Bob, the man I was used to seeing in a plaid flannel shirt and a fishing vest, looked absolutely dashing in his best navy-blue suit. We drove down the West Side Highway from Connecticut, enjoying the beautiful summer evening, the river and relatively little traffic. I was pleasantly surprised again when, instead of circling for an hour searching for a parking space, which was normally 20 blocks from our destination—without saying a word and with an ever-so-slight grin on his face, he pulled directly into the Rockefeller Center garage. This had to be a dream!
We entered and took the elevator up to the 65th floor and when the doors opened, I was absolutely certain I was in that dream and could step from cloud to cloud to our table. The dining tables in the Rainbow Room are arranged in a semi-circle around the perimeter on tiers, each tier just one step up from the other, so each has a clear view of the dance floor. The maître D showed us to our table on the second tier and I didn’t know where to rest my dancing eyes first. All around me was the magnificent New York skyline. In front of me, dancing as if there was no gravity, were The Beautiful People—at least they were all beautiful to my eyes.
Bob, my prince charming of the night, was a great dancer and we danced every dance. In between, some wine and wonderful food was served. At least I assume it was wonderful. I don’t think I really tasted it.
When the waiter put our entrée in front of us, he winked at me and with a mischievous little grin asked, “Are you enjoying the evening, ma’am?”
“Oh, yes, I am,” I answered.
I glanced at Bob and noticed that he had the same grin as the waiter. He knew, too.
We closed the place, staying until the band packed up to leave and every last table was cleared. I floated out the door, followed by the horn player, and as I walked past the broom closet, I gave a little sign to the occupants that it was OK to come out now.
In 2012, The Rainbow Room was granted landmark status and solidified the former hot spot’s permanent role in New York City’s cultural history. I have it on the best authority that Fred, Ginger, Gene and Cyd still come out of that broom closet to dance. No, really, I swear it’s true! I can close my eyes and see it.
As for me, I only need listen to Johnny Mathis singing “Ride on a Rainbow,” and I am once again back there dancing with Bob.
Always practical, Rosemary Cass traded her dreams of writing the great American novel to become a pharmacist, working in marketing, then 25 years heading her own executive search firm, all for the pharmaceutical industry. Finally, she is pursuing her dream, blogging at seeingitclearlynow.com, a blog designed to enrich the lives of older adults.
A photo of Madonna drinking a Cosmopolitan in the Rainbow Room at a Grammy Awards dinner in 1995 skyrocketed the cocktail to stardom.
And speaking of Cosmos, SEX AND THE CITY is coming back! The new title, AND JUST LIKE THAT will feature the lives of 3 of the 4 famous friends (sadly no Samantha) as they navigate life in their 50’s. Production is set to start in the spring. I can’t wait!