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In just a few days, La Grenouille (3 E. 52nd St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-752-1495) will start celebrating its 50th anniversary. Charles Masson, pictured here, is the heart and soul of what is arguably the last true French restaurant in New York City. Since it opened in the middle of a snowstorm back in 1962, La Grenouille has hosted guests like Andy Warhol, Manolo Blahnik, and Richard Meier. Masson joined his mother, Gisèle, as co-head when his father passed away in 1975, and he’s been in charge of everything including the extraordinary flower arrangments ever since.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

On the day of my visit, Masson and the restaurant’s steward, Ismael Torres, were finishing work on 57 flower arrangements. The restaurant has evolved over the years but has retained its character, attention to detail, and impeccable service.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Charles’s father, Charles Eugène Masson, came to New York with the legendary restaurateur Henri Soulé when he opened Le Pavillon Français at the 1939 World’s Fair.

Photo: Courtesy of La Grenouille

La Grenouille circa 1939. In 1962, Charles’s mother rented the first floor of the building in an attempt to lure his father back from the S.S. Independence (they bought the entire building a few years later). There’s so much history in this little midtown space, which was originally built as a carriage house for the Plant-family mansion. During the Second World War, the painter Bernard Lamotte lived on the second floor, where he entertained the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Photo: Courtesy of La Grenouille

These stairs go up to a tiny secret room at the very top of the building that used to be Lamotte’s painting studio.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

These days, the secret room is a refuge for Masson between lunch and dinner service.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Masson drapes the velvet banquettes in huge swaths of canvas to protect them when he arranges the flowers. The interiors are rich with history: “Every table has its stories to tell,” teases Charles, who reveals that both Andy Warhol and Truman Capote liked to reserve the same one.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

La Grenouille is ready for the holidays and its 50th anniversary festivities.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

This incredible “voiture” serving cart is from 1947.

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Lamotte’s easel in the upstairs dining room. Merci et bravo, La Grenouille! To 50 more years!

Photo: Wendy Goodman

Craig Murphey (left) Ten Eyck Street and Union Avenue, Williamsburg. Early in the morning of October 18, 2007, Murphey was biking home from escorting his date to her South Williamsburg apartment. According to police reports, Murphey attempted to outrun a gas truck turning left on Ten Eyck Street. His pelvis shattered on impact, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. In his honor, over 40 friends have since received tattoos that read BE BETTER.

Frank C. Simpson Linden Boulevard near 175th Street, St. Albans. Simpson, a janitor returning from the evening shift at a Con Edison facility, was hit by a Dodge Stratus on November 9, 2006.

Jose Mora (left) North Conduit and McKinley Avenues, Cypress Hills. On September 4, 2006, 11-year-old Mora was on his way to the barber for a back-to-school haircut; that week, he was to start the sixth grade at nearby Junior High School 302. He was struck by a Honda while walking his bike across an intersection.

Jonathan Neese South 4th Street and Roebling Street, Williamsburg. On August 12, 2006, Neese, a bike messenger known as “Bronx Jon,” was struck by a livery cab while cycling from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Sam Khaled Hindy (left) Base of the Manhattan Bridge. On November 16, 2007, Hindy was run over after mistakenly entering a Manhattan Bridge lane reserved for cars.

Habian Rodriguez Main Street and Horace Harding Expressway, Flushing. On September 1, 2007, Rodriguez collided with a city bus and died 30 minutes later.

Elizabeth Padilla (left) Fifth Avenue and Prospect Place, Park Slope. Commuting to the Brooklyn Bar Association on June 9, 2005, Padilla swerved to avoid the open door of a parked P.C. Richard’s truck. She lost control of her bike and fell underneath the wheels of an ice-cream delivery truck.

Juan Luis Solis East Gun Hill Road and Bouck Avenue, the Bronx. Attempting to pass a double-parked car on June 22, 2007, Solis was struck by a box truck and died of severe head trauma. The truck did not stop.

Jeffrey Moore (left) Chauncey Street and Rockaway Avenue, Bed-Stuy. According to witnesses, on May 29, 2007, Moore was run over (twice) by his girlfriend Jeanine Harrington. She was indicted on charges of murder and criminal possession of a weapon (her Nissan Pathfinder).

Derek Lake Houston Street and La Guardia Place. On June 26, 2006, Lake reportedly skidded on a steel construction plate and was crushed underneath the wheels of a passing truck.

Elijah Armand Wrancher (left) Springfield Boulevard and 130th Avenue, Springfield Gardens. On August 28, 2007, 12-year-old Wrancher attempted to ride his bicycle while holding onto a moving truck. He lost his grip and fell under the truck’s rear wheel.

David Smith Sixth Avenue and 36th Street. On December 5, 2007, Smith was biking up Sixth Avenue when the passenger-side door of a parked pickup truck opened unexpectedly. He was knocked into the path of an oncoming truck.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Fall Fashion Features

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.

 

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.
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