I’ve written about the old Lone Star Café space at 61 Fifth Avenue a few times here (notably here, and more recently here). Honestly speaking, while I certainly remember its iconic roof-lizard (that now lives in Texas, incidentally), I don’t believe I ever set foot in the place during that particular incarnation. I did visit the Lone Star Roadhouse in midtown (right near the Roseland Ballroom, if memory serves), which was an ancillary operation, but I was largely too young to have visited the Lone Star Café during its allegedly rollicking heyday. My father worked across the street at Forbes Magazine for several years, and I believe he enjoyed going to the Lone Star. Decades later, the Lone Star is gone, as is the building that housed it. By that same token, Forbes Magazine is no longer anchored on that strip of Fifth Avenue (they’re now based in Jersey City). My father, too, is no longer with us, having passed away in 2011.
In any case, prior to being the Lone Star Café, of course, that stately space on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 13th Street was a majestic Schraft’s ice cream parlor. The image up top of its interior comes from that particular era.
I honestly don’t remember why we started going there, but as I’ve alluded on older posts, my good friend Rob D. briefly dated a young lady who bartended there (in true `90s fashion, we may have initially met her on the inaugural Lollapalooza tour with Jane’s Addiction, but I may be thinking of someone else). Regardless, in short order, we started hanging around Mr. Fuji’s Tropicana, as she let us drink for free. I do seem to remember that this woman lived in a windowless, basement-level apartment on Mulberry, just south of Bleecker Street (in a building that Jean-Michel Basquiat tagged the exterior of in “Downtown 81,” … incidentally).
Strangely enough, my one vivid memory about hanging around Mr. Fuji’s was of Rob and I sitting at the bar (surprise!) and head-banging in unison to the mellifluous strains of “The Immigrant Song” by ye olde Led Zeppelin. After we enjoyed that hammering of the gods for its glorious two minutes and twenty-five seconds, whomever was deejaying saw fit to immediately play it again. We did not protest. This continued for at least three or four more inexplicable airings, until one of us – probably me -- let out an emphatic “ONE MORE TIME…!” as if on cue prior to its fifth spin. For whatever reason, this was not well received, and I believe we may have been labeled as a couple of “wiseasses.” Guilty as charged, your honor.
Anyway, Mr. Fuji’s Tropicana did not last all that long, and it closed at some point in the mid-`90s, although I believe Rob’s dalliance with its comely barkeep ended well prior to that. The next operation to set up shop in the space was a deli, which seemed somewhat tragic, given the lavish architectural aplomb of the joint. That lasted into the new millennium before it, too, closed. After that, the space was left to rot for several years before it was eventually razed to make way for the condo that stands in its footprint today.
So, why I am bringing any of this up? Well, no one seems to remember the space’s fleeting tenure as Mr. Fuji’s Tropicana. Ultimately, one cannot blame them – it wasn’t exactly a hotspot of any genuine note. The building seemed to forever be referred to as either “the old Lone Star” or “the old Schraft’s,” which would invariably prompt me to laboriously dust off the anecdotes that you just suffered through above. With this in mind, you can imagine my glee upon finding the video below.
Ostensibly a music video by a kitschy local trio called The Gloo Girls (where are they today, one wonders?), several shots within “Barbie USA” were filmed on the unmistakable upper floor of Mr. Fuji’s.