Last night Tom Wolfe and his wife Sheila hosted a wonderful book launch party for Run to the Roar at their home on the Upper East Side. It was a varoom, varoom party, with no Bad Guys.* Our literary agent, David Black, was in a borough-hopping journey, going from his offices in Brooklyn to our party in Manhattan to his own office party in Queens. Jimmy Jones, the president of Trinity, was there, as was filmmaker Annie Sundberg, as was George Kellner, George Weiss and probably some other bold-face people named George.
Two of the guests, photographer Ben Collier and our Penguin publisher Adrian Zackheim, were lamenting the closure, the day before of their squash club, the Printing House.
Founded in the eighties in an old printing factory, Printing House was a legendary part of the New York squash scene: active (tons of league play and very hard to get court time in primte time), hip (it was located in the West Village, almost Tribeca) and raffish (there was a lot of boxing on the ground floor and starlets sunning themselves on the roof). There were originally four hardball courts and five racquetball courts until a conversion in the mid-nineties left the club with some twenty-footers and five years ago they ended the construction with five softball courts.
Anders Wahlstedt worked there soon after arriving from Sweden. Chris Widney was a more recent pro and the last pro was Sean Gibbons who had ambitious ideas. Sean hosted a men’s pro event, The Village Open, at the club one year and used it as a launching pad to run a U.S. Open in midtown the following year. Sean, we learned last night, is also the son of the former head of Hackley School, where my wife used to teach.
Unlike most clubs with squash courts in Manhattan, Printing House was very diverse, especially gender-wise. It got its women-friendly aura in part because Ellie Pierce and Lissa Hunnisker, among others, taught there, Ellie in fact ran the show for five years.
This fall, the Equinox health club chain bought the club and as of yesterday began converting the courts to yoga studios, spinning rooms, etc. Eastern Athletic in Brooklyn, with its four new squash courts, has offered free membership to the two hundred and fifty suddenly court-less Printing House members. And there is a lot of talk (see their Facebook page) of building a new squash club somewhere downtown. Josh Easdon, another Printing House teaching pro and a filmmaker (he did the great film on Hashim Khan that came out recently) is probably taking his junior program to CityView in Long Island City.
The loss of Printing House is another reminder of the many squash clubs that have come and gone in Manhattan: City Athletic Club, Downtown Athletic Club, St. Bartholomew’s Community Club, Lone Star Boat Club, Fifth Avenue Racquet Club, Doral Inn, Park Avenue Squash & Racquet Club, Brown University Club, Seventh Regiment Squash Club, Cornell Club of New York, British Schools & Universities Club, Park Place Squash Club, First Avenue Squash Club, Broad Street Squash Club. Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, Manhattan Squash Club, Williams Club, Union League Club and the Dartmouth College Club. Am I forgetting some?
It is just brutal, in New York, to ask for six hundred and seventy-two square feet of space for just two people to use.
*The Bad Guys built themselves a little world and got onto something good and then the Establishment, all sorts of Establishments, began closing in, with a lot of cajolery, thievery and hypnosis, and in the end, thrown into a vinyl Petri dish, the only way left to tell the whole bunch of them where to head in was to draw them a huge asinine picture of themselves, which they were sure to like.”
—Tom Wolfe, “There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy Kolored (Thphhhhhh!) Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (Rahghhh!) Around the Bend (Brummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . . . )” 1963