3. Men Came Up with Creative Ways to Get Upstairs (They Weren’t allowed Past the Lobby)

Oct. 19, 1963, Saturday Evening Post, Photo Courtesy of Nancy Sirkis, Provided by Paulina Bren

Until the hotel officially welcomed men as guests in 1981, they weren’t allowed past the lobby. At night, the male elevator operators were actually switched out for female operators. In the lobby, beneath the mezzanine, the Barbizon boys would wait for their dates on Saturday nights. The lobby of the Barbizon and the hotel’s adjoining coffee shop became preferred hangouts for New York City men. Even noted author J.D. Salinger, famous for his novel The Catcher in the Rye, was known to hang out at the coffee shop in hopes of getting a date with one of the Barbizon’s “dolls.”

Just because men weren’t allowed upstairs doesn’t mean they didn’t try to get up there. A handful of men claim to have been successful, but the majority were not. Their attempts to impersonate doctors, plumbers, or electricians – the only men allowed on the upper floors – always failed. One man, actor, and storyteller Malachy McCourt says he spent a night in one of the Barbizon’s floral curtained rooms. Bren relates in her book that McCourt was able to zip past the front desk sentries with “alcohol giving him confidence and rugby training a fast run,” as his date kept the staff distracted.