The Blackout Club
At 5:23 PM on November 9, 1965, New York City, along with the rest of the Northeast, suffered from a “significant disruption in the supply of electricity” – better known as The Northeast Blackout. However, at the Waldorf Astoria on the night of November 9th, it is no surprise that many events taking place surprisingly went on as usual.
Though such an emergency is a cause for concern, our guests and team members persevered. They continued to carry on with the evening by shedding their own positive light upon this dark situation – quite literally. In our famous Grand Ballroom, the closing dinner of the National Commercial Finance Conference took place under the illumination of candlelight—the reception before dinner, the menu as planned, the musicians playing, and the guest speaking giving his prepared address, of course without the benefit of a microphone. With candles gleaming on every table and the kitchen ranges being operated by gas, The Grand Ballroom and both the Bull and Bear and Peacock Alley restaurants were able to produce almost all of the regular menu items and keep our guests well fed and entertained.
After the power was restored and the guests had gone home, Frank Wangeman and the rest of our hotel’s management felt that appreciation was owed to those who experienced this state of emergency under our care – thus the “The Blackout Club” was born. Membership cards were sent out to those who were with us on that November night, inviting them back to celebrate the anniversary of the New York City blackout. On the night of November 9, 1966, at exactly 5:23 P.M., the lights of the hotel were turned off and guests dined by candlelight in the Bull and Bear Restaurant while enjoying a special “Blackout themed” menu which included black angus sirloin steak, black eyed peas, black bean soup and Black Russian cocktails (among others options). Specialty buttons, tags and even napkins were also produced for this occasion!
For years this anniversary celebration went on and for years the guests who experienced the 1965 New York City blackout kept on coming back as a tribute to the Waldorf and our ability to provide true Waldorf service even in the “darkest” of times. As our motto goes “The Difficult Immediately – the Impossible only a few seconds longer.”
For more information on the Blackout Club and other unforgettable Waldorf moments, please visit our archive website at www.waldorfarchive.org!
– Erin Allsop, Archivist of The Waldorf Astoria New York
Erin is a graduate student in the Masters program of Library and Information Science at CUNY – Queens College, where she is focusing her studies on Archival Management and Preservation. You may contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries or questions you may have.