It’s not often one meets a Hollywood starlet from the golden age of film. But on one wintry evening in the early 90s, Fay Wray, who enchanted us all in the original version of King Kong, came to dine at Fiorello’s.
Canadian-born Wray started her career playing roles in silent comedy shorts before coming to the attention of Austrian-American director and actor Erich von Stroheim, who gave Wray her first big break by casting her as the female lead in The Wedding March. From there she appeared in many Paramount-produced pictures opposite such leading men like Gary Cooper and William Powell. But she will be forever remembered as the girl in King Kong’s hand as the giant ape scaled the Empire State Building.
On this evening, I was just about to leave, as my shift had ended when a small, dainty woman with luminous eyes came in with a much younger gentleman after attending the opera at Lincoln Center. I showed them to a table and politely asked if they had enjoyed the performance. The older woman replied and was effusive in her praise and said it was one of the best performances she had seen in a long time. As our small talk continued for a while, her male companion asked me to join them. I think they took a shine to me. I said I was just about to leave as I had finished my shift, and they said it was all the more reason to unwind with them. So I did.
As we continued our delightful conversation, her friend asked if I enjoyed the film. And I said, “Naturally, of course.” “Then may I introduce you to Fay Wray,” he said. Confused, I said, “What? Do you mean from King Kong?” And Fay replied, “Yes, that’s me.” I could not believe it. I was completely star-struck. Well, we all sat there, ordered dinner, and conversed for 2 or 3 hours until closing. When the time came for them to pay, I picked up the tab and told them how much I appreciated spending time with them and that, for this delight, dinner was on me (or rather Shelly Fireman, the restaurant owner).
In 2004, Wray died in her sleep at 96. Shortly after, the lights of the iconic Empire State Building that King Kong had scaled with her in hand were lowered in her memory.
Former restauranteur, musician, concert promoter, producer, publisher, manager, and impresario, Charles Carlini has synthesized these roles to become a dynamic force in the music industry–noted for his ability to bring diverse talent together to create innovative concerts and recordings that reach and move music-lovers everywhere.