Drinkin’ Whiskey at a Working Girl’s Apartment in Staten Island


Working Girl is a movie from 1988 about a Staten Island gal trying to make it big in uppity, high-class New York City. Now, back in 1988, I was a 16 year old metal head chick who could give a shit about Staten Island. I had never been there and my dream job if I ever worked in “the city” was gonna be at like a record store or a bar. I’d have tattoos (cause they were still illegal here back then, such a rebel I would be!) and colored hair, and a loft apartment in The Village. It would be totally awesome.

Alas, I eventually became that working girl in the city, in an office in mid-town and eventually, I moved to, yeah, Staten Island. Fine, laugh. Screw you. What-ever! At least I got a bunch of tattoos. Anyhow, I ended up seeing Working Girl – but only cause there was nothing else on TV and besides since I lived there, I was wondering if I could spot any places I knew and eventually I did, hence this here blog.

The place in question is Tess McGill’s apartment. It was, and still is, a run-down old building at the foot of York Ave. and Richmond Terrace. Please note, by the way, that York Avenue is a steep hill and I, as usual, took a crooked picture. Sorry ’bout that.

I of course  started internet researching to see if I could find out anything cool about the place. It is pretty neat, I love the columns and the yellow railing. It’s one of the few old places left on the North Shore, the rest being destroyed by stupid gentrification. I have a fondness for old structures and prefer it when the aren’t restored and show their real history. They aren’t putting on airs, they are wise and seasoned and have seen more than you or  I ever will. But I digress. As I was saying, I started looking for stuff and found zilch. I had to change my search from the actual number address to simply using the street names in quotes and finally I got my first clue, that it had once been referred to as The Richmond Apartments. So I searched that but discovered that those are across the street on the northwest corner “a five story brick building”, which this is not, this is northeast. Damn.

So I searched and searched. I discovered that a doctor named Anna A. Stein was among 146 physicians busted in a sting in 1932 for prescribing liquor. Well, that kinda sucks, but I guess being prohibition and all, people were gonna get their fix somehow and there were people out there who were gonna fix them. But before you go calling young Anna a criminal or a drug dealer (she was born about 1899, the daughter of Joseph J. Stein, a German immigrant,  who owned a grocery store.  just sayin’) remember, there were people out there that used booze and medicine. Medicine that was sanctioned by the government. Medicine that was advertised, as it was here in the NY Sun on Sunday, February 9th, 1902. Is this not awesome? I came upon this most amazing advertisement while looking for cool stuff about the movie building. What a groovy coincidence, dontcha think? The same politicians who promoted this stuff for good health and apparently saving your damn life, went and took it away. See, down on the bottom it says “the only whiskey recognized by the government as medicine.” Yes, I know they don’t specify “which” government, but being from Rochester, NY I’m guessing it was the U. S.? In an ad from The Amsterdam Evening Recorder in 1905, “America’s Champion Heavy-Weight Wrestler”, Tom Jenkins, said it was the only medicine he used the entire time he held the championship belt. I bet it was. Duffy’s, although quite popular,  wasn’t the only whiskey touted as an elixir, there were lots of brands like A. R. Tudor’s and Royal Ruby Rye whiskies. If whiskey wasn’t your thing, there was always something called Buchu Gin used for the kidneys and bladder.

So Anna and her doctor friends were simply providing their patients with “medicine” they had been raised on.  Some of these were probably folks whose moms and dads and physicians had been curing them with liquor since they were kids. One minute this stuff is a liquid miracle, promoted everywhere,  and the next it’s the devil’s tonic. I am not by any means condoning alcohol for children or even for curing disease, but I can relate to these ancestors of ours. Just watch the news today – one day coffee is horrible, the next it’s awesome. Then some newly discovered berry can ward off cancer and then suddenly it’s the worse thing ever. Aargh!!!

And what on earth was the point of all this? I have no idea. I just found some cool pictures and thought I’d write about them. If you want to find some other nifty old ads and articles, check out the link up on the right called Old NY Newspaper Articles. That’s where I got this stuff.

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