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Back to?Columbus Restaurant

June 3, 2012
By KATHRYN SPIRA , For The Leader Herald

My dear friend Michael Grabow sent me a memento last week.

After he emailed me telling me he had a special surprise for me from the restaurant where I met him, he said a friend from those days had something that would take me back in time - which in fact it did.

I worked at Columbus Restaurant, located at 201 Columbus Ave. and 69th St., which was just a block away from Central Park West in the 1980s.

Article Photos

Kathryn Spira checks out the matchbox from her former workplace at Columbus Restaurant in New York City.
Photo submitted

The reason this is significant is because back then you could still smoke in restaurants.

I met Michael and his then-wife Joann while waiting on them. They were regulars that came week after week. Joanne has sadly passed away.

Now keep in mind this restaurant was a celebrity hang out. Michael and his wife were rare at the restaurant because they were not famous like so many of the other customers were.

This is where I met many the celebrities as I was waiting on them. Drew Barrymore and her family were some of the first people I waited on. Drew was just a young child back then and she got a real kick out of following me around "helping" me waitress. I remember she said she'd like to be a waitress someday. Right.

I also met Angelica Huston, who was also very nice and had a very throaty laugh.

So Mike sent me a matchbox that was used as advertising as well as a convenience for the smokers of the day. All it has on it is a picture of a yellow street sign that has the writing "Columbus." On one side of the matchbox it has the address and phone number of the restaurant and on the other side it has a spot to strike the match. This was long before the computer age so there is no website on it.

The matchbox design is typical of the vibe Columbus gave off. There is no hype about what great drinks or meals were served there, just the name, address and phone number. If you were interested you would find out more for yourself or you just got the message through word of mouth.

I remember Kevin Spacey and his entourage were regulars there and sat at table 5a, which was the celebrity table. They were always kind and good tippers.

The restaurant was owned by Paul and Charlie Hermann. Paul had appeared as an extra in movies and his brother Charlie was more the business man of the two. Charlie wasn't as nice as Paul, often yelling at the wait staff in front of customers. Yikes.

But overall, Columbus brings back great memories of the many celebrities I met there and great customers like Mike Grabow, who I especially want to thank for sending me this remembrance of my past history waitressing as I pursued my acting dreams.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at



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