Felice on 'The Reading Life'
When I was in New Orleans at the Saints & Sinners Conference in March I was interviewed by Susan Larson for her program The Reading Life at WWNO FM Radio. Susan was a long time book reviewer for the Times Picayune and a great fan of authors and readers.
Check out her conversation with me about my memoir Nights at Rizzoli and also with author Greg Iles. You can find it on wwno.org under Programs, The Reading Life.
"Nights At Rizzoli"
Review by Kevin Brannon
February 19, 2015
In his new memoir, Nights at Rizzoli, Felice Picano resists the temptation to think of late night Manhattan as an “elite city.” However, it is an apt phrase for the world he inhabited in the early and mid-’70s, when he worked nights at the old Rizzoli Bookstore, just south of the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue. These were years in which a night on the job might involve a brush with haughty Mick Jagger or a sweetly unassuming Jackie Onassis, Greta Garbo or Salvador Dalí. Years that left him free to roam the city after hours, to explore the gay bars and the back rooms of the West Village, the dilapidated piers along the Hudson where gay men gathered for sex all night long. Nights at Rizzoli is a brief, sketchbook record of Picano’s encounters in both realms of a New York City that feels far more glamorous, dangerous and free, and somehow more fraught with history, than the one we know today.
See more at: Lambda Literary
The Bookstore That Bewitched Mick Jagger, John Lennon, and Greta Garbo
The Rizzoli in New York City was no ordinary bookstore in its ’70s heyday. Celebrities flocked to this glamorous and buzzy temple of literature and culture.
From The Daily Beast
December 16, 2014
When Rizzoli bookshop closed this past year on 57th Street, many people lamented its loss. It was the last really elegant shop of its kind left in Manhattan. But for some of us, while its closing was sad, it was a tempered sadness. After all it wasn’t the real Rizzoli bookstore that had opened at 712 Fifth Avenue in the 1960s. That particular shop, sold to Bendel a decade ago or so before, had been the ne plus ultra of American bookstores. Those of us who worked there during its glory years in the 1970s and early 1980s knew how absolutely unique it was, as I hope to show in my book, Nights at Rizzoli.
Italian media mogul Angelo Rizzoli had an empire of newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations throughout Italy, and bought the building because his reporters and media staff needed a New York headquarters. The bookstore was opened as a way of presenting Italian books and culture to Manhattanites.
It was never intended to do anything as vulgar as actually earn money. If anything, it would lose money gently, elegantly, hopefully not very much at one time. Because the shop was emblematic of that peculiar Italian institution known as La Faccia, i.e. presenting the best face possible.
And did it ever! Situated between 55th and 56th streets on what real-estate brokers dubbed Millionaires Row, Rizzoli was next door to Harry Winston Jewelers, across the street from Tiffany’s and George Jensen Fine Glass.
Article continues here
Nights at Rizzoli
Salvador Dalí, Jerome Robbins, Jackie Onassis. Gregory Peck, Mick Jagger—S. J. Perelman—I. M. Pei. Philip Johnson, Josephine Baker, John Lennon: they, and so many more who made New York City the center of the universe in the 1970s, all had one thing in common besides their adopted hometown—they shopped at a legendary palace of books, music and art: Rizzoli Books at 712 Fifth Avenue. There, Kennedys and Rockefellers mingled with tourists and “regular” customers under the watchful gaze of sophisticated employees, themselves a multi-talented, international collection of artists, scholars and rogues.
Nights at Rizzoli is the memoir of Felice Picano, an aspiring but near-starving young writer who in 1971 lucked into a part-time job at the stunningly elegant store via a friend. It metamorphosed into a life-changing experience, one that exposed him to some of the brightest lights in the world’s cultural capital. At the store, he himself became a key player on a stage that opened every night to a new drama that often featured romance, at times violence, and of course always the books and their readers.
And when his shift was over, in this post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS era, the handsome young bookstore manager stepped from one world into another, prowling the piers, bars and very private clubs of a different New York City.
Author: Felice Picano
224 pages, including 5 black & white photographs
Paperback ISBN 978-1-939293-67-1 • E-book 978-1-939293-68-8
$24.95 at Amazon.com Buy it Here