Magazine article The New Yorker


Magazine article The New Yorker


Article excerpt


Gem Spa, the narrow twenty-four-hour newsstand on St. Mark's Place, has served as a nerve center for generations of beats, hippies (undeterred by a sign reading, "No Combing of Hair--By Order of Health Dept"), rockers, and punks. The other day, Lily Tomlin, who is seventy-six, stopped by in the hope of getting an egg cream. Encountering a long line of customers waiting to buy magazines and lottery tickets, her personal assistant, Paul (burly, doting), shuffled her out.

"I used to live up the street--this is back in the sixties--on Fifth between Second and Third," Tomlin said. She wore a navy overcoat, a silk scarf, and sunglasses. "I'd come to Gem Spa on the weekends and I would rail against the rock culture, because it was so misogynistic. I would fight my way in, and I'd shout out from behind the throngs. I'd say, 'I need a box of business envelopes!' " She smiled the wide smile that introduced America to her gums.

Paul steered Tomlin into a quiet cafe, where she continued to reminisce. "We used to go down to Ratner's and you could just get a cup of coffee, but they'd give you those rolls , and sweet, creamery butter. And then I used to walk across Eighth Street to the Village, to the Bon Soir. It was a tiny little, you know, boite ." One night, she and a friend from Detroit, her home town, dropped in to hear Mabel Mercer. They'd scrounged up only fifteen cents for the coat check. "See, usually you gave a quarter. A quarter would be O.K. but not so great," Tomlin recalled. "He puts fifteen cents down, and the woman threw it at him! Ha!"

Paul presented her with a slice of cheesecake and an herbal tea with lemon.

"Oh, boy," she said. Tomlin was in town to promote Season 2 of the Netflix show "Grace and Frankie," in which she and Jane Fonda play chilly acquaintances whose husbands of forty years announce that they're gay, and in love with each other. An odd-couple scenario develops--a vodka-chugging Wasp (Fonda) and a bong-toting hippie (Tomlin) become unlikely pals.

For a series about septuagenarians developing a yam-based lube business (potential names include Vagikadabra, Menap plause, and Yam, Bam, Thank You, Ma'am), the first season amassed a large fan base. After Miley Cyrus tweeted, "I found my show! #GraceandFrankie on a bender! …

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