Jimmy Glenn was the biggest man I’ve ever known.
He wasn’t the tallest, though the average barber would need a step stool to cut his hair. He wasn’t the widest, though you could take the R train from one shoulder to the other. But framed in the bar that bore his name, Jimmy’s Corner, a comically-narrow boozer on East 44th Street in NYC, he seemed a human tower, his head brushing up against the chipped ceiling paint, his booming baritone filling the room like the ring announcers of the sport to which he devoted his life.
Jimmy Glenn was a big man, a towering vestige of a New York City that no longer exists. A gin joint owner like you saw in the movies. With personality. With heart. With compassion. He didn’t just want to know your name and what you were drinking. He wanted to know who you were, what you did, who you loved, what made you happy. He didn’t put out shitty sausage and peppers every day for free to bring in customers. He put out shitty sausage and peppers every day for free because he knew some people chose to spend the last fiver in their wallet on a pint and he wanted to make sure they ate too. I know. I was one of those people.
Jimmy’s dead now, another casualty of this fucking asshole of a virus. But there is talk that his son Adam will continue on with the bar. And god willing, he will, if only to preserve it’s walls, every inch covered with memorabilia and photographs marking Jimmy’s life in and around the ring. He got his tooth broken by Floyd Patterson as an amateur fighter. He operated a Times Square gym where Ali trained. He worked as a cut man for Cassidy and Correa. He managed and trained a million young fighters, many of them meeting with him in the tiny back storeroom while we drank and looked in, like Kay looking in on Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather.
The Boston Globe‘s Bob Ryan, who I once shared a drink (or six) with in the joint on the night of a Joe Calzaghe fight at the Garden (I think), called it “the last honest bar in NYC”. It ain’t the last, not with Spring Lounge still around and the stairway down to Josie Woods open. But it is an honest bar. A real bar in a Times Square area overflowing with bullshit. Elmo is a knockoff. The Naked Cowboy has clothes on. It’s not that Jimmy’s Corner doesn’t belong where it is. It’s that everything else doesn’t.
I’d say I regret not going there more but fuck, man, I try. It’s hard to get a seat at Jimmy’s because there ain’t many and why would anyone want to leave the place? An Irish buddy of mine came over to New York and asked me for bar recommendations. I gave him one, Jimmy’s Corner. The next day I got a text, “If there’s a better bar in the world, I’ve never been in it.” And he’d been in quite a few.
If ever there was a better bar owner in this city, I never met him. RIP Jimmy Glenn. When this all passes, and they reopen these bars we love so much, yours will be the first I visit. And I’ll pay proper respect.