As every local New Yorker knows, a visit to Times Square is about as appealing as a rush hour subway ride. But amidst the millions of visitors that throng here the year round, there is one tiny oasis where one can escape the maddening crowds. Hidden away on West 44th is Jimmy’s Corner, a bar small in size but big in charm, that most people walk past without knowing they’ve just passed by one of the great bars of Manhattan, and one of the last surviving remnants of old Times Square.
When Jimmy Glenn, legendary boxing trainer and cut man opened his bar in 1971, Times Square’s neon signs weren’t advertising the Hard Rock Cafe and Bubba Gump Shrimp – this was this was the Times Square seen in The Deuce – peep shows, grind houses and worn down saloons.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Jimmy’s Corner is that it is tiny. There is barely room enough for three people to stand up to a long bar. The second thing people notice is that every inch is covered with boxing memorabilia.
Jimmy Glenn grew up a boxer. First in the New York Police Department, and as a Golden Glove champion, hovering between the welter and middle-weights. He ended up with a record of 14 wins and 3 losses. Given one of those losses was to Floyd Patterson, that’s an admirable record.
Jimmy took his love of boxing to the streets of East Harlem, where he ran a church sponsored boxing program to the troubled youths of the neighourhood. Jimmy must have been an inspiring influence; for this was a boxer and man who had once trained and sparred with Ali. He opened a gym in Times Square in the 1970s, right in the midst of the grime and sleaze, the Times Square Boxing Club. He also opened a cosy, friendly neighbourhood bar around the corner, in 1971.
In Jimmy’s Corner the Christmas lights are on all year round. The narrow windows are permanently steamed up, looking out onto 44th Street. The drinks are basic but cheap. “I’m not going to be a billionaire”, says Jimmy. “Its too late now. So I sell $3 dollar beers.”
Jimmy’s Corner remains one of the last heartwarming ports of call in one of New York’s most iconic and lost neighbourhoods. It is a bar that is more Pottersville than Bedford Falls, and all the more charming for it. It is a bar steeped in the warmth and camaraderie of an old New York boxing gym, smelling of whiskey and the heavy bag.
Every time we’ve stepped inside to escape the din of Times Square, we’ve had a welcoming, friendly time. During an evening there, you can almost feel the presence of Joe Louis, the Louisville Lip and Rocky Marciano, not least in the bell which ring last orders, for it is the old corner bell from Madison Square Garden, which sits on the left hand side of one of the most special bars in New York.
“It’s my museum”, explains the owner, and one time sparring partner of Mohammed Ali. “I love this place.” If you ever find yourself stumbling bewildered around the din of Times Square, you will too.
What You’re Having; $3 domestic in a bottle, shot of Jameson’s. 140, West 44th Street, New York, NY, 10036. This story was originally written for the always excellent www.messynessychic, friend of the SGE and a first rate resource for those who like their travel with a dose of the vintage.