From our friends over at A Continuous Lean comes an enlightening series of images detailing Stork Club Owner Sherman Billingsley’s way of communicating with staff using hand gestures. The Stork Club, a famous Manhattan night club opened by Sherman Billingsley (an ex Bootlegger from Okalhoma) was the symbol of NYC café society and regular  haunt for celebrities, artists, aristocrats, actors, writers and the wealthy alike. From 1929-1965 The Stork Club was the ‘hub’ for those with power and money, and the most glamorous of the New York clubs around that time – the conductor of that social orchestra was Sherman Bilingsley. The Stork Club – as all good establishements should – even included a private Barbershop[1. Source: Wikipedia]. Needless to say, we approve.

One of the first Stork Club customers was writer Heywood Broun, who actually visited by mistake; he believed it to be a funeral home[2. Source: Wikipedia].

“Broun walked in quietly, put his hat down on a table and went back in the rear room to pay his respect to the body but instead of a body he found a bar. He walked over to the bar, had several drinks, liked the place and came back very often, bringing his celebrity friends.” – Sherman Billingsley

Recently The Stork Club was featured in the Season Two of Mad Men when Don Draper and Betty attended a party in celebration of comedian Jimmy Barrett.

The Hand Signals

LIFE caption: Close-up of Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley with hand on tie, one of his elaborate signals to his nearby assistant which means “No check for this table,” while sitting with patrons over his usual Coca Cola, in the Cub Room.

 

LIFE caption: Close-up of Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley pointing down, one of his signals to nearby assistant which means “Bring a round of drinks,” while sitting with patrons over his usual Coca Cola, in the Cub Room.

 

LIFE caption: Close-up of Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley with palm up on table, one of his signals to nearby assistant which means “Bring a bottle of champagne,” while sitting with patrons over his usual Coca Cola, in the Cub Room.

 

LIFE caption: Close-up of Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley tugging at his pocket handkerchief, one of his signals to nearby assistant which means “Get them a bottle of perfume” (ranging from $7.50 to Chanel at $150) while sitting with patrons over his usual Coca Cola, in the Cub Room.

 

LIFE caption: Close-up of Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley with hand to nose, one of his signals to nearby assistand which means “Not important people” or “Their check is no good.” while sitting with patrons over his usual Coca Cola, in the Cub Room.

 

LIFE caption: Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley (2R) flashing one of his elaborate signals (5-fingers spread out on L hand) to his assistant Gregory Pavilides meaning that music in the main dining room is too loud, as he chats with patrons over a Coca Cola, in the Cub Room.

 

LIFE caption: Close-up of Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley with hands interlocked & thumb up, one of his elaborate signals to nearby assistants which means “Get them out & don’t let them in again” while sitting with some annoying patrons over his usual Coca Cola.

 

Rumour has it that Gregory Pavilides (the assistant) lost his job soon after this article was published in LIFE, as his new found fame found him the subject of much attention and camera interest, meaning he began to miss out on Billingsley’s intricate hand signs.

Photos: Life Magazine

via A Continuous Lean