Using restaurant restroom that employs an attendant has always made me feel a little uncomfortable, except at 21, where the man who held court by the sinks was a masterful raconteur and font of humor and wisdom. Lorenzo “The Rev” Robinson worked at the famous restaurant for 23 years, and became famous for his disarming banter and erudition. Everyone from Tip O'Neill to Donald Trump to Ronald Reagan—who gave The Rev his presidential cufflinks—became fans. City Room has this anecdote:
As soon as Tip O’Neill came back from the men’s room at the “21” Club, Nicholas Verbitsky knew that Mr. O’Neill had fallen under the charms of the Rev.
“Tip came back to our table with a big smile and said, ‘I just met the nicest guy in the bathroom - he really knew his stuff,’” recalled Mr. Verbitsky, chief executive officer of United Stations Radio Networks, after finishing lunch on Tuesday in the dining room at the “21” Club, the venerated Midtown restaurant on West 52nd Street that was once a speakeasy.
This was in the 1980s, and the elated restroom user was, at the time, the speaker of the House of Representatives, something that the savvy bathroom attendant knew instantly, addressing him as Mr. Speaker and offering him a hand towel.
The Rev was known for greeting all men entering the restroom with the ebullient salutation, "Hello, young and handsome!" no matter how old and repugnant they may have have looked (or felt). In an interview with the now-defunct Sun in 2004, Robinson explained, "I don't find today many people who were born in this country who will do what are perceived to be menial tasks. Somehow, the young people don't 'get it,' to use their jargon. They graduate from school and their daddy gives them a BMW. They want it to fall from the sky, like manna. They've been watching too many movie stories... When I leave, it’s going to be an end of an era."
Robinson, an ordained Baptist minister who took over the job in the restaurant's men's room from his uncle in 1989, passed away last Thursday at 71, after giving the eulogy for his sister at a service in Connecticut. According to his obituary in the Stamford Advocate, he pastored four churches and was the Former Chairman of the Stamford Fair Rent Commission. He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Jerelene Robinson, and one daughter Lorenda M. Robinson.