In this season of the onset of Presidential primaries and the
attention that will be paid to popularity polls and the like, I heard
the Gallup Poll mentioned the other day and immediately thought
about my personal connection to that Ivory Tower of American
opinion research. Alec Gallup was a regular customer of ours
for decades before I was able to say "ours". He was a grizzly
bear of a man, but as kind and self-effacing as the day was long.
The Gallup Organization was started in Princeton in the thirties,
and well after it was acquired in the late eighties by a Nebraskan,
with whom I am also familiar, and who insisted many times on
smoking cigars in the restaurant by the way, Alec and his close
associates came often for lunch around 1 pm. He did his best
to uphold the 3 Martini lunch, although if he made it past 2 it
was unusual. Soup was the appetizer almost always, and
entrees varied. One thing I'll never forget was him asking about
the accompanying vegetables on a given plate. " I don't like sticks.
I don't want any sticks on my plate." Julienne vegetables.
My two favorite memories of him were these: watching the 2000
vice presidential debate between Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney
in the back of our bar, near the mens' room where our little TV was.
He was going back and forth between the private room where the
Gallup Org. was having dinner and the mens' room where the TV was.
Sitting on a wine crate watching at the same time was Arthur
Schlesinger, who was attending another PU function upstairs.
And then there was me. Picking my nose.
The second memory is actually more meaningful, because it does
not involve politics, but flavor. Alec was sitting at the bar waiting
for his dinner guests one night and decided to have some steamed
clams to hold him over. Upon finishing the clams, he asked Chris
to take the buttery broth in the bowl and pour it into a glass, and
make a spicy bloody mary on top of it. Chris asked him if he had a
name for this drink and Alec quickly replied, "the clamdigger!"
This man was as old school as they come and I'm fortunate
for him to have known me, even if it was just as a servant.