Tag: Pandemic

Love is Patient: A COVID Wedding

By Melissa Ann Quidang


They were friends since grade-school, dated for seven years and had been engaged for two years. Chicago Firefighter William Pesch and my sister, Chicago teacher May Quidang were forced to postpone their April wedding due to the lockdown that occurred in March 2020.

With a new date set, the two encountered disaster after disaster as the pandemic continued to impede their efforts of happily ever after. Their venue was willing to reschedule their wedding to November 2020. When that date rolled around COVID-19 was raging. It seemed almost impossible as another lockdown was announced, and families consisting of elderly were too afraid to join the ceremony.

The two thought enough was enough. “We were getting irritated, angry, and annoyed, but we didn’t know who to be mad at,” William said. The two decided to plan a whole new wedding within a month at a different place, postponing their biggest party with friends and family for September 2021.

William Proposing to May

So how exactly did they get married? May pulled some strings at the Catholic school she worked at as a teacher, Bridgeport Catholic Academy. They agreed to have her, and her then-fiancé get married at their church, called Nativity of Our Lord. “For a church wedding, a marriage is a sacrament that takes up to six months in preparations. We had three weeks,” May said. To prepare for their wedding, they shortened their guest-list of 280 to 25 people, promising extended family and friends a bigger celebration in September 2021. 

Overview of the entire church and guests Photo Credit TWA Photographic Artists

For decorations, the two scoured social media and found themselves face to face with Facebook Marketplace. The social media platform consisted of used wedding decorations sold for lower prices. The conditions of such decorations varied but were often in good condition. Other decorations were bought online or craft stores. “Never engrave your name or date on your wedding items,” William said, “because you could resell it again later.” A hard lesson was learned to not engrave their names and dates on everything because the pandemic made it almost impossible to tell whether they had to postpone it again.

Photo Credit TWA Photographic Artists

Photo Credit TWA Photographic Artists

To take precautions against the pandemic, the two went to Etsy, another online platform that sells artsy items and decorations. From there, they were able to buy personalized masks for their wedding party and decorated masks for the rest of the guests. They also bought boutonnieres and sanitizer stickers. It was cheaper for them to purchase small individual empty sanitizer bottles and fill it using a large sanitizer container.  

Bride, groom and groomsmen, and bridesmaid masks

Decorated Hand Sanitizer Bottle

For the ceremony, if you could find an adorable little helper to dispense sanitizer for incoming guests, that would be perfect. Another precaution they took was using tape. Using tape is an ideal marker to signify where and where not to go. It was used in the church for both the regular congregation and the wedding. “It is best to follow the procedure set by the venue and then add extra precautions yourself,” May said.

Little Boy Giving Sanitizer to Incoming Guests Photo Credit TWA Photographic Artists

As the time neared, the bride snuck to the back of the church so the groom would not see her. After finalizing some smaller details and beautifully decorating the church with flowers and lanterns, the bride walked down the aisle with both parents clinging onto her, to a crying groom as he saw his bride for the first time. It was a beautiful ceremony consisting of close family and friends. With the ceremony finally completed, they walked out of the church as a newly wedded husband and wife.

A view of the church with decorations Photo Credit TWA Photographic Artists

William and May Finally Married Photo Credit TWA Photographic Artists

Pictures were taken with laughs as the photographer maneuvered family members from point A to point B with hilarious accuracy. Laughs were stifled, smiles were bright, and then a cleanup of all the wedding decorations ensued. More photos were taken outside, family members toasted with champagne, the little boy had apple juice, and a limo came to whisk away the newly married couple to their next destination. 

Little Boy Covering his Eyes Photo Credit TWA Photographic Artists

Siblings, spouses, and parents surrounding the Newly wedded couple Photo Credit TWA Photographic Artists

However, guests made it to the reception before the newly wedded couple who made a slight detour to the cemetery. Their first stop was to honor their son, who passed the day of his birth in 2018. Next, they visited William’s grandmother who sadly passed a few months before their November wedding due to health concerns not affiliated with COVID-19.

William Antonio Pesch (2018-2018) Photo Credit: TWA Photographic Artists

William V. Pesch (1923-2007) and Delores M. Pesch (1927-2020) Photo Credit: TWA Photographic Artists

For the reception, William and May were faced with constant barriers concerning food. At first, it was assumed that the reception would take place in the church basement, but they were declined due to COVID-19. Next was a restaurant, but a week before their wedding, a government-issued lockdown took effect, causing restaurants to cease their in-door dining. The particular restaurant they were looking at proceeded to shut down their out-door dining as well. With nowhere else to go, William and May had their reception in their apartment. To make everyone feel safe and comfortable, windows were left open on the cold November day, and they cleaned and sanitized their apartment from the ceiling to their dog, who couldn’t help but eye the wedding cake. One person was allowed in the kitchen to distribute portions of food, and masks were recommended to be worn at all times except when eating or drinking. 

With the event ending, William and May said their smaller wedding wasn’t what they wanted, but it was better than expected. They even had time to share their first dance together.  “After having the smaller wedding, we sat down and had a good conversation with our wedding party and family without being interrupted. So when we have our big wedding, we won’t feel so bad about not talking about them,” May said.

With everything that happened just to get married, such as the pandemic, postponement, worried family members, cancellations, and money issues, they were relieved to have finally married. The stress that others feel for planning a wedding usually results in the ring bearer dropping the rings or a groomsman wearing a red tie instead of maroon. Yet, as William said, “If people say that you can get through planning a wedding without murdering each other, you’ll be fine. But if you can get through it in 2020, you’re golden.” 

“21” Closing? Don’t Be Too Sure


For so long The Street’s survivor





By Megan McKinney


The rumor shot around town at the end of last week: Was it possible that New York’s “21” would close permanently? Then NBC News quoted a “21” spokesperson, “In light of the ongoing global crisis…the difficult decision was made that it will not be feasible to reopen the ‘21’ Club in its current form for the foreseeable future.” But there was also a hint of “exploring potential opportunities” that would allow it to remain a “viable operation.”

The restaurant closed last spring on March 16, yet, like so many others which shuttered at about that time, it appeared to be temporary. Then CNN joined in last week: “Bill Granfield, president of the UNITE HERE Local 100 labor union, (said) he received a letter on December 9 stating the restaurant is closing and all employees will be permanently terminated on March 9, 2021.”   

So empty. So sad. However, let’s not be too quick in counting the great restaurant out. Twice in its long history “21” has first survived and then flourished while all competition was falling away.

It all began during Prohibition, with the future “21” Club operating as a fashionable upmarket speakeasy under various names and at several addresses before Jack Kriendler and Charlie Berns anchored the developing legend at 21 West 52nd St. in January 1930–90 years ago!

Meanwhile, a future rival, the Stork Club, had been established on West 58th St. the year before by former bootlegger Sherman Billingsley. After the Stork was raided by Prohibition agents in 1931, it reopened on East 51st St. for three years and then moved to 3 East 53rd Str., between Fifth and Madison Avenue.

When Prohibition ended in December 1933, there was never a greater occasion for celebration. Nor was there a more congested spot on an opening night than the sidewalk outside 154 East 54th St. when the chic speakeasy, the Bath Club, reopened as El Morocco.

Ava Gardner and Artie Shaw against Elmo’s zebra banquette.

Of the three, “21” was initially the least successful. Possibly it had fallen out of favor because, as a restaurant, it did not offer music and a dance floor. Nor did it have the publicity machines of the Stork Club’s Walter Winchell, who spent every evening there, or El Morocco photographer Jerome Zerbe, whose candids from the night before appeared in the Journal American every afternoon.

In any case, “21” did not experience the immediate post-repeal success of Morocco or the Stork, and owners Jack Kriendler and Charlie Berns came close to bankruptcy during the restaurant’s first year. It was characteristic of these men–who had offered credit, their own scrip and even cash advances to Depression-strapped customers–that they fired no employees and even met the outside offers some received. The resourceful partners recovered by establishing “21” Brands imported whiskey, which they distributed to bars and restaurants throughout the country and, by the mid-1930’s, they were again serving a prestigious clientele, which they have retained.

Prices at “21” have always been notoriously high. But, historically, it has been the city’s power lunch and dining spot, where for decades the prominent and well-to-do have gathered around the club’s red checked tablecloths to eat chicken hash under big-boy toys dangling from the ceiling. For years, the cognoscenti referred to the restaurant as Jack & Charlie’s. And for some, it was “the front porch,” because—like the front porch of Raffles Hotel in Singapore—if you sat there long enough, everybody-who-was-anybody would eventually show up. By 1935, “21” Club was headed toward its glory days. 

West of “21”on 52nd Street nearly 40 other former speakeasies were emerging from behind their bolted doors; some reappeared as minor French restaurants, a few were converted into bars or strip joints, but most had become jazz clubs. The one-street belt had resulted from the earlier exodus of wealthy area brownstone owners moving to estates in Connecticut or Long Island, and leaving their former homes to be divided into apartments by developers–developers who had soon found that ground floor units brought significantly higher rents as speakeasies.

Following the Prohibition years of dreary anonymity behind unmarked doors, the block between Fifth and Sixth burst forth as “The Street,” with a gloriously raffish jumble of self-promoting neon lining both sides of the block. Three-story vertical signs dominating the five-floor brownstones to which they clung proclaimed: Onyx, Jimmy Ryan’s, Famous Door, Three Deuces, Spotlite, Yacht Club, Downbeat. The aggressive march of names jumped Sixth Avenue to announce additional now-legendary spots in the next block, including Kelly’s Stable and The Hickory House.

From 1934 until 1950 or so, various garish signboards appeared, vanished and often reappeared in different locations along The Street and, for those few breathtaking years, this energetic sweep flourished as the jazz capital of the world.

As leases fell in and rents mounted along 52nd St., the majority of the great jazz clubs collapsed or moved on. Others, most notably Jimmy Ryan’s and Hickory House, remained for a few years before vanishing forever. Birdland, appeared on Broadway near the corner of 52nd St., and a block south, at 51st, was Basin Street. But everything else was gone.

Surviving all its neighbors on The Street was “21” Club.

Of the three great power clubs emerging from Prohibition, El Morocco, the Stork Club and “21,” only the last survived intact into the mid-60’s. El Morocco was around for a while in various uncertain spots after leaving its iconic 154 East 54th St. address in 1960. Owner John Perona died the following year. The Stork Club closed in 1965 and, like Perona, Sherman Billingsley survived his club by only a year. That was 55 years ago.

Who knows? With a record like that, those empty tables may be filling up again soon.


Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien

Author Photo by Robert F. Carl