Salvador Dalí, Jerome Robbins, Jackie Onassis. Gregory Peck, Mick Jagger—S. J. Perelman—I. M. Pei. Philip Johnson, Josephine Baker, John Lennon: they, and so many more who made New York City the center of the universe in the 1970s, all had one thing in common besides their adopted hometown—they shopped at a legendary palace of books, music and art: Rizzoli Books at 712 Fifth Avenue. There, Kennedys and Rockefellers mingled with “regular” customers under the gaze of sophisticated employees, themselves a multi-talented, international collection of artists, scholars and rogues.
Nights at Rizzoli is the memoir of Felice Picano, an aspiring but near-starving young writer who in 1971 lucked into a part-time job at the elegant store. It metamorphosed into a life-changing experience, exposing him to the brightest lights in the world’s cultural capital. At the store, he became a key player every night to a new drama that featured romance, at times violence, and of course books and their readers. And when his shift was over, in this post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS era, he went from one world into another, prowling the piers, bars and very private clubs of a different New York City.