In memory of a regular: Mike Levy

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Levy beneath his sign (Photo: Meghan Petersen)
Levy beneath his sign (Photo: Meghan Petersen)

Mike Levy gave me the all-too-rare opportunity to print the word fuck. In fact, it wasn't easy to find a quote that didn't include that particular expletive when I sat down to write a column about his relationship with Ben Benson's—a steakhouse he had frequented weekly since the late 1980s—in January of last year. Levy had a sharp tongue and a throaty manner of speech that wouldn't have been out of place at Stanwix Hall. We got along.

But a few days ago, a representative for the restaurant reached out to let me know that after a long battle with cancer, Levy had passed away; last night, there was a party at the steakhouse—a celebration that he stipulated in his will.

Levy, like so many of the regulars I met since we launched the column a few years ago, was a tenacious sort. He alternated between the same two tables for 20 years. When the waiters saw him coming they'd swap out the standard wooden seat for a cushioned chair, the better to enjoy his usual order of fish and vodka. He'd come three times a week, sometimes five, for lunch. "If I don't call by 10am, they call me," he told me at the time.

His attachment to the place was staggering. For a while, his office was half a block away; so was his apartment. He'd buy out the restaurant for a clam fest each year; his daughter married there in 1994. The restaurant's general manager had visited Levy in the hospital when he had battled the cancer years earlier—he'd brought food with him.

And on the wall near his table was a sign spelling out his name: The orange neon cursive that marked his spot was a point of pride when he was introduced to ballplayers Ralph Branca and Whitey Ford at the restaurant. "I don't know about you guys," he had said to them, "but my name is still up in lights."

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