Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 6.17.20

Native St. Louisan Marvin Kosky passed away May 31, just a month shy of his 100th birthday. He was one of ‘The Greatest Generation,’ a decorated hero of World War II. When he was drafted on his 21st birthday, he went willingly. In 1941, he married Joyce Miller, also of St. Louis, while on a three-day pass. He received a Bronze Star for his service as an Army captain during the Allied campaign to liberate France. He also was awarded the Legion of Honor, the highest military honor awarded by the French government. Kosky was married to his wife for nearly 75 years, and he lived independently at Clayton on the Park for five years following her death. He was humble and a gentleman, according to his friends at the residential tower, many of whom enjoyed lunch with him at the Kingside Diner there. He was also known to enjoy Dewar’s on the rocks—just one, sipped slowly, before dinner. Kosky was an avid tennis player who participated in the Senior Olympics into his 80s. “He had a big serve,” recalls his grandson, Terence Stern. He vividly remembers playing golf with his grandfather when Kosky was 90, exactly twice Stern’s age. Karen Stern, Terence’s mom, said her father also “dabbled in painting,” fondly recalling the watercolor class they took together. He was long retired from a post-war business career that included his own construction firm and years of service at a title company. Says one of his neighbors: “Marvin was a bright light, a positive force and man of complete character until his last breath.” A celebration of life and a dedication of the Marvin Kosky Memorial Garden will be held on what would have been his 100th birthday, June 30, at Clayton on the Park. The permanent display will be a perfect spot to reflect on the rich lives of Kosky and others who sacrificed so much for our freedom.

Protective face masks certainly shouldn’t be subject to political diatribes. But they sure can be an artful reflection of our present circumstances. Bob Cassilly’s concrete reptiles at Turtle Park across from the Zoo have been spotted wearing masks, as has the red-eyed buffalo in front of the Trainwreck Saloon in Rock Hill. That’s just whimsy for these tough times. There’s nothing political about the masks fashioned by Dianne Isbell of Belleville, a resident designer at the St. Louis Fashion Fund on Washington Avenue downtown. Isbell, a creator of award-winning millinery—she has designed for the Forest Park Hat Luncheon and a display at the Kentucky Derby Hat Museum—wears masks every day. A political statement? Pshaw! Isbell is all about fashion statements. But two of the biggest annual opportunities to show off her creations, where fashion models and the well heeled strut her stuff, were cancelled this year. Still, Isbell has been designing masks that coordinate with her exclusive headgear. You wouldn’t wear a tank top or T-shirt to your sister’s wedding, would you? Then why would you wear a disposable mask in public unless you’re Sen. Mitt Romney? (OK; that was last week.) Isbell remains hopeful that by the time the horses run the postponed Kentucky Derby in September, they won’t gallop alone. She hopes fans will be in the stands in Louisville, including some of the best-dressed ladies in the universe. If not this September, maybe spring 2021. And hopefully the ladies who lunch in hats will return to Forest Park next June.

George Floyd is the common thread that pulled together Jalen Thompson and Darnella Frazier, both 17. They probably don’t know each other, but they both know that Floyd, an unarmed black man, was asphyxiated by a white police officer whose knee was pressed against his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Jalen is a senior at Fort Zumwalt West High School in O’Fallon, and Darnella is the traumatized Minneapolis teen who captured the event on video. You’ve seen it, or you’ve heard about it. It was the evening of Memorial Day. As Floyd lay motionless on the street, face-down, handcuffed and lapsing into unconsciousness, the cop’s expression changed no more than it might have while kneeling to tie his shoe or check his tire pressure. Darnella had been walking her cousin to the store where Floyd was arrested for alleged forgery. She is black, as is Jalen, whose thoughts that night before the horrific news broke were like those of millions of recent high-school grads: What about my plans for college in the fall? Will the pandemic force me to stay home? Then, his thoughts turned to the hundreds of Black Lives Matter protests that flared up worldwide. Jalen started planning his own protest with friends Ryan Staples, Joseph Bartholomew and Ryan Fetsch, thinking that maybe 100 demonstrators would join a march in their mostly white, suburban community. Once the word was out, threats came in that armed whites would be there to protect business owners. But the call to action could not be retracted. June 1 brought between 1,500 and 2,000 protesters, and at the head of the group was the newly minted activist, arm in arm with friends and the town’s white police chief, Tim Clothier. Will active protest dissipate after a while, as it did following the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson? Outrage over the anguish of 400 years, from the first enslaved Africans to the next tragedy, has not and will not.

notable neighbors

Miriam Meyer, managing director of Cutters & Co., the barber shop below the main lobby at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel, is an honorary member of the Rat Pack. Behind the register is a huge image of the three most famous Pack members: Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. (Hmm; who are the two others? Read to the end for the answer.) The most important thing to know about the venerable snippery, other than the fact that it’s been there for 98 years, is that it reopened May 18 after a remodeling during ‘lockdown,’ ‘quarantine,’ or however history will end up referring to our first experience with a 21st-century pandemic. CDC guidelines, along with common-sense approaches considering the nature of the business, provide more space for the shop and a sense of well-being for clippers and clients. Of course, masks are de rigueur; everybody knows better than to show up without one. The entrance has been expanded into the lobby, one of four barber chairs is off limits for the time being, plexiglass barriers have been installed where needed, and there are drapes to separate the four women who cut and style the hair of the famous, the aspiring and everyday role models. All four are back after being idled, having collected unemployment during the two and a half months Cutters was out of commission. Meyer was apprehensive about what sort of response she’d receive after an email to clientele, but she ended up feeling flabbergasted. Almost everyone needed an appointment, including businessmen, professionals, doctors, college students, local notables and other famous people (an exclusive group that Meyer keeps in the safe, so to speak). “We treat each client like a celebrity, so everyone feels like a VIP,” insists Meyer. She and her husband Tom kicked off Cutters on December 12, 2005, after an extensive rehab to the shop. (It would have been the 90th birthday of Ol’ Blue Eyes, who died in 1998.) They don’t cut hair, but they do make the shop spick and span for Monday, the first business day of a six-day week. “Not only are we the owners, we’re the janitors, too,” Meyer says with a chuckle. So whose follicles have they seen up close and personal, as it were? Suffice it to say, in the first 98 years, presidents, actors, athletes and other celebs have had their hair cut there, but scissor-wielders who have gone on to their eternal reward took with them the knowledge of who wore a toupée besides Sinatra. (Oh, yeah: Along with the Chairman of the Board, Davis and Martin, the other two Rat Pack members shown in the photo are Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. Judy Garland was ‘First Vice-President.’ But you peeked, didn’t you.) Well, would Miriam and Tom alter anything about their operation, which over the past 15 years has shorn men with visions of franchises dancing in their heads? Nope, no change there. But they’d love it if the lowest button on the Chase elevator read ‘LL’ instead of ‘B.’ Anyhow, you say you’re pretty shaggy and really need a haircut after more than three months? Visit