WITHIN THE FAMILY
FBH and the Lions Den
By Alex Sachare ’71
I don’t remember the Lions Den in Ferris Booth Hall, which
is weird, considering I spent more time in FBH in the late ’60s
and early ’70s than in any other building on campus except
for Hartley, my home for three years. Maybe I ventured into the
Lions Den one time, experienced it in all its glory and never went
back. More likely, I went there once in a while and have blocked
it from my memory.
I must have been there, because nearly every day I walked into FBH
and took the elevator or stairs up to the Spectator offices at the
end of the long third-floor corridor. I spent many hours there,
some of which were made easier by the sounds of ’50s hits
being sung by a group practicing down the hall, a group that would
soon make it big as Sha Na Na. Remember the gold lamé suit?
When I came across this photo of the Lions Den, I didn’t recognize
it. But when we printed it in September, some of you did. Here are
the few of the responses we received when we asked for help identifying
From Robert J. Szarnicki M.D. ’65
of San Francisco:
Although the photo of the Lions Den in Ferris Booth Hall is a bit
fuzzy, I think I am the tall fellow wearing a tie and blazer in
the left portion of the photo (that was my usual dress code then).
The fellow standing next to me, I believe, is Mike Fischetti ’65.
If I am correct, this would date the photo during 1961 or 1962.
From Nick Rudd ’64 of Westport,
In the lower right-hand corner, with a sandwich to his mouth, is
almost certainly Peter Trooboff ’64. Just
to the right of the young woman in the center, wearing a white shirt,
appears to be Irving Spitzberg ’64. Two people
behind the putative Spitzberg, in right profile with his mouth obscured
by a sweatshirt hood, sits a guy who looks like Steve Raphael
’63. To Raphael’s right at the same table,
facing the photographer, his hand in front of his mouth, looks like
Mike Krieger ’66.
The presence of those people suggests a photo date between September
1962 and May 1963.
From Richard Goldwater (né Goldwasser)
’63, Newton Center, Mass.:
In response to your request for stories about the former Lions Den
student lounge, pictured in all its banality: There was a Lions
Den in John Jay Hall before FBH was built that was small, but had
the appropriate authentic beery atmosphere. It was replaced by what
you see in the photo around 1962, which even in the sentimental
glow of retrospect looks awful and sterile. And so it was.
A fleeting relic of the past in the new “Holiday Inn”
architecture was the genteel use of ceramic coffee cups and saucers.
Knowing that such things do not last and that corporate plastic
must be on its way, I stole a cup and saucer, the cup featuring
a Columbia insignia. These are just a few feet from where I sit
The stark modernism of the new building was electrifying, at least
in principle. We imagined we were related to the new Guggenheim
Museum. We all thought the Wollman Auditorium was the last word
in college theater spaces, even after learning sub rosa that President
Grayson Kirk had only at the last minute noticed that there was
no space above the theater in its design to allow the curtain to
rise, lights to hang and so forth. Speedy architecture revisions
presumably saved the day. The Loeb Drama Center in Harvard Square
was built almost at the same time, and continues to look modern
and functional. Moving to Boston to attend medical school in 1963
(not Harvard), I was humiliated by how gorgeous the Loeb Center
was compared to what I had left.
Nevertheless, anyone who saw the cabaret act of Mitch Liebowitz
’63 and Dorothy Moskowitz ’62 Barnard at the Den was
transported in delight from the bourgeois ’60s to the Cole
Porter-Rodgers and Hart ’30s. Dorothy had electrified the
(Columbia) universe as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. I introduced,
with a JFK accent, the second act “Hot Box” number in
that show to great acclaim, wearing a gangster’s loud suit
I achieved a certain notoriety for opposing letting Barnard women
enter the new student union without a Columbia escort. Women still
were not allowed to visit men in the dorms, and there still were
desperate panty raids each spring. I was among the students who
worked part-time at the new information desk at the front of the
building. One day, I decided to sit at the desk all day holding
an open umbrella above my head, but maintaining a serious demeanor.
No one commented on the umbrella. Eleanor Roosevelt strolling in
one evening to give a speech was perhaps the only moment when everyone
milling about in the lobby gasped and fell silent.
But I digress. The fact of no long hair among the Den patrons suggests
early ’60s, of course, certainly no later than ’63.