In 1972, Tommy Jacomo moved to the District from Vermont to open up the Palm Restaurant. Known as much for its high-powered clientele as for its high-powered food, the Washington outpost of the national Palm chain has emerged as a hometown institution. Jacomo was even featured in last Sunday’s 60 Minutes segment on capital city lobbyists. But locals might be more interested in Jacomo’s role in deciding who merits inclusion in the ranks of the 800 or so D.C. movers and shakers whose caricatures cover the restaurant’s walls.
So who’s on the wall here?
Mainly politicians, though I have Norman Mailer, the authorhe’s one of my favorites. He’s an old friend of mine from 30 years ago. We used to box together in Vermont in the late ’60s. When he’s in town we get together…[though] we don’t drink like we used to.
How do you decide who gets the honor?
Sometimes I solicit. Sometimes their secretaries solicit, sometimes their PR people.
That caricature of Channel 4 anchorman Jim Vance looks a little dated. That Afro is right out of The Mod Squad. Do you ever update these local celebs’ looks?
If they ask me to, I will, but typically they don’t. Most of the time a little nostalgia is nice, a trip down memory lane. [Channel 7’s] Paul Berry is up here, too, and he also has a big Afro. He laughs every time he comes in.
Do people ever get mad about their caricatures?
A few people said to take them down. Maybe four of five. They didn’t like how they looked. They didn’t think it was a good resemblance of themselves. I would probably say they were half right. Over the years, it’s changed from caricaturesthat were popular back in the ’20s and ’30s when caricatures were bigger (the first Palm opened in New York City in 1927)to more like portraits. People seem to like portraits better.
Who asked you to take them down?
I can’t tell you that.
Twenty-seven years is a long time. What percentage of the people on the wall here are no longer with us?
Every now and then I take a walk through, and when you get to my age it’s kind of scary. But no more than 2 or 3 percent. What happens is, you take ’em down and a son or a daughter or a grandkid comes in and says, “Where’s daddy?” That’s why we don’t take ’em down. Jake Tapper