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Job Interview

[whitespace] Owl Lover

It's just another corner bar with red leather seats, minimal lighting and complimentary bowls of party-mix. But look a little closer, and you'll discover one of the world's largest collections of owl memorabilia. Recently, David Boyer caught up with Bobby Cobby, founder/owner/curator, to find out about his job and apparent fascination with owls.

David: What's your job?

Bobby: I'm the proprietor and manager. That means I do the payroll and ordering and make sure everything is carried out as I wish.

David: Do you like it?

Bobby: Yes. It's exciting. I meet a lot of different people from around the world. We do a lot of hospitality people and actors and actresses--show people.

David: How did you start?

Bobby: I collected owls before I opened the bar in 1977. And then when I was looking for a place, I found [this bar], which was already called the Owl Tree. But there were no owls in here, just the sign outside. So I thought, that will be the place for me and my owls.

David: Why owls?

Bobby: When I was younger, in upstate New York, I was scared by an owl while walking through the forest. I never did see one; I just heard the noise. I started collecting because it was mysterious to me at that time--I was only 7 years old--and since then I have collected thousands of owls. I have them at home, in my office, in storage. I have too many to display here at one time, so I switch them around occasionally.

David: What's the most popular drink here?

Bobby: Now, kamikazes and cosmos. In the past, mostly scotch and water or vodka and tonic. But everything is going back to the '30s and '40s. Everything is neat and on stem.

David: Do you hang out with people from the bar outside of the bar?

Bobby: No.

David: Who is the most famous person that has come in the bar?

Bobby: Rob Lowe. And we had Katharine Hepburn here once. She just walked in, very elegantly, sat at table, had a glass of wine and walked out. Her limo was waiting outside.

David: If you weren't doing this, what might you be doing?

Bobby: I'd be in the hospitality business one way or the other. Either serving or managing. I like meeting people ... different types of people, all different ethnic people.

David: Where would you like to visit?

Bobby: I don't have to travel. I hear about every country. We get people from all over the world, and we get owls from all over the world. People bring them here when they come here. Or they'll be here and I'll get a package in the mail, open it up, and there will be an owl.

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From the January 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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