Benny Sienuta always told twice to get his point across when he says, "No I never flipped, never."
It was as if he had never tended bar at the National Press Club for the past 45 years and retired last night, but he did.
And they got together about 100 of them and gave Benny a photograph of himself holding a glass of beer, and a second photograph dated Jan. 29, 1966. It was a cover of the National Geographic with a nubile wench with breasts bare.
Around the sides of the matting surrounding presentations they got everyone they could to sign.
Benny held his farewell loot including the Panasonic portable TV set and said, "I don't know what to say."
Two stances helped Benny Sienuta get through 45 years of tending bar at the National Press Club: one with his arms folded just above his stomach and the other with his arms folded behind his back as he rocked on his heels.
"The fastest I ever saw him move, the most animated, was the day that Jersey Joe Walcott came into the bar and he grabbed his hand and said, 'Hello champ,'" said a former bartender.
It was retirement time for Benny, and a parade of men came to the 13th floor saloon yesterday to say goodbye to their old friend.
A Lithuanian, Benny found soccer a comfortable sport and played in some fast semi-pro leagues. He said he could still kick a soccer ball along with the best of them even at his trim 68 years of age.
He insisted that soccer played here during the '30s was much better than it is today.
It was June 1934 when Sienuta moved in behind the press club bar only six months after Prohibtion ended. For the next 45 years, he watched greats and near-greats bend their elbows.
Holding up a bottle of bourbon, he said, "When I came here a shot of this went for 15 cents and now they are getting $1.60 for the ounce. They used to come in and ask for a shot of the cooking whiskey. It's still the same distillery."
Benny put a full glass before every president since FDR, who ordered an Old Fashioned off in a side room somewhere. Harry Truman stuck with bourbon while picking away at the piano with Lauren Bacall holding the top down. Truman, it was whispered went with bourbon for the image but really liked the taste of scotch.
Eisenhower was a scotch man, and Kennedy showed up one day during a St. Patrick's Day Party for about 15 minutes. No one remembers what he had.
Nixon was the only president to stand at the bar and to drink his scotch on two occasions. Ford opted for a soft drink on his visit there and Sienuta's big foreign celebrity was Indira Gandhi who sipped cognac.
The heaviest drinker he could recall was an Army colonel who put away 15 martinis each lunch time. "He's dead now," Benny said.
He remembered the time when they had a spectacularly slow waiter and one of the members opened a window and held him dangling 13 floors above the streets for about 30 seconds. Service improved.
Taking only a "little bit of white wine with dinner" for himself, Benny estimated he might have poured 4 million drinks. He said the only real vice he has is the one on his workbench in the basement.
He has seen a lot of celebrities come and go. "I have been impressed by any of them, including presidents."
He talked of newsmen and those great bylines in the sky and added, "I think I met all of them, and I think they have to be a little crazy to stay in the business, I think it helps."
Sienuta will not miss a day in moving from his home in Kensington to a small house in Dracut, Mass.
"All we have is the cat and dog, everything will be packed and we will spend a night in a motel before leaving for Dracut."
And you had to believe that this quiet man will move out as silently as he came on the scene all those years ago. CAPTION: Picture, Benny Sienuta; by Harry Naltchayan