Originally coming to Manhattan from Enid, Oklahoma to find his brother, he found that he liked the city.
He created and owned the Stork Club which became the epitome of glamor. From the time of the speakeasy to
the 1960s, he held court on East 53rd Street, desperately trying to please while often riding roughshod over all
that he could intimidate. Surrounded by Jazz Age gangsters, he continually fought running battles against racketeers.
According to Ralph Blumenthlal in his 2000 book, Stork Club, another New York nightclub owner named
Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan, widely known as "Texas," introduced Billingsley to her friend, the mass media
commentator Walter Winchell in 1930. Winchell, with his outspoken wit, told it all. In his column in the
Daily Mirror, he once called the Stork Club "New York's New Yorkiest place on W. 58th."
The real entertainment at this club was the patrons themselves.
Billingsley offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the return of his son-in-law,
Alexander I Rorke, Jr., in 1963, when his plane disappeared over the Caribbean.
Billingsley's mistress for a number of years was Ethel Merman.
- from Kay Thompson (pg.240):
"In October 1952, Kay brazenly showed up at New York's Stork Club wearing a pair [note: of slacks]
-- and cunningly brought along Ethel Merman for support. At the time, Merman was the mistress of
owner Sherman Billingsley, so an observant doorman waved the ladies right inside without a fight.
It was a momentous breakthrough. Flabbergasted, Ethel proclaimed, Boy, you're the first dame who
ever got into this joint in a rig like that."
"A halt here, a halt at the Stork Club with Sherman Billingsley, the most consistantly kind spirit in theatrical
environs. Handsome, generous and modest, he used to sit with me in the Cub room, night after night, talking
about the ways of waiters, the behavior of men and women, and the grueling hardships of his youth, now
happily offset by lavish gifts to his friends, an endless succession of gold cuff links, novelty suspenders, radios,
cases of wine and rare perfumes for the lady who dines with you."