“TIMES SQUARE HAS BECOME A THIRD RATE SHOPPING MALL”: This is Broadway actress and living legend Patti Lupone’s reaction to being asked what she thinks of today’s “new” Times Square. The photo seems appropriate since today it was announced by co-owner Richard Turk, to everyone’s shock and dismay, that COLONY RECORDS in the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway (at W. 49th St.) is closing after 64 years. “Give me the porno theatres back!”, Patti exclaimed during a February 6. 2011 interview at the 92nd Street ‘Y’.
There is not one place left where you can buy a DVD, CD, book, sheet music or any form of entertainment anymore – but you can buy a bra in Times Square! A bra. Many small theatres (The Helen Hayes, The Morosco, the Bijou) were torn down to make room for mega hotels, rather than building over and or around the theatres. Bette Midler on opening night of her 1975 hit show “Clams on the Half Shell”, took one look at the new bland Minskof theatre and said to the audience “This place has all the charm of a Ramada Inn!”.
People spend millions of dollars to replicate vintage diners – yet we tore down Howard Johnson’s in 2005 (a knife in my NY heart) to make room for an American Eagle store. Virgin records closed in 2009 with it’s towering DJ booth. If you liked your Broadway performer’s singing in the show you just saw, you could spend all night hunting for recordings by them and other related shows while listening to the DJ as he spun the latest songs. Perversely and ironically Planet Hollywood just shut down this year too in Times Square. The chain is having financial difficulty, but to close the one in the east coast epicenter of entertainment?? (Where are the bus loads of out of towners to eat?) And now, unbelievably, Colony Records is closing in approximately six weeks- where are the performers to buy their sheet music and do their research? ‘On line’ is the almost ‘Fahrenheit 451’-like answer.
“What’s a Barnes & Noble?” ask vapid teens as they walk dazed under the huge neon signs advertising names of stores they can shop in just as well at home. “But it’s the Times Square American Eagle, Sephora, Forever 21, Gap and Footlocker!” they insist. Times Square has lost it’s soul. Shows are being dumbed down for the out of town audiences (in order to make a profit), so we have The Exorcist coming to Broadway this fall (starring Brooke Shields???) after the musical version of the movie Ghost failed and closed. I sink my head in my hands as Patti does, “Times Square has become a third rate shopping mall.”
TURNING THE PAGE: The N train is noisy. Some restless teens on the other end of the subway car are loud as can be. The day is miserable, the temperature is in the 90’s, the humidity just as high, non-stop rain. The train just sits, we’re going nowhere. There are garbled train delays feebly announced over the trains pa system. None of it seems to matter, as they turn the page . . .
I find it wonderful that in this day and age of iPods, iPhones, and E-books, that something as old fashioned as a coffee table book, a treasure found at The Strand book store, carefully shielded from the rain, has so peacefully and totally captivated this young couple.