Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.

Archive for September, 2012


Whitney Kropp is a Detroit, Michigan high school girl who the bullies in school nominated and voted to be homecoming queen so they could harass her. It didn’t quite turn out the way the mean girls planned . . .
She received support from around the world, got world coverage and her whole prom was paid for. The ‘Support Whitney’ Facebook page exploded overnight and her prom had a happy ending. Here is my letter to her:
Greetings from New ♥ York City! The big apple sends it’s support. Gee…you look like most any other girl on the streets here, maybe because people here in NYC appreciate cool individuality = like yours! Remember . . . NO ONE remembers all the blonde Barbie dolls parading in music videos, proms and red carpets – it’s the INDIVIDUALS who stand out. Cher = crooked nose, too tall, jet black dark hair in an era of 1960’s blonde beach surfer girls. Tina Turner = abused now a super star, Streisand – said her nose was too big, now everyone copies her style. Bette Midler – no, no one looked like her, now she’s a billionaire. Actress’s Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn all had odd mannerisms. Twiggy was too skinny = became supermodel. Blondie/Debbie Harry and Patti Smith were considered freaks, now  pioneers of music. So Whitney, you may say “these are all such old school examples., no one currently cool.” EXACTLY! They thrived and lasted because . . . THEY WERE DIFFERENT ! ! ! Whitney, don’t change a thing about yourself. The world loves individuality, small minded, backwoods people…are afraid of it = you got power girl! GO OUT AND TAKE THE WORLD…it’s your’s ♥


I CAN SEE FOR MILE AND MILES: with my coin operated binoculars from atop the Empire State Building…just not Russia 🙂

Photo of the day: THE MUSIC MAN’S LAST VERSE

(Deja view)
On July 10th, 2005 after Howard Johnson’s Restaurant closing auction had been held, their doors shut forever. It was a knife in my heart. Finding it unbearable to part with the retro Times Square treasure I just lingered outside, photographing the restaurant as much as I could so as to preserve every piece of it and not wanting to let go. As I held my camera up the window the manager of the Howard Johnson’s came out and asked me if I wanted to take one final look inside. I walked through the empty orange and green room of memories and we sat down in the back booth. He told me of his memories of the beloved restaurant and his personal story of how he at the time had no future job offers and sensed it was the end of an era for Times Square.
Seven years later on September 18th,  2012, Colony Records located in the art deco Brill Building, closed its doors for the final time. No closing sales or auction, just a final proud last day. I stopped by on Monday, September 24th to photograph the shell of what once was. Deja vu. I found myself inching closer to the doors and photographed the workers packing up the final vestiges of the store while the demolition crew had begun tearing down the past. My eye caught a man inside, obviously not part of the demo crew taking pictures on his cell phone for himself. From the distance I thought it was perhaps a foreman, a future owner or perhaps the Brill building owner. As I got closer to peek inside for myself, I recognized the man to be Richard Turk, the owner of Colony.
I asked if he didn’t mind me taking some last pictures of the place, he was surprisingly kind enough to let me come inside. My memories of first discovering Colony began to flood out and began to choke up. Richard asked if he could record my story for a video log they are making of people’s warm and colorful memories, I was so honored to be a part of history.  We began to talk. I told him of Patti Lupone’s comment that Times Square is becoming a third rate shopping mall, that my personal ‘beginning of the end’ was the demise of Howard Johnson’s. That’s when Richard’s eyes lit up and began to open up. “That was the beginning of it! American Eagle Outfitters (which replaced HOJO) don’t care about the retail space below, they care about the giant neon advertising sings above.” He feels Mayor Bloomberg’s mall-ification of Times Square was a death sentence to those establishments above 47th Street. “There were no plans to include us up here on West 49th Street and above, we are merely side roads leading to the Square. We were never included.”
“I also can’t stop technology. If a singer wants sheet music for a song, they don’t have to buy the whole song book anymore. They can pull it up on the internet and it will even appear in their own key.” But the smell, the tactile holding of an lp, songbook, CD or sheet music is to many irreplaceable. In it’s heyday music’s royalty would come to shop from Michael Jackson, to Paul McCartney and Paul Simon. “I can tell you when Eartha Kitt came in, the store simply exploded!!! An absolute dynamite personality, I was obsessed with her song C’est Si Bon.” (For me it was “I Want To Be Evil”, which happened to be the first lp I bought at Colony.) Colony would still get the rush of the theater crowd before and after the shows, but other than those ties, it was dramatically slowing down. There was no forcing of them out by the landlord, it was solely his and his business partner Michael Grossbardt’s  decision to go out with their heads held high and above water. The Brill building management team even went so far as to mount a camera atop of the newsstand on the corner to record the foot traffic coming in and out of the store. No matter how good traffic Richard said was, they argued back with their video proof. It was time to close. 

Richard reminded me that Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant, ‘the meeting place of the world’ used to be next door. At one time, the eleven story building housed song writer’s offices that had a clientele that would boggle the mind of music historians. Richard pointed to the closed store adjacent to Colony. “It has been their plan all along to turn the bottom three floors into a chain store retail space.” I immediately asked about the landmark status of the building. His surprising answer was that only the main entrance of the Brill Building and the upper floors are land marked, the bottom three floors are not! The retro brass doors with the musical clef handles were custom made by Colony in 1974 and Richard is taking them with him. If you look at the new plastic wrap that has encased the ground floor, there is a horrific rendering of plans for the 3-story clothing store “Generation”. Just what we need, another place to buy a t-shirt in Times Square – not a CD, DVD, sheet music or book, but a bra and a t-shirt.
The dust was getting heavy and we exited the store just as the mailman stopped by. “I guess will have to admit we’re going to have a change of address” Richard said as he took his mail for the last time. I looked up at the iconic blue neon letters and asked quietly, “What happens to those?”.  Richard said one of the signs had been a continuous piece of neon and it just crumbled as they tried to take it down, but he remaining blue letters above the doors are individual and can be saved. “As for the Colony signs“ he answered, “if I had my wish they would go into either the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or the NY Songwriters Hall. It’s still up for discussion…it’s just my desire not a fact yet.” I shook his hand and thanked him for this private moment and left as I kept having visions of Howard Johnson’s repeat in my head. I had to return. “Richard! I can’t let this moment go without taking your picture!”. We fumbled for a spot and Richard wanted to proudly stand by his custom doors one last time, I caught the moment. He said one last thing to me, “I stood outside the door as you found me today for 2 reasons. One, the dust and noise were getting overwhelming, but most important, I couldn’t look at my Colony in the condition it is in, I guess it’s the feeling one gets when your home is destroyed by some disaster. I stood there for 3 hours, and chatted with dozens of people, like yourself, who recanted some incredible experiences at the Colony. I left feeling truly humbled and blessed.” He smiled and fumbled for his business card, “I guess I can’t give you a Colony card anymore, I’ll just have to give you this one.” It reads: Richard Turk – music man.

From the gallery: A KISS FROM CYNDI LAUPER

A KISS FROM CYNDI LAUPER: I had the privilege of being Cyndi’s private tour guide on a tour bus named in her honor – here is my reward 🙂
Jan. 27, 2011.

Photo of the day: AMERICA LOST

AMERICA LOST: Look at her hands, they are withdrawn as she is holding herself, knees locked tight. His shoulders are stooped, his strong worker’s hands lowered into his lap. His right arm’s tattoo reads ‘luck’. Their faces are resolute, yet their body language reveals their true situation. Her’s a body language of surrender, his a body language of quiet determination. Their bond, love and joy for life shows in the wonderful matching shoes and red shoelaces. They are homeless. I found them sitting on the steps of the Salvation Army on West 14th Street, their faces reminding me immediately of a Grant Wood painting or a Dorothea Lange dust bowl photo. These are classic American faces. Proud, strong.
I asked if I may take their photo, they immediately lit up, smiled and responded “sure!”, yet…when I took the photo, their faces became somber bearing their souls. He said they were just passing through. When I reached for my bag to give them something, he shook his head, refused, his broad smile came back, fist bumped me, nodded at the camera and said “hey, thanks man.” Proud, strong, American.

From the gallery: LEGO ♥ NY

LEGO  ♥ NY: These perfect Lego souvenirs are available at one of the coolest Lego stores around, the Rockefeller Center Store in midtown Manhattan. Inside the store there is a replica of Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building and various other New York City landmarks. Model kits of famous NYC buildings such as The Gugenheim, MOMA, The Empire State Building all range about $39.99 – – – these blocks, just $1.99 = perfect!


ELVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING . . .: A very well fed, camera shy Elvis was caught by my camera crossing 44th Street in Times Square. It wasn’t until I got home to check the photos that I noticed the big coincidence that, in that moment,  ABC television was flashing it’s neon signs advertising their news series “Nashville” on the signs above. (I don’t think ABC was desperate enough to have him do a promo for the show…).


THE MAN IN THE MIRROR: …is Christopher Columbus, usually seen 70 feet above Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Starting this week, Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi has enclosed the statue in an 810 square foot living room complete with a big screen TV, couches, magazines for you to read and wallpaper that features American icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, hot dogs and the Grand Canyon. It is all part of a temporary art project funded by the Public Art Fund.
Before the art installation

Before the art installation

Eagerly I climbed the six flights of scaffolding stairs as the view got more and more incredible, literally a bird’s eye view.
It is surreal when you first enter the ‘living room’. Reactions range from absurdly ridiculous, insane and ugly to genius, innovative and brilliant. Upon hearing of the idea first my reaction was unflattering. A scar on our city I thought, a gimmick, defacing the discoverer of our land. But then…as I climbed the stairs….and entered the room….and saw Columbus for the first time in my 56 years of living in this city, face to face, my opinion changed instantly.
 Reactions are a mixture of astonishment, bemusement and wonderment. Smiles are instant. To watch the faces of the people as they enter the room is a show in itself. You are encouraged to sit, make yourself comfortable, read the daily supplied papers…just don’t sit on the windowsill as the attendants will tell you. There is even a vinatge copy of Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves Of Grass’ on the bookshelf. You are to observe every tiny detail as you make your way around the room.
I have been to countless public art projects in my lifetime in this city, this one is one of the most inventive. (I am not a fan of Christo.) It brings me almost face to face with a statue the was literally paid for by the Italian immigrants in this city, paid for with their hard earned pennies, nickels and dimes.
Created by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo, it was erected as part of New York’s 1892 commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Americas. Il Progresso a New York City-based Italian language newspaper spearheaded the campaign for it’s citizens to donate what they could. I think they would be proud and smile, exclaiming “Bella! Bravo per gli Americani! Fantastico!”

Photo of the day: THE MAN IN THE MIRROR

THE MAN IN THE MIRROR: …is Christopher Columbus, usually seen 70 feet above Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Starting this week, Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi has enclosed the statue in an 810 square foot living room complete with a big screen TV, couches, magazines for you to read and wallpaper that features American icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, hot dogs and the Grand Canyon. It is all part of a temporary art project funded by the Public Art Fund.  Story to continue…

From the gallery: AN INCOMPLETE MAN

AN INCOMPLETE MAN: Marlboro cigarettes – check. Favorite copy of Vogue – check. Bobby pins – can’t find them in that big purse.


WINGS OF MIGHT, WINGS OF FLIGHT, FLIGHTS OF FANCY: This unusual view of Grand Central Terminal offers three sets of wings. The wings of might belong to Mercury who is atop Grand Central Terminal (and on your Amex card). The wings of flight belong to this original cast iron eagle that used to adorn the original 1871 Grand Central Terminal and now stands guard over the Lexington Avenue entrance. The flights of fancy belong to the eagle gargoyles that encircle the top of the art deco masterpiece the Chrysler Building. Each Chrysler eagle is an exact replica of the eagle hood ornament of the 1929 Chrysler automobile. So wether it be wings of might or flight – to have wings can take you far. Legendary designer Coco Channel once said “If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”

From the gallery: MINE!

MINE!: In the local news this week has been a story of an idiot that jumped into the tiger enclosure at the Bronx Zoo and was subsequently mauled. Coincidentally I happen to come across this white pit bull who was mauling his own wild animal, his beloved polar teddy bear.

Photo of the day: FOUNTAIN OF JOY

FOUNTAIN OF JOY: Remember how little it took to elicit those shouts of joy? A shooting fountain, a splash here and there, a sprinkle of water blown by the wind. Children’s joy is like the sparkle of sun in a bursting fountain, giggles like the splashing of the water.

From the gallery: FRAGMENTS OF NEW YORK

PIECES OF NEW YORK: An old shipping container becomes a pop-up Chinese food restaurant in Times Square. Segmented tiles become Liberty art. Neatly placed paint buckets and a work ladder, it becomes a still life of New York.

Photo of the day: THE QUESTION IS . . .

THE QUESTION IS . . . : Where does he keep the money?! This gentleman poses in Times Square at all times of the year in various outfits and is a regular in this part of the neighborhood. At first he would just ride through the area on a vintage girl’s bicycle wearing a big sun hat with various dresses and odd outfits to attract attention. Then he graduated to just standing perfectly still in Times Square to be photographed and not asking for money (as all the other “attractions” do). So he finally got smart and decided to ask for money to have his picture taken. Question now is . . . where does he keep the money? I guess that’s the next step he’ll have to figure out.

From the gallery: NUNS IN TIMES SQUARE

Photo of the day: I FEEL PRETTY!

I FEEL PRETTY!: This is Ms. Columbia, she is wearing her seasonal fall colors. Some would wear a cat on their hat, but she chooses to accessorize her hat with a gray parrot and a dyed-to-match poodle in her arms! Ms. Columbia has become a staple around New York and you never know where she and her true twosome will show up – any of our parades, Times Square, Greenwich Village or the ultra conservative Fifth Avenue just for shock value. With a heavy Columbian accent she will tell you she is the Spanish Lady Gaga and calls anyone who photographs her “my paparazzi.” She never asks for money as so many of our other ‘characters’ do, she does it for the sheer pleasure of it. For the Columbian Day parade she wears a dress made entirely from Columbian flags and of course dyes the poodle to match!
My favorite memory of her: I was across the street from Saks Fifth Avenue, waiting to cross the street and up to the curb at Saks pulls an Access-A-Ride Van, (vans that are provided for the elderly or disabled to get around the five boroughs). First emerged the wheels of the poodle’s baby carriage, then the poodle atop the carriage and then she in all her colorful splendor with the parrot atop her head, turning it’s head to see where mama Columbia had brought them for their afternoon stroll. I ♥ NY

Photo of the day: THE CAT ‘N THE HAT


Photo of the day: PEPSI COLA HITS THE SPOT

PEPSI COLA HITS THE SPOT: After the rebirth of Pepsi by the Pepsi-Cola Corp. in 1934, Charles G. Guth (the new owner of the Pepsi trademark) built the then largest Pepsi bottling plant in the industrial neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens on the East River. The facility manufactured their own syrup from cane sugar and produced its own bottle caps.

In 1938, Pepsi commissioned the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corp. to build a sign to adorn the top of the Long Island City plant. The sign is 120 feet wide with it’s tallest letters over 44 feet tall. A 50 foot tall capped bottle of Pepsi sits to the right of the brand name.

The sign was refurbished in 1994 by the same company that constructed it in the 1930’s. The plant was in operation until 1998. The land was sold to the Rockrose Development Corp. and an agreement was made that the sign be preserved. Since then, the sign has found a permanent home on the Queens waterfront not far from the foundation of the old plant.

The sign can be seen clearly from Manhattan on the east side of the city and one of the attractions from atop The Empire State Building.

From the gallery: THE NAKED COWGIRL

THE NAKED COWGIRL: Yes there is the ‘Naked Cowboy’ of Times Square, but there is also this . . .
This is former stripper, turned Times Square performer Sandy Kane. She gives you the finger (in a friendly manner) if you ask her pose for you, your donations are stuffed under her sagging boobs. Considering their weight and older length – the money does stay in place. Sandy, 52, was recently sued by Robert Burck,41, the muscular male cowboy version for $5,000, he claiming the idea is his trademark . . . they settled out of court. With her defense “I’ve been naked for years!’, she won. God bless America!


Dark lady laughed and danced
And lit the candles one by one
Danced to her gypsy music
Till her brew was done
Dark lady played black magic
Till the clock struck on the twelve
She told me more about me
Than I knew myself . . .

From the gallery: OCCUPY WALL STREET 2011

OCCUPY WALL STREET 2011: The movement is at it’s peak in Zuccotti Park in the downtown Wall Street area. I see this over decorated flag man who happens to be wearing slightly outdated New Year’s Eve glasses from 2004. In the distance there is a pissed off business executive who does not like the idea of having to walk all the long way around the park to get to his appointment and he starts to determinably dart through the protestors. I knew the two men were on a collision course.  As the two men met, one of them declared “Don’t tread on me!”.




From the gallery: I ♥ NY

I ♥ NY