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

Archive for October, 2012

Photo of the day: CLOUDBURST

Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air and feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way. But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone. So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow it’s cloud illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all.
Moons and Junes and ferris wheels, the dizzy dancing way that you feel as every fairy tale comes real; I’ve looked at love that way. But now it’s just another show. You leave ’em laughing when you go and if you care, don’t let them know, don’t give yourself away.
I’ve looked at love from both sides now, from give and take, and still somehow it’s love’s illusions that I recall. I really don’t know love at all.
Tears and fears and feeling proud, to say “I love you” right out loud, dreams and schemes and circus crowds, I’ve looked at life that way. But now old friends are acting strange, they shake their heads, they say I’ve changed. Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from win and lose, and still somehow it’s life’s illusions I recall. I really don’t know life at all.
“Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell from the 1969 album “Clouds”


COUNTING THE DAY’S RECEIPTS: “I could just die without my Starbucks coffee in the morning.” “I always get the giant popcorn at the movies.” “I could just die for a pair of Louboutin shoes!” “I got great seats to see the game.” “Cigarettes are so expensive.” “Do you have a dishwasher in your apartment?” “Time for a mani and pedi.” “Let’s order Chinese.”
There but for the grace of God go I.

From the gallery: C IS FOR ______

C IS FOR _______ :

Photo of the day: KNEE PAD ELMO

KNEE PAD ELMO: Elmo’s dad wears knee pads and it kinda really creeps me out. I really don’t want to know what he is doing with those knee pads in the Times Square area.


THE SIMPSON’S BEAUTY SALON: Ever wonder where Marge Simpson gets her blue up-do hair done? Well I found the place! Apparently when Marge is in New York she goes to “Hair We Are” at 45-15 Queens Blvd. in Sunnyside, Queens.  Their window designer ‘Lawrence’ may not have realized that their mascot painted in their window has a very strong resemblance to the residents of Homer & Marge Simpson’s Springfield 🙂
UPDATE: July 20, 2014 – The above hair salon has closed and been replaced with a new hair salon with much better decor 🙂

Photo of the day: THE GREAT GATSBY’S VIEW

THE GREAT GATSBY’S VIEW: A rich and storied past surrounds the Mansfield Hotel, 12 west 44th street, located on famed Club Row, one of the most prestigious and history laden blocks in New York City.

Prior to the Mansfield’s construction in 1903, an orphanage occupied the same real estate until 1867, followed by a three-story brick stable that was built to service the opulent mansions along Fifth Avenue owned by the era’s social “elite”, including notables such as the Vanderbilts, Goelets, Whitneys, Goulds and the Mills.

Then in 1890, one of the most celebrated Architects of the era, James Renwick, was retained to design the Mansfield Hotel. His masterful works include Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, The New York Public Library and St. Bartholomew’s Church, as well as many other historic buildings throughout the city.

Constructed in the popular Beaux Arts style, and influenced by neoclassical Roman and Greek architecture with these beautiful copper bay windows, the Mansfield was originally built as a hostelry for well-heeled bachelors and socialites. Notables such as painter John Butler Yeats, father of the poet William Butler Yeats, stayed to experience a thriving New York following his immigration from Ireland. During the 1950s, the Mansfield was home to Maz von Gurach, who was believed to be the inspiration for Jay Gatsby, from F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”


Photo courtesy of Richard Turk

Photo courtesy of Richard Turk

A story of eerie coincidence. Colony records was an iconic sheet music and record store on Broadway which sadly closed after 64 years a few weeks ago. Repeat patrons included Benny Goodman, Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Liza Minnelli, Eartha Kitt and Michael Jackson, who in his later years took to scheduling after-hours appointments to drop by.
In my Sept. 28 blog “The Music Man’s Last Verse” I told the story of meeting Richard Turk the owner as I was trying to photograph the moving out and demolition of the store. We shared our memories of the store and (it turns out) our mutual love for singer and actress Eartha Kitt. “I was obsessed with her song C’est Si Bon, and of course fantasized about her as the Cat Woman on the Batman TV show.” Richard fondly recounted. His fantasy came true when one night, “Eartha Kitt came in, the store simply exploded!!! An absolute dynamite personality!”
I myself became obsessed with her when I saw her sing “I Want to be Evil” on the Ed Sullivan show in the early 1960’s. In the era of blonde Doris Day virgins, here was this black woman that wanted to be evil, I thought it was divine! I sought out all her records and amassed quite a collection with the help of Colony Records. In 1978 my dream came true when I met her March 1, 1978 at the Mark Hellinger theater when she starred in all the all black version of ‘Kismet’, a new show called “Timbuktu”. She made her entrance on top of a pyramid of black muscle men, one of them being a former Mr. Universe. She slithered down the pyramid and strode to the front of the stage, curled her bare toes over the edge, rose her arms and purred “I’m here!” It usually took many minutes for the wild enthusiastic applause to die down. I was in heaven. I crashed the opening party and was invited into her dressing room and she herself then invited me to Sardi’s opening party and we became friends after that, dancing nights away at Studio 54 and then exchanging letters while she toured with the show.
Fast forward to Wednesday, September 26, 2012 and Richard and his son  were shooting some video memories in the Colony, everything was cleaned out and they were in the basement when his son showed Richard one solitary record left on a shelf. “This is 100% the truth…” Richard said,  “This LP was the only item left in the empty Colony”
RCA 1953 Viktor 10″ LPM 3062  “RCA Viktor Presents Eartha Kitt” containing both songs “C’est Si Bon” and “I Want to be Evil”.  As Richard put it, “Erie shit…stranger than fiction eh!!”
The Earthly remains of Colony Records…Richard has kept the record for his private collection.

Photo of the day: RIBBON OF LIFE

RIBBON OF LIFE: Subway platforms are like ribbons of film to me, continuous little vignettes freezing life. Looking forward, looking down, looking back. Life on hold till the next action comes. Perfectly posed actors in the play of life.
“The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues.”

From the gallery: HELLO DOWN THERE!

HOLOGRAM HELLO: As you descend the steep stairs of legendary Greenwich Village nightclub Cafe Wha?, this 3D light sculpture/hologram hovers over your head and greets you as you descend into rock music’s history.
Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Springsteen, The Velvet Underground, Kool & the Gang, as well as comedic legends Woody Allen, Lenny Brice, Joan Rivers, Cosby and Pryor have all begun their careers here. Thank goodness it’s still here! Going down . . .

Photo of the day: CATCHING UP

CATCHING UP: Bryant Park behind the grand public library on Fifth Avenue is where all walks of life converge. It is one of my most cherished places to study and photograph people, to study their contrasts and comparisons. It is a park always rich with untold life’s stories.
I call this scene “Catching Up”. Three individual all have something in common yet their stories are most likely so diverse. The man on the left seems like a tired business man or clerk enjoying the sun on his lunch hour. Well dressed, neat clean – yet as the hours passed he remained in his coveted sunlit chair, he is not what he seems at first. Either loneliness or homelessness brings him to the park every day so he can read the daily newspapers loaned out by the library in their “outdoor reading room”.
The woman in the center fascinates me. Very positive body language. Assertively studying The Financial Times, article by article. Sophisticated mannerisms, briskly snapping the pages about, smartly dressed, but her ragged overstuffed suitcase gives her away – she is homeless. It is tragic to think that a woman with such intelligence would be brought to this point in life, what could have happened to her? I always think to myself “there but for the grace of God go I”. For these warm moments in the sun, the situation of her life is gone and she studies the world’s problems as she may have done so in her office perhaps at one time.
The man on the right is a messenger waiting for his beeper to go off to go on a call. It didn’t go off in the few hours I was there. Slumped from exhaustion he rests, determined to work if given the chance. He remained absolutely motionless steeped in slumber, perhaps escaping from the day. Each one of them sharing the same library garden to catch up.

From the gallery: THE WATER HOG

THE WATER HOG: This was the scene outside my window the other afternoon. A frustrated little sparrow kept waiting his turn for a sip of water, but this fat pigeon wouldn’t move out of the water dish. I have this dish set up so that the birds and squirrels always have some crucial water to drink. In the summer months I have to refill it twice a day. Most birds come for their morning and afternoon drink and socialize on my fire escape. My local squirrel (dubbed Oscar) receives an unsalted peanut every day. So we were a happy little bunch till this fat pigeon showed up the other day. He/she apparently thinks it is their personal sitz bath. This poor little sparrow kept coming back again and again, hopping around the dish to just get that one little sip while the pigeon contently contemplated life with it’s eyes closed, resting in the water dish.
Can you just imagine the conversation?:
“Ah, hey bud, you about finished in there?”
“Hey bud?!”
“You’re not going to fart in there on anything like that are you? I mean you’re just sitting there, right? No pooping either right?”
“Hey! It’s our water dish too and my other sparrow friends are gonna come in a minute and, and, and – well, we’ll come and stare at your rude self!”
“Hey, you even listening?”
“Gee! Peep, peep!”
Nothing, the pigeon just keeps it’s eyes closed till sundown when it finally stretched it’s wings, waddled over to the edge of the fire escape and flew off to his condo somewhere nearby. Another day in Sunnyside, Queens, 3rd floor.

Photo of the day: NEW YORK NOIR

NEW YORK NOIR: The angular shadows, the foggy side streets, footsteps in a deserted alley, the dame in distress trying to find the private dick’s office. Those great silver screen moments seem still alive in the shadowy alleys in New York at midnight. The Madison Square Park area abounds with such atmosphere that you might just expect to see Lauren Bacall following Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe to his dimly lit office while danger lurks around every corner of our wonderful narrow art deco imposing side streets.

From the gallery: FLY OVER

FLY OVER: Some of the best break dancers can be found in New York City’s Battery Park, entertaining ‘the troups/tourists’ by the hundreds as they come and go seeing the Statue of Liberty via ferry boat. They do incredible one hand stands, back flips and contortions but the ‘shows’ big finale is this ‘fly over’. They gather six people from the crowd, all sizes and line them up in a perfect row and ask them all to lean to the left and to the right alternately. Then with amazing speed and agility the lead dancer does a flip right over their heads! Can I get a standing ovation?

Photo of the day: COFFEE SHOP STILL LIFE

COFFEE SHOP STILL LIFE: Americana is the classic local coffee shop with the Coke machine, the cake tray bearing the last croissant, the classic pewter coffee shop water pitcher, the calculator to add the take-out order’s total. This little corner of Americana is the New Post Coffee Shop on Queens Blvd and 40th Street. It is comfort. Having stood still in time since the 1960’s, it is reassuring that the hectic pace of change can go away, just for that time you spend here. The classic ketchup bottle on the counter, those wonderful thick white coffee mugs, the cake trays with the plastic domes, the sizzle of the gridle, vinyl covered counter stools that twirl, laminate counters with plastic menus offering a wide variety of comfort food to make that awful boss, that annoying subway ride or that really bad day just go away.


CAR SURFING by DEE THE WHITE RAPPER: Crossing West 46th Street I came across a nice moment of a homeless person asking for cigarettes from the cars waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Guy in a white Toyota Solara generously offered a cigarette. I caught the moment on camera.
Man in car notices me. Looks at me, I call out: “It was a nice moment!”. Man in car in very cocky manner sez to me “You really want to see something?”
Ok, this can go many ways. Am I going to get flashed or mooned? Feeling I’m at a safe distance I just replied “Ok….”
“You just keep watching, ok?”
“Keep your camera on me.”
I’m getting a little worried, the car starts to move and the man starts to fumble with his seatbelt. I’m betting on getting mooned. He starts to slowly rise out of his car seat. I am convinced I’m about to get a ‘moon shot’. As the car speeds up the street, he totally stands up in the car seat while the car is moving, arms outstretched as the car heads up the street. The traffic light turns red. I run to catch up to the car.
He – is ‘Dee The White Rapper’ who makes appearances on the Howard Stern Show and is part of his Camera Gangsters. “That was not what I expected, cool!” I called out.
“I’m going to do it again, run up the street.” Now with more
confidence I run ahead of the car. Slowly the the Solara makes it’s way up the
street towards the camera and Sean Dee boldly ‘surfs’ the car up 46th Street. As
the car speeds away, Dee calls out “I do this all the time!”

Photo of the day: UP DO

UP DO: You can never have too many bobby pins!