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

Archive for April, 2013



Mondays on Memory Lane – I DREAM OF JEANNIE 30 and 40 YEARS LATER: I have met Barbara Eden 1-1/2 times in my lifetime. The first time was in the year 2000 while I was working in downtown Manhattan. I was on my lunch break and would usually have my lunch near City Hall Park. On Wednesday, February 16th at 12 noon I got to the park and I could see this huge, huge line of almost only men outside of the mega store J&R Music and Computer World at 15 Park Row just opposite City Hall. There was this unusual heightened buzz of excitement about them so naturally I had to go over to investigate. I thought it was probably a Playboy Bunny or pin-up girl or some hot girl rocker. The line snaked out of the store and down the block. It was three to four men deep. The closer they got to the entrance of the store, they would all stand on their tippy toes to see “her” inside. “It’s Jeannie! It’s really Jeannie! Man, she looks great!”
‘Jeannie who’ I wondered, what Jeannie in 2000 could cause such a stir of excitement? I went to the guard at the door and tried to claim I was just going to shop – but no dice “Gotta get in line, all the other men are dreamin’ of Jeannie too, bud.” That Jeannie?! I was filled with excitement and headed around the corner to the back of the line, with at least 100 – 150 men ahead of me. What was so extraordinary about this frenzy was . . . this was way before Barbara Eden was heavily promoting the old beloved TV series as she does now and signing replicas of the famous bottle. She was there to promote the now defunct Cygion Cyber Genie, a micro PBX cordless phone system.
Since it was a promotional tour, her time schedule was limited. You could hear the J&R personnel saying that they had not expected such an enormous turnout. So, by the time I got inside the door, only to see her far on the other end of the store, the announcement was made, “I’m sorry fellas, but Miss Eden would love to meet you all, but she has to go.” That started a big roar of boos but also wolf call whistles to let her know how ‘hot’ they thought she was. Now in retrospect, I think working for Cygion must have been part of the wake up call to Barbara Eden to realize how still very beloved and popular she was thirty years after the show’s end.
Fast forward to Friday, October 27, 2010, ten years later and I am about to have my “Dream” come true! I am attending the Chiller Theater Autograph Show in Parsippany, New Jersey, where TV, movie, sci-fi, and music stars come for you to meet them and get their autographs and photos for a price. Finally I was going to meet Jeannie. I got there early and the lines were very long. Patty Duke was there, John Astin of ‘Addams Family’, Linda Blair, Richard Roundtree of ‘Shaft’ fame, LeVar Burton of ‘Roots’, the entire surviving cast of ‘Jeannie’ and ‘Dallas’ including Larry Hagman and so, so many more. So you’d think with that many stars inside, the crowd would evenly be distributed inside, the way water seeks it’s own level. No. Most people raced to the Jeannie/Dallas room, the wait in the hot hotel hallway was about two hours. (Larry Hagman passed me in the hallway on the way to the bathroom, lol, surreal.)
 DSCN6644 - Copy
The wait was worth it. She was and is radiant. She beams love. There is an incredible gentility to her. She looked amazing! There was a man selling replicas of the bottle, which I had, had to have! I bought the bottle clenching it in my hand as I waited to meet Jeannie forty years later! How is it that I had aged and Jeannie hadn’t…yeah I know, she really is a genie! The moment came, I was next in line! My heart pounded, my palms started to sweat, my knees a little shaky, this was so surreal…a few steps more…a few steps more and I was in the arms of Barbara Eden. I had died and gone to heaven!
In 2010 I had met an extraordinary amount of celebrities on my wish list, including my obsession Cher (whom I had met before), but out of allll those stars, it was Jeannie that was the biggest thrill. To look at my nightstand today and see the signed bottle next to my bed is awesome, so I can truly ‘dream’ of Jeannie ♥.

Photo of the day: JOY – SPRING IS HERE !


Photo of the day: JOY! What is joy to you? The warm rays of the spring sun with promises of the summer to come? Celebrating a day off from work? Spending the day together with one of your best friends? Discovering a new part of town together on a noon day walk? Seeing a red breasted robin carrying a twig to his new nest? Smelling the heady perfume of hyacinths in bloom? Feeling the soft breeze on your face? Hearing the birds singing in the trees?  Shadows playfully changing shapes on the ground? White puffy clouds that look just like the ones you saw in your fairytale books? The almost ‘Oz’-like green of newly grown grass? Seeing a tulip tree in full bloom illuminated by the afternoon sun?
My dear friend Deborah Blau and I experienced all these things while being alone at George Washington’s haunted Morris-Jumel Mansion.
Or – is joy listening to this: One Of The Best Instrumentals Of All Time From The British Studio Group “Apollo 100” Featuring Keyboardist Tom Parker. This 1972 Hit Made It To #6 On The American Hot 100 And Is Based On The Bach Composition Titled “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring”.

Photo of the day: I LOVE BIG CANS!


As seen in Forest Hills, Queens
Photo of the day: YES I CAN!
can slang
noun: bathroom, breasts, buttocks, toilet.
verb – transitive: To dismiss (“fire”) from a job. To stop speech, visible emotion, etc.


1 /kæn; unstressed kən/ Show Spelled [kan; unstressed kuhn] Show IPA auxiliary verb and verb, present singular 1st person can, 2nd can or ( Archaic ) canst, 3rd can, present plural can; past singular 1st person could, 2nd could or ( Archaic ) couldst, 3rd could, past plural could. For auxiliary verb: imperative, infinitive, and participles lacking. For verb (Obsolete): imperative can; infinitive can; past participle could; present participle cun·ning.

auxiliary verb


to be able to; have the ability, power, or skill to: She can solve the problem easily, I’m sure.

to know how to: He can play chess, although he’s not particularly good at it.

to have the power or means to: A dictator can impose his will on the people.

to have the right or qualifications to: He can change whatever he wishes in the script.

may; have permission to: Can I speak to you for a moment?



NEW YORK POSTCARDS FROM THE PARK: Who writes postcards anymore?  Remember how special it was when you went to your mailbox and got those old postcards with the wavy white edges and the glossy finish from far away exotic places your family and friends had been too. Yellowstone Park, Central Park Zoo, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sardi’s restaurant on Broadway, on the road on route 66, the exotic far east, Carnaby Street in London, your family’s little home town or just from Schlomel’s Pickle Store in the Bowery. I remember the air lines would have postcards available with pictures of their jets in flight so that you could mail them upon arrival at your vacation spot to announce you had arrived safely.
“Dear Jane,
Having a wonderful time,
wish you were here! Can’t wait to tell you all about it!
My love to the kids.”
Written in fountain pen or blue (never liked black) ball point pen, with a special postage stamp for your loved ones you had searched for, to make the postcard all the more special! I have an old shoe box stored away somewhere with all those wonderful postcards answering that excited request when they left “send me a postcard!”
Nowadays, it’s a quick ‘check in ‘ on Facebook, a couple of quick instagram photos sent, flickr and YouTube to follow. It’s just not the same. Today in New York City you can find plenty of postcards, some as cheap as 10 for $1.00 – but good luck in trying to find a place that sells postage stamps, it’s almost impossible. Do you remember the last time you got your mail and there was that colorful card from loved ones at the Grand Canyon or the Alps in Switzerland or even from the sea shore in ‘Jersey’?
I spied this older couple sending them to their loved ones back home. They both took the time to write several long sentences to each loved one. One card was going to Natick, Massachusetts, the other to Tucson, Arizona. “Look mom, a postcard!”



I TAWT I TAW A PUDDY TAT / I THOUGHT I SAW A PUDDY TAT! – I was walking down West 42nd Street and I noticed this odd twosome of ladies leaning into and staring into the cement wall around the Public Library with great intent and fascination. I stopped walking and stood there, to observe the ‘observers’. What could be so fascinating staring into the bushes behind the cement wall? I stood there, they stared. I stood some more, they stared more intently, they did not move an inch, frozen…staring. Curiosity getting the better of me, I drew closer to see if I too could discover this secret fascination that only these two were privy to.
As I approached them from the other side I saw the binoculars in her hand! Oooh, I thought, juicy scandalicoius celebs making out behind the bushes! Or perhaps a secret filming of a top secret movie. No. They were bird watchers, intently watching some (maybe not so) ordinary sparrows in the bushes! Thank goodness no puddy tats were around, just two bird watchers, some perplexed New Yorkers and me.



Photo taken from completed World Trade Center #7

THE WOOLWORTH TOWER “IT ALL ADDS UP” – 100 YEARS OLD TODAY: On October 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm, ‘Open House New York’ gave me the rare privilege of going to the top of the newly finished World Trade Center #7. The floor had not yet been occupied and afforded me the breath taking views of the Woolworth Tower soon to be only the views seen by office workers in the building. It was a thrilling bittersweet experience.
On April 24, 1913 Frank W. Woolworth completed what was then the tallest building in the world, 57 stories tall, on lower Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street, opposite City Hall. He called it his ‘cathedral of commerce’. Decorated with the finest craftsmanship, artwork, gold leaf and mocking gargoyles. The exterior decoration was cast in limestone-colored glazed architectural terra-cotta panels.
The completed height 792 feet (241 m). A breath-taking observation deck on the 57th floor was open to the public. It remained the tallest building in the world till the Chrysler Building was built in 1930, then only to be surpassed by the Empire State Building.
The most wonderful part of the story is he paid the full price of the building upon completion $13.5 million dollars …in cash. . . in nickels and dimes! Mr. Woolworth was noted for saying “it all adds up!”. So the next time your mother tells you to ‘save your nickels and dimes’ – listen to her! In my office at home I have a framed 1913 advertising brochure of Frank W. Woolworth who created one of the greatest financial empires in the world through his successful idea of ‘five and dime’ stores (our .99 cent stores of today.) I keep his brochure on my wall to remind me, it does all add up!
Tragically the building today has fallen victim to the cancer that is NYU university, which has taken over the building and will let no none NYU persons into the building, not even to peek a the lobby (there are nasty bully guards at the door) and rare tours are only for the very few and high paying. Or – you could pay the average $65,000 a year price tag tuition to attend NYU and tour the building whenever you wish. It is disgusting that this tower based on the nickels and dimes of the working class has succumbed to the über elite.
They have stolen our city treasure. It is the aftermath of the greedy era of mayor Michael Bloomberg and an even more dangerous villain councilwoman Christine Quinn. After NYU’s grab of the building, on July 31, 2012 an investment group led by Alchemy Properties bought the top thirty floors of the building. The tower will be turned in to 40 luxury apartments with a five level penthouse on top. Many people are looking for apartments in that area. The investment group says that the building historic status down town “has the catch to give it an edge over its competitors. “The luxury apartments will began at three hundred fifty feet from the ground level. Each apartment will have a view of lower and midtown Manhattan. The apartments will have ceiling heights that are about eleven to fourteen feet tall. A fifty five foot long pool in the basement will be restored for the use of the people who live there. The apartment is set to sell at seven and a half million dollars for about two thousand five hundred square feet. Over the entire project will cost one hundred fifty million dollars to build the apartments and plus the sixty eight million dollars used to purchase the space. . . a far cry from the days of nickels and dimes, those days are far gone.

Mondays on Memory Lane – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip ‘shop’ Bloomingdale’s 1976

QUEEN ELIZABETH collageQueen Elizabeth II                                                        Prince Philip and Marvin Traub

Mondays on Memory Lane – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip ‘shop’ Bloomingdale’s 1976: It wasn’t your average advertisement in the local papers ‘Come Meet the Queen at Bloomingdales’! This being 1976, the height of the disco era it could have been any one of dozens of queens. Divine, Sylvester, Craig Russell, Holly Woodlawn, Rollerena, Charles Pierce, Danny LaRue, Jim Bailey?
No, this was THE Queen to beat out all other queens, The one that always carries her handbag wherever she goes. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Phillip. (As Bette Midler once famously asked: “What has she got in that handbag?! A card that says ‘I am the Queen?!’) Bloomingdale’s then CEO and president Marvin Traub had pulled off the media stunt of all stunts and convinced the Queen to visit his store. This was quite a coup for him. She wasn’t visiting Macy’s, SAKS, or Bonwitts, Tiffany or Bergdorf’s, she was visiting the store that was so hotly in vogue at the time. The Queen “didn’t choose Saks, and she didn’t choose Bergdorf — she chose Bloomingdale’s,” Traub once boasted in an interview with The Post.
As part of the city’s 1976 bi-centennial celebrations, on Friday, July 9th, 1976, the Queen first decided to participate in a little historical reenactment herself. Most famously, the Queen graced the steps of Trinity Church to receive back rent owed the crown — 279 peppercorns. A bronze plaque presently marks the spot at Trinity where she accepted the peppercorns.
After a luncheon at the Waldorf, the royals fit in a couple unusual stops. The first was a spot of afternoon tea at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Harlem, accompanied by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Afterwards, they sped downtown for a tour of Bloomingdale’s, not only stopping traffic, but reversing it on Lexington Avenue, to allow the Queen to exit her vehicle from the right side.
She quietly moved from floor to floor, admiring the many displays of products of British make, particularly the pottery and furniture. She was also greeted to a private fashion show, as Her Majesty was led through a room of mannequins garbed in the latest stylish trends from 1976. Along the way, a few American designers made appearances to greet Queen Elizabeth, including Calvin Klein.
I recall it was in the mid afternoon and many office workers made it a long lunch to see the famous couple. I got there several hours early to get a good viewing spot on one of the upper floors where a museum exhibit had been set up. The aisles were narrow here so therefore the best spot to snap a picture with my little instamatic camera with the square flashcubes. The buzz on the floor was heightened but polite, no shoving or pushing – after all, it was the Queen! She graciously perused the exhibit but her eyes and his swept across the crowd as they truly tried to connect to the people of New York, it was quite remarkable. (Remember, this is before John Lennon’s 1980 assassination and security was still very lax in those days.) A representative of Bloomingdale’s remarked, “we thought — and the Queen agreed — that it would be a very American experience for her to go amidst all the crowds and just pretend she might be shopping.”
It was a surreal ‘pretend shopping excursion’ but it was a thrill for me, but alas…no…she didn’t do the royal hand wave 🙂
Story told in honor of her 87th birthday yesterday April 21.



THE HAPPY SPRING THAT ALMOST WAS: A popular question in New York and around the world is ‘why don’t you ever see baby pigeons?’.  You do see them, but you don’t notice.

Their beaks are slightly flatter and wider than an adult’s and for the first week or two after leaving the nest, the feathers around the base of the beak are bristly and lay back along the face. You may occasionally see one begging a parent to feed it – it will normally run after the parent, quivering its wings and squeaking – hence the name for a very young pigeon, just feathered – a squeaker.

During their first week of life baby pigeons are fed a high-fat, high-protein diet of crop milk produced by both parents. The leading cause of death among baby pigeons is temperature related. Without warmth, the body loses too much energy and the little squab simply can’t recover from his fight to enter the world. They grow very fast. Pigeons don’t fledge (leave the nest) until they are almost adult-sized

In the case of domestic/feral pigeons, they walk well at about 18 days of age and start exercising their wings about a week later. But because they have been regularly fed by the adults and haven’t done much exercising, the babies are often bigger than their parents by the time they start to fly, which is on average of only 30 to 32 days after hatching. Many species of pigeons will rear their young to independence in under 3 weeks.

Sadly they are also not very adept nest builders nor are they too attentive to the egg. That is what happened to my pigeon couple “Fred and Ethel” living under and on top of my air conditioner. Joyously after days of endless coo-ing I noticed a nest being built on top of my air conditioner and soon an egg appeared. I dropped extra twigs down so they could have the best nest in town. I put out bread crumbs and my usual water for them. They both took turns sitting on the egg but would stay away for disturbingly long periods, up to 20 minutes, leaving the egg unattended. My concern was the dropping temperatures to the mid 40’sF. But last night I went to bed and saw mom/’Ethel’ pigeon contently sitting in her nest, cooing away.

This morning I awoke to see no one attending the nest. I rushed to the window – the egg was gone. Hopefully they will take PPC = P.igeon P.arenting C.lasses and the next time will be more successful. Here’s hoping!

Photo of the day: MY DOG NOEL’S $178 NEW YORK HAIR CUT!

NOEL collage

MY DOG NOEL’S $178 HAIR CUT: The saga of my dog’s haircut. Living in New York with a large 60 lb. sheep dog/terrier mix dog isn’t easy…especially if you don’t own a car. So the saga begins. It’s time for a hair cut. Noel had become way too fuzzy and matted from a winter’s worth of rub-downs from playing in the snow.
First obstacle: Most of the groomers in this neighborhood, despite being a garden/large dog area, won’t groom large dogs. If they do, they do a lousy job or totally freak out or injure the dog.
Second obstacle: When you do find a groomer – how do you get there? Most new Yorkers don’t own cars, much less even know how to drive.
Third obstacle: The co$t.
Noel has become to be mom’s dog. They are perfect company for each other, two older ladies growing old together. Noel is 13, mom is 87. Mom finally found ‘Le Pitou II’, a groomer that didn’t scar Noel emotionally as well as physically in the neighborhood of Forest Hills, several miles up Queens Blvd.
Next step is to cajole the car service into letting me bring a large dog, by providing our own blanket to shield the car. Noel is a docile car rider so Noel is no problem.
The appointment was scheduled for 1pm in the afternoon.  The car driver grumbled a bit when he saw Noel but we assured him it would be no problem, translation: “I want a good tip for this.”
As we arrive at Le Pitou groomers, the good sign is Noel was happy to be there. “It will take a while, four hours.” Ok, I thought, she’s practically a walking shag carpet, four hours sounds reasonable. Rather than taking the subway back home, I decided to photograph the mansions in nearby Forest Hills Gardens, a private gated community, one of America’s first planned communities. The day went from sunny and warm to cold, foggy and chilly and by 5pm I was more than ready to pick up  Noel. “Two more hours,” I was told. Tired from being the wandering photographer I took the subway home. 7:15pm the phone rings, Noel is ready for pick up. Back on the subway I go for the quick ride back to Forest Hills. $93 later, Noel looked adorable and was happy as a clam. I tipped the groomer $20 cash, without really looking in my wallet. Next urgency on the agenda = walkies! After walkies it was time to go through the same song and dance with the car company: “Yes, she is 50+lbs, but she is very docile. No, she doesn’t bark. Yes, she is clean. I have my own blanket.” Instead of the $18 charged in the morning – now the cab ride was $25. Ok, fine. I said I would meet the car outside the groomer.
While waiting, I checked my wallet. I only had three $5 bills. I quickly looked for a nearby bank…none to be found in sight. (I will not go to a bodega’s ATM, many of them contain ‘card readers’ that steal all your info.) So, with 15 minutes to spare, I raced down the blvd. to find a bank. The nearest one was 10 blocks away and Noel was getting tired.     After six blocks, the cell phone rings “Your car is in front of the groomers.” Now I had to race six blocks back to the car. While running, I called  mom and asked her to meet me on our corner at home of 46th Street and Queens Blvd. (the Manhattan bound traffic side/coming from further in Queens) with a $20. bill. Fine all settled. I try explaining to my Russian driver whose English was limited and therefore a bit overwhelmed and perplexed at my hyper state explanation. Down the blvd. we go. All is fine.
We arrive at 46th/Queens Blvd. – no mom. I look up and down the street – no mom. Akward! I plead with the driver to cross the blvd to a nearby Chase bank. (I can hear on the car radio his dispatcher wondering where he was.) I offered to leave my expensive camera in the car, while running into Chase’s ATM to withdraw $40.
I came out a gratefully handed him the whole $40 and apologized and thanked him profusely.
Where is mom?! (No she doesn’t have a cell phone).  I dragged poor tired Noel up and down the blvd = no mom. Her phone at home doesn’t answer. I try going to my house – no mom. I go to mom’s house – not there either, I take Noel back to my place so she can rest and drink some water and have some cookies. Back out to hit the streets to search for mom. With no other logical places to look for her I start to get panicked thoughts of dread, she got hit  by a car, mugged, etc. I decided to cross to the Queens bound side of the huge blvd and search there. As I arrive on the other side, there comes mom, slowly making her way with her cane, looking worried and perplexed. “Where were you?!” we both asked.
“But this is where we always arrive when we come home,” mom replied.  Yes mom from Manhattan, not from Queens, I was coming from Forest Hills Queens. “Our side means the side we live on, the other side.” Befuddled and tired we headed to my apartment to walk Noel home to mom’s apartment around the corner. Once home, mom and Noel settled into their respective favorite spots and rested. Noel looked at us as if to say ‘what’s all the fuss, I look wonderful?!’
$25. cab fare to groomer
$93. grooming
$20. groomer’s tip
$40. cab ride home_____
$178. New York hair cut!

Photo of the day: SNOW GLOW


SNOW GLOW: During my hiatus from blogging and Facebook, the blizzard of February 10, 2013 hit Sunnyside Queens, New York and I got the photograph I had been wanting to get for a long time. The street my mother lives on, 45th Street, near Queens Blvd. has a great view of the passing #7 train. When it rains or snows it always has an atmosphere of eerie yet romantic, old world yet in today’s times and a great misty light play. I grabbed my camera and stood in the snow for two hours till midnight photographing the storm and the light plays. This is one of my favorites moments.



XENA, IMPECCABLE NEW YORK STYLE: There is self expression. There is a sense of fashion. There is a sense of style.
Xena has perfected all three of them. I was photographing the people in Union Square, and it was the usual assemblage of punk rockers, NYU students, locals and 9-5ers. I was preparing to leave when I saw Xena leaning against the black cast iron railing and I stopped dead in my tracks. She was perfection!
The jadeite green French twist hair contrasting with the faded violet colored dress showed off her beautiful alabaster skin, cat eye makeup and glasses to match. Retro, punk, chic all in one – done with style. Xena is New York !



BUMPING IN TO MARILYN: Marilyn and the New York subways will be forever linked together since her iconic subway-grate skirt blowing scene from the 1954 film “The Seven Year Itch”. Coming out of the Trans Lux movie theater (Lexington Avenue/52nd Street) having seen “The Creature From The Black Lagoon” Marilyn wanders over the grate and joyously exclaims “Oooh, do you feel the breeze from the subway?! Isn’t it delicious?”
Incredibly and sadly, there is nothing there on the spot to commemorate that sizzling moment, but the photos from that infamous scene will live on forever – you think of Marilyn – you think of that white Travilla halter dress which Debbie Reynolds recently sold at auction for $4.6 million dollars.
One the most perfect photographs was shot by photographer, her friend and film maker Sam Shaw. Thanks to the MTA’s Art for Transit Program you can now ‘bump into Marilyn’ again for all of this 2013 in our subway system. The supersized version of Sam Shaw’s well-known 1954 photo is part of an exhibit. The exhibit also features seven of Shaw’s other Monroe photos.  Later, in 1957, he spent a day with Marilyn wandering around Manhattan, taking photos in Central Park – at a bench and rowing a boat, window shopping along Fifth Avenue and perched above the FDR with then husband #3 playwright Arthur Miller .

The Sam Shaw lighted photo exhibit is on view inside the 42nd Street-Bryant Park subway station on the B, D, F, M and 7 lines. Manager Lester Burg of the Arts for Transit program says matching a mass transit setting with a popular figure from mass culture seemed a good fit. I would agree, ‘isn’t it delicious?’

PhotoS of the day: I AM FEATURED IN THE NEW ‘SocialEyesNYC.com’ VIDEO!



PhotoS of the day: I AM FEATURED IN THE NEW ‘SocialEyesNYC.com’ VIDEO! –  My friend Randi Horwitz has a web site and Facebook page called SocialEyesNYC.com.  Her current video release advertising her new site features some of my photos! The site features some of my photos and we will work together to feature more of my photos in the future.
Randi’s steadfast work is incredibly all encompassing. She gathers all possible upcoming interests in one site with just a click of your mouse. Ideal for my fellow tour guides! From Ballet to Boxing, Parades to Photo galleries, Cooking clubs to comedy shows = her research done for you is amazingCHECK SocialEyesNYC.com OUT for all of your NYC activity plans including street fairs, concert presale codes, Broadway discounts, activities for kids, music around town, lectures/classes, weekend itineraries and so much more! SocialEyesNYC is the premier New York City lifestyle/social activity guide focusing on diverse and sometimes not so obvious, activities ranging from art to wine tasting and everything in between. SocialEyesNYC ™ ~ See The City Like a Native “New Yawkah”



Mondays on Memory Lane – STARBUCKS USED TO BE A NEW YORK DISCO! At the height of the disco craze, when there was a disco every few blocks in New York City, themes became the thing to separate a club from the crowd. There were circuses, mermaids, big band swing orchestras, human pin ball fists, ice skating, drag, dancing water fountains, roller skating featured in places such as planetariums, warehouses, garages, factories and even a deserted subway station.

The life span of a club was as follows:
1. Invite the gays and hope it turns into another Studio 54.
2. The straight chic crowd discovers it from their gay friends.
3. The gays leave because it isn’t “in” anymore.
4. The ‘bridge and tunnel crowd’ arrives aka Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and (god forbid) ‘Jersey’.
5. The death knell “Tito Puente Night”
6. Closed
On Thursday evening, March 26th, 1981, in a (then) deserted section of the city, at 151 East 45th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues – STARBUCKS Disco opened with great fanfare. In order to attract a gay crowd while not wanting to put off and also attract the straight crowd from the beginning, a theme was needed, so rather than leather, glitz or drag – a cowboy theme was chosen, hopefully equally appealing to both gay and straight. Opening night was a mad house.
 DANNY'S HIDEAWAY RESTAURANTDanny's Hideaway, 151 East 45st Street New York
The old Danny’s Hideaway (above)
The location itself used to be Danny’s Hideaway bar and restaurant containing four floors where newspapermen, cartoonists and magazine editors used to hang out. The new renovation turned the space into a multi-leveled disco with an identity crisis. There was a working fireplace which remained from the old bar still on the first floor. Since they were desperate to attract all crowds, there was a different atmosphere and music on four floors. A slide connected the floors so that you could fly down the chutes from floor to floor. There was a dance floor on every floor—two of which were disco (one of the dance floors was lighted from underneath ala ‘Saturday Night Fever’), one rock and the top floor was country western complete with a mechanical bull! There was DJ Jim Maxwell on the first floor and DJ Dan (pooch) Pucciarelli on the third floor. With no Studio 54 elitist door policy in place, they pretty much let anybody in since they needed to fill such a big space. $15 got you in the door with free drinks all night…yes, free drinks served in tiny plastic cups which completely littered the floor. It was also one of the very few discos that advertised on local TV stations.
What doesn’t work is to mix cowboy boot wearing, plaid shirted country music lovers with platform shoed, bell-bottomed glittery disco dancers and leather clad rockers. It was a disaster. Each floor’s music blasted the music so loud that it thumped through your chest. Imagine hearing Donna Summer, Duran Duran and Alabama blasting in one building at the same time – insane! The gays/chic Manhattan crowd wrote off the club opening night and the disco life cycle was rapidly overnight sped up to step #4 – ‘bridge & tunnel’. Eventually it turned into an after work hangout for the working class and weekends it was dead. The disco/dance crowd wanted to get dressed up and shine on the weekends, not mix with the working stiffs they were trying not to be, inevitably by 1984 Starbucks Disco closed. Today the name Starbucks is synonymous with the world wide caffeine giant it has become with over 20,891+ locations world wide, 13,280+ in the USA and 172 locations in Manhattan…so necessary for their public bathrooms we have come to seek out.   
The invitation reads as follows: “STARBUCKS is a multilevel new western restaurant, disco and cabaret. Designed by Renny Reynolds and lighting by Brian Thompson. Complete with Bucky Bronco, haylofts, hay slides, barbecue pit, waterfall, glass elevator, screening room, wood burning fireplaces, skylighted dance floors and an array of futuristic surprises.”
Invitation design by Greg Porto. Artwork by Dain Marcus



LATE NIGHT ON SIXTH AVENUE: It’s 11pm on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village. Three women are waiting.
One for the bus. One for her meatball. One for…someone.

Photo of the day: “HEY DUM DUM! YOU GIVE ME GUM GUM!”


“Hey dum-dum. You give me gum-gum!”: One of the most beloved attractions at The Museum of Natural History is “Dum Dum” the talking Easter Island tiki statue from the 2006 movie “A Night At The Museum” starring Ben Stiller.
‘Dum Dum’ is actually a Moai carved by the Rapa Nui people from rock on the Chilean Polynesian island of Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500AD. Nearly half are still at Rana Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu  around the island’s perimeter. Eleven of the 887 statues have been given to museums around the world and have become well loved, especially ‘Dum Dum’.
Their story is extraordinary:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moai
Night at the Museum (2006)
Easter Island Head: Hey! Dum-dum!
Larry: Yes?
Easter Island Head: You give me gum-gum!
Larry: I give you gum-gum?
Easter Island Head: You new Dum-dum. You give me gum-gum.
Larry: Gee, okay, you know what? I have no gum-gum. Sorry. And my name isn’t Dum-dum. My name’s Larry.
Easter Island Head: No, your name Dum-dum. [People screaming]
Easter Island Head: Oh, you in trouble, Dum-dum. You better run-run. From Attila the Hun-hun. [Larry runs as Attila and his gang are chasing him]
Easter Island Head: See you later, Dum-dum!
Larry: [on his second night at the museum] Morning, dum-dum.
Easter Island Head: Me no dum-dum. You dum-dum. You bring me gum-gum?
Larry: Yes I did, fathead. [holds up a handful of gum]
Larry: Lots and lots of gum-gum.
Easter Island Head: [shouts] Quiiiiieeeeeeettttt! [silence]
Easter Island Head: My dum-dum want to speak.
Many of you may not know that “Dum Dum” was also a hit pop song by Brenda Lee in 1961 ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ3bhgQWeJA



MEET 59 OF MY NEWEST FRIENDS FROM INDIA! – Three years ago my friend Ajay Bansal took one of my NYC tours while I was working for a horrible private touring company which wasn’t very “receptive” to their guests. Ajay left that company and came to me privately to lead his student tours through New York and it has been a joyful relationship ever since. This spring 2013  tour was comprised of 52 gifted students (all boys) and 7 chaperones. Their eyes were filled with wonderment and eager with anticipation, hanging on my every word. As with most children abroad, their only concept of America and New York is through movies, videos and commercials.
Their naïveté is adorable – upon seeing the Empire State building the youngest ones asked “Ooooh, is that the World Trade Center?” “Where is the Liberty Statue?!” “Can you see movie stars on the street?” “Have you met the president?” “Do you live in a penthouse?” I simply fell in love with all of them. The age range was from 13 to 18, so the group ranged from total innocence to hip hop wanna-bees.  But one thing they all have in common is a stringent politeness. It took me a whole day to stop them from calling me “sir’ and we finally settled on “Mr. Hans”.
It was a full three day schedule including: the Empire State Building, bus tours, a harbor cruise to see Miss Liberty, The 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street, South Street Seaport, the United Nations, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (who knew they had a Bollywood exhibit?!), the Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs!) and of course M&M World in Times Square. It was a busy schedule. As we toured through the city several quotes come to mind:
“What are all those white boxes in the windows?” = air conditioners.
“The water coming from the sky is definitely making me wet.” = rain.
“Was King Kong really right here?” = no…that was a doll (the little boy seemed rather disappointed.).
“Is that Canada?” = no, it’s New Jersey.
“Will it snow today, please?” = no, it’s too warm.
“This food is most pleasing” = ‘delicious.’
We may laugh at some of these comments but they are terribly endearing. To have had the privilege to spend time with such innocent, polite and loving children made the tour such a joy.  All the sights excited them, I think the big ‘hits’ were the Liberty Statue and the wax museum. They were fascinated that are streets are filled with such diversity “in our country – everyone looks the same.” But above all that, they had only one consuming desire and that is – to shop! (Head phones seemed to be atop most of their lists.) So Best Buy was their main goal.
Their next stop is on to Washington, D.C., and then on to Disney World. Not bad, huh? It was hard to say goodbye to them, but same time next year, I’ll have some little boy tug on my sleeve and say “Sir . . . how far is Best Buy from here…?” I look forward to that already.


THE GREEK EARTH MOTHER ~ MELINA MERCOURI: In honor of Greek Independence Day yesterday Καλημέρα CALIMERA!

For those of you too young to know who Melina Mercouri was, below is the Random House dictionary definition of ‘earth mother’ = that would befit Melina.

earth’ moth`er
n. 1. the earth conceived of as the female principle of fertility and the source of all life.

2. a female spirit or deity serving as a symbol of life or fertility.

3. a sensuous, maternal woman.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In 1960 Melina Mercouri had become an international sensation. Her Greek  film classic ”Never On Sunday” was a tremendous world wide success.  The lp record of the musical score by Manos Hadjidakos played constantly in our house – I was raised on it and it played in every public establishment you went, there was a craze for everything Greek. “Never On Sunday” became the single most successful foreign film at the time. Melina played ‘Ilya’ a feisty Greek streetwalker with a heart of gold. Not until 1970 was I even allowed to see the film because for those times it was considered to risqué for television and mom wouldn’t allow me to see it in the movies. I was captivated. I had never seen such an earthy woman. The confidence, the walk, the mannerisms and above all – that voice! “Never On Sunday” is based on ‘Pygmalion’ by George Bernard Shaw later to become “My Fair Lady” starring Audrey Hepburn – the streetwalker then changed to the more befitting flower girl for American tastes.

melina soundtrackhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQht_oEDKTc

Jules Dassin, Melina’s husband in real life, directed the film as well as starred in the title role of the American tourist Homer, who is determined to transform Ilya into a refined lady of culture. Melina’s Ilya, not able to bear sadness, doesn’t believe in the classic Greek tragedies. She loves going to the theatre to see the tragedies but in retelling the stories later to her ‘clients’ and friends at the local bar, she twists them from her perspective so that they all end happily with the line, “and they all went to the seashore!”


In person Melina’s voice was smokey and gravely (mostly by nature but also partially due to her chain smoking). Her tossed blonde hair was like a mane. She moved like a sensual tribal dancer. Her laugh was absolutely unmistakable – uproarious, uncontrolled, deeply from the gut.  Endless enthusiasm, filled with a passion for the arts and life. A fiercely independent Greek destined to become Greece’s member of parliament in 1977 and Greece’s first Minister of Culture in 1981!

MELINA B-Whttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA-4b_hEfKo

In the fim clip as she is being carried off the man laughingly says “…and they all went to the seashore!”

On Saturday, October 21, 1972 we met. My mother Ursula worked at the time for Clifford Day Mallory of Mystic Seaport, Connecticut. The Mallory family happened to have founded Mystic, Connecticut. Mom was personal assistant to Mr. Mallory who was in the shipping brokerage business, which means, they brokered empty cargo ships to the highest oil company bidder for them to be used to transport their oil to the port of choice. Mr. Mallory had a business deal with Jules Dassin while Melina was in town for her failed musical version of “Lysistrata” . . . so all our  lives converged.

This divine earth mother had come to Broadway in the Greek comedic play ‘Lysistrata’  by Aristophanes written in 411BC!  It ironically deals with the story in which the women of Greece withhold sexual favors from the men until they men agree to stop going to war. A sexual political farce. Melina was born to play the part. The show previewed on October 20, 1972 – the night the above seated dressing room photo was taken. My first and ever lasting impression of her was how she pronounced my name. ‘Hrchrchanzz’. Being Greek, she could not say a soft letter “H”, but out came this throaty ‘Hrchrchanzz’. A hard “H” purred from her lips. Sitting there in her dressing room in her off white cashmere pants (she loved cashmere) and her deep purple silken blouse, blowing billows of cigarette smoke into the air.


”Lysistrata’ played 35 previews until it’s opening night we attended on November 13, 1972. The show was for 1972, too ahead of it’s time and the reviews (many based on personal vengeance) were very unfavorable based on Melina’s political views against the military coup of her country. Shockingly it closed after only 8 performances/one week. Closing night was October 18, 1972. Melina took the news philosophically. “Po po po! I can’t be sad, I was born Greek and will die Greek, this is telling me I am meant to concentrate even more to fight for my country.”  She continued on in the United States to publicize her 1971 book “I Was Born Greek”.  Melina was staying at the hotel Nevaro on Central Park South in the penthouse suite. While Melina’s husband Jules conducted business with mom’s boss Mr. Mallory, mom and I were sent to keep Melina company. Melina had loved the photo I had taken of her the night we met, “Po po po! It is so soft, yes?” Melina’s ‘yes’ meant ‘isn’t that so?’ The ‘softness’ comes across because she was so happy and had such belief in her new Broadway show. To please Melina and to take her mind off the show I had the photo made into a poster (black and white was all I could afford) and presented it to her in her hotel suite. “Hrchrchanzz! I think you do this to make me happy, yes?” Yes I did. Melina signed my copy of the poster which has been framed on my wall for the past 41 years.

Sometime in the 1980’s I heard from some fans of hers complimenting me on the photo. It turns out Melina had used the photo in a Greek publication of her biography – I had been published! Sadly I have never found a copy of the book or the literature. Every time I pass that vibrant proud Greek earth mother’s photo on my wall- I still feel her embrace and hear that uproarious laughter “Ah Hrchrchanzz!” She was and always will be Greece!


A brief bio:


Melina Mercouri

(Greek: ΜελίναΜερκούρη), born as Maria Amalia Mercouri (18 October 1920 – 6 March 1994) was a Greek actress, singer and politician. As an actress she made her film debut in Stella (1955) and met international success with her performances in Never on Sunday, Phaedra, Topkapi and Promise at Dawn. She won the award for Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival, and she was also nominated for an Academy Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and two BAFTA Awards.

A political activist during the Greek military junta of 1967–1974, she became a member of the Hellenic Parliament in 1977 and the first female Minister for Culture of Greece in 1981. Mercouri was the person who, in 1983, conceived and proposed the programme of the European Capital of Culture, which has been established by the European Union since 1985.

She was a strong advocate for the return to Athens of the Parthenon Marbles, which were removed from the Parthenon, and are now displayed in the British Museum.

Photo of the day: TASTY TULIPS


TASTY TULIPS: While wandering through the 14th Street farmers market in Union Square Saturday early morning, it was the early morning’s sunlight as it illuminates the flowers that always catches your eyes. As I was busy looking through the lens photographing some displays of tulips on a table, I heard this voracious munching and slobbering sound at my feet. There was Frida, this loveable chocolate colored dog who evidently thought that tulips are just about the tastiest things for breakfast…burp.
Tiptoe through the window
By the window, that is where I’ll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me
Oh, tiptoe from the garden
By the garden of the willow tree
And tiptoe through the tulips with me
Knee deep in flowers we’ll stray
We’ll keep the showers away
And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight
Will you pardon me?
And tiptoe through the tulips with me
Tiny Tim

Photo of the day: HOMER SIMPSON ~ BURP !


BURP:  Time to lay back . . it’s the weekend . . . burp.

Photo of the day: SHINE AND A SMOKE


SHINE AND A SMOKE: An age old part of the fabric our Manhattan’s streets is the show shine boy. Now that so many of us wear sneakers and sport shows, leather shoes aren’t quite as prevalent, but the shoe shine boy tradition lives on. You start with a makeshift box of your own and fill it will all the supplies you can barely afford, then you have to scout a street location with good traffic that isn’t already taken. This young boy chose the front of Trinity Church near Wall Street and was working hard while his customer enjoyed the scene with a leisurely smoke.
Perhaps he will make enough money to work his way up to owning a stand with the raised upholstered seat, those at Grand Central Terminal do quite well. The final step is to get you own shop with maybe 3 or 5 stands. It’s a age-old American success story. “Shine mister?”
SASEK Shoeshine  collage


DEBBIE REYNOLDS 1993 - 2013 collage

DEBBIE REYNOLDS AND HANS / HANS AND DEBBIE REYNOLDS – 20 YEARS LATER: When you think of the Hollywood classic movies of all time – one of the top five films is 1952’s “Singing In The Rain” starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. When you think of Hollywood scandals it’s Eddie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds/Liz Taylor.
I first met Debbie Reynolds in 1973 as she was appearing in the Broadway musical “Irene” at the Minskoff theater. Twenty years later, in 1993, we met at her Las Vegas hotel and museum. Now twenty years later again, in 2013, we met again last night!
 DEBBIE 1973
Debbie Reynolds is truly the Unsinkable Molly Brown! She is the symbol of a survivor. She has made her mark on every form of show business and is still going strong. The epitome of the ingenue, America’s sweetheart, singer, comedian, dancer, television mom to Grace Adler on “Will & Grace” and now….she will play Liberace’s mom in the upcoming HBO biopic of his life. Debbie turned 81 on this past April 1 and loves being born on that day since she says she always has an excuse to act crazy.
She has just released her final memoir “Unsinkable” because she wanted to leave a truthful record behind and “not all the crap that they say about you after you’re gone!” So she dished all the dirt in a witty, heart-on-your-sleeve, brutally honest, always with a wink page turning book, co-authored by the delightful Dorian Hannaway. Her pensions for always marrying the wrong man, her cruel trial at starting a hotel and Hollywood museum in Las Vegas in 1993, being $20 million dollars bankrupted due to the hotel and a con artist (possibly murderous) third husband and recently selling of course one of the most prestigious Hollywood memorabilia collections of all time including Marilyn Monroe’s white halter “Seven Year Itch” dress for $4.6 million dollars, all because she has been the pack rat preserving our film history.
She is sadly doing very limited press appearance for the book. Her only three appearances so far include
– 4/9/13 6:30 PM at the Egyptian Theater – Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.
– 4/13/13 6:00 PM at Barnes & Noble – Grove Drive. Los Angeles, CA.
– and last night at New York’s 92nd Street “Y” to an audience of enthusiastic fans. She did not disappoint. She loves to interact with her audience and is as sharp as a tact.
She is as irreverent, funny and honest as she has ever been, did her classic celebrity impersonations, spoke from the heart about her famous talented daughter Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and even sang a little tune. The sparkle in her eyes, the childlike impish enthusiasm is infectious. The cherry on the icing on the cake of the evening, in partial thanks to the co-author of her book Dorian Hannaway, Debbie signed my coveted Blackglama “What Becomes A Legend Most?” poster.
So Debbie – see you on our duo decennial schedule in 2033???



CYNDI LAUPER GETS “KINKY” IN THE SUBWAY: Only in New York can you be on your way home and come across theater legend Harvey Fierstein and loveable pop icon Cyndi Lauper posing for pictures in the cavernous Times Square subway station! Cyndi is publicizing her upcoming Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” based on the British 2005 film about a drag queen who saves a shoe factory from going out of business. Seems tailor made for these two! She has written the music and Harvey has written the book, a winning combination for sure. The musical is scheduled to open at The Hirschfeld Theater on Thursday April 4th. Break a leg Cyndi – but not in those boots ! !



CANINE PLASTIC SURGEON: Droopy dawg? Limp tail? Sagging boobs? Ears too big? Juggly jowls? Can’t afford Joan Rivers’ plastic surgeon? Take your dog to Doctor Armond, plastic surgeon of the dogs! This ad appeared recently on New York City subways just in time for April Fools. What it really is, is an ad for TV’s Comedy Central Show, the link PuppyLift.com takes you directly to The Kroll Show on their station.
I have to admit – this being New York, where dog walkers get up to $25 per dog per half hour, where dogs wear Prada coats and Gucci collars, spend an hour on the doggie psychiatrist’s couch and then go to doggie hair style salons to finish off their day only to go home to  eat catered meals and drink bottled spring water . . . I was fooled by it…for a moment 🙂