Mondays on Memory Lane: STOUFFERS ‘TOP OF THE SIX’S’ RESTAURANT – As a child, “Top of The Six’s” meant a special occasion. You had done well in school or it was prom night or you were in love and wanted to impress with the sweeping view of the Empire State Building. The rooftop restaurant was located at the epicenter of the posh section of Fifth Avenue, between 52nd/53rd Streets, with a lobby fountain wall designed by Isamu Noguchi and easy subway access downstairs. Today it is but a postcard memory.
Lobby fountain wall designed by Isamu Noguchi
It all started in 1922 the Stouffer family opened a lunch counter on East Ninth St. in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. They sold sandwiches, dairy products and Lena Stouffer’s soon-to-be-famous deep-dish Dutch apple pie. By 1935 they expanded to six restaurants in the Cleveland area and in 1937 they opened the first Stouffer restaurant in New York City.
In 1946 Stouffer’s opened on Shaker Square and at the Westgate shopping center in the Cleveland suburbs. It was at the Shaker Square location that patrons began requesting takeout orders of items on the menu and the Stouffer foray in to frozen food began by 1954. By this time Stouffer’s had restaurants in Florida, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit.
1958 – Opens restaurants at the stainless steel deco-like #666 Tishman Building (built 1957) located at 666 5th Avenue in New York City one on the 1st & below-street levels, the other on the 39th floor, at the time the highest public restaurant in N.Y. They went there, by the millions. In July 1973, about 15 years after it opened, the restaurant announced that it was about to serve its 10 millionth meal. Ominously, a review that month found the cuisine anything but haute.
They continued to expand, building a frozen food processing plant in Solon, Ohio in 1968 and they ventured into specialty casual dining eateries with names like Rusty Scupper, Cheese Cellar and the Grog Shop. In 1969 NASA chose Stouffer’s products for Apollo 11, 12 and 14 for astronauts to dine on.
But it was the Stouffer’s “Top of the…” restaurants that became the special occasion places to go. “Top of The Hub” in Boston, “Top of the Rock” in downtown Chicago, “Top of the Sixes” in New York City, “Top of the Flame” in Detroit and “Top of the Town” in Cleveland.
The view was terrific from 40 stories up, especially in those days long before the World Trade Center, when a restaurant on top of a skyscraper was a novelty. Prices were reasonable. Children liked the view, and so did young couples on dates. Men proposed to their wives there,” it was a time when going to ”the city” meant journeying from Queens to Manhattan. You didn’t necessarily go there for the food, it was that wonderful atmosphere.
Tishman Building #666 Fifth Avenue
On September 18, 1996, The New York Times announced the closing of this beloved rooftop gem. The new tenant would be the Grand Havana Room, a cigar temple that will bear as much resemblance to a smoke-filled parlor as, say, the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel. Right now I’d give anything for a mid-west cooked Stouffer’s meal atop of the Six’s. The best I can do, is to go to my rooftop, spread a tablecloth and open my microwaved Stouffers dinner – it’s just not the same.
What are your memories of “Top of the Six’s”?
Photo of the day: NO, BANKSY WUZ NOT HERE – But you are, thank you! Today at the iconic 5 Pointz Graffiti Art Museum, they decided to make a statement about the current Banksy craze – so, Meres, curator of the museum made his statement and created this graffitied artful canvas.
‘Banksy’ is a highly secretive British graffiti artist who is currently making headlines in New York City. For the month of October, every night Banksy paints one of his stencil art pieces in a location somewhere in one of the 5 boroughs. The thing is, creative as Banksy may be, it still is art that is not asked for by the buildings he paints them on. That is where 5 Pointz is different. It is a factory building spanning an entire city block in Long Island City, Queens. 200,000 square feet of spectacular art that has been requested an approved. Considered to be the premier graffiti art museum in the world, now in danger of being torn down (see my previous October 3rd post) thanks to the unending greed of the Bloomberg era. While enjoying a big spike in visitors since the potentially horrible news has broken, 5 Pointz’s curators were though, getting a little tired of being asked, “has Banksy been here yet?!” Well – there is your answer “No. . Banksy wuz not here, but you are, thank you!” They and Meres welcome you to take their tour via SideTour.com, I highly recommend it!
5 POINTZ: 45-46 Davis Street, corner of Jackson Avenue, under the 7 train line, Court Street stop. Long Island City, NY http://5ptz.com/about/
Photo of the day: GIVE ME THE LIBERTY TO TOUR ! – French muralist Veronique Barrilot painted this great mural as a (hopefully not) final statement at the 5 Pointz Graffiti & Mural Museum on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, which is in danger of being torn down in favor of twin glass high rise towers. (See my earlier post). Her bold Liberty statue proclaims in French “Give Me The Liberty to Paint!”.
For the past week I have been faced with the frustration of leading my European tourists who have come so far to see (shall we say) their Eiffel Tower, our Statue of Liberty – only to find signs posted that the despicable government has shut the symbol of freedom down and their tickets have been canceled. There we are left standing in Battery Park which is still mostly destroyed from hurricane Sandy. No park. No island. No Liberty.
I too join my friend Veronique in proclaiming “Give Me The Freedom – to Tour!”
Photo of the day: “BLESSED ASSURANCE” GOING TO CHURCH (THEATER) WITH CICELY TYSON – On Friday night I had the great privilege of seeing one of the greatest actresses of the present day – Cicely Tyson give her final stage performance of her career in Horton Foote’s play “The Trip To Bountiful.” It has taken me a full day to recover from the emotional reaction to this stirring performance. In my 57 years, this ranks as the single top performance I have ever seen on stage. I have seen Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Patti Lupone in Evita, Jessye Norman, Elaine Stritch, many of the great others and even the great Bette Davis on stage, but this is the most emotional performance I have ever witnessed. Cicely Tyson’s entire being transforms into the character she portrays of 88 year old Mrs. Carrie Watts.
“The Trip To Bountiful” resonates so much now to the sold out performances because it speaks to our fast moving times. Mrs. Carrie Watts (originally played by legendary Lillian Gish on televison) wants to go home one more time to see her birthplace home in the town of Bountiful. She lives in 1953 Houston, Texas with her son and his self involved wife (Vanessa Williams), both of whom prevent her from going home for two reasons: her (supposed) weak heart and most of all, her social security check her son’s wife covets. Carrie finally slips out of the house and to the Greyhound bus station only to find out Bountiful doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Determined, she boards the bus for the next nearest town. On her way she befriends a young newly wed woman (Condola Rashad) to whom she reveals her story. As they arrive in the nearest town’s bus station, Carrie discovers she has lost her purse with her money (.35 cents), social security check and the truth that no one is alive anymore in the town of Bountiful. This seemingly to be the end, Carrie cheers herself up and the young woman by determinedly singing the hymn “Blessed Assurance.” And then, an unheard of phenomena occurs.
Cicely Tyson’s character is so convincing and the hymn so moving – the audience softly starts joining in. There is no orchestra, this is a dramatic play. Breaking through the fourth wall, the souls of the audience are joined with the spirit of Cicely Tyson’s character. I was moved to streaming tears of wonderment and joy. The joy of witnessing the lifting of souls to “Blessed Assurance” and a divine performance, the likes of which I have never seen.
See it from my perspective: I am white, sitting in an audience that is mostly of color, filled with many church going women. I did not know the hymn Cicely sings is an actual hymn. The audience does. It is a faith restoring hymn that has become a staple in the black churches of America, it is a part of their upbringing. As Mrs. Carrie Watts/Cicely is trying to lift their spirits up and she starts to recite, then to hum and then sing the hymn, this ‘chorus’ seemed to emerge. I didn’t understand what the effect was. A recording? A chorus back stage? In that instant you realize you are part of an extraordinary unprecedented experience as the audience by their being so moved, joins in. I have never experienced anything like it. It has been reported in The New York Times, this phenomena of, for first time in theater history, that the audience joins to share the moving spirit of the encouraging moment. Cicely’s body language as the old 88 year old woman, clasping her handkerchief, her face joyfully beaming, waving her hands in the air to god, is a vision I will never ever forget. I was shaken by the experience for the entire next day, making me think – what are we all rushing towards so quickly, only to run past what we are looking for? It made me wish for a gentler time, a quieter time, and to treasure the present before it’s gone and we wind up having to search for it, only to find it gone. I too yearn for a trip to Bountiful which alas seems to be gone.
This great actress, who has given us ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’, ‘Roots’, ‘Sounder’, ‘A Woman Called Moses’ – the story of Harriet Tubman, and recently ‘The Help’, has given the world an incomparable stage moment at age 80 (some say 88). In the final moment of the play, her son and daughter have caught up to her to bring her back home, forced to return, she is peaceful that she has seen her home in Bountiful one last time. Mrs. Carrie Watts waves and says “goodbye” to her home before she has to head back to Houston, then, turns to the open neglected farm fields (the audience) and waves, quietly and softly says “goodbye.” Curtain, the end.
The overwhelming meaning and emotion of that moment has moved me beyond compare.
1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.
2. Perfect submission, perfect delight,
visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
angels descending bring from above
echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
3. Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love.
Photo of the day: DESPITE THE GOVERNMENT SHUT DOWN, THE FIGHT FOR LIBERTY CONTINUES BY MURALIST VERONIQUE BARRILLOT – Today the despicable Republicans have shut down the government. Tourists here in New York that have traveled half way around the world to go to Liberty Island are literally left out in the cold. The most upset are those who have crown visit tickets, those tickets have been ordered two to three months in advance and you arrive in New York = closed.
One of the places you can see Miss Liberty still fighting for her freedom is at the Graffiti Museum 5 Pointz on Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, right next to the 7 train Court Street Station. World famous 5 Pointz, as so many other treasures in New York, thanks to the greedy cancer that is the Bloomberg administration, is in great danger of being torn down in favor of twin mirror glass apartments.
5 Pointz, Jackson Avenue at Crane Street and Davis Street, the whole block, Long Island City, NY 11101, #7 train Court Street stop.
To make her (perhaps final) statement, French muralist Veronique Barrillot has been given permission to paint a giant mural directly on the Jackson Avenue side for all to see. It is the Statue of Liberty, grimacing as she holds a paint pallet and paint brushes. Veronique is finishing the mural today, so I will not reveal the full image of it yet. Veronique states: “The homage I would like to pay to 5 Pointz is that of our common heritage and of our faith in the future and in liberty.” As of this moment’s government shut down, that immediate ‘future’ looks grim. The longest government shut down was also the most recent, from Dec. 16, 1995, through Jan. 5, 1996. That’s 21 days. No Grand Canyon, no Yellowstone, no national zoos, no landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument – no Statue of Liberty.
Paint on Veronique, paint on ! Vive l’art!