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

Posts tagged “92nd Street “Y”

Photo of the day: DEBBIE HARRY, CHRIS STEIN, BLONDIE, EARTHA KITT AND HANS – 35 YEARS LATER – or “How a Russian, an old concert ticket and Eartha Kitt got me to meet Blondie”


Photo of the day: DEBBIE HARRY, CHRIS STEIN, BLONDIE, EARTHA KITT AND HANS – 35 YEARS LATER – or “How a Russian, an old concert ticket and Eartha Kitt got me to meet Blondie” – Last night one of music’s most influential and iconic duo, Chris Stein & Debbie Harry of “Blondie” gave a very rare 90 minute audience participation interview about their lives and the formation of “Blondie” the new wave group that we all know. All you need to hear is Debbie’s “oooohh oh oh-oh” from “Heart of Glass” and you recognize it instantly. The venue – The 92nd Street ‘Y’.
I brought with me my 1979 Blondie concert tickets from Asbury Park’s Convention Hall for the then expensive price of $8.50. ‘The Laughing Dogs’ opened for them. On the day of the concert my friend Susan and I begged the promoters not to tear our tickets so as to preserve them and they obliged! In today’s times that would never happen. So, I showed up at the ‘Y’ stage door last night at 5:30 for the 8:00 show. The Ebayers all started showing up. “She doesn’t like to pose with people.” OK, I thought, a photo is out, autograph is the main goal then.
One of the security guards saw that I had a very rare French 12″LP of ‘Sunday Girl’ with me and was eager to see it. He winds up showing me his record collection on his iPhone, proudly exclaiming he knew all the songs on his records and that they are in mint condition. “Do you have this one?!” “Remember that one?” The last one he showed me was Eartha Kitt’s first lp “That Bad Eartha”, I told him that I had been friends with her and the stories she had told me of making that first album, well…that sealed the deal. “Come back after the show,” he said.
At 7:20 a black town car pulled up and she emerged. Hair in curlers, radiant as can be. Rushed right in. Her driver told me she was exhausted, fighting a cold and was unnerved that she did not know who the interviewer was.
A few moments later Chris Stein pulled up willing to sign a few autographs. The Ebayers pressed forward. The ‘record collector’ security guard made room for me. I showed Chris my 1979 concert tickets and he laughed and said ‘you deserve an autograph after all this time!’. In he went.
Debbie’s driver and I wound up being all alone at the stage door and he started to tell me about his life. He is a Russian scientist who immigrated here in 1989, became a Wall Street trader but lost it all in the stock market crash. He decided to take his knowledge and educate his daughter on the principles of science and economics. She is now graduating with a Masters Degree in physics. We spoke of politics, America’s influence on music, only to discover he sold his piano and bought and electric guitar and knows the riffs to all the hard core rock bands of the 60’s and 70’s and starting playing air guitar for me – Blondie’s chauffeur is playing air guitar for me – surreal !
The interview was conducted by Anthony DeCurtis, co-author of Clive Davis’ autobiography. Chris in his white hair, all black suit and boots, wearing blackout shades he evoked the 1980’s all over again. Debbie looked stunningly radiant. Her now coifed hair had transformed her into a luminescent modern day Marilyn Monroe, same color, same tossed soft curls. She was dressed in a white cotton blouse with parachute style yellow shawl, tuxedo pants and combat boots. Total Blondie.
Speaking of clothes, they explained their original look came from the thrift shops of New York in the early 70’s. “Disco was big lapels, bright colors and we wanted to be the antithesis – the early Beatles black suits with the narrow lapels, secondly also because that shit was the cheapest in the stores and nobody wanted it, now it’s all gone. No one looked like us, we would get stared at in the street in those days.” Debbie laughed.
Debbie’s voice actually has a Marilyn quality, soft spoken, she takes a moment to think before she speaks, and just answers the question, short and to the point yet often reflective. When asked about being the first breakthrough rap recording artist (who happens to be a white female) with the song “Rapture” (the man from Mars is eating cars!) and how did it come about she explained, “I didn’t know the word ‘reggae’ but Chris heard there was this festival going on up in Harlem and we went. I loved that the music and that it had a message, told a story and so connected with the people, I loved the rhythm. We basically stole/copied their style…the rest is history.”
But their influences came from the opposite direction as well, “Dreaming”/(Eat to the Beat) is blatantly lifted from Abba “not enough so I could get sued” chuckled Chris. Debbie said, “yeah I listened to them, but I could never get past that polka-like sound that crept into their music.” She grinned and laughed.
When Debbie laughs or reflects she leans back and pulls her hand through that platinum ‘Marilyn’ hair and as the evening progressed and as the hair became more tossed – she morphed more and more into a 68 year old radiant Blondie/Marilyn.
When asked what rock group from the CBGB era to you feel should have been more recognized, Chris instantly and angrily said “The Ramones, I mean come on, their were fucking brilliant, they should be up there today with the Beatles and The Stones!” What was so great about CBGB’S? Debbie answered: “No one watched you, we just did shit, if we fucked up it didn’t matter and that’s how we evolved, we were not under a microscope.”
How does she feel about being such a music icon? Was she harassed? “It felt great. We weren’t thinking of the future, we were just in the moment. I mean I did wind up becoming a feminist mainly because of Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin. I wanted to get even for those ladies, I felt so sorry for them. ‘Here world take this!’ and here’s to you Billie and Janis. I was never harassed because I was with Chris, the band didn’t lay their hands on me because I was ‘Chris’s girl’. At one point though it did become us versus them, but we got past that.” On meeting Warhol: “We met in passing at Studio 54 and became friends. He was determined to photograph me in 1979, he did my hair for the shoot! He used to shoot with these crappy Polaroid cameras, I mean like the oldest archaic models, so we used to look for them in thrift stores as we toured and would give them to him,” said Debbie. That happened to be the 1979 poster advertising the Warhol Blondie issue that I had brought with me to be signed.
They have just released a new double VINYL lp with re-recorded classic hits as well as 12 new songs. The double albums has two titles “Blondie 4(0) Ever/Ghosts of Download.” Sadly they did not have a signing afterwards. They plan to tour “with festivals” in Europe later this year and tour in the USA in 2015! Chris Stein’s book of awesome photography will go on sale in August. Many of the photos were shown in a slide presentation and they both humorously reminisced about the ‘old times’. Audience questions were taken during the last 20 minutes and were very insightful.
At the show’s end I ran to the stage door already besieged with Ebayers and fans. Luckily the her driver and the security guard placed me near her car door. As Debbie noticed the Ebayers had pressed forward she didn’t want to sign anymore but her driver and the guard steered her towards me and both the guard and I said simultaneously “He’s/I’m not an Ebayer!”. Debbie looked, warmly smiled at me, squeezed my hand and signed her full name unlike the initials she had dome for the others. I floated on an ‘Atomic’ cloud all the way home. Here is my incredibly awesome rare signed treasure above – 35 years later!!
BLONDIE 1979 Village Voice ad

BLONDIE 1979 Village Voice ad

           Warhol’s Interview, June 1979 -Illustration by Richard Bernstein. Bernstein created more than 120 portraits for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine in the 1970s, including this one of Blondie’s Debbie Harry.

“Rapture” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHCdS7O248g

“Dreaming” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOnv8lXDzhg



Photo of the day: HANS MEETS JUDGE JUDY ON 17 YEAR TV ANNIVERSARY ! ! ! !  – On the day after Judge Judy’s 17th year anniversary of having the longest running and highest rated court show in America, I had the glorious privilege of meeting her honor in person! I have admired her no nonsense moralistic, old values, harsh humorous stance on the law approach to our court system since September 16, 1996 – 17 years, no one can compare.
First and foremost – at 70 years old, she looks better in person than on TV! A soft complexion and looking radiant and youthful as ever, beaming warm smiles, filled with spunk, humor and above all gracious. I think that’s why she has such a loyal following, the ‘court Judy’ is not the ‘in person Judy’, she is an iron judge in a velvet shell.
Where else but NYC's 92nd Street 'Y' can you see Linda Ronstadt and Judge Judy?!

Where else but NYC’s 92nd Street ‘Y’ can you see Linda Ronstadt and Judge Judy?!

Judge Judy was being interviewed by Katie Couric at the 92nd Street “Y” (YMCA). I arrived 2 hours early and waited by the stage door wearing my “I Judge Judy”
t-shirt. More than anything I desperately wanted my picture taken with her. At 7:30pm she arrived, wearing an elegant suit, husband Judge Jerry Sheindlin by her side. She immediately saw my shirt and said “Well, I have to go over there!” It was absolutely surreal to see her in person after having seen her on TV, sometimes 4 x’s a day, finally there she was…talking to ME. Another fan took the picture with my arms around Judy, finally the t-shirt and Judy were together after allll these years, my heart was pounding!! We took a few pictures and I asked if I may tell her something important to me, from my heart. She took my hand in hers, held it tightly and with the warmest smile she said “go ahead”. GULP! I said my rehearsed words: “You – are my drop of rain on the desert. There are times when I can’t even bear to watch the TV news anymore for the lack of sensible laws, the lack of logic and morals, the political infighting, it’s the same day after day. But then there’s you. . .the voice of reason, and then everything is bearable again, thank you for that!” She squeezed my hand tightly and I felt like I could fly!
Once inside the sold out event, the interview began and Katie had her prepared questions. The one thing Katie learned quickly, you ask Judge Judy 1 question and she will talk and digress on about 4  or 5 different subjects – the audience loved it. Katie just let Judy go. The judge had the audience in her hands as she spoke freely, of course uncensored and from the heart.
Photos and tape recording were strictly forbidden and enforced, so I took out my old fashioned pencil and paper and took reporter-like notes, I didn’t want to forget what she said, here are some memorable Judy-isms:
– She comes from Ocean Avenue between Avenues ‘S’ and ‘T’ in Brooklyn.
– Her style in the court room comes from Jewish borscht belt humor, she said “Brooklyn humor and attitude cannot be replaced.” That’s how she learned her timing. “Brooklyn timing separates you from ‘Brooklyn not’“.
– Born Judith Blum, her dream was to live and work in Manhattan.
– Her first job in the late 1960’s for L’Oréal cosmetics as a lawyer was the only time she was treated in a sexist manner. Two lawyers were hired to handle customer lawsuits, a man and she. He was given an office, she was given a desk and a pad and pencil and told to call the manufacturers to check up on orders. She said “that didn’t work for me! ‘You don’t put baby in a corner’!” (She actually said that!)
– What attracted her to her first husband? His highly polished shoes. Her second husband? His looks. “We still have a mojo.”
– Her makeup artist Nancy is invaluable to her because she sets the “up” mood for each day on the set.
– Officer Byrd and Judge Judy have worked together since she was on the bench in NYC and are best of friends.
– She now earns $47 million – a year ! She spoke about it at length. “CBS is making a lot of money off me. Furthermore, I can do the show on my own, they can’t do the show without me.” She donates a lot of her income.
– The show’s message: “Do the right thing and the rest happens, take responsibility for your actions.”
– Her take on today’s times in America: She feels things are not getting better, but instead worse, we as a people are just afraid to admit it.
– In 1982 Mayor Ed Koch gave her the first break by appointing her as a judge, first in criminal court, then later as Manhattan’s supervising family court judge in 1986. What did she learn? ‘First impressions are everything.’
– Her advice: follow what you are good at. You define yourself. A woman defines her own worth.
– From all the years on the bench the lesson learned: “Anger is a hard emotion to get rid of.”
At the end of the night, many fans ran to the stage door for an autograph. I thought ‘why not?!’, and waited about 90 minutes. Finally to our shock and surprise the security guard came out and said, ‘There are too many of you to sign autographs at this late hour, but, Judge Judy wants you all to come inside and she will take group pictures with you.” The fans squealed like little children on Christmas eve. Judge Judy was asking to see us! So there we were, late at night, inside the empty 92nd Street ‘Y’, Judge Judy directing ‘fan traffic’ as we got this rare treat of our moment with this generous, gracious spunky gal from Brooklyn – our very own Judge Judy. I can’t stop smiling 🙂




JUDY-ISMS: “Do I have ‘stupid’ written over my forehead?” “I’m here because I’m smart, not because I’m young and gorgeous, although I am,” “If you live to be 100, you will never be as smart as I am, sir,” “Clearly you are not wrapped too tight,” “Where did you think you were coming to today, a tea party?!” “I’m speaking!” “If you interrupt again madam, your case is dismissed, and I’m throwing you out. Do we understand each other?” “I’ve been in this business for over 40 years,” “Do I look like I need help from you?” “That’s a lot of who shot John” “This is my playpen!”


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???