We have been loosing our city at a rapid speed since the 12 year Bloomberg administration. Our new mayor Bill DeBlasio didn’t make things any better. A shill and phoney sell-out as our city’s history continues to be torn down left and right while being raped by an overbuilding of glass towers where they ought not to be.
As a tour guide I am supposed to tell people how wonderful New York City is...I do. But they don’t see that Harlem is now only 40% black, overrun by self-righteous white yuppies renovating Harlem’s brownstones pushing the original residents out. Greenwich Village once an epicenter of gay culture, dance clubs, cool quirky shops, cutting edge boutiques is now devoid of anything gay, buried in GAP, Polo, Starbucks, Sephora, Michael Kors, more GAP, more Polo, more Michael Kors. (Btw, Michael Kors being a screaming queen doesn’t count.)
The mushroom rate of the ‘space needle’ über high, über rich residential high rises on 57th and 58th Streets will put parts of Central Park’s south end into permanent shadow at certain times of the year. Jackie Onassis is turning in her grave.
Jackie O. would also be horrified to discover that grand Central Terminal is to be encased in super tall, super glassy high rises, therefore dwarfing the spectacular station, reducing it to a needle in a haystack.
Tribeca and Soho once filled with artists and art spaces are now filled with tourists artfully shopping. Times Square has become a 2nd rate shopping mall filled with Elmos badgering your for $5 photos. The lower east side aka ‘the Bowery’ is rapidly loosing any trace of our large immigrant history. It IS filled with our ‘new immigrants’ the young rich, spacey Millennials, trust fund babies and tech company millionaires. Apartments costing $1 million in the Bowery are cheap.
Little Italy is nothing but 6 or so blocks of Italian restaurants trying to hang on while the Chinese and the stores of Soho eat up their once large thriving Italian neighborhood. Fuggedaboudit.
New York’s harbor was once the busiest harbor in the world. Today, with a combination of damage from hurricane Sandy and the sheer greed of the Bloomberg/DeBlasio real estate ‘developers’, in South Street Seaport nothing will be left but a few gratuitous red brick buildings and only one old sailing ship to be now surrounded by a mirror glass ersatz ‘Pier 17’ and two gigantically tall mirror glass ‘luxury towers’ encroaching on America’s historical land mark the Brooklyn Bridge.
Go to Brooklyn then you say? Oh no, that is being gentrified at a hyper speed such has been never witnessed before in America. The foot of the Brooklyn Bridge is now being encased in a towering glass apartment building in DUMBO and the once spectacular view of the bridge from the Brooklyn Heights promenade is now obliterated by a gigantic apartment complex. If anyone would have told me that one day the views of the Brooklyn Bridge will be gone, I’da said you’re nuts.
Further in Brooklyn, whites buying $1+ million town homes in Bedford–Stuyvesant is now the norm. What was once our largest African American neighborhood, now has it’s residents being forced to go back to their Southern roots where they might be able to afford the rent. Meanwhile ultra hipster Williamsburg battles it out with ultra orthodox Satmar Jewish Williamsburg for real estate, who will win is anybody’s guess.
Hey, but Hans you’re safe in Queens. Not so, as my neighborhood fights off the flood of ‘poor upper middle class’ who can’t quite afford the $500,000 to $1 million dollar glass towers of the East River’s Long Island City. One by one we are seeing the affordable shops disappear, street vendors forbidden and a slimey corrupt councilman like Jimmy Van Bramer sign off on real estate deals wiping places like the spectacular 5 Pointz Graffiti Museum and the immigrant’s car-repair shops of Willet’s Point off the map while he brown noses his way up in the mayor’s administration.
If anyone has noticed, I haven’t posted daily “Photos of the Day” since mid June, I needed time to reflect. I will continue to tell people how ‘wonderful’ New York is, but I will also tell them that the city is an illusion, a big grand, sparkling, smoke & mirrors illusion. With my camera I will try to find something worth capturing that someone’s cell phone camera has not. My main concentration will be on researching and writing a book about my Von Rittern land baron roots in Bremen, Germany, and a second book on my Broadway stage door memories.
In the meanwhile, my German guests, while taking my tours say to me, “Sadly, it’s happening in Germany too, capture it while you can.”
Marilyn Monroe June 1, 1926 – August 5, 1962: the ethereal eternal beauty.
This stunning painting is one of my treasures by friend and artist See Tf.
PHOTO OF THE DAY: Writer’s Block
Marilyn, Mozart (Kugeln chocolates) and Mom
Photo of the day: THE SPECIAL FATHERS DAY THAT MARILYN MONROE CAME TO DINNER – I had the most extraordinary fathers day! Mom celebrates fathers day for me every year since I am the ‘daddy’ to our dog Noel, so ‘Noel’ throws me a dinner party every year 🙂 To my surprise mom (age 88) had gone all the way uptown to 86th Street to go to Schaller & Weber delicatessen and got the ingredients for my favorite German dish: Rouladen with dumplings, gravy and green bean salad. I was in heaven, because I usually only just get this treat for my birthday and Christmas, but mom and I have started to work on our her/family’s memoirs together (finally! Its a page turner!) and she felt I deserved it, for all the research and writing I am doing.
But I had an extra special surprise guest, Marilyn Monroe came to dinner last night – in painting form.
To my great shock and surprise a very dear friend of mine gave me the painting as a present that I treasured and coveted from our “Whitewash” exhibit. Carlos (See TF) had painted a two story tall sepia tone Marilyn in the stairwell at 5 Pointz, sadly unseen to all visitors. I was in absolute awe of it. When 5 Pointz was destroyed they vindictively painted over the amazing mural as well – twice, despite the fact she was inside away from everyone’s view. I came to discover the amazing artist Carlos (See TF) and who he is and we developed a wonderful friendship.
This was almost two stories tall, done in sepia tones. here sadly whitewashed.
For the exhibit Carlos brought back some of his famous ladies that he had painted at 5 Pointz, the fantastic geisha girls, a ‘Metropolis’-like masked woman and…Marilyn. I coveted that painting, and for those of you who came know how I feel about that MM painting!
It is so mesmerizing that when my own mother came to see my photos on display next to the Marilyn painting, she was so transfixed by it she didn’t even see/acknowledge her own sons photos at first. “Mom! My photos are here!…” LOL. “I know,” she said, “but I have never seen this magnificent Marilyn you have told me so much about.” The whitewashed Marilyn was one of the photos I included in the exhibit and one of the first to sell. They purposely hung side by side, corner to corner to tell the story. Mom gazed at her the rest of the night, oh and, my photos too.
This Sunday was my day to pick up my remaining photos from the exhibit. As I was packing them up, I remarked to my friend Meres that it was sad to see Marilyn gone. “Oh she’s downstairs all wrapped up…Carlos wants you to have her,” he said with the biggest grin. I froze and just exclaimed “What!” several times, still frozen I wasn’t sure I had heard right or if it was a joke. It was not, I right then and there received the most touching phone call from ‘the artist’ telling me why he wanted me to have the painting, I teared up. “She’s going to the right home.” And so my friend…she did.
I revealed Marilyn to mom at dinner and she was also stunned. “She’s so haunting, it draws you in,” and mom, as on opening night, starred at her the rest of the night.
There are people that cross your path in life, that are such unexpected treasures that make you so much richer. 5 Pointz brought many of these people together and even brought Marilyn Monroe to dinner and she stayed.
Thank you my friend.
What is so haunting about it, is that it is not ‘wet lip Marilyn’, or ‘skirt blowing Marilyn’. It beautifully sad reflective 1962 Marilyn portrayed as a human being – not symbol. Notice the painting goes from light (right side) to the dark side (on the left).
FLORAL MEMORIAL TO A LOST TUNE
– Sadly one of New York’s most beloved recent attractions has been destroyed. First by taggers, then (supposedly) by the sea itself. See my post of June 2nd when I discovered the Mason and Hamlin piano there on the shores of our East River/Atlantic Ocean right under the Brooklyn Bridge. It became fodder for every news reporter, tourists loved it and New Yorkers adopted it. The police and harbor patrol looked the other way as people hopped over the gate to be photographed with the piano, the ‘beach’ there is not for public access especially since at high tide the water reaches the West Side Highway. But flock they did, as did I several times. Check out the Internet and you will find some of the most creative and joyful photos taken with it.
I did some research myself. The serial number under the key board, 335 26661, according to Mason & Hamlin’s web site, places it around the year 1915. Mason & Hamlin was founded by Henry Mason who was actually a direct descendent of the pilgrims of the Mayflower!
As to it’s mysterious origins, a so-called ‘street artist’ named HEK TAD took credit for it. Not until 2 weeks later when he tagged it with his spray painted logo all over it, did he lay claim. If you try to find photos of him, he is this skinny little kid, I sure hope he had plenty-a-help lifting that heavy baby grand over the 30″ gate and onto the beach and that tow truck musta been expen$ive. IF, if he indeed is responsible – he should have just left a sign taking credit, not destroying it’s melancholy beauty with his garish white spray paint markings. Many, including me, sought to paint over the markings and gladly finally someone did with what seemed to be some “oops paint” bought cheaply at hardware stores.
One of the last people to be photographed with the piano, is my friend and model Diana Amirova in an early morning photo shoot. I am so glad her beauty did it justice.
So finally now this proud 99 year old piano is giving up it’s ghost and surrendering to the mighty sea.
When I arrived this past Thursday to check on the piano, someone had left a floral memorial tribute to the beautiful graceful grande treasure from the past. Adieu, farewell, your songs played stay in our hearts.
The sea, the sea, calling out to you and me
Waves rush in to caress the sand
Only to roll out again
The sea, the sea, calmness in its water
But in one fowl swoop
The clam has tourned sour…
by Lillian B. Rose
Harvey Fierstein & Hans Von Rittern and Casa Susanna/Valentina
Photo of the day: HARVEY FIERSTEIN AND HANS SEE “CASA VALENTINA” TOGETHER – well….kinda…
Harvey came to see his show last night and I was sitting right near him.
THE SHOW IS FUCKING BRILLIANT! It is based on a cult book “Casa Susanna” which contains flea market find photos of women in the Catskills in 1962 – the women were men. Not drag queens, but men who simply had the desire to express their feminine side on the weekend and go on doing ordinary household chores leading an ordinary life for two days…as a ‘ordinary’ woman. All were married with children. It is not sensationalist Fierstein drag. It is a dramedy of social mores and sexual politics of the sixties,
To be very honest – I didn’t want to see this play. I thought,’who are you to further expose what was to have been private?”
My mother has always said to me, “please destroy all family pictures if there is no one left in your family. I don’t want to wind up in some flea market and have total stranger pawing over my photos and doing god knows what with them.” I sadly agree. So I felt, who is Harvey to do this – how is he to know what really these people were about and what went on, sorry theater fans, this is how I felt. Yet the book haunted and fascinated me of the sadness yet sensation of this secret world revealed. Reluctantly I bought the cheapest discount ticket possible. I brought my treasured copy of the book along with me.
Almost full house. Curtain rises. I am sitting there with arms folded, negative Nancy. ‘Ok, what did you do with this?’ After 5 minutes I was riveted. The visuals, the acting – breathtaking. I abandoned all doubt and negativity and realized I was watching something intensely personal and brilliant. Half way though act one, I kept thinking to myself, ‘where and how did Harvey come up with this, how did this come out of his head?’ Each actor is cast to perfection for the part. I flipped through my book trying to guess who was who. After a while it didn’t seem to matter, there were real people onstage.
It’s story is of intrigue, mystery, politics, raw emotions, sharp wit, great humor, 1960’s sexual politics, being exposed, homophobia, buried secrets, gut wrenching moments, great sets, superb lighting. Mare Winningham and Reed Birney are FUCKING BRILLIANT! Birney channels Margo Channing/All About Eve yet does not imitate her, it is her fiery essence – it is riveting sheer brilliance at what a strong determined (calculating) woman he portrays. He should have won the damn Tony award he was nominated for as best actor in a play. Mare’s voice projects to the upper balcony even in her most quiet sad moments – that’s technique! (They were not micked.) John Collum is everyone’s grandmother of the period.
The setting is the Chevalier d’Eon, a Catskills resort where button-down married men from the city can slip into something more comfortable for the weekend. This sanctuary is run by George (Patrick Page) and his infinitely accommodating wife, Rita (Mare Winningham). And if the place is a bit run down, for its guests it remains “our own Garden of Eden.” But Harvey being the brilliant Harvey, he has set a serpent loose in their garden of Eden, and you are hooked.
During intermission I asked to buy the poster. The head usher saw I was carrying the book. He tells me several of the men are still alive and the man who took the photos actually had come to see the play! I come further to find out, that of the men/women who are still alive, Harvey (I think) felt it his duty (and privilege) to interview them. So some of the mystery was gone, but yet all the more heightened. Who are they and what has become of them?! I was obsessed with the fact that the usher knew what the photographer of most of the photos looks like! I am even more energized for act two for now I know how much more ‘real’ the story is and I was watching also a history lesson unfold.
As I am waiting for the curtain to go up, coming up my aisle is an unmistakable figure of man – it’s the playwright himself Harvey Fierstein! He sat 1 row across from me! I had to go over to him to ask to sign my poster. “He’s got the book,” he growled to his friend. I grabbed his wrist and kept babbling “it’s brilliant! It’s brilliant’! Hans tongue tied = not often. Back to my seat. I now watched the show and out of the corner of the eye watched this Broadway royalty watching his own show. Surreal. He laughed at the jokes, was stoned faced at the serious moments, just like the rest of us.
Harvey’s reactoin to Jonathan Groff (blue t-shirt) being there
After the show I ran to the stage door and got the cast to sign the poster. Glee star Jonathan Groff was there, a girl next to me nearly died. Harvey was saying goodnight and I asked if I could have my picture taken with him and the book since he had made it come alive along with preserving gay history. “Sure with the book!” We hugged and the guy I gave my camera to couldn’t figure out how it works. Harvey growled, “Heterosexuals! They can’t even figure out how to work a camera.” We all laughed and that is the moment captured in this wonderful moment. I am still on cloud nine.
The ladies who lunch
GO SEE THE PLAY – it has a limited run and is closing June 29. Tickets sometimes available 50% off at TKTS nightly.
CASA web site: http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/2013-2014-season/casa-valentina/
New York Times review: http://online.wsj.com/articles/like-earlier-hot-spots-williamsburg-adds-gloss-1402620838
Cast signed poster
Jonathan ‘Meres One’ Cohen, Hans Von Rittern
Photo of the day: 2 CHOIR BOYZ ARE WE
– During our “Whitewash” exhibit Meres and I were given the task to assemble and Ikea choir bench for an artist’s talk we were to give later that evening. Quite proud that we had both assembled it successfully and that it held our weight – we posed like the two little choir boiz we are
Two little choir boyz from school are we
Pert as a choir boy can be
Filled to the brim with boyish glee
Two little choir boyz from school are weEverything is a source of fun
Nobody’s safe for we care for none
Life is a joke that’s just begun
Two little choir boyz from the Factory Phun
Two Little choir boyz who all unwary
Come from a boy’s seminary
Free from his genius tutelary
Two little choir boyz from school
Two little choir boyz from school !One little choir boy is the painter handsome
One little choir boy has photos done
Two little boyz in attendance to the art show come
Two little choir boyz from 5 Pointz come
Not under any politician’s thumb
Not liking that Wolkoff scum
nor that Van Bramer bum
Here to make your hood not so glum
Here wishing we had a (paint) gun
LET’S GET THIS DONE !
(With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan.)
South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 as you see it has been torn down, one of the 100 year old German ships The Peking will be scapped – along with it…any atmosphere that bespeaks the sea. The old buildings are boarded up and ruined from hurricane Sandy and no one has the money to repair them. What will replace it? A shiney big glass box and super high rise. It is an utter destruction and wipe out of New York City’s grand seafaring history.