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.”
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
Photo of the day: “CALL ME LIZ”: Elizabeth Taylor-Hilton-Wilding-Todd-Fisher-Burton-Burton-Warner-Fortensky. Actress, stunning beauty, one of the first AIDS activists and great dedicated humanitarian. Born February 27, 1932, died March 23, 2011. Having been known for being notoriously late, at her request, the funeral began 15 minutes after it was scheduled to begin; as her representative told the media “She even wanted to be late for her own funeral.”
Cartoon by: Bramhall/New York Daily News
Postcard story of the Week – MYSTERY STAIRWAY STALKER HAUNTS WRITER
Description: Looking up Broadway from the Times Building, New York.
September 01, 6:30pm, 1937
To: Mr. G. O. Moon
State Office Building, G20,
Yesterday upon the stair I saw a man who wasn’t there.
I saw him again there today. I wish he’d go away.
–Is the writer being stalked in the dimly lit stairwells of the 1930’s and reaching out for help or . . . Is it actually a little known poem turned into a Glenn Miller swing song. We will never know, but hopefully it was the latter.
– The words come from “Antigonish”, an 1899 poem by American educator and poet Hughes Mearns. It is also known as “The Little Man Who Wasn’t There“, and was a hit song under that title.
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…
Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…
– But it wasn’t until July 12, 1939 that a recording of the song by the Glenn Miller Orchestra with vocals by Tex Beneke became an 11-week hit on Your Hit Parade reaching #7.
– So, is ‘WHD’ part of the Glenn Miller band trying out lyrics in as early as 1937? Or is ‘WHD’ just a very learned poetry aficionado?
– Mr. G.O. Moon’s State Office Building in Columbus, Ohio was demolished in 1970 for the sake of better views of a taller office tower.
– ‘WHD’ ironically went on to be the call letters of America’s first ‘top 40’ radio station in Kansas City, Missouri. An innovative and well-financed entrepreneur, Todd Storz, came from Omaha to purchase ‘WHD’ and came up with the pioneering concept of playing only ‘top 40’ music hits, therefore changing American radio forever to this day.
– The song itself was used in many movies (especially spooky ones) and has been recorded by many other artists (even heavy metal bands) up to this day as well.
– The postcard itself is a 1930 view of Broadway. Your clues: two signs advertising two hit movies of the year 1930. “A Woman Surrenders” starring Basil Rathbone and Conrad Nagel. And the hugely successful Howard Hughes film “Hell’s Angels” starring blonde bombshell Jean Harlow. It was one of the first ‘talkie’ films.
So, postcard hunting turns out to be a pretty fun mystery, insightful and learning experience!
Hear the Glenn Miller song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0woVmAdWbw0
The Ed Sullivan Theater, February 9, 2014
Photo of the day: 2-9-1964 8:00PM THE BEATLES CHANGED CULTURE FOREVER – On February 9th, 1964 just a few minutes after 8:00pm America was changed forever with these immortal words uttered by Ed Sullivan “Ladies and gentlemen the Beatles!” 70 million TV viewers, America’s largest TV audience to date watched frantic girls scream to the strains of “All My Loving”.
Say and think what you will but after 9:00pm our music, fashion, behavior, styles, art and society had changed like a boulder crashing over a cliff. It was a teenage sonic boom that suddenly took over. Adults couldn’t understand this “yeah, yeah, yeah” nonsense. Today Beatles music is considered easy listening and elevator music that young kid’s grandparents listen too (hard to wrap your head around that…). It has influenced many musicians ever since, it’s amazing how far we have come. In honor of this historic broadcast the Ed Sullivan theater here in New York City has recreated the now iconic marquis of that night.
The program opened with The Beatles, who sang “All My Loving,” “Till There Was You,” and “She Loves You,” followed by a magician and excerpts from the Broadway musical “Oliver” with Georgia Brown and ironically future “Monkee” Davy Jones in the cast, yes that Davy Jones! Mimic Frank Gorshin impersonated movie stars as political leaders and Tony Award Welsh singer/actress Tessie O’Shea sang, followed by comedians Mitzi McCall and Charlie Brill. Later in the program, The Beatles performed “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” The program closed with the pantominists Weels and The Four Fays.
Photo of the day: ENOUGH ALREADY ! ! !
Authentic New York Giants Super Bowl ring!
Photo of the day: WHY ALL THE SUPER BOWL FUSS? I HAVE MY AUTHENTIC SUPER BOWL RING! (Well…I wore the bling for about 5 minutes!) In November of 2010, I went to the opening of the Broadway play “Lombardi” and got to wear an authentic Super Bowl ring and got up close to the Lombardi trophy 😀 (The complete photo album is on my Facebook page.)
The Vince Lombardi trophy
TO THE GRANDE DAME OF BROADWAY – HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROL CHANNING ♥ !
Hotel New Yorker 1943
Today launches a new series called “Postcard Stories from New York”. Each week I will feature a vintage postcard sent to a loved one from the Big Apple New York City. Let’s see what thread they will weave over time. Here is the premier card:
Postcard of the Week – HOTEL NEW YORKER 1943
Description: Hotel New Yorker, 34th Street at 8th Avenue. Private tunnel to Pennsylvania Station. 2,500 rooms, each with a radio, both tub
and shower, servidor and circulating ice water. Four popular priced restaurants.
Dancing nightly in the Terrace Restaurant. Rates from $3.85 a day.
To: Miss Marion J. Peters
1708 N. Harvard St.
Photo of the day: HELLO DOLLY!!! – There are certain voices that when you hear the first note you know it’s them. At the top of the list is Carol Channing. Yes, there’s Cher, Bette Davis, Hepburn, but Carol’s voice and accent is absolutely irreplaceable. Who else can go from a squeaky inquisitive voiced googely eyed girl to a jazzy baritone in a split second. No one, period – Carol Channing can.
Monday night, January 20th, that unmistakable charming infectious voice filled the Town Hall on Broadway in a dual celebration of the 50th anniversary of opening night of the classic musical “Hello Dolly” – the role she originated and played uncomplainingly over 5,000 (yes…5,000) times AND her upcoming 93rd birthday on January 31st.
Hosted by performance artist Justin Vivian Bond, it was a love fest that likely will not be equaled for a very long time. To have been there was a privilege that will not ever be forgotten. The star studded audience included Folies Bergère/musical “Nine” star Liliane Montevechi looking absolutely stunning in her bright red fur coat, Carol’s dear friend and champion Richard Skipper, Sandra Bernhard, John Cameron Mitchell, Alan Cumming, Jackie Hoffman, divine John Lypsinka Epperson and Lady Bunny, Michael Musto (of course) as well as countess LuAnn de Lesseps and none other than Sir Ian McKellen.
Her entrance on stage in her crisp white pantsuit resulted into thunderous applause that would not end, no matter how they tried to start the show the audience persisted with their enthusiastic welcome. Upon first sitting down in her chair she was concerned that there was a microphone on a stand next to her and tried to grab it, it wouldn’t release. Justin explained it was ‘a back up mic.‘ “Oh! A bAAAAAAAAAAckuuuup mic!“ she exclaimed setting of a gleeful roar in the audience. No one can say “back up mic” and be heard all the way in San Francisco! San Fran is also, btw, where she wants to be buried, between the Curran theater and the Geary, she has already gone and measured and it seems there is just enough room in the narrow alley between the two theaters. “There are fire escapes there – but they’ll have to get rid of those.“ Another roar. She’s as sharp as tack, when she can’t recollect a name or story she will digress into another story with glee. She has no filter, she just blurts out her truth. When Justin intimated she performed 5,000 times in Dolly for the love of it, she interrupted him, looked down and said “noooooo, I wanted the money too.” Hysterical laughter and applause.
Sandra Bernhard with her idol
In one not technically well functioning segment with taped video questions for her, Carol didn’t catch on there was a giant video screen behind her and was startled by the booming voice overhead. As Justin explained it was a video she said with great relief, “Oh, I thought it was God” (perhaps eluding to her age). Each time a video segment came on, Carol just flung herself sideways in her arm chair, legs over the side and sat there like a little schoolgirl of seven years old.
Carol Channing sideways
She told of Sophie Tucker teaching her songs and sang ala Soph, excusing herself saying “I can sound nicer, but that’s just not how Sophie sounded!” In baritone voice she sang an ethnic milkman’s song as well. When asked about her pairing with Mary Martin in the ill fated show “Legends” she just drawled “it was a terrible show!”, thought a moment and added, “that was a bitch remark.” More gleeful roars. If any fan or Justin brought up highlights of her long career, she would always (feign) be astonished “”you remmmmmmberrrr…..were you there?!” One of the most touching answers she gave when asked what she would want for her 93rd birthday, she quickly answered “David Merrick.” Nothing more needed to be said.
When it was time to bring the program to an end, Carol recited her closing speech from “Hello Dolly”, in which she asks the spirit of her beloved late husband, Ephraim Levi, to “Let me go!” so that she might fully rejoin the living and marry again, there was not a dry eye in the house. As a ‘thank you’, the audience spontaneously broke out into “Hello Dolly” led by a high school group in the balcony. The (mostly gay/theatrical) crowd sang the song to Broadway production perfection! The magic of the moment was, when the part came for Carol to sing “wow, wow, fellas, look at the old girl now!“ the audience instinctively lowered their voice in wait for her refrain – it was absolute theater magic that no flash mob could ever replicate. When ever are you going to get another chance to stand in a theater and serenade Carol Channing with “Hello Dolly“?! I’ve not seen so many beaming faces with joyful tears in an audience since I can remember. She was deeply moved, and in one very rare split second she let her guard down and looked as if she would break down and cry, she quickly caught herself and the beaming Hirschfeld Carol returned to take it all in, her eyes even bigger than usual, if that is at all possible. (Carol also has the distinction of having been drawn more times by Al Hirschfeld than any other personality ever.)
Host Justin Vivian Bond and Carol feel the love
As she was led off the stage, the audience was not ready to let go of her, and quickly broke into a strong “Happy Birthday” song. She turned around and the look on her face as she took it all in, is one of the most priceless gifts she has ever given to me or an audience, it is a magic moment that flares for those brief seconds in a theater, you and the artist sharing this heartfelt strong love and you are the richest person on earth for having caught it. We are all richer for having Carol Channing in this world. Raspberries !!!
Photo of the day: THE GREAT WHITE WAY – Cliché title yes I know, but hey, if the title fits…lol! I bared the 17°F (-8.33C) temperatures and below zero wind chills to get a rare whitewashed view of the ‘great white way’.
Without the crazy array of people to create it’s atmosphere, Times Square’s huge lit signs became the main attraction. You sadly come to realize none of the signs advertise shows anymore, but only bras, jeans and eye makeup. Times Square is/was named “the great white way” because of the glow of all the lights from the theater marquis, now mostly all gone replaced by Sephora and Forever 21.
It was so bitter cold and wet, no one had any interest to stop and photograph the dimmed lights. I saw only a few tourists who were determined enough to take a few gratuitous pictures before their cameras froze and they hurriedly left to escape the brutal biting winds. We received up to a foot of snow for the day. In the great tradition of “the show must go on“, the Broadway shows were not canceled for Tuesday night’s performances, I am sure some great seats were to have been had. All in all, the huge lighted billboards begging you to come hither and stare were no match for the fury of Mother Nature Tuesday afternoon. Mother always wins you know…
“Twas the day after Christmas…”
Photo of the day: WHAT DOES SANTA DO AFTER CHRISTMAS CELEBRATE ! ! – Here is my ‘poetic’ twist on Clement Moore’s classic poem as I encounter drunk Santa after Christmas in front of Macy*s . . .
. . . And then, in a twinkling, I heard something uncouth
The prancing and pawing of Santa whose had too much vermouth.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down 34th Street St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fake fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with cigarette ashes and street soot;
A giant stuffed fish he had flung on over his back,
And he looked like a street peddler just opening his pig pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! His eyes, how blurry!
His cheeks and nose were like roses, he surely was in no hurry.
His drawl from his mouth was Southern – a bit slow,
And the beard on his chin with gray as the street snow;
The stump of a ____ pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a crazed face and a little round pot belly
That shook when he ranted, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was happy and drunk, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and his twisted head,
Soon gave me to know he was out of his head;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
To fill his own stockings from tourists that looked like a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up ‘snow’ did rose;
Then he sprang into his dance, and the crowd did whistle,
And their cameras clicked until the arrival of a policeman’s dismissal
But I heard him exclaim, ere he stumbled out of sight—
Happy returns to all, if you kept your receipt – you done right!
(with my apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)
Photo of the day: WHAT HAS 72 LEGS AND MOVES WITH PRECISION? – The New York Radio City Music Hall Rockettes ! !
The Christmas Spectacular is the single most popular show in New York at Christmastime. 5,931 seats available for each show!! Five shows a day!
There are two sets each of 36 dancers in each New York show. There are 80 Rockettes (4 understudies), and they split the casts into 40 and 40. On the days with five shows, one cast will do two shows, the other will do three. On six-show days they divide it by three and three. So they can get a break, during the week they give each other a day off. The most they would do is four shows in a day.
A little known fact, if you are from Missouri (ironically the “show me” state) – you can be proud! The group was founded in St. Louis, Missouri by Russell Markert in 1925, originally performing as the “Missouri Rockets.” Markert had been inspired by the John Tiller Girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922, and was convinced that “If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks… they’d knock your socks off!” The group was brought to New York City by Samuel Roxy Rothafel to perform at his Roxy Theater and renamed the “Roxyettes.” When Rothafel left the Roxy Theatre to open Radio City Music Hall, the dance troupe followed and later became known as the Rockettes. The group performed as part of opening night at Radio City Music Hall on December 27, 1932. In 1936, the troupe won the grand prize at the “Paris Exposition de Dance”…the rest – is history !
Josephine Baker twists in a room
Photo of the day: JOSEPHINE BAKER DOES THE TWIST IN A TUTU IN A DISCO BALLROOM AT THE CLOCK TOWER – Only in New York. Brooklyn-based collage artist Judith Supine has created a fun house mirror effect of Josephine Baker dancing in a disco like room with walls lined in mylar with mylar strips hanging about. The illusionary effect was a trip. The art installation was for yet another art gallery site closing, the famed Clock Tower Art Gallery in lower Manhattan.
Atop the Clock Tower Gallery with the Woolworth Building in the background.
Photo of the day: FIRST SNOWFALL OF THE WINTER ATOP THE CLOCK TOWER GALLERY – It’s official, as of 8:30pm Saturday night, November 23rd 2013 – winter has arrived. I was atop the Clock Tower Gallery for it’s closing farewell party as a bitter cold wind brought the first snowfall. Brrrrrrrr!
Photo of the day: BOGEY AND ME at THE UNITED PALACE “CASABLANCA” RE-PREMIERE – ‘Mondays on Memory Lane’ takes us to a grande gala evening of tuxedos and gowns as the revitalized United Movie Palace once known at the Loew’s 175th Street Movie Palace, re-premiered the all time film classic “Casablanca” starring Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. Having once spent a magical evening alone with Ingrid Bergman in 1972, the film also has an extra special place in my heart.
The Palace originally opened in 1930 as the Loew’s 175th Street Theater, presenting vaudeville and “talking pictures.” With its spectacular Thomas Lamb design, it was the last of the five Wonder Theatres to be built. In 1969, when many of the city’s grand movie theatres had been demolished or turned into multiplexes, the Palace was purchased, and preserved in magnificent style, by Reverend Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter (Rev. Ike) for his church. Rev. Ike paid big money to have European craftsman restore the hand carved gold detail work throughout the theater declaring: “We are all created in God’s image, therefore each of us is god-like. Therefore you should be made to feel like a god when you enter this palace.” (You do, thank you Rev. Ike!)
United Palace Loew’s lobby
Since Reverend Ike’s death in 2009, the United Palace has been led by his son, Xavier, a life-long musician and minister currently working with the Rhythm Arts Alliance in Southern California, whose dream has been to create a cultural center uptown. Toward this end, he has organized UPCA as a secular non-profit that has a long-term licensing agreement to use the theater and rehearsal and classroom space.
Loew’s Palace balcony
The theater is Manhattan’s third-largest; portable partitions enable its use for audiences ranging from a few hundred to its full capacity. It has hosted symphony concerts, been used in films, videos and TV shows like “Smash”.
United Palace Loew’s theater
What was expected to be an event that would just draw a couple of hundred people through their web site and friends on twitter and Facebook, wound up drawing an audience of 1,100 people! (I was made aware of it by my friend Carolyn Blackbourn). Admission was $15 but those appearing in formal gowns and tuxedos were given free admission but could still make donations to the theater in form of raffles (I won a poster!). The audience was polled by a show of hands, how many were visiting this theater for the first time – 75% of the hands went up! How many had never seen “Casablanca” in a movie theater before – 50% of the hands went up! The audience gasped with the excitement knowing we were all sharing this wonderful experience of “a first” together, that is the magic of film- the shared experience in the dark.
Mike Fitelson and Lou Lumenick
We were treated to live music performances by the SONGS chamber Orchestra and serenaded with “As Time Goes By” by Tim McAfee Lewis. Executive director of ‘the Palace’ handsome Mike Fitelson welcomed us with a wonderful speech of his goals for this architectural treasure. This was followed by the world premier of hip hop artist GPK’s music video “Bouger” which happens to have a ‘Casablanca’ theme. “Casablanca” was introduced by New York Post film critic Lou Lumenick, declaring it his favorite film of all time. Then came that magic moment when the lights are dimmed, the dark screen illuminated with the Warner Brothers logo and the magic began. The film is perfection. Bogey and Bergman are perfection, Peter Lore and Paul Henreid are perfection, the script and editing are perfection. It’s truly is the golden age of 1942 Hollywood.
Loew’s Palace mural
The joy of classic lines like: “Play it! ” (no Bogey does not say ‘again Sam’, Woody Allen did).
Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier: Your winnings, sir. Captain Renault: Oh, thank you very much.
Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night. Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you. Rick: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.
Rick: Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
And I hope that this is also the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the many of you who will check out The United Palace web site (below) and visit this spectacular theater for future events.
“Here’s looking at you kid.” Bogey & Bergman
Photo of the day: CHRISTMAS DINNER AT BENDEL’S WITH LIZA, SARAH-JESSICA, WOODY, MARILYN, CAROL AND AL HIRSCHFELD – Since I was a little boy the magical drawings of Al Hirschfeld have absolutely fascinated me! The fact that a few twists of the pen could totally capture a person and their character was astounding to me. Every Sunday I would get up early to run to the corner store to get a Sunday New York Times and pull out the Arts & Leisure section to see who had been ‘Hirschfelded’. That was a steadfast tradition from about 1964 till Al Hirschfeld’s death in 2003. I have boxes and boxes (and boxes) of clippings of all the Hirschfelds I could find from then till now.
The great Hirschfeld
My dream of meeting him came true one day in the year 2000, in the theater that was later to be named for him, The Martin Beck now The Hirschfeld. The story of meeting him is a story unto it’s own. I had met the greatest of the greats until then: Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Elvis, Elton, Cher, Liz Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, but meeting Hirschfeld had topped them all. I had met the man that had documented close to 100 years of America’s entertainment history. It was the most humbling and breath taking moment of my life.
Jerry Stiller meets ‘Jerry’ with Margo Feiden and Bendel’s
When Hirschfeld died, I bought many of his possessions at the 2011 Doyle Galleries estate sale, his pens and pencils, his large wooden pencil box, his shoulder bag and many, many other items, all lovingly displayed in my home.
Fast forward to November 14, 2013 and I am standing in front of Henri Bendel’s windows waiting for the grand unveiling of their Christmas window featuring a three dimensional tribute to the great beloved Hirschfeld.
Bendel’s president and top executives and creative team
I waited front row, clutching my Hirschfeld owned shoulder bag which still has his handwritten name tag attached written in his trademark squared signature. Due to arrive were Jerry Stiller who is featured in the window and Margo Feiden, the sole curator of the Hirschfeld collection. They were followed by the president of Bendel’s, the artistic director, and by Tom Carroll who created the pieces and Bendel’s Assistant VP of Visual, Gilberto Santana. Once inside, I showed the president of Bendel’s my Hirschfeld bag, “You must meet Margo!” (Shades of ‘All About Eve’!!) She welcomed me with open arms and warmth. There I was, after 49 years of collecting, sitting with Margo Feiden, holding hands and telling her my Hirschfeld stories. She so very much reminded my of my dear aunt “G” (see older posts here.) I told her: “Back in the 1960’s and 70’s I was the quintessential stage door Johnny. I had met Bergman, Davis and Crawford…” Margo squeezed my hand and cut me off, “but when you met Hirschfeld…” she interrupted. “Yes!” I proclaimed, “how did you know?” “I can see it in your eyes, it’s still there.” She held my hand tighter. I will not forget that moment. Bendel’s has a limited edition ($100.) poster available for sale commemorating the evening which I asked Margo to sign. “I hope you can read this,” she said as she rolled it up before I could read what she had written to me. I was on cloud 9 as I thanked her and left.
Hans, Jerry Stiller, Margo Feiden
I called mom and told her of the wonderful evening and how my Hirschfeld story had come full cycle. “Well what did Margo write to you?!” mom asked. I didn’t know, because shortly thereafter it was tied up in the traditional brown/white polka dotted Bendel bow and into to fancy large shopping bag it went. “I’ll stop by your apartment on the way home and we can unveil it together.” I rushed home holding onto to it for dear life.
Once in mom’s living room, we carefully untied the bow and unrolled the large parchment poster, our eyes transfixed on the small handwriting on the poster, trying to make out the inscription. Then we both looked at up each other and were speechless when we saw what Margo had written: “To Hans, with your enthusiasm Bendel’s won’t need lights, Margo Feiden.”
My heart is full.
The celebrated party guests translated into three dimensions in the window include from left to right: Whoopi Goldberg, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Woody Allen, Matthew Broderick, Liza, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jerry Stiller, Bernadette Peters, Carol Channing and Hirschfeld himself. (Omitted in error is Margo Feiden.)
The Margo Feiden Gallery
15 East 9 St Between 5th Ave & University Place
Observations of the same concert crowd 42 years later:
Creedence Clearwater Revival 1971 vs. 2013
– The size 28 jeans had been replaced by size 40+ jeans.
– Most concert goers could not see their tickets without squinting or using their eye glasses.
– The balcony crowd was most concerned if there was a bathroom on the upper level.
– Rather than arriving by motorbikes, they were arriving by power wheelchairs.
– Walking canes had been substituted for a must-have concert accessory.
– Long shoulder length hair had been replaced with no hair.
– The cause for peace & love was now replaced by fez wearing fat shiners’ looking for charitable donations to their hospitals.
– Rather than making sure you had a dime for a phone call, everyone had cell phones.
– In 1971 no one seemed to be older than 25. In 2013 no one seemed to be younger than 35.
– Beautiful faces now had jowls and laugh lines.
– Rather than racing up to your seats, people stopped to catch their breaths up the stairs “is there an elevator?”
– The people in front of me were wearing hearing aids, I suppose from the 42 years of concert going.
– Rather than lighting a match or your lighter to show your love for a song, there was a persistent greenish glow of tiny cell phone lights.
– Coke and 7-Up were now replaced by $15 cocktails – three times the price of my original 1971 $5 admission ticket.
Gray hair, huffing and puffing, canes, $15 cocktails – who cared! This night I could go back to that hot 1971 July’s summer night in Forest Hills Queens, rock on!
John Fogerty rocks the audience
Photo of the day: On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence . . .
that request came from his wife.
Deep down, he knew she was right,
but he also knew that some day he would return to her.
With nowhere else to go,
he appeared at the home of his friend, Oscar Madison.
Several years earlier,
Madison’s wife had thrown HIM out,
requesting that HE never return.
Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?
Ladies and gentlemen, Grace Jones . . .
Photo of the day: LADIES AND GENTLEMEN – – – GRACE JONES – 1 year ago today, Grace Jones hit New York City with her show called “Hurricane” two days before the most disastrous hurricane ever destroyed parts of New York forever, hurricane Sandy. Eerily now in hindsight, the audience and I screamed and cheered in Grace’s defiance of the oncoming storm. None of us had any idea of what was to come. . . here is my review of that ironic and incredible night at Roseland Ballroom, which it was announced this week – Roseland be torn down, not due to hurricane damage, but torn down by greed:
“Thirty four years after the legendary performance of her 1978 concert at Roseland Ballroom, NYC – Grace Jones returned Saturday night, October 27, 2012 and gave what perhaps will go down as one of her most legendary concerts of her career. She has not changed a bit. At 64 years old she is an astoundingly fit statuesque Amazonian creature as she was then. When she asked “Who was here in 1978?” the roar in response was deafening. (I was there that night in 1978). Last night’s sold out concert crowd recreated the height of the atmosphere of the divine Studio 54 disco days. Extreme outfits were the norm. Glam, glitz, drag, shock and over the top seemed to be the order of the night.
Grace outdid herself for her die hard fans, even the Hammerstein Ballroom concert performance of July, 2009. She was more animated, loose, filled with naughty adlibs (Grace is obviously an oral sex fan). Roseland’s lighting crew was off their game for which Grace retorted with a flurry of quips, zingers and re-starts of her legendary disco and new wave songs. No dubbing, live for almost 2 hours! “Keepin’ it tight!” It was Grace unleashed.
Every move was a camera pose. Every gesture calculated to cause frenzy and cameras to go wild. She is still a fierce, angry, cocky sexual diva. Her legendary toned body is remarkable, her legs are longer than a Barbie doll’s, her ass firmer that a 30 year old. One of her songs was performed while consistently swirling a hula hoop around her waist and then while continually twirling and moving about the stage she introduced the band – constantly twirling! Lady Gaga, Britney, Madonna, Rhianna, Taylor Swift or any of the young acts today do not have the stamina of this remarkable icon. With a hard pounding rock/reggae beat flavored with disco and new wave, her mega hits did not disappoint. Ironically called “The Hurricane Tour”, Grace ended in defiance singing “Hurricane” while huge fans blew her about on stage and whipped the crowd into an ecstatic frenzy leaving euphoria in her wake.”
Mondays on Memory Lane: HAPPY 89th BIRTHDAY LAUREN BACALL ! – On a cold night in May 2000, I waited by the stage door of Broadway’s Eugene O’Neill Theater in hopes of getting an autograph from one of Hollywood’s lasting screen icons, Bogie’s Baby – Lauren Bacall. Noel Coward’s “Waiting In The Wings” had drawn Bacall to the stage one last time. She still had the sleek smokey elegance, that high society feel, and of course, we were all hoping to hear the infamous smokey voice.
She commanded huge crowds, still after all these years. Rosemary Harris was her co-star but Bacall caused the stir on the sidewalk and stopped traffic.
My absolute goal was to have her sign my Blackglama ‘What Becomes A Legend Most?’ poster. She and her security guards made sure that only your Playbill were being presented to her. No matter how much you begged and pleaded, Playbill only…
At the time she was also doing a voice over for a “Fancy Feast” cat food commercial on TV. Coincidentally the ad also ran in the Playbill and many fans would ask her sign the picture of the cat. She absolutely refused, “that cat is going to haunt me,” she said.
I’ve grown up with Bacall, seduced by her demure coolness on my old black and white TV set in 1944’s “Key Largo” with Humphrey Bogart (‘You know how to whistle, don’t you?’) , seeing her request a rabbit dinner in a Bugs Bunny cartoon and then finally in 1981 on Broadway at the Palace Theatre as Margo Channing in the musical version of ‘All About Eve’, the sensational “Applause.” Who will ever forget her bellowing her opening lines, “Welcome to the theatah!”
In 1987, I lived at 160 Columbia Heights on the promenade in Brooklyn Heights, and Lauren had bought the upstairs penthouse apartment for Jason Robard’s father. I had no idea she owned the upstairs apartment, it was all hush-hush. One night, I had stayed out till the early morning hours at a night club and was coming home at around 6:00 am. I took my 3 little strays onto the elevator and pushed “L” for lobby. The elevator went up, allll the way to the penthouse level. I was so pissed that at this early hour, when my dogs were in need, that we were being hijacked “up”, I decided to refuse to acknowledge the person and kept my eyes closed. As we are going down I hear a knee crack and then all of a sudden, one of the most famous smokey voices on the planet, “oh they’re so cute!“ No one else has that voice, it couldn’t be. I opened my eyes and there was Lauren Bacall playing with my dogs on the elevator floor. “Wuuwhat??” It was totally surreal! After our first ‘meeting’, Bacall and I would often meet in the elevator and she would play with my 3 dogs regularly. I would always try to coax her to come to my apartment to sign some of my Bacall posters, she always politely declined. “One day…” I thought.
Now that time has passed, I have become a NYC tour guide and often pass her famed apartment in the legendary Dakota Apartment building on 72nd Street and Central Park West, each time holding on to the hope that I will one day get her to free willingly sign my poster.
In 2011 she fell and fractured her hip. It is rumored she has made one last film at age 89 to be released in 2013 called “Trouble is my Business”. We may have to settle seeing her for the last time on the big screen, since she has become a recluse and is seldom seen in public, only seldomly seen as she sometimes comes and goes with the other luminaries from her Dakota apartment building.
A plea – to Lauren Bacall and anyone who knows how to somehow get in touch with her, “Please grace my first Blackglama ad with your signature! It will be treasured on my wall forever.” Lauren . . . you listening??
The first ‘Legend’ ad Lauren Bacall, 1968
(I am a passionate collector of the advertising “What Becomes A Legend Most?” campaign and own almost all of the 70+ posters ever done, ending with Tommy Tune in 1994 and Janet Jackson in 2011. Many are signed. But – Bacall was the first in 1968, followed by Garland, Streisand, Dietrich, Cher, Crawford, Davis, Liza, Callas, Stanwyck, all the greats. To think the first legend is still alive, when so many have passed is thrilling to me and my ultimate autograph to receive.)