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.”
Photo of the day: AS THE WORLD still TURNS with EILEEN FULTON – Sometimes being a bitch pays off, just ask Eileen Fulton! – Before there was Erica Kane/Susan Lucci on All My Children, Amanda Woodward/Heather Locklear on Melrose Place, Abby Ewing/Donna Mills on Knotts Landing and certainly Alexis Carrington/Joan Collins on Dynasty – – there was Lisa Grimaldi/Eileen Fulton in 1960 on the classic TV soap opera “As The World Turns“. Being a bitch certainly offers job security, Eileen played the roll for fifty, yes fifty years!
On February 16, 2014 Sunday night, Richard Skipper: entertainer, charity fundraiser, Carol Channing’s champion and a well loved friend and historian of the entertainment community, hosted an evening’s conversation with soap opera legend Eileen Fulton at New York’s Metropolitan Room. One of many celebrity interviews in the ‘Richard Skipper Celebrates…’ series. A charity event with all proceeds going to president Jimmy Carter’s ‘Habitat for Humanity’ at the request of Eileen herself.
Richard’s warm and listening manner lets his guests free flow with the room and the audience loves it. Eileen’s zesty charm took over the room immediately. She looked absolutely stunning with her blonde curls tossed on top of her head, wearing black feathers and diamonds just as a soap opera queen should! So how do you get a job that lasts 50 years? You bang down doors. No…I mean that literally.
On a hot summer’s day in 1960, Eileen was treading the pavement going from agents office to agents office. After her bluff did not work at the William Morris agency that “I have an appointment with Mr. William Morris”, she went on to the next name on her list, William McCaffrey. When knocking on the door yielded no results, she knocked/pounded a little harder therefore knocking the door off it’s hinges (well…it WAS being repaired and so therefore loose). That accidental stunt landed Eileen her first agent. Shortly thereafter she landed the role of Lisa Grimaldi ‘for just a few episodes’ on ATWT. Her Asheville, North Carolina sweetness connected with the viewers but not with Eileen. Eileen didn’t like being the ‘good girl’ Lisa Grimaldi – too boring. So she schemed to spice things up. When not allowed to change the plots or staging directions, she changed her character simply by using her voice. She said the same sweet dialog “but as I said it, I thought the nastiest dirtiest thoughts and the words just came out differently – with a whole new meaning. It was live television, what could they do?” she recounted to Richard with a sly grin. The rest is television history.
Eileen’s determination is also show business legend. At one point Eileen held down three acting rolls at once. ATWT soap filming live, then 3 matinees of “Whose Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” and then evening performances of “The Fantastiks”. She had a speed record of getting from the CBS Grand Central Broadcasting studio to the Billy Rose Theater (now the Nederlander) on West 41st street in five minutes. Talk about determination! It’s a feat of determination that Elaine Stritch still talks about in her act today. Why did she stop? “I was exhausted!”.
Over the decades CBS tried to replace Eileen’s character of Lisa with another actress, but the viewers would not have it. “You can’t lie to the audience” Eileen passionately insists. Lisa/Eileen’s audience was so wrapped up in the nastiness of the character, Eileen was slapped by a Chanel wearing patron at SAKS Fifth Avenue and she also had to hire body guards because people simply couldn’t separate real life from fiction as they would try to slug her in the street. Well, Eileen slugged herself all the way to the banks with 5 lp recordings and two autobiographies under her belt, night club acts, movie rolls as well as many murder mystery novels to her credit as well.
Sunday night under Richard’s loving guidance, two passions in acting came to light. Eileen strongly feels you can’t fake emotions and don’t glorify violence against women even in jest. When a scene came up that her character was to be taken across her husband’s knee and spanked, she refused to play the scene insisting to her directors “that’s abuse whether you realize it or not.” Eileen got her way and kept a high standard on the show for a long time.
Any ironies in her life? Yes. As a child she was fascinated that ivory soap bars would float on the water in the tub, “just like a piece of wedding cake.” Being left alone in the tub one afternoon as a child, her mother returned to find little Eileen had bitten away the edges of the tasting looking soap bar as she ‘foamed from the mouth.’ “Isn’t it ironic that for fifty years I had Procter and Gamble/Ivory Soap as my sponsor?!” she laughed.
Any grudges or unhappy memories? Yes, one. Eileen is not a great fan of Carol Burnett. There’s a grudge there. Seems Eileen came up with the idea of the comedic take-off on Carol’s show “As the Stomach Turns” yet she was never once asked to appear. But when Carol did the comedic take-off of “Sunset Boulevard/Norma Desmond”, Gloria Swanson was asked to appear. “I think it was jealousy” Eileen still quickly insists.
Eileen has played through fifty years of history, fashion fads, political turmoils and every heinous plot you can think of on TV soaps but on September 17, 2010, the “World” no longer turned to the heartbreak of the legions of fans of “As The World Turns.” All the more reason this rare intimate night with this TV icon was such a treat thanks to Richard Skipper.
Richard doesn’t just “read the book” as some interviewers may do, he gets to really know his guests and hence the magic of the evening is born. Many of her fans and also former cast member Colleen Zenk who played Barbara Ryan from 1978 till 2010 where in the audience. When asked during the question and answer part of the show if she still recalled her full legal show name, Eileen shouted: “Of course! I was married eight times, divorced three times and widowed four times. I’m Lisa Miller Hughes Eldridge Shea Colman McColl Mitchell Grimaldi Chedwyn!” (Take that Alexis Carrington!)
Richard Skipper’s web site: http://www.richardskipper.com/index.html
New York Transit Museum’s 11th Annual Holiday Train Show at Grand Central
My sweet friend from Finland Nana Kautto and I were doing our own little tour of NYC and found this amazing train display. We were instantly turned into little children with our mouths agape and eyes huge with wonderment. This is so awesome! Funny thing is now…NYC has a mountain range with a ski chalet (well…a pass-through mountain is kinda required with a model train set). Grand Central Terminal turns 100 in 2013 and they’re starting the party early with their 11th annual Holiday Train Show! In a brand new layout by Lionel Trains, model Metro-North and New York Central trains depart from a miniature Grand Central on their way North on a 34′ long, two-level “O” gauge layout. Vintage model trains from the Museum’s collection are on display joined by stunning New York Central railroad posters harkening back to the Terminal’s heyday as the nexus of long distance and commuter train travel. Presented by the New York Transit Museum.
New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store Grand Central Terminal, Shuttle Passage, next to Station Master’s Office Monday – Friday 8 am to 8 pm Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 6 pm Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day FREE ADMISSION Visit or shop online at www.mta.info/museum