Photo of the day: MOURNING THE GAY PRIDE DAY’S GRAY’S PAPAYA ~ What on earth will Gay Pride be without the wonderfully bright yellow Gray’s Papaya on the corner of 6th Avenue and 8th Street, the epicenter of the Gay Pride day parade?!?!
For anyone that has ever followed the maddening crowd of the parade on the sidewalk as a spectacular spectator, knows the tightest bottleneck of the parade is when you come to the main intersection of 8th/6th. It is where the large Fifth Avenue sized fabulous parade has been squeezed onto narrow 8th Street and now pours onto the big 6th Avenue intersection again leading it to the ceremonial entrance to gay history’s Christopher Street. The police have therefore cordoned off any chance of you crossing the street within blocks of this big intersection. It does give the parade marchers the space to twirl and show-off before shashaying onto Christopher Street – it’s a divine madhouse! But the one chance you had to make it around the corner as a spectator was to cut through Gray’s Papaya’s open walk-through corner, and by the thousands we did.
It was a quick mini party stop for you to grab that desperately needed cold juice and those wonderfully tasty hot dogs and $1.00 slices of pizza, it was party on the go! The (sadly now) iconic paper fold out fruit decorations hanging from the ceiling made it feel like you were stopping by a madhouse Carmen Miranda fruit stand! With the perfect flow through traffic pattern open corner set-up, it was the absolute ideal guaranteed chance at grabbing that badly needed drink and some nourishment as you tried to make it further along the parade route. That super staff never missed a Latin beat, those dogs and slices were dished out as fast as we ordered them, those Papayans were one of the true martyrs of the parade! I always admired how they kept there cool while others were like “ay caramba!”. Nicholas Gray, the proprietor could not afford to have his monthly rent increased outrageously from $30,000 to $50,000 a month, therefore he was forced to close.
Yes there is Nathan’s in Coney Island and it has wonderful history, but most New Yawkers are not willing to pack a suitcase to travel to the outer reaches of Brooklyn for a dawg. So, Gay Pride and the largest Halloween Parade in the world and especially late night party goers all are going to miss you terribly, a very strategically placed Gray’s Papaya. Adios mis amigos, adios 😦 . . .
Mondays on Memory Lane: EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN, REMEMBERING 1970’s SHOE STORES – Just as the young women of today are teetering on their nine inch platforms, the exact same shoes were the rage in the early to mid 1970’s. In the disco era it wasn’t only women teetering about, it was men also. I was about six inches taller in those disco days.
There were many “cool” in vogue streets to buy your shoes in those days. One was, believe it or not, today’s staid East 59th Street between Third and Second Avenues, right behind Bloomingdale’s. Right around the corner on 58th Street and Lexington Avenue was Arrowsmith Shoes (advertised in the above 1975 ad). The other of course was West Eighth Street – shoe mecca.
The coolest pair I ever bought, which I am missing and lamenting to this day that I didn’t keep, were bought at 227 East 59th Street in a store called “Jumping Jack Flash” they specialized in ‘Galm Wear’ glitter suits, outrageous platform shoes and accessories. I afforded myself one $75 (or about $100) pair there – they were navy blue with wooden platform and heel. On each toe was a silver leather star and on the outer side of each shoe was a silver shooting star. I wore those shoes to every “in” event till the shoes finally fell apart. I also had 3″ high buffalo sandals, rubber wedgies, black velvet Herman Munster-like ‘evening’ shoes I would wear to formal events to the consternation of my mother.
1974 Off to London wearing my Jumping Jacket Flash shoes (covered by the bell bottoms.)
West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village was shoe mecca. Literally one shoe store after another, 3 blocks of wedgies, heels and platforms, not to forget outrageous boots. It was a common thing to spend your night in “shoe alley.” You got dressed as funky as you could and would start at Sixth Avenue and walk up one side of the street, in and out of every single shoe store, upstairs and downstairs, admiring the hip disco funky clothes, jewelry and wide belts. Passing legendary Electric Lady Recording Studios, the head shops and the 8th Street Playhouse, then a revival movie house soon to become famous for showing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” You stayed the longest in the stores which had the best disco music blaring. The shoes were made of every material possible: wet look vinyl, leather, plastic, wood, cloth – you name it. Then when you reached Broadway you would cross the street and peruse every single store on your way back down the street, finishing with grabbing a hot dog at Gray’s Papaya at Sixth Avenue and then head onto Christopher Street to join the evenings ‘parade’. God I miss those days! It’s all gone now. The shoe styles have returned but the fun of the era is but a memory. Both streets have lost their flavor and soul. East 59th Street is now mainly cabinet shops and furniture stores. On West Eighth Street, one third of the stores are empty due to Mayor Bloomberg/Councilwoman Quinn and landlord greed.
Empty West 8th Street 2013, Greenwich Village
But – I have one outrageous pair left! (See top left main photo). They were even a bit too outrageous for the times then, so I didn’t wear them as much, and so they have survived. Aqua marine perforated leather, with orange leather lace-up, brown heel and toe and clunky wooden platform and heel. My treasured memento of dancing a little happier, knowing how to balance myself as I walked and being always at least three inches taller.