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.”
Postcard story from New York – “A GRANDE DINNER FOR TWO in 1914- 100 YEARS AGO TODAY”
New York, July 30, 1914
“Churchill‘s,” Broadway and Forty-ninth Street, New York.
To: Mrs. Wm. A. Johnson
250 N. Water
Have just gotten back from having dinner here. A Mr. Barkus from South Carolina to me and little Miss Blair to dinner. He sent us both roses – mine were two dozen cream tea roses. He left on the train for S.C. and sent us home in a taxi,
With lots of love,
A grande evening was had by all 100 years ago to the day. It seems Mr. Barkus from South Carolina was quite a gentlemen sending the two ladies home in taxis and roses the next day!
In Times Square things were still ’rosey’, but World War I had just been declared and two days later Germany had declared war on Russia.
Churchill’s was ’the’ place to be at the time. Lobsters! Champagne! Showgirls!
For the decade before Prohibition, Churchill’s Restaurant and Cabaret was one of the largest and swankiest of the “lobster palaces” along the Great White Way.
The eponymous establishment was the creation of ex-NYPD Captain Jim Churchill. Located on Broadway at 49th Street, the eatery could accommodate 1,200 patrons and employed a staff of 300. Guests could dine on the special for a mere buck-twenty five, listen to live music, dance and rub shoulders with denizens of the theater district like actress Anna Held and philanthropist and nightlife fixture Diamond Jim Brady.
Attempting to refute the notion of the scandalous, sinful “Broadway Life” popular in the fictions of the day, Churchill said “Broadway is simply the Coney Island of night-time New York, where some of the people play a bit, eat a bit, drink a bit, talk, sing and laugh a bit—and get a bit dizzy. But the dizziness imparted by Broadway is no more fatal than the dizziness that comes from riding on a gaudily-painted merry-go-round…”
Shortly after the passage of the Volstead Act in 1921, which established prohibition, Churchill shuttered his business, leasing the ground floor to the Toy Yoeng Syndicate of America, which converted it into a Chinese restaurant – today known as the popular Ruby Foos.
(Note the bandshell in the way back above the crowd, that’s Maurice Levi and his orchestra. Kinda like the Harmonia Gardens in Hello Dolly, 2 girls out for dinner on the town.)
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
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
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…
Photo of the day: THE BAD SIDE EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING: . . . is this.
It was 72 degrees (22.2 Celsius) today in New York City! And what does that result in – one of the older ‘regulars*’ in Times Square, still wearing winter mittens and a pair of Uggs. Of course the Christmas velvet reindeer antlers with a Statue of Liberty crown to hold them in place. The pink wig matches his pink bike and matching pink streamers. Since it was so warm today that rest of his outfit was shed to reveal tiny polka dot bikini.
But . . . don’t you just hate it – when you realize, after you’ve left the house, that your bikini top doesn’t match your bikini bottom? I hate when that happens!
* We have several ‘regulars’ – the naked cowboy, the naked cowgirl, the naked Indian and the naked candy man.
Mondays on Memory Lane: 1987 JOAN COLLINS SELLS HER PANTIES AT MAXIM’S – Torrid headline, but true. Joan has added her name to many products over the years and in 1987 she launched a line of lingerie, promoted by SanMark Stardust and it was sold in stores such as Jordan Marsh, Emporium and Bon Marche, as well as K-Mart, Target and Shop-co. A diverse range of items were produced including ranges of sleepwear, lounge-wear and day-wear, in colors ranging from Red to Black and of course Pink. The line sold for between $8 to $35 and Joan appeared in print and TV ads to promote the line. The big launch party was at posh Maxim’s. Sadly after it’s fall launch and good sales it was gone by the following summer. (Maxim’s was only open in New York from 1985 to 2000).
Joan Collins lingerie promo
Joan was still at the height of the Dynasty craze which ran from 1981 to 1989, I was a rabid, addicted die-hard fan, forget Dallas! Dy-Nasty had bitchy, dressy, classy Joan Collins! I have (somewhere buried) every episode on VHS tape, with the commercials!).
Joan and family
So – when it was announced Joan was launching her lingerie line at legendary Parisian bistro Maxim’s on Park Avenue in New York, I had to go! By great luck, a co-worker of mine at the time had a press pass he let me borrow, and I wound up having front row access to Joan. I have about 3 dozen photos of the event.
Tomorrow night 26 years later, Joan Collins is making a very rare one night appearance with her one woman life story show at BB King’s Jazz Club on 42nd Street in New York. Despite the fact that it will be election night, my good friend Susan Godwin (who worships Joan) and I are running to see her. Hopefully she will sign some of my memorabilia!
Photo of the day: STRIP TEASE DOLLS & BURLESQUE BEAUTIES – In the land of long ago, when “the daily bump and grind” meant something different, the Times Theater in Times Square featured ‘strip tease dolls and burlesk beauties’. I like to image names like Peaches LaTour, Bubbles Beverly, Feathery Fiona, Sally Rand, Miss Electra, Dressy Tessie Tura and Miss Mazeppa. And remember, you gotta get a gimmick if you want to get ahead!
You can pull all the stops out
Till they call the cops out;
Grind your behind till you’re banned.
But you gotta get a gimmick
If you wanna get a hand.
You can sacrifice your saccro
Working in the back row.
Bump in a dump till you’re dead.
Kid, you gotta have a gimmick
If you wanna get ahead.
You can uh…You can uh… You can uh…uh…uh…
That’s how Burlesque was born.
So I uh…and I uh… And I uh…uh…uh…
But I do it with a horn…
Once I was a Schleppa, Now I’m Miss Mazzeppa,
With my revolution in dance.
You gotta have a gimmick If you wanna have a chance!
She can uh… She can uh… She can uh…uh…uh…
That’ll never make her rich.
Me, I uh… and I uh… And I uh…uh…uh…
But I do it with a switch.
I’m electrifyin’, And I ain’t even tryin’;
I never have to sweat to get paid;
‘Cause if you got a gimmick, Gypsy girl, you got it made.
All them uh and then uh… And that uh…uh…uh…
Ain’t gonna spell success;
Me, I uh… and I uh… And I uh…uh…uh…
But I do it with finesse.
Dressy Tessie Tura is so much more demur-er
Than all them other ladies because–
You gotta get a gimmick If you wanna get applause.
ALL: Do something special Anything special
And you’ll get better because…
You’re more than just a mimic
When you gotta gimmick
Take a look how different we are!
ELECTRA: If you wanna make it, Twinkle while you shake it.
TESSIE TURA: If you wanna grind it, Wait till you’ve refined it.
MAZEPPA: If you wanna stump it, Bump it with a trumpet!
ALL: So get yourself a gimmick and you, too, Can be a star!
The best version ever done from the 1962 Rosalind Russell film “Gypsy”, Natalie Wood as Louise ‘Gypsy Rose Lee’ Hovick, Betty Bruce as Tessie Tura, Faith Dane as Mazeppa, Roxanne Arlen as Electra – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFRSawe33sA
Photo of the day: “BLESSED ASSURANCE” GOING TO CHURCH (THEATER) WITH CICELY TYSON – On Friday night I had the great privilege of seeing one of the greatest actresses of the present day – Cicely Tyson give her final stage performance of her career in Horton Foote’s play “The Trip To Bountiful.” It has taken me a full day to recover from the emotional reaction to this stirring performance. In my 57 years, this ranks as the single top performance I have ever seen on stage. I have seen Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn, Jane Fonda, Patti Lupone in Evita, Jessye Norman, Elaine Stritch, many of the great others and even the great Bette Davis on stage, but this is the most emotional performance I have ever witnessed. Cicely Tyson’s entire being transforms into the character she portrays of 88 year old Mrs. Carrie Watts.
“The Trip To Bountiful” resonates so much now to the sold out performances because it speaks to our fast moving times. Mrs. Carrie Watts (originally played by legendary Lillian Gish on televison) wants to go home one more time to see her birthplace home in the town of Bountiful. She lives in 1953 Houston, Texas with her son and his self involved wife (Vanessa Williams), both of whom prevent her from going home for two reasons: her (supposed) weak heart and most of all, her social security check her son’s wife covets. Carrie finally slips out of the house and to the Greyhound bus station only to find out Bountiful doesn’t seem to exist anymore. Determined, she boards the bus for the next nearest town. On her way she befriends a young newly wed woman (Condola Rashad) to whom she reveals her story. As they arrive in the nearest town’s bus station, Carrie discovers she has lost her purse with her money (.35 cents), social security check and the truth that no one is alive anymore in the town of Bountiful. This seemingly to be the end, Carrie cheers herself up and the young woman by determinedly singing the hymn “Blessed Assurance.” And then, an unheard of phenomena occurs.
Cicely Tyson’s character is so convincing and the hymn so moving – the audience softly starts joining in. There is no orchestra, this is a dramatic play. Breaking through the fourth wall, the souls of the audience are joined with the spirit of Cicely Tyson’s character. I was moved to streaming tears of wonderment and joy. The joy of witnessing the lifting of souls to “Blessed Assurance” and a divine performance, the likes of which I have never seen.
See it from my perspective: I am white, sitting in an audience that is mostly of color, filled with many church going women. I did not know the hymn Cicely sings is an actual hymn. The audience does. It is a faith restoring hymn that has become a staple in the black churches of America, it is a part of their upbringing. As Mrs. Carrie Watts/Cicely is trying to lift their spirits up and she starts to recite, then to hum and then sing the hymn, this ‘chorus’ seemed to emerge. I didn’t understand what the effect was. A recording? A chorus back stage? In that instant you realize you are part of an extraordinary unprecedented experience as the audience by their being so moved, joins in. I have never experienced anything like it. It has been reported in The New York Times, this phenomena of, for first time in theater history, that the audience joins to share the moving spirit of the encouraging moment. Cicely’s body language as the old 88 year old woman, clasping her handkerchief, her face joyfully beaming, waving her hands in the air to god, is a vision I will never ever forget. I was shaken by the experience for the entire next day, making me think – what are we all rushing towards so quickly, only to run past what we are looking for? It made me wish for a gentler time, a quieter time, and to treasure the present before it’s gone and we wind up having to search for it, only to find it gone. I too yearn for a trip to Bountiful which alas seems to be gone.
This great actress, who has given us ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’, ‘Roots’, ‘Sounder’, ‘A Woman Called Moses’ – the story of Harriet Tubman, and recently ‘The Help’, has given the world an incomparable stage moment at age 80 (some say 88). In the final moment of the play, her son and daughter have caught up to her to bring her back home, forced to return, she is peaceful that she has seen her home in Bountiful one last time. Mrs. Carrie Watts waves and says “goodbye” to her home before she has to head back to Houston, then, turns to the open neglected farm fields (the audience) and waves, quietly and softly says “goodbye.” Curtain, the end.
The overwhelming meaning and emotion of that moment has moved me beyond compare.
1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long.
2. Perfect submission, perfect delight,
visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
angels descending bring from above
echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
3. Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love.
Photo of the day: “THEY’RE HAVING A 2 FOR 1 SALE!” – Sometimes people just go overboard at these BOGO (Buy one, get one) sales! Seems whatever it was they were selling – he was more interest in the “2” and the “1” !
Photo of the day: MEET 35 OF MY NEW FRIENDS FROM INDIA – Through my friendship with Ajay and Ankur Bansal of the India Unexplored travel agency in India, I get the sheer joy of showing stary-eyed students the city of their dreams. Since they come from all parts of India, the reaction to New York ranges widely from bewilderment, confusion, to the thrill of recognizing places from their movies and music videos.
The children in this group ranged from age 8 to 15, so therefore their reactions varied greatly. The group always is divided into the expected subsections. The cool pretty girls, the science geeks, the way too cool coming-of age guys dressed as ‘NYC’ as possible, the introverted, the shy and the terribly obdeient to parents and tradition. It amuses me greatly to watch this predictable age old tradition and dividing up carry on. Can you pick out who is who in this group photo?
On Sunday, July 7th we first visited the Statue of Liberty. The high rate of security overwhelmed them a bit at first. To watch their eyes grow wider and wider as the boat drew closer was endearing. Some children just grow very quiet and look studiously up at her. Here she was! The statue they had seen in every movie, “Did you see ‘I Am Legend’?! That movie was cool!” I always point out to them that the statue is not standing still as it first appears, that she is breaking the chains of oppression at her feet and is moving forward towards freedom, “Oooooh!” I always ask – do you know what the 7 points in her crown represent? “The 7 continents” is the most frequent answer as opposed to the correct answer, the 7 seas. I then ask them to take 2 American pennies out of their wallet to show them just how thin her copper skin is, there is always amazement at that. Despite the oppressive heat wave we took the time to make sure everyone got that one special photo with Miss Liberty – you know, you get on your knees and photograph upwards so that friends and Miss Liberty are all in one shot. Then it’s the race for the gift shop. “I wanted more Liberty Statues” one adorable girl exclaimed. I assured her, once we got to Timers Square, there would be dozens including many live ones for her to choose from!
Next it was on to the 9/11 memorial. More stringent security. Since half the group was of such a young age, I had to explain the whole tragedy to them and the importance of the site. Many had thought the waterfalls would be above ground “you know, like Niagara Falls.” I told them to look up and imagine 110 floors of people working at their desks possibly about to loose their lives. Silence and bewilderment came over their faces. ‘But why?’ their faces seemed to say. How do you explain terrorism to an 8 year old? I tried in the gentlest manner possible, trying to explain “hate”. Many also sought to touch the ‘survivor pear tree’ and felt it was a true miracle.
Since they wanted an American lunch, where else but – McDonalds on Broadway with the live piano player, this was very exciting to them. They were like kids in a candy store. Very happy and very placated. We then walked around the City Hall area and waited for our bus to take us to the Empire State Building. What was incredible to them was that it was built in just 13 months. “That can’t be sir? It is not possible to construct such a thing in so short a time.”
Out of respect, I am called “sir” – it is endearing, an old age culture of respect and a bit surreal. Some dared to call me “Sir Hans” but that was tried by only 1 or 2 of the older boys. Imagine this soft little voice calling you “sir”, it warms you heart to the fullest.
The Empire State Building was the third time they were subjected to the heavy ‘welcome to New York security’, this is how our lives have changed. Security guards took away a golf ball from a little boy. I was furious and in disbelief. I had an umbrella which I could have dropped down as a missile, but this little boy’s NYC golf ball he had bought for his dad was confiscated?!? (I bought him another one at twice the price, but I was NOT going have this
be his memory of the Empire State Building!) Once we got to the top, having come from the other side of the globe, I was asked if that land mass to the west was Canada – I had to explain, no…”it’s Jersey”.
Our final stop was the much requested Times Square. The ooohs and ahhhs were abundant. Each older student was required to hold the hand of a younger student. I lead the group holding up an American flag they could follow, we were quite a parade. “Sir! This is where we should have spent the whole day!” Most of them just wanted to shop, try on Nike sneakers and buy as many I ♥ NY t-shirts as possible, and oh yes, and buy many little mini Liberty statues.
Here is where our culture differs greatly from India’s. We made our meeting point by the red glass TKTS stairs. As we waited I looked in their bags and would ask them “so – what did you buy?” Many of them responded that they had not bought nothing for themselves, but something for their sister, father, brother or mother. It was truly humbling. One little girl was so proud that she had bought a red, white and blue teddy bear with big eyes for her little sister, “I know she will like this very, very much.” I couldn’t have loved them more in that moment. Now it was time to head back to their hotel in Long Island City and continue their NYC adventure Monday . . .
FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Is King Kong really real? Where does he live now?” asked 8 year old Kavish Singh with thoughtful wide eyes and wonderment. I had to bite my tongue from laughing and remember I believed in Santa Claus till 5th grade, so it was with a smile I tried to explain that it had been an animated doll – he seemed disappointed.
Photo of the day: SPIDERMAN UNMASKED – There’s a story here, but it’s gone down the drain. I was walking down Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village when I seemed to be the only one who noticed something was awry in the gutters of New York. Has one of our superheroes been unmasked? Or, has one of the many ‘Spidermen’ in Times Square lost his mask on the way home? Is the mask part of someone’s Halloween discards? Somewhere there is a Spiderman unmasked. I wondered who it could be as I walked on, leaving the mask for the street sweeper to whisk away.
Photo of the day: I ♥ NY ! Banged up as she is, this mannequin’s enthusiasm for the honky tonk of Times Square can’t be suppressed! Happy weekend everybody !
Photo of the day: M & __ – The giant sassy Ms. Green M&M was caught scandalously naked at the Broadway and 50th Street mega candy store yesterday with her shell down, exposing her . . . chocolate! Thanks to this cavalier gentlemen from Spectrum Broadway Signs, she was left only a short while feeling a slight breeze under her missing shell. Ms. Green M&M looks on sheepishly and her chocolate friends look over their shoulders as our man from Spectrum retrieves the green lady’s coat, thus proving the days of chivalry are not dead.
BUMPING IN TO MARILYN: Marilyn and the New York subways will be forever linked together since her iconic subway-grate skirt blowing scene from the 1954 film “The Seven Year Itch”. Coming out of the Trans Lux movie theater (Lexington Avenue/52nd Street) having seen “The Creature From The Black Lagoon” Marilyn wanders over the grate and joyously exclaims “Oooh, do you feel the breeze from the subway?! Isn’t it delicious?”
Incredibly and sadly, there is nothing there on the spot to commemorate that sizzling moment, but the photos from that infamous scene will live on forever – you think of Marilyn – you think of that white Travilla halter dress which Debbie Reynolds recently sold at auction for $4.6 million dollars.
One the most perfect photographs was shot by photographer, her friend and film maker Sam Shaw. Thanks to the MTA’s Art for Transit Program you can now ‘bump into Marilyn’ again for all of this 2013 in our subway system. The supersized version of Sam Shaw’s well-known 1954 photo is part of an exhibit. The exhibit also features seven of Shaw’s other Monroe photos. Later, in 1957, he spent a day with Marilyn wandering around Manhattan, taking photos in Central Park – at a bench and rowing a boat, window shopping along Fifth Avenue and perched above the FDR with then husband #3 playwright Arthur Miller .
The Sam Shaw lighted photo exhibit is on view inside the 42nd Street-Bryant Park subway station on the B, D, F, M and 7 lines. Manager Lester Burg of the Arts for Transit program says matching a mass transit setting with a popular figure from mass culture seemed a good fit. I would agree, ‘isn’t it delicious?’
BURP: Time to lay back . . it’s the weekend . . . burp.
CYNDI LAUPER GETS “KINKY” IN THE SUBWAY: Only in New York can you be on your way home and come across theater legend Harvey Fierstein and loveable pop icon Cyndi Lauper posing for pictures in the cavernous Times Square subway station! Cyndi is publicizing her upcoming Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” based on the British 2005 film about a drag queen who saves a shoe factory from going out of business. Seems tailor made for these two! She has written the music and Harvey has written the book, a winning combination for sure. The musical is scheduled to open at The Hirschfeld Theater on Thursday April 4th. Break a leg Cyndi – but not in those boots ! !
MONDAYS ON MEMORY LANE – BACK STAGE WITH AGNES MOOREHEAD: It is Sunday,February 4th, 1973 and Agnes Moorehead, better known to mortals as Endora, was giving her last performance in the George Bernard Shaw play “Don Juan In Hell” at the old Palace Theatre in Times Square New York. I had to attend the performance since the shocking notice had been in the papers that past Friday that Sunday the 4th would be the final performance after only a total run of 24 performances.
Shocking? Yes. You see the cast included: Paul Henreid of ultra film classic “Cassablanca” and “Now Voyager”, Edward Mulhare of the TV series “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”, Ricardo Montalban latin film star as lover and villain and of Star Trek fame. Directed by esteemed actor John Houseman. But most of all…there was Endora. From 1964 till 1972, one of my sheer pleasures was watching witty, chic, acid tongued Agnes Moorehead play Endora, mother-in-law to Darrin Stevens on the beloved TV classic series “Bewitched.”
I was still a bell-bottomed sophmore in high school and unfortunately not smart enough to secure the autographs of the entire incredible cast, my main goal was Endora/Agnes! So after the show I ran to the stage door and waited and watched for the luminaries to leave. Paul Henreid left, Edward Mulhare left and Ricardo Montalban left. Ninety minutes went by and the nervous question was – where was Agnes?!
In a panic I ran into the main entrance of the theatre to enquire if she was still in the theater (perhaps she had snuck out.) One of the ushers who still there cleaning up pleasantly said “Oh she’s still here! You want to meet her?!”
Huh? This doesn’t readily happen. These were still innocent times though. The history of celebrity security is basically divided in two. Before December 8, 1980/John Lennon’s assassination and after December 8th 1980. No one thought anything to stop this star struck kid in the platform shoes and huge bellbottoms from running to find Agnes Moorehead in that huge, huge theater. I raced down the aisle. “Wait!”, I thought, “slow down, don’t appear too eager or as if you don’t belong.” I slowed my pace but my heart beat only faster. The cavernous theater’s aisles led me to the side of the stage where a stagehand volunteered to show me to her dressing room. I was in disbelief! You know how incredible it was to be behind stage of the legendary theater where the greatest of the greats had performed? In the vaudeville days it was Ethel Barrymore, Bert Lahr, Fanny Brice, the Marx Brothers, Will Rogers and Lillian Russell. In modern times such incredible luminaries as Judy Garland, Bette Midler’s first show, Liza Minnelli, Shirley MacLaine, Lauren Bacall, Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra and Diana Ross. The film “Citizen Kane” premiered here on May 1, 1941 . . .and there I was. To quote Eve Harrington in “All About Eve” ‘You can breathe it, can’t you?!’
The stagehand led me through the winding corridors to one remaining dressing room where the light was still on. “Miss Moorehead…someone here to see you.” There she was, methodically packing her blue suitcase. She came to the open door, “Yes?” as she looked at me inquisitively. “What is it dear boy?” That unmistakable voice, the mannerisms, the posture, the red hair – it was Endora saying ‘speak up!’ I was in awe. I nervously told her had wound my way backstage because I couldn’t run the risk of missing her and just to shake her hand. Her right hand had rows and rows of bracelets that clinked as she took my hand. I had brought with me a rare photo that ABC TV local stations used to focus the camera on when they went to commercial. I nervously watched as she signed it with my ink pen which didn’t take on the glossy photo (this is pre-Flair pen days) and she didn’t have another pen either, so the autograph is sort of scratched into the photo. She surprisingly asked me “Oh, Endora eh? So which was your favorite Darrin Stevens name?” “Durwood” I replied. “Mine too!” she said, “it was so easy and fun for me to say, it was the name we used the most. Is there anything else? I must pack.” I asked if I may take her picture with my little instamatic camera. She regally struck a profile pose. “Now young man, I must go.” She headed back into her dressing room and I wandered unescorted through those wonderful backstage hallways and walkways of theatrical history. Not knowing where I was going, I found myself at the edge of the stage. The lone single ghost light was standing center stage. ‘Why not?’ I thought, this would be my only chance! I peaked out from behind the curtain – no one. I took my first step. My clunky wooden platform shoes echoed on the wooden floorboards as I crossed the stage Judy Garland and all the legends had stood on. When I came to center stage, I stood there for a second and breathed – you can breathe it! I took a silent bow . . . and left.
ENDORA’S NAMES FOR DARRIN STEVENS:
Dagwood, Darwood, Durwood, Durweed, Beady eyes, Charm Boy, Dalton, Dar-Dar, Darius, Darwick, Darwin, David, Dawson, Boy, Delbert, Dennis, Denton, Derek, Derwin, Dexter, Digby, Dino, Dobbin, Dogwood, Donald, Dorian, Dulcin, Dulfin, Dum Dum, Dumbo, Dumpkin, Duncan, Featherhead, Glum-Dum, Tinker Bell, What’s his name and Low-grade mortal.
MAC ATTACKS CAN HAVE SERIOUS SIDE AFFECTS:
Today January 17th, 2013 is McDonald’s “Customer Appreciation Day”! (Buy a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder with Cheese get a 2nd one for a penny!) I don’t know what was in his ‘happy meal’, but I think there was a little too much ‘happy’!
But if it’s not the extra ‘happy’ and you wake up in Times Square from a McDonald’s food haze, painted in gold and your items painted in gold…you should have laid off that fourth 12-pack of Chicken McNuggets, large big mac, two side order of fries and the 16oz big gulp. People have long debated over the ingredients in their food, this seems to be one of the bad side effects.