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Showing posts from 2012

"Annie" Memories......

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When I heard that ANNIE was coming back to Broadway (again), I was flooded with memories from my own youth. As Peter Allen once famously said “Everything old is new again…” and that can certainly be said about Broadway where revivals are a big staple these days since new musicals are hard to come by. As a teenager I was living in New York with relatives including an aunt who worked as a soprano in Broadway musicals. I had a parttime job selling Broadway souvenirs (cast recordings, keychains and dolls) at Broadway’s biggest hit: ANNIE, which began life at the ALVIN THEATRE on West 52nd Street in 1977. I worked for a man named Ray Fanning who ran the merchandise counters in many Broadway shows and whom I still occasionally see strolling the theatre district today at age 85. Ray lives at 888 Eighth Avenue (52nd St) near the Alvin Theatre which is where many of the out-of-town children in ANNIE were housed by the producers with their Moms while in town doing the show. Setting up my merc…

NYC Subway Talk

I take the subway nearly every day and various things are "subway tru-isms"... FIRST of all basic subway gear: 1. Ear plugs--to block out all the unwanted noise especially blaring i-pods next to you at 7am. 2. Reading material-- you gotta use subway time to read...every once in awhile I listed to music on my i-pod, but mostly, I READ. It's so sad when you glance around a typical subway car and out of 100 people jammed onto a car, maybe 10% are reading something. Subway irritations: People who don't READ, but just STARE at everybody else for their entertainment. I hate looking up from my book or paper to see someone just staring vacantly at me...what's that all about? Why don't you improve your mind, moron instead of just sitting there like a bump on a log. And then I realize that many people still cannot read. Every once in awhile you read a story about all the people who are still illiterate in 20th century New York. SO sad. A big irritation on the subway …

Attn: Mayor Bloomberg- TACKLE NOISE POLLUTION before you say adios to City Hall!!!

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I live in a New York City neighborhood that is VERY top-heavy with immigrants from the Caribbean with a very high rate of welfare recipients...still they are immigrants with cars. It's amazing how many people in this neighborhood have cars, even though cars in NYC are expensive (taxes, insurance, gas, garage) and the need for a car in Manhattan is neglible. Most people get by perfectly fine with public transit and the occasional taxi. CAR ALARMS: As I type this, another car alarm has started to BLARE it's shrill, non-stop beeping just under my window. It will go on for quite awhile because the owners may be able to afford a car in New York City, but they don't have the common sense to go to a mechanic and get the alarm adjusted for city streets. An alarm in your suburban driveway is OK...it will truly get your attention if somebody is trying to pilfer your car. But in the streets of New York City, it barely gets any attention, except scowls of pedestrians wishing the car w…
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From my dear friend Peggy- Peggy was reminiscing with another friend and longtime Harlem resident Raymond Lewis about Sylvia Woods, owner of SYLVIA’S of Harlem, who died this week. Peggy: In addition to mourning, I will also be quietly chuckling as I remember hilarious stories about "The Queen of Soul Food," which left me in stitches. I told Raymond about the time Sylvia told me that she used to open the restaurant an hour before the posted time in order to feed the local drug pushers, so that they would leave her customers alone. ("I've paid my dues,” she said.) Then there was the time a desperate young mother came into the restaurant with four emaciated children and Sylvia fed them for free and then sat down with them and prayed. I recalled how locals used to come in, weighed down with black plastic bags of “hot” goods, and try and sell them, not only at the entrance, but also in the dining rooms. No night went by when you weren't accosted by a vendor…

Upper Westside is Matt Damon's new home

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The Upper Westside of Manhattan is one of New York City’s premiere residential neighborhoods and is literally “teeming” with celebrities. Historically, after the creation of Central Park, the East side developed into an “old money” neighborhood of big mansions and elegant townhouses: Astors, Whitneys, Vanderbilts and such, while the Westside real estate market languished amid sparse development prolonged by the Panic of 1873. The neighborhood finally began establishing itself as the first grand “apartment building district” in the U.S. with buildings such as The Dakota, the Prasada, the Ansonia, etc. in the 1880s, the gay ‘90’s and early 1900s. Eastsiders thumbed their noses at the Upper West, saying “no one important will EVER live over there!” Early Westsiders included theatre people (horrors!), famous musicians, sports celebrities and immigrants who had actually worked hard to make their fortunes. Today Central Park West has celebs including Madonna, Baryshkinov, Donna Karan, Ma…
Just finished a bunch of school group tours to New York this week. Exhausting to do student tours, but rewarding (when it's over with). Right now the Texas kids are here...middle schools, high schools, junior colleges, etc. We did EVERYthing in New York including Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Harlem, Wall Street, Greenwich Village, soHo, Chinatown (God, they love Chinatown and all that cheap stuff), and of course the World Trade Center area including the new 9/11 Memorial fountains. Tomorrow I'm with people from a cruise ship, Wednesday I've nice folks (mostly Mormon) from Utah and then another school group at the end of this week. Coming up I've got some private family tours in New York. This morning I gave a 3 hour limo tour with a nice young couple from Mississippi who were up here for the 33rd annual Mississippi Picnic in Central Park. Wow...haven't been to that in a long time but it's just as much fun. Country music, yummy catfish, homemade cake, and lots…

Broadway Rose visits Manhattan on theatre trip

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Just gave a New York City Jim Dykes private tour for FIVE days for a group of 49 people from the Broadway Rose Theatre group from Portland, Oregon. Such nice people-- I've done their New York trip before and I'm so glad they called me again. The arrived Wednesday and checked into the Broadway Millenium Hotel on W. 44th St. Christina Gonzalez from the hotel sales dept. was very charming and checked us in right away. Shows they saw included: NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT starring Matthew Broderick & Kelli O'Hara, MEMPHIS, SISTER ACT as a group and many folks took in extra shows including PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT, PETER AND THE STARCATCHER, THE BEST MAN, SPIDERMAN, EVITA, THE LION KING, MARY POPPINS and more! Restaurants we went to included: Butter (fabulous food but they do NOT know how to serve large groups efficiently). Dinner took 3 hours plus. Also we dined at THALIA in the theatre district; our last night together we dined in the lovely garden at BARBETTA on W. 4…

Broadway's Hudson Theatre...A Jewel of History and another Titanic Love Story

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Built by famous Broadway producer Henry B. Harris, with business partner George Heye, the Hudson Theatre is one of Broadway’s oldest surviving playhouses. The Hudson Theatre, located at 141 West 44th St., opened Oct. 19, 1903 with a production called COUSIN KATE, starring 24-year old Ethel Barrymore. The theatre, according to the New York Dramatic Mirror newspaper, was “one of the handsomest theatres in the country.” Elegant Tiffany skylights, Tiffany stage trim, backlit Tiffany windows, etc combined with the latest in electric lights, fireproofing, sprinklers and 28 exits made the Hudson the safest theatre in New York. Patrons entered on W. 44th St, while actors and staff entered thru W. 45th St. which was a first. Also the lobby is 100 feet long which adds to the feel of grandeur as one enters. In 1908 Harris bought out his partner Heyes for $800,000. 4 years later Harris and his wife Irene were returning from Europe on the TITANIC. Mrs. Harris had slipped and injured herself th…

OMG- The Shoes People Wear on the Streets of NYC!!!

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OMG-there's so much "shoe spam" on the internet these days, but this is a real item about shoes: I just rode home on the subway and once again was noticing the shoes people wear on the filthy, dirty, uneven pavement of New York City! It's absolutely gross, not to mention unhealthy...many people are wearing flip-flops (!!), sandals, ballet slippers (!!), "jazz shoes", BEDROOM SLIPPERS, BEACH SHOES and all kinds of other ridiculous footwear ON THE STREETS OF NEW YORK. It's absolutely unbelievable the kinds of things people wear and the way they treat their feet! Women especially are wearing quirky little things they slip-on...God their feet at night must be FILTY...I would need to soak my feet in sanitizer for an hour and throw out the footwear! What are people thinking? I wear leather shoes and occasionally sneakers, but nothing more extreme than that. A few years ago I was having extreme foot pain from walking around Manhattan and climbing subway s…
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What a crazy week...several audtions and a LOT of private tours, both bus and walking. I had a lovely group of older people from Hartford, Connecticut early in the week who booked me for a private tour of Brooklyn Heights (one of NYC's most historic and gorgeous neighborhoods). They wanted to visit Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, which I LOVE because of the underground "railroad" history connected with the church. The church's most famous clergyman, Henry Ward Beecher (Preacher Beecher) was the brother of Uncle Tom's Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Lincoln, Dickens and many other great minds of the day came to Brooklyn (by ferry boat, before construction of the Brooklyn Bridge) to hear Beecher preach on the evils of slavery. Church historian Lois Rosebrooks was scheduled to speak to the group and she is excellent! During the planning of the trip by email and phone calls (too many emails and too many phone calls) for our simple 2-3 hour tour, Jean (the lady…

Is Sarah Jessica Parker Leaving the West Village for the East Village or Brooklyn??

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Sarah Jessica Parker is on the move…she’s been living in an 1840’s brick townhouse on Charles Street in the West Village for over 10 years. I remember when she and Matthew Broderick purchased it for a paltry $2-3 million because it was the 90’s and it was a real “fixer-upper”. So they bought it and fixed it up…inside and out including re-building the elegant stoop, installing video camera security, child-guards on the windows, and numerous other things. She found the house, rumor has it, strolling around the neighborhood during a Sex and the City shoot (her character Carrie Bradshaw’s brownstone apt. is around the corner on Perry Street). Now, 10 years and 3 kids later, she is looking for a bigger place and has put this one on the market for $9 million. A lady realtor friend of mine confirmed several months ago that Sarah & Matthew bought an elegant 1830 townhouse (much larger) for $19.5 million on a street just off University Place and was having it decorated (also a new sto…
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MATT DAMON The Upper Westside of Central Park is one of New York City’s premiere “yuppie-puppy” neighborhoods where the residents are a caricature of what the Midwest thinks is a “liberal” New Yorker: almost entirely loyal liberal Democrats (with a few exceptions), extremely open-minded (except when someone wants to do something in their backyard which they disagree with, then WATCH OUT! They will cut you down in a second with their organized protests, rallies and boycotts. The streets are FULL of Moms, Dads and Nannies—--many yoga class vegans--all pushing their children in the latest prams, listening to the latest songs on their I-Pods, while wearing the latest fashions. It’s almost a cartoon depiction of a certain lifestyle. When I first moved to New York City as a youth, we lived on The Upper Westside…but this was early 1980’s—definitely “pre-Giuliani” and this once grand old New York City neighborhood had become a low-rent, run-down section of town with gorgeous old buildin…

Lady Gaga and Me

People ask me all the time: “how do you find out where all the celebrities are in New York?” Here are some tips: Pay Attention- Everybody knows where certain celebrities are. This is New York, after all, and people like to talk and spread information. A friend of mine lived in Debbie Harry’s building, another friend of mine lived on a block with several notable people. Take a poll of your friends and NEVER miss the gossip or real estate columns. Limo & taxi drivers are a great source also. It’s important to update your celebrity information. Celebrities from 20 years ago are passe now. Reality TV stars are hot…also rock stars. I know some guides who are still telling people about Mia Farrow and Carly Simon living in the Langham on Central Park West! First of all, they both moved years ago…and secondly, WHO CARES? I had a group of younger couples yesterday. They were in their 30’s and they had no idea who Mia Farrow was, Lauren Bacall, Connie Chung or Alan Alda! They knew Carl…