Showing posts from 2017
My Old Friend Donna Murphy Stars as DOLLY in HELLO DOLLY (when Midler is out)

Went to see HELLO DOLLY recently on a weeknight to see my gorgeous and talented old acquaintance DONNA MURPHY starring as Dolly Levi in the wonderful new Broadway production at the Shubert Theatre. I had seen Bette Midler do the role a few weeks before with friends visiting from California and Bette was wonderful as a film star and concert icon playing "Dolly."

But Donna Murphy is a REAL award-winning Broadway star and sells tickets based on her performances, not just her movie fans. She doesn't "coast" on her icon-status as Midler does, she really disappears into the role and "becomes" Dolly Levi, the meddling matchmaker of the Thornton Wilder play the musical is based on. Critics that have seen her performances URGE audiences to see Donna because she plays Dolly as a real character and not as a "star vehicle" like Channing, Merman, Midler and all the rest played …
New York City taxis thru the years

In the 1920's they were big roadsters with running boards; by the 1950s they were big, roomy "checker" cabs; today they are modern design with cellphone charging stations and TV sets!

Obama's former Harlem apartment building has vacancy one floor below his former apartment

President Barack Obama (in college known as Barry) attended Columbia University in the early 1980s in his 20’s. He lived in various places around Manhattan, but one of the buildings was 142 West 109th Street, an easy walk to Columbia’s campus, located between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. Recently an available apartment was advertised by real estate brokers in the same building and the news was in the local media. “LIVE IN OBAMA’S OLD APARTMENT BUILDING” said the announcement, even though the advertised apartment was Apt. 2E and Obama’s apartment was 3E, one floor up. Both apartments were advertised as “very large” two bedroom apartments with bedrooms large enough for queen-size beds. The listed rent is currently $2,400 per month. In 1981 Obama and his roommate split the $720 rent upstairs and each paid $360. The ad says the apartment is “convenient” to all major transportation: 1,2,3, C trains and city buses. Renters who moved into the building, reportedly get a framed picture of yo…

Harry Houdini's Harlem Home is on the market for $4.6million- People love to drive by the house on my Harlem Tours- 278 West 113th Street

Legendary magician Harry Houdini’s Harlem brownstone is on the market for $4.6million. The address is 278 West 113th Street…built 1904 and measures 4,600 square feet. He bought the 4-story home in 1907 for the princely sum of $25,000 and lived there with his wife Bess until his death in 1928. It was said to be the grandest house that any magician has ever owned. It was the site where he would develop some of his greatest illusions. When he moved in, he did everything he could to turn the place into the ultimate "magician's lair." The home has since been divided into three individual apartments, but could be re-combined into a single-family home. Houdini (born 1874 in Budapest as Ehrich Weisz) lived here with his wife Bess and mother Cecilia Weiss and immigrated from Hungary at the age of 13 with his parents. Houdini employed a librarian to manage his huge collection of books on magic and mysticism…the main floor parlor was called “the trophy room” and was the jewel of th…

Jim Dykes, NYC tourguide talks about the changing economics of New York City Tourism: Websites with mis-information & smart phones and a flood of new guides making it difficult for older guides to compete

New York City surpassed Disney several years ago as the top tourist destination in the United States and I witnessed it because I’ve been a personal & private New York City tourguide for many years.  I do specialty tours of neighborhoods and “step-on” tours (on their buses) for church and school groups, tour & travel agency groups, cruise ship groups, convention & corporate groups. And from time to time, I will give tours to families and individuals who find my website ( ) and sometimes V.I.P.s. I did a private tour for the Royal family of Saudi Arabia!
As everyone knows, New York began it’s massive cleanup and re-birth during the administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani when he declared war on the smut purveyors who had nearly destroyed Times Square and the Broadway theatre district.  His slogan still rings in my ears: “I promise you a cleaner, brighter, safer New York…starting with Times Square.”  And he did it.  His master plan involved bringing Disney…

Famed Figures of American and New York History Repose at Upper Manhattan's Trinity Cemetery by New York City personal/private licensed tourguide Jim Dykes of

Nearly 30,000 New Yorkers of the last two centuries are currently “residents” of Trinity Church Cemetery on Broadway between W. 153rd and W. 155th Streets in Manhattan including famous clergy, soldiers, inventors, statesmen, authors composers, socialites, robber barons— are tucked away here under the plush green landscape of this English style “country garden” cemetery.
Trinity Church, world famous as “the big brownstone church” on Broadway at Wall Street, is one of the oldest parishes in the city of New-York, founded in the seventeenth century, when New-York was still hyphenated. Trinity’s two oldest burial grounds in lower Manhattan, have been inactive for centuries.
DOWNTOWN BURIALS BARRED By the early 1800s, New Yorkers had grown accustomed to years of living in fear of recurring epidemics (especially the dreaded yellow fever). In October of 1798, for example, 522 deaths were recorded in New York, of which 431 were due to yellow fever. Shallow graves were readied for immediate burial…

Jim Dykes, New York City actor and tourguide talks about working on SEX AND THE CITY, and provides pictures from the set.

Specialty sightseeing tours are popular in New York…so many different neighborhoods and “themes” to tour. Movie and TV locations are always fun especially since I’ve worked on many of the TV shows and films shot in New York and can add personal stories. For example, the last few years the Sex and the City locations tour has become so popular all over the world, even though the show is no longer airing new episodes.  There’s even a commercial bus tour that leaves daily and tours people around town showing clips and visiting locations used on the show….it was started by a guide I know and the company is On Location Tours. However, as a guide, I’ve done my own version of this for years. Unless you’re a fan of the show, all the tour gossip and chit-chat won’t mean much. This week I’m taking a group of German women on the tour! I’ve done Sex and the City tours and other movie/TV specialty tours to many visitors, groups small and large. Corporate & convention groups love to offer it to…

Remembering my friend Michael Wallace and his Mom Dixie Belle; From Alabama to Radio City and NBC!

One of the most talented people I ever met in New York City was costume assistant and apprentice designer Michael Wallace, whom I met when I worked at Radio City Music Hall.  I’ve often thought that if Michael hadn’t died young, his name would be on labels in department stores because he was such a creative force.  He loved the Italian designers…he used to say “Armani designs for the WIVES and Versace designs for the MISTRESSES.” Ha Ha Ha. I remember when Michael turned down a couple offers to design for Calvin Klein, Nolan Miller, Bob Mackie and other big-named designers because his clothes wouldn’t be “his”…the label would have  the other designer’s name. Michael used to say…”I’m waiting for the right offer because some day I want MY name on the label.” It makes me sad when I think about him because I know he would have been a fashion superstar! There is now a hot young British designer named Michael Wallace, but it’s a different person.  I’m still friends with many of my Radio City fr…

Jim Dykes, NYC Celebrity Tourguide writes about Opera Superstar MARIA CALLAS- Diva Supreme-- raised in Manhattan's Washington Heights Neighborhood!

La Divina. Prima Donna Extraordinaire, The Golden Voice of the Century. These descriptive terms were all used in reference to the legendary opera star Maria Callas, who spent ten of her formative years growing up as a bright, chubby child in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan. In fact, her initial musical training and first public performances took place in this Northern Manhattan neighborhood. When Callas died at age 53 on Sept. 16, 1977, the world lost one of the greatest singers in history. She had also slimmed down and become not only an opera star, but a fashion star. Without any question, Callas was a celebrity. Even for those who were not opera devotees, she provided front page reading and was a source of gossip due to cancellations in major opera houses, a much-publicized divorce from Italian industrialist Battista Meneghina after she met the infamous Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, and a humiliating rejection when Onassis tossed her aside to marry another celebrity …

Remembering movie star Jean Arthur by "Celebrity" New York City tourguide-actor Jim Dykes

Jean Arthur today is mostly forgotten by modern movie audiences but in the 1930’s and 1940’s she was a BIG movie star…America’s “Girl Next Door” and she was from New York City...specifically Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan. She was known for her croaky-voiced, tough-talking, streetwise blue-eyed blonde with the marshmallow heart from movies of those days, especially Frank Capra’sMr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. She had a sexy girl-next-door quality (before this became an over-used expression) which made men want to bring her home to meet Mother and made women want to be her best friend. She had an eternally youthful quality, playing ingenues well into her forties. But most of all, it was that wonderfully low, gravelly, distinctive Jean Arthur voice which we remember so well, so unlike the other ingenues of the day. Although she played her share of helpless females early in her silent film career, she did as she was told while she learned the business of m…

First Luxury Apartment Houses on the West-side of Central Park were referred to as "outposts in Indian Territory"

The gigantic luxury apartment houses of Manhattan fascinate me and I love to talk about them on my private tours. The most famous of course, is The Dakota, built 1880-84 by Edward Clarke and designed by Henry J. Hardenburgh. But there are many others that have survived into the 21st century. Many were built as hotels or as rental buildings and have been turned into condos or co-ops.
The first gigantic buildings built with steel beams popped up in the late 19th century and the idea to build them came from Chicago. In fact, the first Manhattan skyscrapers were designed and built by Chicago builders so the first buildings were referred to as “Chicago-style” buildings years before the word “skyscraper” was coined. It wasn’t long before the tall office buildings gave way to steel frame apartment buildings and hotels and churches.
The South and West sides of Central Park began developing in the 1880s as a place for these new gigantic structures, but genteel high society in their fancy houses …

New York Secret: The American Academy and Insitute of Arts & Letters

Probably the most elegant and secret setting in all of Northern Manhattan is the landmarked Audubon Terrace, at Broadway & W. 155th Street. It’s the home of several institutions including Boricua College, The Hispanic Society and the fabulous American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters, whose past and present members include many of the great artists and writers. It’s located in a landmarked, glorious 1907 Beaux-Arts complex, thru gates and a plaza which places it mere feet (yet worlds) apart from the mean streets of Washington Heights around it. I’ve been to many exhibitions, openings and events here and met the elegant Executive Director Virginia Dajani.  The exhibits and art shows are open to the public but check their website or call first because the public hours vary. A partial list of past & present members and honorees include: Frank Lloyd Wright, Booth Tarkington, Edith Wharton, Thornton Wilder, Woodrow Wilson, Carl Sandburg, Theodore Roosevelt, Eero Saarinen, M…

Throwback Thursday- Tourguide Jim Dykes leads people thru Central Park.


Central Park's manmade landscape was created in 1858-1870. Jim Dykes leads tours all around the 843 acre park. The landscape masterpiece was created by Olmsted and Vaux...they worked together with 3,000 workers to create a magnificent "living painting" out of an English countryside. Today the sheep and cows are missing.
The famous Dakota.
People skating in the shadow of the Dakota.
Lovely Bethesda Terraces under construction and finished.

Bethesda in the snow.

New York's "Celebrity" Tourguide Jim Dykes leads people thru the fancy land of the Rich and Famous...the Upper Eastside

RICH & FAMOUS galore! Here's a few snaps from my walking tour of the Upper Eastside including the house from Breakfast at Tiffany's, Andy Warhol's house, the townhouse where Dorothy Kilgallen was mysteriously found dead, Jackie Kennedy's childhood home and Bill Cosby's Manhattan home. Private schools such as Miss Spence (graduates including Anna Wintour's daughter Bea, Gwyneth Paltrow, The Bloomberg girls and Kerry Washington. The Convent of the Sacred Heart, the Buckley School for Boys, the Collegiate Prep (young Barron Trump), private clubs galore, multi-million dollar condos, co-ops and townhouses. Take Jim Dykes' Private Insider's Tour.