Celebrities in the City....from Lady GaGa to the Kardashians...by Jim Dykes, NYC "celebrity" tourguide
Gilda Radner (long dead) means nothing, Meg Ryan (career dead...means nothing), Madonna (has-been, gets mild interest), Tom Hanks (mildly interesting), Barbara Walters (might as well be dead), and many other names which I used to mention in my tour 5 years ago get very little eyebrows raised on the tour these days.
Young, hip celebrity names are the answer! I recently did a tour where every young person on the bus dozed thru celebrity names like Tom Hanks, Kelly Ripa, Regis Philbin…even Madonna got a few yawns…they are yesterday’s headlines.
As soon as I mentioned Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian.…the bus erupted…they love it when you show them Gaga's old high school on Fifth Avenue (Convent of the Sacred Heart). Her given name is Stephanie Germanotta and she is 25 years old. She shot to international pop star fame very quickly with her first two albums and many high-profile appearances like wearing an evening gown made of MEAT. Just a few short years before, she was one of those Upper Westside high school girls waiting in her uniform for the crosstown bus to her school at 91st and Fifth Ave. (you’ve all seen those groups of kids on the street).
Like many New Yorkers, I don’t replace my Verizon telephone directory often, even though they bring stacks of new phone books to my building lobby yearly. As a matter of fact I realized I still had a telephone book from 2005—six years ago, which today is an eternity. Six years ago, Lady Gaga was a freshly graduated senior living in her own apt. at 176 Stanton Street in the Lower Eastside and working in hole-in-the-wall Greenwich Village and Lower Eastside nightclubs like The Bitter End. She’s listed in the phone book, as is her Uncle Frank at 45 Wall Street. Her parents are listed as: Joe & Cynthia Germanotta, of 135 West 70th Street. I used to live around the corner at 111 West 68th Street so that area is still a favorite of mine (but I just couldn’t afford the rent increases.)
Her parents love the local restaurant VINCE AND EDDIE’S which I also adore, located on W. 68th St. Apparently, Gaga/Stephanie has happy memories going there every week with her parents-- When she heard they were closing forever, she recently swooped in and bought it and gave it to her parents!
Another sure-fire thing people enjoy is to drive down Spring Street and point out the DASH store, owned by the Kardashian sisters Kim & Chloe and made famous on their reality show KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS. They live over in Tri-beca in a rented loft. They are famous for doing NOTHING, except being beautiful, wearing beautiful clothes and being on TV. But fame is an incredible mistress...people want to know about them!!
On a tour you must give the public what they want!
Footnote: God save us from those double-decker tours in NYC. They have so much money to spend on advertising but are the "fast food" of the tourbiz...people hop on but quickly hop off when they realize they have been taken for a ride (literally) with guides that know nothing and have no education. Finding a personal/private guide online means searching beyond the first page of google!