Saturday, November 11, 2006

November in New York

I'm still hoping to find a publisher for these damn travelogues. Here's where I was a year ago today.

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Back from Gotham where I helped out on a musical going into workshop production called THE 60’s PROJECT. It’s a fun and poignant journey through the decade, complete with all the music and assassinations you remember. My main contribution was getting them to take “Who Put the Bomp?” out of the Tet Offensive section. But it’s a terrific show despite the fact that an audience member called it “important”.

Stayed again at the Shelburne Murray Hill. But no Diane Lane this time. They should tell you that when you make your reservation. Seven whole days I stayed in that dump!

The tree is back! The world’s largest Christmas tree was delivered to Rockefeller Center this week. It was their second attempt. The first time no one was there and they had to leave a note. Usually city workers decorate the 75 foot Norwegian Spruce, adorning it with 25,000 lights. This year the task goes to Martha Stewart’s APPRENTICES.

Big Broadway show in town is the revival of ODD COUPLE with Matthew Broderick, and inexplicably, Nathan Lane as the slovenly “guy’s guy” Oscar Madison. I know it’s stunt casting but Jesus. Why not just go the whole way and cast Carol Channing?

Best panhandler: the guy at Broadway and 42nd holding a sign that reads: “YOU CAN YELL AT ME FOR A DOLLAR”.

Close second: The Naked Cowboy. This skeesix has long blonde hair, wears nothing but a Speedo and a guitar. I would still believe him as Oscar Madison before Nathan Lane.

Had a meeting at NBC at 30 Rock. The security has gotten ridiculous. They now even take your picture for a visitor’s pass. If they were really worried about someone bringing down their network they should just keep the producers of FEAR FACTOR out

There is barbed wire around the Plaza Hotel. It is being converted to condos. But the Oak Room will remain. The city was able to get its upscale hookers at the bar registered as historical landmarks.

Had breakfast at “Friend of a Farmer”. New York has officially run out of restaurant names.

The best pizza in New York is no longer Ray’s. It’s now John’s. So expect “Original Johns”, “John’s Original”, “Jon’s”, “Original Jon’s”, and “Jon’s Original” to pop up all over the city.

There’s a Home Depot on Lexington Avenue in Midtown. How do people get anything home? They have to lug their new garage doors or Jacuzzis or lumber on the subway?

Went to Carnegie Hall for the first time to see singer Linda Eder. Both were quite spectacular . (Andrew Carnegie, for those who didn’t know, was one of those American robber barons who made his fortune in fatty corned beef.) Linda received a standing ovation the moment she appeared. Very different from her July performance at an outdoor venue in San Diego when the only person who stood was a guy in a Hawaiian shirt trying to flag down the vendor for his fifth pina colada.

There are five balconies. The top one is above the timber line. Scalpers could easily sell $35 top balcony seats for $2000 saying they were the only Barbra Streisand tickets still available.

The only weird moment of the concert was when Linda said “Judy Garland had a huge influence on my life” and I was the only man in the audience who didn’t say “me too”.

The after-show party was fun. And when people asked what I was working on now I was able to say Broadway musical instead of failed Fox pilot.

There is a strange woman who always makes and hands out commemorative Linda Eder refrigerator magnets. Mine will be proudly displayed next to the Clippers 2003 home schedule.

You are no longer allowed on Avenue of the Americas unless you have a Blackberry. There are checkpoints.

A hotel was bombed in Jordan so currently there is extra security and SWAT teams at certain NY hotels. (Nothing at the Shelburne. They don’t even provide valet service). So now for your $700 a night at the Parker-Meredian (actual charge this week) you are in the heart of the theatre and terrorist target district.

Debby flew in just in time for the best sidewalk food vendor announcement. A bratwurst hawker on Broadway who was presented his award and arrested for not having a permit.

Cathy Rigby is doing her final performances of PETER PAN at Radio City. Next year she segues right into ARSENIC AND OLD LACE.

Meanwhile, Nathan Lane is segueing from THE ODD COUPLE to PETER PAN.

With all the amazing Italian restaurants in New York there is an Olive Garden. And it was packed. This is why “three card monty” takes in more money annually than the Statue of Liberty.

Languages spoken by my cab drivers: Urdu, Russian, Czech, Farsi, Klingon.

Forgot to set my alarm (all five days) for 5 a.m. so I could stand in the window of the TODAY SHOW, wave my arms like an idiot, and hold up a sign that says “HI JANE! HI BRYANT!”.

Now that all hotels employ recorded wake up call messages, this should be the one they use: “Good morning. This is your wake up call….(beat) Hey, fuck you too. You asked to be called.”

A street vendor on 6th Avenue was selling one of our SIMPSONS scripts for $15. Linda Eder magnets were going for $20.

Went to my favorite museum – the Margo Feiden Gallery, home of the glorious Al Hirschfeld collection. I was there so long I counted 4,362 Nina’s.

Latest fashion trend: kids wearing Yankee baseball caps two sizes too big. They all look like Sluggo.

Actual radio station press release: Clear Channel Urban WWPR (Power 105) and PREMIERE syndicated morning duo Star & Buc Wild have replaced newsman “Crossover Negro” (Reese Hopkins) with “Chris the Queer” (aka Chris Hart).

Bring back Dan Ingram!!

The MET LIFE building will always be the PAN AM building.

Annie flew in from Chicago for the weekend. First stop was Long Island and a big gathering of Debby’s relatives. We all met at an Italian restaurant on Queens Boulevard (Friend of an Undertaker) and had lunch. Just like a Sunday dinner scene in the SOPRANOS except Tony and the family never said “No cheese, I just had meat”, “what comes with that?”, “are the capers fresh?”, “I can make the same thing at home for fifty cents,” and “the last time I had cannelloni I went into labor”.

Stephen Sondheim came to our show on Sunday. And wound up sitting next to Annie. She’ll be dining off that story for years. The performance went very well until one of the leads, in the middle of “Sugar Sugar” broke into “Being Alive”.

If you put a Linda Eder refrigerator magnet together with a Barbra Streisand refrigerator magnet would they attract or repel?

JFK has been remodeled and refurbished, now sporting humongous Tomorrowland-like terminals and a monorail system. Once Zagat rated the worst airport in America, now with all the improvements it’s rated even worse. Instead of building bigger terminals how about providing more than two ticket agents at 6 pm on a Sunday?

Spending a week as part of the New York theatre scene was very heady indeed. Everyone was so friendly, so gracious. All of that will end of course when they find out I write for TV. But at least I met Stephen Sondheim. And he and Annie are now exchanging recipes.

Thanks so much to Janet, Richard, cast & crew, Dave, Ronni, Linda, and the Naked Cowboy for everything. I feel very lucky.

YOU CAN RUB ME FOR A DOLLAR.

10 comments:

Ann Wesley Hardin said...

Ken, I think you're very funny. I've always thought you were funny. But the best thing about you so far is that you're one of two people I know who remember the Pan Am Building.

I'm the other one.

The Master said...

Just remember Sondheim started out writing TV sitcoms too, namely several episodes of TOPPER with Leo G. Carroll back in 1953.
And there's now three of us who remember the Pan Am Building. I suspect there are even more in New York, all people who still have rent-controlled apartments.

mack said...

Possibly heard on the M*A*S*H public address system:

The 60's Project. An age of innocence. An era of protest. The events of the 60’s shaped the nation while the music defined it. From the sweet simplicity of “Chapel of Love” to the radical “Times They Are a Changin’,” relive America’s most dramatic decade with a group of young friends fighting to make a difference and find their place in an ever-changing world. The sights and sounds of a generation are brought to life in a powerful new musical you will never forget.

That is all...

Dante Kleinberg said...

Funny stuff, as usual

However, Olive Garden does have good pizza, for what it's worth. And really good chocolate mousse cake. Also, when you're there, you're family. So there's that.

lairbo said...

Ah, the memories... Has it been a year already?

The Pan Am Building is, and will always be, the Pan Am Building, even if Met Life hangs a giant inflatable Snoopy off it.

Some updates for you:

The naked cowboy is now Nathan Lane's understudy in "Butley". The Yell-at-Me-for-a-Dollar guy now charges a buck-fifty. And, in a surprising trend, many of today's yute are wearing baseball caps with the bill facing forward. Some people find this alarming but I think the Mayans predicted it.

Paul Duca said...

If I ever come into money, I am going to hire Ken to take me places...he makes any place sound fascinating.
Oh, and for the record--Andrew Carnegie made his money in steel (which went into all those libraries), not meatpacking.

Ken Levine said...

You mean he didn't make his fortune off that deli?????

Paul Duca said...

I remembered that just this morning on the way to work...the Carnegie Deli may be as New York as Broadway, but it's not what first comes to my mind when I think about a sophisticated and exciting metropolis.

Dhppy said...

...and the Pan Am building will always be that blight against all that's good about New York architecture.

I was in New York this time last year. Yeah, that was me. I remember seeing a SWAT team just hanging out (as lackadaisically as one can, while dressed in black helmets while stroking weapons and German Shepards) at the top of the escalator to the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle. I just walked right past them, 'cause, you know, I had shit to buy.

Cecilia Jamasmie said...

Orato Editor, Heather Wallace, interviewed the Naked Cowboy recently and, trust me, you don’t want to miss what he told her. For example, he revealed that he was turned down by both Star Search and American Idol and he truly believes that he’ll watch generation after generation pass before his eyes: “Worst case scenario, I’ll live to be 500 years old,” he says.

Read the full article here:

“The Tao of the Naked Cowboy”
http://www.orato.com/node/2061