Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmastime in New York

Back from New York, a very expensive city to visit if you’re an American, one giant Costco if you’re from England. The British Pound is currently worth two U.S. dollars so everyone from the U.K. is coming over to New York to do their Christmas shopping. It’s not unusual to see the Queen at Macy’s saying, “Excuse me, miss, does this bra come in black?”

New York has welcomed its stiff-upper-lipped guests by raising hotel rates to ridiculous levels. $200 rooms are now $650. American tourists are advised to book motels in Philadelphia and just bus in.

And still we found a deal at the Murray Hill Suites. Forget that major construction was going on all night right across the street, the TV was a Dumont, and it was the one hotel in all of New York with absolutely no internet access, at least it was in the city, right around the corner from a BBQ place where a guy in a giant chicken suit stood out in the street at all hours trying to lure customers. “Hey, your majesty, chicken and ribs combo with side of beans and slaw only $6.99!”

The hotel asked for a $50 hold on our credit card so if we trashed the room they could replace all the furniture.

Flew in from Burbank on plucky Jet Blue. Felt really secure flying knowing that Gummi Bears are banned on commercial flights and whipped cream is allowed only in minute quantities but It’s okay to bring four books of flammable matches. (This is true based on an American Airlines flight from Washington to Dallas this week.) Meanwhile, I had to remove my wallet. Yeah, like I’m going to hide explosives in my WGA card.

In a pathetic attempt to finally get my name mentioned on “Page Six” I called THE POST the minute I hit town to tell them I was on the same flight as Keith Carradine and Evan Handler. Unfortunately, there was too much Kid Rock and Conchita Leeflang news so I was thwarted yet again.

It’s Christmas time in the city. The giant tree is up in Rockefeller Center, the Salvation Army Santa on 5th and 48th is Asian, and people stand in long lines to see the big department store window displays while other people just walk by, gaze at the same thing, and laugh at the idiots in line.

But if you’ve never been to New York during Christmastime, treat yourself. It really is magical.

A dinner reservation in Manhattan means you only have to stand in a tiny bar area packed with people for a half hour instead of two. I love how many Upper Eastsiders won’t take the subway because it’s so crowded yet cheerfully will join 110 people wedged into a space the size of a phone booth for a chance to eat astronaut portions of overpriced food.

That was the scene at the Union Square CafĂ© Thursday night. It was too noisy for the hostess to call out names (“Ruler of the British Empire, party of three!”) so she just came and pried you out with a crowbar when your table was ready. To identify each party she made little descriptions alongside their names. “blond with blue scarf,”, “grey suit”, and for me – “Schmuck with mittens”.

While I was in the restaurant there was a shooting nearby. Last time I was in New York a deranged husband tried to off his wife by blowing up the family townhouse two blocks away. And the trip before, I missed a subway stabbing by a half hour. So what if I’m paying twice as much as any bloke named Nigel? I’M ALIVE!!!

A theatre organization in Manhattan has offered to hold a reading of my play. I met with them (thus writing off my trip) and much to my surprise they were serious! It’ll be on February 12th, a Monday night when theaters are dark so maybe I can enlist some cast members from Tom Stoppard’s THE COAST OF UTOPIA or SMUCKERS STARS ON ICE.

Every time a limo door opened I kept hoping to see Britney Spears spill out onto the street. We’ve all viewed her classy full frontal photos on the internet, but I wanted to see that C-section scar in person.

The late night disc jockey on New York’s hip hop station was shot thus increasing his street cred. Supposedly he was wearing a $20,000 gold and diamond necklace in Harlem. The defense will argue it wasn’t a homicide but a suicide attempt.

A musical of SHREK is coming to Broadway. Casting suggestions: Vin Diesel or Rosie O’Donnell.

There’s still a tarp over the building Corey Lidle’s plane tragically crashed into. Gummi Bears are too dangerous but it’s okay to fly private planes over the East River.

Friday the temperature plunged to 20 degrees. Everyone was walking around like it was no big deal. I was hailing cabs to cross a street. But these unbearable conditions (okay, chilly) gave me a fabulous idea. For you lovely ladies who have to attend elegant dressy occasions during harsh winter nights and want to look your best without getting frostbite – I’ve created the “down gown”. It’s warm, it’s comfortable, and if you’re a size one, it’s sleek. Check them out in the formalwear section of your nearest REI.

For twenty years the great Dan Ingram ruled the afternoon airwaves on 77WABC. Today that time slot is manned by Sean Hannity. It’s as if Peter Lugar’s steakhouse now served head cheese.

Fran Liebowitz still gets her name in the Society pages. Once a HILARIOUS writer, now jester to the elite, Fran’s greatest accomplishment over the last twenty five years is having slept in every guest bedroom in the Hamptons. Write another book, Fran. Don’t shut us out just because we can’t invite you to clambakes.

Gypsy cabs are such a rip-off even the Brits don’t take them.

It was very poignant being in New York on the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. John, in my life, I love you more.

New trend: Elevator Surfing. Kids ride on the roof of an elevator as it travels through the shaft. It’s almost as dangerous as eating at Taco Bell.

Good news theatergoers! Tony Danza goes into THE PRODUCERS beginning December 19th. No, not in Fargo, N.D. On Broadway.

Finally, after four glorious days, it was off to the always-under-construction JFK airport and our Jet Blue bird back to Burbank (where I really lucked out. There was a THAT GIRL marathon on TV Land). Meanwhile, at the British Airways terminal there was an international incident when “you-know-who” tried to board a flight with a full can of whipped cream. “Hey, I don’t care who the fuck you are, lady, I’ve got to go through your bags.”


Lloyd Thaxton said...

I love New York at Christmas time. I lost a "mitten" at Rock Center while watching the ice skaters. During the cab ride back to the hotel, the cab driver, on hearing of my tragic loss (it was 10-degrees outside), gave me a pair of his gloves. He said it was an extra pair and he didn't need them. Only in New York?

As they say in Sleepless in Seattle, "It was ... magic."

I would love to be in NY for the reading of your play. I was at the performance in LA and it was one of the best theater experience I have ever had.

As they say in Sleepless in Seattle, "It was (I think I did this already).


david golbitz said...

I believe Corey's last name is spelled "Lidle."

Glad your trip went well and you made it back west safe and sound.

By Ken Levine said...

Thanks for the catch, 1031. It's been corrected.

VP81955 said...

Well, while in New York you can entertain yourself by seeing what outrageous front pages Rupert Murdoch and his right-wing kangaroos will come up with next. Last week, for example, after the Iraq Study Group released its findings, the Post greeted it with "SURRENDER MONKEYS," superimposing James Baker and Lee Hamilton's heads on Oz-like monkeys. L. Frank Baum would be proud.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I've never been in NY on Christmas. Hope to see this some day.

And is it true about SHREK musical? Or I just didn't get a joke? :)

Anonymous said...

First off, those of us living in Brooklyn know that you DO NOT enter Manhattan between Thanksgiving and January 2nd. Dodging Her Highness's motorcade is just too much trouble.

Second, as long as we're correcting spelling, its Peter Luger's...with an E.

And lastly, if they served head cheese, it'd be the best damned head cheese you ever ate. Well, probably the first you ever ate, but damned good.


Anonymous said...

What, no visit to The Stage deli or The Carnegie for a juicy corned beef sandwich??? To me a trip to NYC means a serious "schmaltz stop"!

Anonymous said...

No, Mr. Hollywood, no. The places you mention are tourist traps. Take the F or V train to Second Ave., proceed East along Houston until you hit Katz's Delicatessen. That is the shit.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ken: You've mentioned twice recently that you thought spec-ing a Christmas episode of a sitcom was a really good idea, and as an aspiring writer, I appreciate the tip. However, this guy named Devon DeLapp, who was rejected by the Warner Brothers Television Writers Workshop, did attend a free WB seminar given by "... a tall-ish, brunette, 40-year-old named Debbie," and quotes this from the seminar on his blog: "Picking appropriate story: Too many long-lost-relatives and Christmas/holiday stories. Write a garden variety story." I was hoping you might offer your thoughts on that quote.

Have a Merry Christmas. It's a treat to read this blog each day. For a song to extend your Christmas-in-NYC experience, may I suggest 'New York Is A Christmas Kind Of Town,' by Marah.

By Ken Levine said...


I guess there is some disagreement re doing holiday specs. For all the years I produced and read specs I would not have minded reading one.

Doing a holiday spec separates you from the pack -- but there's also the risk that it separates you in a negative way. If you're unsure I'd say take the safer route. But come up with a knockout story idea.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me how New Yorkers debate delis. In the middle states, we would kill for the Carnegie or Nate 'N Al (no apostraphe). New Yorkers will slam a deli for not hand slicing. And don't get them started with a debate between New York and Montreal smoked meat.

The Curmudgeon said...

As always, enjoyed the post.

But "elevator surfing" is not new.

My Oldest Son is 21 now. When he was about five he saw a TV news report about a bunch of kids who did that trick in a CHA building... and died.

It was a dozen years or more before he would get on an elevator.

Benton Harbor said...

I thought only my Belgian relatives knew about head cheese!

Anonymous said...

I did the Warner Bros workshop. My money would have been better spent on gypsy cabs. At least they would have taken me somewhere. [Ooh, it just dropped to 20 degrees, right here in my bitter little L.A. apartment].

And yes, all those types of workshops and books tell the aspiring writer that your spec is not the time to do the "Black and White" episode, the "so and so get married" episode, the "very special one where everyone gets cervical cancer" episode, etc. They say it's about proving you understand the show as it normally operates. I guess the theory is that anyone can shock and awe in extraordinary situations, but can you stand out with an "everyday" episode? Although, since the Holidays roll around every year, how extraordinary can they be?

Anonymous said...

Sorry you didn't get to see Britney (with her new galpal, Paris Hilton). Those photos remind me of a saying I learned in junior high, "I see Paris, I see France, I (don't) see Britney's underpants". Well, maybe it was grammar school. Who can remember that far back?

Cap'n Bob said...

I was listening to Big Dan Ingram in the early 1960s. If he retired recently he's had 45-50 years at WABC. He was great, too. Even better than the iconic Cousin Bruce Morrow, though I loved them both.

Warren Fleece said...

Danza is Max Bialystock?

Long ago I heard Gilbert Gottfried doing a bit about getting comedy advice from his dad.

"Remember son, if you can make just one person laugh then already your doing better than Tony Danza".

Or something to that effect.

Anonymous said...

I'm about to head off to New York next week. It's a cool place to be during Christmas for sure. It's also a COLD place to be during Christmas.

I know NYC has crime and all, but it's still only the 25th most dangerous city in the country. Considering what it USED to be like, and population size, that's pretty damn good. I feel much safer in Manhattan than I do here in Atlanta, for what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

No, Cap'n Bob...Dan Ingram left WABC when they went all talk in 1982. He has been at other stations, mainly WCBS-FM, until a few years ago.

Anonymous said...


Some reasons you're safer in NYC.

1. We're in way too much of a hurry to take the time to demonstrate our road rage. (This does not prevent us from screaming at Sean Hannity in the afternoon.)

2. We have over 8 million people here. The two benefits of that are that there are so many more victims here to choose from that you have better odds of not being chosen, and the omnipresence of so many witnesses serves as a deterrent.

3. Savvy criminals go after the obvious tourist types. Oops, guess that one doesn't really do you any good.

Have a nice visit.


Anonymous said...

"Supposedly he was wearing a $20,000 gold and diamond necklace in Harlem. The defense will argue it wasn’t a homicide but a suicide attempt."

Got any other bad jokes about Harlem? Wearing $20K in jewelry ANYWHERE is dumbass...but I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see white people continuing to make outdated jokes about the quintessential black neighborhood.

Try visiting Harlem some time. You might find that the neighborhood is inhabited by actual human beings.

And by the way, I'm not being overly sensitive to someone's latent racism --I don't know you, so I can't make that call. I'm just calling you on a bullshit joke.