Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Macy's Parade

I have no desire to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I’ve been in New York several times during Thanksgiving and just my luck, every year it’s been cold. Maybe if they held it indoors one year… Perhaps down in the subway? Nah, it might be tough wedging Sponge Bob through a tunnel.

Brutal weather conditions aside, the parade is spectacular and organizers do an amazing job. It’s quite a spectacle and well worth seeing if you’re not a princess like me. But hey, I don’t go to football games in the winter either. Do fans realize these games are on television?  Or are they just looking for an excuse to use those flasks? 

In Manhattan in January I’ve been known to hail a cab to take me across the street.

I only attended the parade once. And that was because James L. Brooks had a condo along the parade route and had a bunch of people over for a viewing party. So I watched from the window while sipping my hot chocolate. Jim, and a few others were calling down to the passing celebrities. It helped that he actually knew these people.

More fun than going to the parade is watching them blow up the balloons the night before. I do recommend that. They do it near the Natural History Museum. Wear a sweater.

To me the Macy’s Parade is a TV event anyway, even when I’m in Manhattan. It signals the official beginning of the holiday season and gives us a chance to see all the “stars” of the midseason NBC shows that will be cancelled by every St. Paddy’s Day Parade. Al Roker will be interviewing these recycled sitcom actors and fawning all over them. Such excitement lay ahead when these new NBC shows premier. Remember GROWING UP FISHER? 1600 PENN? SMASH?

THE TODAY SHOW anchors always host. Matt Lauer pretends he’s really enjoying himself, but he has the same look as when they make him do the red carpet show for the Golden Globes. It must be the one day of the year Ann Curry is sitting by a cozy fire saying, "Ha ha bitches!" 

The advantage of viewing the parade on TV is you get to see the Broadway production numbers. My heart always goes out to those poor frozen kids in skimpy show outfits dancing and singing in 20 degree temperatures, sometimes being rained or snowed upon. Equity is such a strong union. Why isn’t there a rule that Broadway dancers are not allowed to perform if they can see their own breath? How many Rockettes blow out hamstrings?

And then the parade starts and I’m always wondering why certain celebrities got stuck on certain floats. “There’s Allison Janney on the foot care float.” Singers stop and lip sync the first chorus of their songs before they’re cut off by six Black Friday commercials. Balloons are the big attraction and Matt must act like he’s seeing the Snoopy balloon for the first time, even though he’s seen it thirty.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t enjoy a parade unless I’m also provided commentary. Instead of listening to a marching band I want to hear how many pancake breakfasts they held in order to finance this trip. I need to know how much helium is in Bullwinkle. And why is Allison Janney on that float shaped like a giant foot?

And then afterward, that big decision, that tough decision – football or the dog show?

Hope you have a great holiday season. And if you’re going to the parade, try to get a selfie with Kermit. Thanks. And again, wear a sweater.


Pat Reeder said...

When I was a kid, I don't recall seeing people on parade floats lip-synching to pop songs. Maybe "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" started that. I always find it a little embarrassing. I mean, everyone in the crowd knows it's just a phony lip-synching to a recorded track. But then, some people these days pay big bucks to see that in "concert," so what do I know?

I'm also with you on the endless yak-yak. Just let the damn marching bands play, for God's sakes! I have the same reaction to the constant yammering during the Olympics, especially during the ice dancing and skating events, when I'm trying to concentrate on the artistry, not the jabbering and bitchery. I've always contended that if the networks wanted to make some easy cash, all they'd have to do is offer a pay-per-view Olympic channel that carries only ambient sound with no TV commentators. I would actually pay a reasonable fee for that.

Matt said...

I have been to the Rose Parade and it is really impressive in person. Maybe because it was 80 degrees in winter.

But I have never been a parade on TV person. I can't think of anything more boring.

Carol said...

This has nothing to do with the parade, but it's a Friday Question that popped into my head the other day.

Would you/can you offer the rights of A or B? to community theatres? Do you have any control over that sort of thing?

I was thinking it would be a good show for a local theatre I'm involved in. Tons of really good actors and directors; all non-equity, though.

And Happy Thanksgiving

Mike said...

And why is Allison Janney on that float shaped like a giant foot?
She's Carol Cleveland's understudy.

Dan Ball said...

Why can't they have balloon wars just once at Macy's?

Curt Alliaume said...

Been to the parade twice, the same way you did - once watching from a hotel balcony, the other time from the company president's condominium (unfortunately, that was the year the winds were so fierce the Cat in the Hat knocked over a lamppost).

I have to say I prefer NBC's coverage of the parade over CBS's. CBS uses the stars of its prime time shows, and every comment is so clearly read off a teleprompter, it's painful to listen. Still, if NBC really wanted to make a good impression, they could have Betty White cohost like she did 45 years ago.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Parades remind me of one comedian's response to opera: "Look how much work it took to bore me."

Diane D. said...


This is changing the subject, but have you seen Birdman yet? You mentioned you were both eager and dreading to see it because people were so polarized on it. Would love to know your opinion.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed watching those parades(Thanksgiving, New Year, etc.) as a small child. It never occurred to me that adults would want to watch such a thing. Why would an adult watch balloons float down a street unless they were high?


Alan Tomlinson

MikeK.Pa. said...

Years ago my sister, who lives in Georgia but grew up in a big city, went to the Macy's parade to see her daughter march with her high school band. This was in the day when video cameras resembled rocket launchers. She had the camera balanced on her shoulder with her pocketbook slung beneath it. Someone bumped her and bang the pocketbook was gone after a quick slit of the pocketbook straps. Welcome to New York.

My wife and I long wanted to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show with the Rockettes. About five years ago we finally decided to train up to see it - and were very disappointed. We felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he gets the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring - nothing but a crummy commercial for NYC.

Hamid said...

Ken, I know you like it when readers bring to your attention weird little curios of historic or comedic interest. Here's one you might find amusing. I haven't watched the whole thing yet but it looks really bizarre and, well, awful. It's from 1956 and is called Corn's-A-Poppin'.

The only reason its existence is even known is because it was co-written by a young guy called Robert Altman. His biographer called it one of the worst movies ever made and Altman himself didn't want anyone to see it.

Strangely, none of the leads went on to have acting careers. For all but two of the cast, this was their one and only ever acting role!

Anyway, here's the youtube link.

BW said...

When does Macy's Day fall this year?

Anonymous said...

I can't stand the Macy's Day parade. It, like every thing else not a sporting event or scripted show, is a long commercial.

Avoid at all costs. The silly stop here and perform for 30 seconds is ridiculous as is the inane banter. "Willja look at [insert unimportant non-regional high school] all the way from [fly-over state] performing [unrecognizable song]. Weren't the great?" I wouldn't know. You had the audio on their performance turned way down and talked over the entire thing.

As I said annoying and pointless.

RockGolf said...

Ah! Macy Day! I still enjoy her song "I Try".

vicernie said...

in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada the equivalent is the Santa Claus Parade in early December. Canada in December is cold! when I was in high school in the 60s our marching band was always in the parade with the majorettes. frozen to the bone but they were rewarded with hot chocolate and a cookie at the end.

Bugdun said...

Remember Dave Winfield singing "I'll Take Manhattan" in his Yankees' uniform? About 1981, I think, so right after his horrible 1981 World Series. I covered my face with a pillow, and NEVER watched another Thanksgiving parade.

LouOCNY said...

I live in upstate NY about 70 miles from NYC. Had never been to the parade, and so when a friend who ran a small tour outfit offered for me to go free in return for counting heads on one of her buses (she filled 5 buses!), I said sure, why not?

Holy crap what a mistake - even with a small block to stand on, couldn't see a damn thing. Whiney kids complaining about not being able to see anything, and parents yelling at their kids, I gave up, grabbed a subway down to the Village, walked around a little, had breakfast, and zipped back up on the subway in time to count the heads coming back.

And I would never ever go to Times Square on New Years either...

Mike Schryver said...

In 1980, I was working for Macys and was in the parade. All the rank-and-file employees who would accept a role in the parade could be in it. I was a clown. I spent quite a while going from one side of the crowd to the other giving high fives to the kids. Eventually I realized they were mocking us and competing to see how many high fives each could get from the pathetic clowns.

Tom-in-Vegas said...

The video contains some interesting thoughts on television writers, given by one of the first females in the profession.


Greg Ehrbar said...

I've actually written live parade broadcasts and put words into Regis Philbin's mouth. Regis was extremely kind -- the more he teased, the more he liked you. (There were a handful he never teased.)

The script, which was printed on different colors of paper just like other TV scripts because of changes, was in a loose leaf binder placed behind the festive shrubbery on the desk. The right facing pages contained the lines for each host, which were also on the prompter.

Even though the script was frothy parade banter, I still wrote the host dialogue "in character," including little rants for Regis. He appreciated that because he doesn't usually work with a script.

The left facing pages contained the "fun facts." I wrote 52 pages of them for the first parade I worked on so they would be fresh.

There were two hosts because they had to work in tandem. One watched the street (or monitor) and called out what he/she was seeing, while the other read the corresponding "fun fact" about that particular float or detail.

We've also seen Macy's in person and it does get very cold but what an amazing experience it is. You don't see everything you can see on TV but it's worth doing at least once.

SharoneRosen said...

I love a parade! Love the Macy's Parade from the cheesy opening number to the frozen dancers to the snow covered Sousaphones!

I never miss it! And on New Year's day, the Rose Parade runs non-stop in my house.

Strike up the band!

Mary Stella said...

I miss watching the Mummers' Parade on television on New Year's Day. It went on forever with the different categories... clowns, fancies, string bands, etc. The costumes were spectacular; the rivalries between clubs strong, legendary, but good-natured. Plus, you knew that before long 80% of the paraders were roaring drunk but they still managed to do the Mummers' Strut in those huge costumes -- even when blown around Broad Street by gale force winds.

thirteen said...

NBC's coverage is awful. This morning, the (terrible! awful!) scripting never matched the video, and I began to wonder if the anchors were viewing the live video and we were getting a ten-second delay. They always seemed to be that far behind. And that narration, holy crap. I used to write for radio and I know how to make people sound natural, and how not to. NBC has no frickin' idea how to do it. The anchors sounded like robots.

I enjoy CBS's coverage. They're stationed about twenty blocks north of Herald Square and cover the parade as a public news event. There's nothing NBC can do about it. Also, CBS buys a huge billboard in Herald Square for its Victoria's Secret holiday special every year. It's at the corner of 34th and Sixth, and it's in every shot of the floats, balloons and Miss Auto-Tune of the Year rounding the corner onto 34th.

I grew up in New York and didn't leave until I was almost 40, and I never went to the parade. It's not that big a deal unless you're a tourist. It was kinda fun to watch all the high school band members swarming midtown and taking in the sights, though.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.