Monday, March 2, 2015

Broadway Melody

Looking east across 86th Street from Riverside Avenue. Sunday at 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, March 2, 2015. Cold, dull grey weekend in the city topped off with a Sunday snow that ran lightly but steadily through the day into the early evening when it got wetter. Sounds on the avenue below are the bumping, scraping of the city plows along the roadway, clearing the lanes. Where everybody is quietly wishing for Springtime – exactly 18 days away.

Broadway Melody. On Friday night I went to a memorial dinner for an old friend, at Sardi’s restaurant. I rarely go down into the Broadway area -- except for theatre, and that is not as often as I’d like.
View of Times Square taken from the northeast corner of 44th Street and Broadway looking south. The center tower is the old New York Times building which still runs the news bulletins moving electronically around the building. Friday night. 10:30 p.m.
I’m always agog at the space age glitter along the Great White Way. I was when I first saw it as tourist kid, and all these decades later I remain agog. It is total ballyhoo with its famous signs although it’s not “White” anymore  -- as it was back at the beginning of the last century when Thomas Edison’s light bulb was a miracle lighting up the night. But now, in the 21st century, it’s all colors and bigger, taller, wider and livelier. And more spectacular.

When I was first out of college and living in Manhattan—the city of dreams -- the area was mainly theater – movie and stage – actors, theater people, agents, musicians, restaurants, jazz joints and tourists. Forty-Second Street west of Seventh Avenue was honky-tonk and broken down; a defunct carnival, which stopped dead at Broadway and 42nd where the venerable New York Times occupied the building on Times Square.
Times Square, January 1938.
Times Square in the mid-1960s, from 47th Street and Broadway looking south.
One of my first jobs in New York was working in the publicity department of Loew's Theaters, which had its offices in the Loew's Inc. building at 1540 Broadway at 45th Street. The building also housed the Loew's State Theater, which was one of two Loew’s flagship theaters in the area (the other was Loew’s Capitol on 50th and Broadway).  There were Loew’s Theaters all over New York and the United States. Many New Yorkers pronounced it Low-ees – although correctly it’s Lows.

The company which had owned/controlled MGM from its founding back in 1924, supplied itself with its own glorious product. And when the product opened at one of the Broadway flagships, or in the nabes, the stars came from Hollywood to make personal appearances on stage in the theaters all over the boroughs to plug the product. My introduction to Show Business.  
Shubert Alley from West 44th Street looking north. The alley was constructed as a fire exit early in the 20th century for the Astor Hotel -- which covered the blocks between 45th and 44th Street and Broadway to the alley. It was called Shubert Alley because the two theatres on the alley -- which runs parallel to Broadway and Eighth Avenue -- were owned by Lee and Jacob J. Shubert, then New York's most powerful theater owners and producers.
Broadway and Seventh Avenue looking south toward the western view at 44th Street to the old Times building.
Tisch vision. Loew’s and MGM were broken up by the anti-trust laws in the late 1950s. By the early '60s, because of television, the movie audience also had dropped off precipitously from the glory days of the 1940s where 50 million Americans a week went to the movies. Television killed it. (Or rather, knocked it semi-unconscious.) No one seems to have foreseen the marriage of the two. Although the Tisch Brothers, Lawrence and Preston Robert (Larry and Bob to everyone), enterprising young hoteliers, shrewd and bright, could see something grand in Loew’s future. And they bought control of the dying theater chain (sans its MGM Studios).

Few could see their reasoning: who would want these behemoth movie palaces that were expensive to keep up and doing lousy business at the same time? Who knew there was Real Value there? The Tisches, that’s who.
Using the real estate (the land the theaters were built on) that was part of the deal, they built hotels – The Americana on 52nd and Seventh, the Midtown Motor Inn a couple blocks south, plus the Loew’s Summit (now the DoubleTree) at 51st and Lexington, and finally the Regency on 61st and Park. This was the Go-Go LBO ‘60s, and the Tisches went shrewdly and brightly into the acquisition business – CNA Financial, Lorillard and CBS, to name their most prominent.

Vincent Sardi Sr. and his wife Eugenia, both Italian immigrants, opened their first restaurant "The Little Restaurant" on West 44th Street on the eastern side of Broadway in 1921. The building was set for demolition five years later and the Shubert brothers offered Mr. and Mrs. Sardi space for a restaurant on the ground floor of an office building they were erecting on 44th Street across from Shubert Alley. Sardi's opened at this location 88 years ago on this Thursday, March 5th, and there it still stands.
Even the famous Loew’s Inc. building at 1540 Broadway (where Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin danced on the roof to the Comden and Green/Leonard Bernstein “New York – New York” number from the MGM film “On The Town”) was eventually replaced by a 50-story glass tower that matches heights with all its neighbors and their billboards.

That was the beginning of my introduction to Old Broadway, which is now the very new Broadway. I had gone there on Friday night to attend a memorial dinner at Sardi’s restaurant for the late Peter Gina hosted by Peter’s sister and brother-in-law Susan and Leonard Levitt. Susan and Peter’s maternal grandfather and was Vincent Sardi who started in the restaurant business with his wife.

Peter, who was a close friend since my early days in New York, left us last November at the tender age of 73, after brief terrible illness. It was through that friendship that my experience and knowledge of Broadway and theatre and New York was greatly enhanced. But that story, and Peter’s story is for another day.
Last Thursday night, Susan Zises Green and Robert Couturier hosted a cocktail reception at Susan’s Upper East Side duplex for the ASPCA which launched its first ever Estate Sale Drive to stock its newly launched online designer thrift store, partnering with the Silicon Alley start up WebThriftStore.com.  Co-hosting the evening  were WebThriftStore co-founder Lynn Zises and  ASPCA President Matthew Bershadker.

The launch attracted many animal supporters including Agnes Gund, Liz Lange, Debbie Bancroft, Anne Chaisson, Nina Griscom, Jane Friedman, Kipton Cronkite, Jason Klarman and Wilhelmina Waldman, many of whom donated items for the sale.  So the night was filled with Prada, Armani and Louboutin among other designer donations.  All available soon on WebThriftStore.com
Doug Krugman, Lynn Zises, ASPCA President Matthew Bershadker, Susan Zises Green, and Robert Couturier.
WebThriftStore is the first  multi-platform marketplace for non-profit thrift stores, delivering cash for nonprofits, tax deductions for donors, and great bargains for shoppers.  With charity partners such as American Red Cross, ASPCA, New York Cares and Ronald McDonald House Charities, WebThriftStore is helping to change the way millions of people contribute to charity. 

A complement to cash fundraising, WebThriftstore is creating a dynamic, branded destination for in-kind donations (clothing, electronics, cars, etc.) that allows non-profits to hold no inventory and incur no financial risk.
Justin Green and Robin Dolch.
Missy Hargraves and Michael Stone. Andrea Karamberlas and Liliana Cavendish.
Camille Branca, Alex Hamer, and Kim Charlton.
Matthew Bershadker and Susan Zises Green. Beth and Bob Krugman.
Julia Blue and Mary Mayland.
Phil McCarthy and Joe St. Cyr.
Ann Chaisson, Leslie Klotz, Debbie Bancroft, and Jeff Sharp.
Lynn Zises, Dan de Wolf, and Pam de Wolf.
Katarina Platt, Olivier Nouwry, Analisse Taft Gersten, James Gersten, and Sandy Gilbert.
Agnes Gund and Gabriella De Ferrari. Jody Melzer and Jody Gorton.
Mary Mayland and Alex Hamer.
Doug Krugman, Lynn Zises, Kipton Cronkite, and Jason Klarman.
Catching up. Last Thursday night a week, the American Friends of the Paris Opera and Ballet (AFPOB, hosted a dinner at the French Consulate at 934 Fifth Avenue in New York to celebrate Stephane Lissner, director of the Paris Opera.

It was Mr. Lissner’s first visit to New York since he took the helm of the 300 years old cultural institution, and it was an occasion for him to share his vision in front of 80 privileged guests.
French Consulate Reception Room.
Stephane Lissner.
Craig Rutenberg, Diana Damrau, and Nicolas Teste.
The reception was hosted by Bertrand Lortholary, Consul of France and his wife Laurence Mezin and AFPOB's chairman Olivia Flatto, Mary Sharp Cronson, Donna Corbat, Sana Sabbagh and Maz Zouhairi (president and CEO of Lalique North America). They counted an impressive group of Friends, trustees, artists and philanthropists: Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Adrienne Arsht, Jed Bernstein, President of Lincoln Center; Peter Mattei, Anne Bass, Serena Lese, Laura Zeckendorf, Hal Witt, James de Givenchy, Tony Coles, Steve Pesner

It was an evening filled with charm, elegance, intimacy and glamour, an exquisite French-American experience which culminated with a performance by world renowned singers Diana Damrau and Nicolas Teste who will be performing in the Opera “Manon" at the Met next month.
Olivia Flatto and Donna Corbat. Stephane Lissner, Kristin Sebastian, and Albert Cribiore.
Donna Corbat, Michael Corbat, and Judith Hoffman.
Maggie Wei, Maz Zouhairi, and Nicoles Salmasi. Mary Kellen French and Marina Couloucoundis.
Anne Bass and Jed Bernstein.
Bertrand Lortholary and Mary Sharp Cronson.
Peter Gelb and Olivia Flatto.
Saturday night I had dinner with an old friend at Amaranth, the popular bistro on 62nd Street just west of Madison Avenue. After dinner, since it was a clear night, I decided to walk up Madison Avenue and get some pictures of the current windows in some of the great boutiques that line this luxury lane for the chic. I got as far as the first ten blocks before my fingertips started freezing and I hailed a cab.

However, it turned out to be an excellent introduction to Ellin Saltzman’s wrap-up of fashion trends that she noticed in her coverage of the 2015 Fall Designer Collections:

• Gold gold gold
• Black black black
• Leather  (as in Ralph Lauren)
• Fur or shearling trim and accessories (Jason Wu, Ralph, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs)
• Plaid and tartan
• Houndstooth checked menswear for women (Kors and Lauren)
• Red 
• Great coats especially navy at Kors, polos at Ralph and Kors
• Vests
• White shirts and ruffled white blouses
• Jumpsuits for night
• Fifty shades of grey
• Fisherman sweaters
• Sheath dresses
• Full skirts
• Fringe, fringe, fringe, fringe: on bags, belts, shawls, capes, hems, skirts, even coats
• Capes, ponchos, and cape coats
• Trapper hats (Ralph has the best ones but expect to find them for Fall in any store that still has a hat bar)
• Sleek hair or just-out-of-bed hair (the latter seems to win and I do not know why. But am told it is modern)
Hermès.
Hermès.
Bonpoint.
Erwin Pearl.
Roberto Cavalli.
Paula Ka.
Loro Piana.
Armani.
John Varvatos.
Oscar de la Renta.
Kate Spade.
Tory Burch.
Lanvin.
Valentino.
Dennis Basso.
Dolce & Gabbana.
Pratesi.
La Perla.
Anne Fontaine.
Prada.
Tom Ford.
Bottega Veneta.
Emilio Pucci.
Leggiadro.
Max Mara.
Roger Vivier.
 

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