Thursday, April 30, 2009

Just in case you were wondering ...

... but NYC is fortunate to have a great guy handling the swine flu problem: Health commissioner Tom Frieden. He sounds exactly like the kind of person who should be handling a problem like this.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New York Radio Guide

Mr NYC strives to be a public service whenever possible. Thus I direct all New York City radio fans to the New York Radio Guide.

It lists all the stations in the city along with radio news and ratings info, etc.

Interesting factoid: did you know NYC has nine college radio stations?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home is wherever you want it to be

Native New Yorkers are kind of cheated. Growing up here, many of us take the city completely for granted. For me, it wasn't until I was older that I began to understand that this was a particularly special place, a place that people who live far away from NYC view not only as a city but also as the end of the rainbow, a kind of mythic place, an Oz if you will.

A state of mind. Make it here, etc.

I feel cheated because I'll never know what it's like to come to New York for the first time. The city was already here when I bumbled my way onto planet Earth.

So what is it like to move here from middle America? What's the transition like? And how does this affect the transplant's relationship with their place of origin?

I direct you to this short but insight column from the New York Press by a recent Michigan emigree who addresses these very questions: My Own Private Michigan.

As the column's title suggests, even when you move to NYC, you never entirely leave home behind. It transforms into another place, a place that stays with you.

P.S. I've met a number of Michigan transplants and they really are some of nicest people I've ever met.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Okay, so this wasn't very cool ...

Fortunately it turned out to all be a big nothing.

John J. Marchi, RIP

A State Senator for almost 50 years, John J. Marchi was the King of Staten Island, representing his beloved borough with absolute dedication. And even though he said that he wanted Staten Island to secede from NYC, he was one of the people who helped save the city from bankruptcy in the 1970s.

He also ran for Mayor twice, beating John Lindsay in the 1969 Republican primary but losing to him in the general election (Lindsay ran as an independent/Liberal instead). He ran again in 1973 but lost to Abe Beame. That said, he never lost his love of public service and continued on until 2006.

One of the old timers, a real New York legend (although he'd probably disagree), and he will be missed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

All Tomorrow's Parties

Big story today on the album covers that Andy Warhol produced in the 1950s and '60s. Did you know he produced over 50 covers for rock, jazz, and classical albums?

Probably the most famous is the cover he did for the Velvet Underground's first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico. The banana has sorta been the band's logo ever since.

"All Tomorrow's Parties" is from that album and is one of its best songs.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Condolences to New York's Greatest Reporter

Jimmy Breslin's daughter, Kelly, dies at 44

Apparently she was having dinner with friends last week when she suddenly collapsed. Last night, after almost a week in critical condition, she passed away.

I can only imagine the grief and acute feelings of loss that Jimmy Breslin and his wife, former City Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, must be feeling right now. Losing a child must be the hardest, most excruciating experience in the world.
Kelly was one of Jimmy Breslin's six children. He had another daughter who passed away in 2004 so to go through this twice must be unbearable. My heart and greatest sympathies go out to them.

Kelly's father, of course, is a legend in the New York news world. He's written for almost every paper in town, a real shoe-leather, on the beat reporter. He covered the Mob and literally has the scars to the prove it (apparently Henry Hill, he of Goodfellas fame, beat him up at the same bar where they also killed Billy Bats in the movie. Of course Henry Hill eventually went into witness protection and Jimmy got the Pulitzer Prize). Most famously Jimmy Breslin broke open the Son of Sam case back in 1977.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Memo from NYC

Why is Dick Cheney such a giant, raging prick?

When our beloved former VP isn't busy having heart attacks or shooting people in the face, he's out there kvetching about the brand new Obama administration, criticizing its every move. As was Cheney's vice-presidency unprecedented in its power and secrecy, so now is his former VEEPiness unprecedented in its utter lack of class.

According to custom and unwritten rules of decorum, when Presidents and Vice-Presidents leave office, they clear out of DC and stay out of the news for about a year or so. Even if they do pop up in the media every now and then, at least for the first couple of years, they don't criticize their successors. They shut the hell up and let the new people do their job.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore extended Bush and Cheney this courtesy in 2001. Bush Sr. and Dan Quayle did so as well to Clinton and Gore in 1993. And to his credit, Bush Jr. has thus far been quite respectful of Obama and Biden.

Not Cheney.

Oh no.

This creep, just weeks out of office, was giving interviews saying that Obama was weakening America. Oh yes, according to his Dickiness, Obama is making us vulnerable to terrorist attacks and dragging us on the road to serfdom. We're in a lot of trouble! (so cries Dick).

Why? Because apparently Barack Obama doesn't think we should run the country and influence the world the same way Dick Cheney would. Obama thinks that the Bush/Cheney years were a miserable failure and America should go in a less reactionary, more progressive direction. And apparently, as the last election showed and the current polls show, THE VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS AGREE!

But what's really gotten Dick mad, what's really gotten him all angry, is that President Obama doesn't think the USA should torture people. Obama has this crazy notion that torture is morally wrong, illegal, degrades America's image in the world, and undermines our great moral authority. Not only that but experts agree that torture doesn't really work in getting info from prisoners that helps protect America. Actually, torture makes it more difficult to get good information because you can't rely on the info tortured prisoners give!

Try telling Dick that. He thinks we should torture early and often. Torture really gets Dick hard.

I have a new name for Vice-President Cheney: Torture Boy.

What a miserable, bitter, rejected, pitiable man Torture Boy is. Approaching seventy, after forty years in public life, he can't accept that America has rejected him, his party, and his worldview. Obviously it's driving him crazy and so now he's just venting, "warning" us. Consider ourselves warned Dick. Now go away.

I seriously think Dick Cheney -- out of time, out of power, out of step with America -- actually wants there to be another terrorist attack on America. I'm sure that deep down in his artificial heart, he probably prays every night that we'll get hit again. "That'll show 'em that I'm right!"


Of course, this is a free country (despite Dick Cheney's best efforts) and our former VP has the right to say whatever the hell he wants to whoever cares to listen. After all, it's his freedom along with more than 300 million Americans that Obama works every day to secure -- even if Dick Cheney doesn't believe it.

But, as I mentioned before, he's still violating previously held rules of decorum that take place after transitions of power. Like the whiny, petulant child that he is, Cheney is showing no respect, meddling where he's doesn't belong. And like he did to our laws on torture and the office of the Vice-Presidency, it looks like Torture Boy is re-writing these other old rules as well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mayor Bloomberg gets uppity during gay marriage press conference

Little delayed in posting this but it is funny.

Why Is this Man Smiling?

Pirate Suspect, Now in New York, Charged as Adult

Wonder if he'll be housed next to Bernie Madoff?

Seriously, if you think about it, even though he'll be in jail, this pirate probably never thought he'd go to NYC in his life -- thus the smile. Hope he got a good view of the city from the airplane because he ain't exactly gonna be taken on a tour. Maybe his cell will have a window but I doubt it.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Balkan cuisine isn't something I've ever tried before but recently I went to Djerdan on West 38th street and had a really great meal. They have wonderful dishes like goulash and stuffed peppers and cabbage but their star attraction are the bureks. Bureks are phyllo dough pies stuffed with things like cheese, spinach, and ground beef. They are served, usually, with cups of a delicious yogurt that you can pour over the bureks but also drink. They're really, really good.

Considering that there aren't that many good restaurants in the Garment district, Djerdan is a real find. It's not too expensive or crowded so it's not too hard to get a table.

But don't just take my word for it. See what New York magazine had to say.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Where (some) New Yorkers fear to tread ...

One of the stranger places you can go in NYC isn't on any street -- it's online.

The New York Times has an long feature story today about the subterranean world of people looking for casual sex on Craigslist. This isn't online dating exactly -- where people look at profiles with pictures and lots of information and have to register credit card info and stuff like that -- this is all anonymous, stealthy, and secretive behavior -- a very 21st century Last Tango in Paris kinda thing.

Obviously lots of people do this and nothing bad ever happens (like you don't hear in the news about all of the planes that don't crash) but there have been a few stories (like the tragic death of WABC newsman George Weber) where people thought they were meeting for casual sex and things went very, very wrong. Either that, or they thought they were meeting a hottie and instead met a ... nottie.

On the one hand it's easy to think that folks who do this are weird and desperate but there for but the grace of God goes any of us. On the other hand, in this exhausting super fast-paced, time is money, gotta run society, people have precious time to do anything for very long so penciling in some NSA nookie isn't that surprising. In fact, one might ask, why aren't more New Yorkers doing this?

Being ever prurient, Mr NYC would love know if any of his readers have ever done this. What happened? Were you scared?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Letterman on Texas Succesion: "Sounds good to us!"

I'm a New Yorker but also an American. Never in my wildest dreams would I want NYC to secede from the USA (maybe New York State but not the USA).

Well, apparently the Governor and the good people of Texas want to secede from this country. Their complaint? They hate paying taxes and they really hate government and President Obama.

Hmmmmm ... so maybe instead of seceding the good people of Texas should move to ... Somalia. They have no taxes and barely any government there so I'm sure they'd be very happy. In fact, Somalia doesn't have much of anything except PIRATES AND CIVIL WAR! TEXANS LOVE GUNS AND WAR! SOUNDS LIKE A MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN TO ME!

Two days ago the Republicans decided to show their hatred for taxes and government and our first black president by "tea bagging" America. Some of you might think this is crazy but it sounds right to me. After all, the Republicans spent the last eight years screwing us so they decided to follow it by tea bagging us. Next up: a reach around!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bolt Bus

Recently I had to go to Philly for the day and was directed to take a Bolt Bus there. I hadn't heard about this company before but was surprised and pleased. It is NOT, repeat NOT one of those scary Chinatown buses nor does it force you to brave the hell that is the Port Authority.

Instead, you book your ticket online, print out your confirmation, and pick up the bus either on 34th street and 7th or 8th Avenues or downtown on 6th Avenue between Grand and Watts. If you have an "A" confirmation number, then you're guaranteed a seat. Anything after that is the equivalent of stand-by. The buses leave every half-hour or so.

The cost of a one way trip is $13 and round-trip is $26. Much, much cheaper than Amtrak and it only takes a little longer to get there.

After my trip on Bolt Bus I decided to dub it the "Yuppie Express." See, it only serves the big cities on the Eastern seaboard -- Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, and DC -- so you're out of luck if you want to go to places like Baltimore or Wilmington or Hartford or places like that. Also, the buses have Wi-Fi service and nearly half the people on the bus were firing up their laptops. Most of all, you have to get your tickets online, you can't buy them at the bus stop so it requires all its passengers to be Internet users.

However, if you're reading this then you're probably a pretty regular Internet user already -- and if you need to get around the Northeast, this is a great find.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Welcome Archbishop Dolan

A Grand Entrance at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Today Catholics in NYC have a new leader as Archbishop Timothy Dolan officially took over the Archdiocese of New York. A little less stiff than Cardinal Egan, Dolan is something of a kidder. The former head of the Milwaukee church, Dolan said in his first homily, “My Spanish is lousy and my English not much better. I’m still angry at New York for taking Favre and Sabathia from us in Wisconsin. The Yankees and Mets over the Cardinals and Brewers? Forget it!”

Good luck Archbishop.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Grey Gardens

What if Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, or Nancy Reagan had crazy cousins who lived in squalor in a rundown, over-sized house?

Such was the case for perhaps our most glamorous First Lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Her cousin Edie Bouvier Beale and Edie's mother Edith were the grand dames of Long Island society in the 1940s but, by the early 1970s, they were literally living in their own filth in a giant dilapidated Southhampton home, acting strangely. The decaying estate that housed these decaying souls was called Grey Gardens, and it was the name of the groundbreaking 1975 documentary that featured these two eccentric, fascinating ladies.

Long before reality TV, Grey Gardens showed that truth was WAY stranger than fiction and it something that had to be seen to be believed. It's a story about mothers and daughters, mental illness, and regretting what might have been. Rumor has it that, in the early 1940s, Edie was briefly engaged to Joseph Kennedy Jr., JFK's older brother. Rumor also has it that Edie's mother caused Joe Jr. to break off the engagement, leaving Edie heartbroken and dependent on her mother. Then, of course, Joe Jr. died heroically in World War II. (Again, this is all rumor but in the musical this engagement and its sudden end is treated as fact). Of course, Edie's younger cousin Jackie went on to marry Joe Jr.'s younger brother and the rest is ... Had the engagement not been broken, and had Joe Jr. lived, and had he fulfilled his father's dream of becoming president (which then fell on JFK's shoulder), then believe it or not Edie Beale would have ended up as First Lady of the United States!

Fate doth have a sense of humor.

Grey Gardens was turned into a wonderful Broadway musical in 2006 and, in one of my first blog entries for Mr NYC, I gave it a short rave back in 2007.

Now it has been turned into a feature film starring Jessica Lange as Edith and Drew Barrymore as Little Edie. I can't wait to see this movie, it looks great. As this clip shows, they had great source material to work with.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: "The Works: Anatomy of a City"

A city is not only a collection of buildings, streets, parks, and people, it really is a body – a network of interrelated functions that keep it alive. Hence, the subtitle of Kate Ascher’s wonderful book about New York City infrastructure The Works: Anatomy of a City.

Anatomy is right. If you could dissect NYC with a scalpel, you’d find a whole other city pulsating within it. Right inside our streets and structures, there are literally thousands and thousands and thousands of miles of tubes, tunnels, sewers, electrical cords, pipes – and so much more! We all know that our city’s infrastructure “exists” (how could we not?) but few of us I’m sure know how it actually works. So The Works give us the inside scoop on how our infrastructure affects New Yorkers lives everyday.

After all, we New Yorkers could not literally live unless we got our electricity and drinking water everyday, got our garbage and waste removed, were able to go to the supermarket and find food in the friggin’ thing, use the phone, use the Internet, turn on the TV and radio, communicate with the outside world, and be protected from criminals and the world’s natural elements. It’s easy to assume that these things just … happen … that they exist in nature … that all of the city’s vital functions and services are magically supplied to us. But they’re not – oh no, it’s an exact and complex science, and The Works gives you all the dirty details on how NYC survives and thrives.

Reading this book you’ll learn, amongst many other things:

• How the city manages the flow of street and pedestrian traffic – and if any of those darn buttons you still see at some crosswalks still work.
• How the postal system in this city functions - do you know how many of our more notable buildings have their own zip codes?
• What types of trees you’ll find in NYC parks.
• How freight moves in and out of the city – did you know that the ocean floor below New York Harbor is still being dredged and lowered to this day?
• Where our electricity comes from.
• How cell phones have transformed NYC communications.
• Why are our drinking water stays so clean.
• Stuff about our airports – did you know that JFK is the same size as Manhattan from below Central Park to the South Ferry?
• What does the future of NYC infrastructure hold?

I won’t give away anything more but, needless to say, this book educates you about NYC as few can. It also has lots of beautiful pictures and graphics so reading this book is not only informative but also a visual delight for the eyes. If you love NYC and want to unlock more of its mysteries, The Works is a must read.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Classic Mr NYC

It was on a rainy, lazy Saturday like this last year that I composed one of my favorite posts about the best/most notable movies set in the outer boroughs of NYC. If there was one post that best sums up what this blog is all about -- and why NYC rules -- it would be this one. Enjoy.

The Best Outer Borough Movies

Friday, April 10, 2009

Interview: Stefan Lawrence of "Elephant Larry"

Sketch comedy in NYC is a vicious business. Many groups try to hack it but few survive. However, the hilarious comedy troupe Elephant Larry has not only survived but thrived in the New York comedy scene for over six years now.

Starting tomorrow, Elephant Larry presents its newest show at the People's Improve Theater called "Elephant Larry Presents Con Air" -- yes, that's right, an entire comedy act based around the 1997 Nicholas Cage action flick. As you can see, this group has one active imagination.

Stefan Lawrence of Elephant Larry dishes to Mr NYC readers about this most original of NYC comedy groups.

Tell us a little about Elephant Larry -- how you guys got together, how long you've been performing, and where?

Elephant Larry was formed in the winter of 2002, so we've been together for a good 7 years or so. We all met each other at Cornell, where we were members of the long-running sketch comedy group, the Skit-O-Phrenics. We all enjoyed working with each other so much that we decided to keep it going when we all moved down to New York City. At first, we mostly did shows in rented theaters in the East Village (the Kraine, the Theater Under St. Mark's, The Red Room) but now we do most of our performances at the PIT, which is right by Madison Square Garden. The bars nearby aren't as awesome, but it's a great theater that lets us have the space for free - always a plus.

There's a lot of sketch comedy groups out there. What makes Elephant Larry unique?

Well, first off, there aren't as many sketch groups now as there once were. Somewhere in the height of the sketch boom, round 2004 or so, we counted about 65 active groups, just in New York City. Now there are maybe two dozen or so. But that's beside the point. I think what makes Elephant Larry unique is our voice -- we've been together for long enough that we have a pretty established group sense of humor. We try to keep it crisp, keep it fast and keep it funny. Also, we try to do something different with every show. Our last show, we set entirely at a garbage dump. This new show is all about Con Air, the Nicholas Cage blockbuster.

Would you consider Elephant Larry's humor subversive, satirical, surreal, or something else?

We're not necessarily subversive -- I'll go with satirically surreal. We don't exactly have a message or a purpose really -- if it makes us laugh, and we think it'll make the audience laugh, we put it on stage. Lately, we've been concentrating a lot on pop culture satire, which I think makes sense, since we're now in an age of constant pop culture criticism, all the time. We do like taking everyday occurrences and twisting them to weird or dark places, which I guess is what you'd call surreal.

Who are your influences? Who would the members of Elephant Larry consider their comedy gods?

Strangely, in the group, we don't tend to do too much talking about comedy that we like. I think all of us had formative influences (like from high school or college) that made us want to do comedy. I don't think I'm speaking out of school if I say that we all love The State, Mr. Show, Monty Python, Kids in the Hall. The Muppet Show, at least for me, is in the mix there somewhere.

How does Elephant Larry go about writing a typical sketch? When do you know you've created something brilliant and when do you realize that it's just not working?

Most of our sketches are written by two of us. We started out doing a lot more solo writing, but I think this entire show was written by duos. It's just something that's evolved. A lot of our sketch ideas come about just by mishearing things -- one person will say something, somebody else was distracted or is hard of hearing, and then we spend fifteen minutes making fun of whatever ridiculous mangled phrase results. Seriously, it's embarrassing how many of our ideas come out of puns. For Con Air, it was slightly different. We really sat down and watched the movie over and over again until ideas presented themselves. Luckily, it's such a goofy movie that almost every line could be a sketch idea.

Once a sketch comes in, we have a really rigorous editing process -- most sketches will be read for the group, and then go through about two or three rounds of revisions, where we plus it up with new ideas and suggestions. And even then it's not guaranteed to get into a show. We overwrite for each show by at least double. So hopefully once we've found our favorites, our audience will like them too. Not to say that we don't have our clunkers (sometimes things that make us laugh end up just being inside jokes), but as we've gotten more experienced, our hit ratio has gone up.

You guys sometimes use video in your sketches and The New York Times called your work a "multimedia mix." What inspired you to include video and when do you decide to use it?

We let video happen organically in our shows. Sometimes, we have ideas that we write that just won't read on stage and, if we like the idea enough, we make the time to film it. Other times, video fills in the gaps between sketches, and other times still, like in this new Con Air show, we're using it to give people context for our sketches. We realize that not everybody will have seen Con Air fourteen times in the past two months like we have, so we're giving the audience the key moments they'll need to get the sketches. Plus, video serves as the backdrops for several of the big production numbers. So we use video in a lot of different ways. Also as a sketch comedy group in 2009, if you're not using video (if only online) you're some sort of ridiculous loser.

What are some of your favorite sketches and what have been your biggest audience pleasers?

I think our biggest stage hit is probably our Chanty Battle sketch, which is basically taking the rap battle world of Eight Mile and bringing it to the hard-living world of sailors doing sea chanties. We've done that sketch more often than any other sketch. Our biggest online hit as got to be Minesweeper The Movie, which imagines the game Minesweeper on Windows PCs as an epic war movie. That one's been seen over five million times, and remains our calling card to people who don't know us. We filmed that one with, who regularly feature us on their homepage.

Your newest show at the People's Improv Theater is based on the 1997 action movie Con Air. Tell us about this and whose brilliant idea it was.

You know, people keep asking us that, and I don't think we really know where this idea came from. When we were brainstorming ideas for theme shows, this one kept coming up, almost as a joke. But then we decided to commit to it. But the who and the why, no idea. All I know is that it's probably my favorite themed-show we've ever done. I'm pretty damn excited about it.

Elephant Larry is based in NYC. How does the city affect your work?

I think it affects our work in the same way it affects most people -- by being a fast, driven city, it makes us into more driven, passionate people. We work really hard and we're really committed to what we're doing. It's hard to imagine that being the case in anywhere but New York City. The other thing that's great about NYC, is that, as opposed to Los Angeles, we can put on a sketch comedy show and have it be taken seriously on its own, without it being seen as a stepping stone to something else. Here you can do art for art's sake. At the end of the day, we feel like we're a successful comedy group, because we're putting out sketch comedy that's on our terms, just because we want to. And this city has so many opportunities to show who you are and what you love to do.


To get more of a taste of Elephant Larry's shtick, check out their College video "Minesweeper: The Movie" that's had over 2.8 million hits on YouTube."Elephant Larry Presents Con Air" will be at PIT on April 11, 18, and 24th.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bubble Lounge

As the biggest dork in NYC, I don't usually go where the beautiful people hang (I'm more of a dive bar kinda guy). However, this past weekend I went to a beautiful people hot-spot called Bubble Lounge in Tribeca for a birthday soiree -- and was pleasantly surprised.

Bubble Lounge is a champagne bar and it has over 300 varieties of bubbly. For $16, I had a glass of something called Paris Bloom and it was REALLY good, easily the best glass of champagne I've ever had in my life. And while we didn't eat, they also have an extensive food menu and some really tasty desserts.

Bubble Lounge is trendy and a bit pricey, but it's less expensive than a nightclub and much easier to get into. Not only that, but it has a pleasant decor, lots of comfortable seats, and very good service.

As beautiful people place go, Bubble Lounge is a real find.

Isn't This a Little Obscene?

Bloomberg Spends $3 Million on TV Ads in Mayoral Race

It's only April -- April! -- and Mayor Mike is already airings campaign ads on TV. Like we don't see his mug on TV everyday already! And spending this kind of money in the middle of recession? Just a tad overboard in my opinion. I mean if it's employing people that's good but still ... this looks like vanity run amok.

Mr Mayor, I love you man, but this is a little crazy. Maybe wait until July or something. Jeez.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

WNYC Cityscapes

New York City is an evolving animal, a dynamic panoply of buildings, parks, landmarks, and streets that make up the physical city. Our infrastructure is in constant flux, and its nearly impossible to keep track of everything being built up and torn down in this ever changing place. But this place is our home, and our home is always being redesigned.

WNYC is dedicating the month of April to a feature called Cityscapes, both online and on air. Each Wednesday morning, Brian Lehrer interviews New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger and other experts about the city's physical character and how economic development, artistic vision, local politics, and current events are affecting our city.

I heard the first of these segments last weeks and it was really interesting. Best of all, the callers were really good and made the guests think and talk about things they hadn't considered before.

You also should really look at the Cityscapes website, it has lots of pictures, videos, and write-ups about all of the construction projects and changes going on around town.

Don't miss this!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Our Classy Prez

So President Obama was in London last week and he did something that, on the surface, was very minor but that in Great Britain, still an incredibly class conscious society, was amazing. He shook the hand of the the police officer, the "bobby", who stands outside 10 Downing Street. The Obamas also went and thanked everyone who waited on them at 10 Downing Street -- to the amazement at all. But for the Obamas it's not amazing ... it's just the way they are.

And the Republicans call Barack an elitist!

Sam Goody Commercial from 1985

Now that the last Virgin megastore in NYC is closing, the era of the gigantic music store seems to be passing. There used to be lots of them: Virgin, Tower Records, HMV, the Wiz, Sam Goody, and others. They use to be all over the city, as ubiquitous as banks and pharmacies and supermarkets, but the digital revolution has rendered them irrelevant.

Sam Goody went out of business last year. Here's one of their commercials from 1985 -- cheesy, yes, but also endearing. It's interesting to see that even 20 years ago, CDs were grossly overpriced. In this commercial, you can see the seeds of the record industry's destruction.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Some Good News

Building Up CUNY Despite All the Crashes

Bernard Spitzer, father of the former guv, recently gave CUNY a $25 million gift. Access to education has never been more important so this is a great thing.

The Original Sin City

Long before Las Vegas was even a glimmer in Bugsy Siegel's eye, NYC was the original "sin city." And considering that a lot more people live here than there, there's probably a lot more "sinning" going on in NYC than Vegas!

This week's New York Times Book Review has an article on two new books about the history of sex in New York City. One is called The Forbidden Apple: A Century of Sex and Sin in New York City by Kat Long and the other is called Licentious Gotham: Erotic Publishing and Persecution in Nineteenth Century New York by Donna Dennis. (I already cited The Forbidden Apple in a post back in February).

Our fair city has always had an active erotic life, from street prostitutes to burlesque clubs to Plato's Retreat to Sarah Jessica Parker. Erotica in New York is as diverse and weird and exciting as the city itself, and it always will be. Both of these books explore these various worlds of sin and naughtiness, and how the law and various self-serving moral arbiters would try to suppress and shut them down. Needless to say, for the most part, they failed although clearly not in the case of modern day Times Square. Still, its amazing if you think about it, how a 100 years ago there was a subterranean sex world in this otherwise prudish city but how, these days, it's now celebrated in movies and TV and the Internet!

The more things change ...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sad Day in NYC TV

Len Berman is one of the best sportscasters on TV ever. A real New York personality, he's been dishing on the city's sports scene for over 23 years on WNBC, and his hilarious "Spanning the World" segment -- a compilation of wacky sports outtakes -- was highly original and often duplicated, long before YouTube came into existence. But now, as these economic tough times roll on, Len Berman is yet another victim. He's been bought out of his contact and will be leaving WNBC soon. It's really sad to see him go. Best of luck Len.

Also, the long-running soap Guiding Light has been cancelled -- and when I say long running, I mean 72 years-long! It's actually older than the medium of television itself! Guiding Light originally started as a radio soap opera and then, when TV came into existence, made the jump. We're talking about a show that's legally old enough to collect Social Security, a show that first premiered when FDR was president, segregation still ruled the land, and Hitler still hadn't invaded Poland. That's some run!

Produced right here in NYC, Guiding Light was a staple soap and now that it's gone, the New York TV business will minus one of its proudest jewels.