Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Taste of Old NYC

Once upon a time there was a restaurant called Sloppy Louie's. It was right off Fulton Street, way in the depths of Lower Manhattan, and was the kind of joint where guys in short-sleeve white button downs and ties would gather at lunch time, eat, smoke, and talk. It's the kind of place that doesn't exist much in NYC anymore but Sloppy Louie's had a great run, lasting 68 years, from 1930 to 1998.

Best of all, it was located mere blocks from the Fulton Fish Market and was able to serve some of the freshest fish in the city.

And while Sloppy' Louie's is, sadly, long gone, one of its best recipes survives: a bouillabaisse called Ciuppin di Pesce. It's very, very fish and seafood heavy and it looks amazing. So, while one can't time travel back to Sloppy Louie's and the NYC is thrived in, one can taste it. 

Ciuppin di Pesce
INGREDIENTS:1 medium Carrot sliced, 2 medium Onions sliced, 1 clove Garlic, 4 Tbsp Olive oil, 3
lbs Fish in season, cooked and boned, 
1 cup Tomatoes, 1 Bay leaf, 2 cups Fish stock or water, 1 dozen Oysters, clams or scallops, 1 cup Shrimp or crab, 3 tsp Salt, .5 tsp Pepper, 2 Tbsp Lemon juice, .25 cup Sherry
DIRECTIONS: Brown the carrot, onions, and garlic in hot olive oil in a large pot. Remove the garlic clove. Add the fish, tomatoes, bay leaf and stock. Allow the mixture to simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and add all the remaining ingredients, except for the sherry. Add the sherry right before serving.

The Making of the Mayor 2021

Mayor De Blasio is less than two months into his second four-year term and already his would-be successors are circling the throne. The mayor is term-limited so, barring a catastrophe, De Blasio will be leaving office at the end of the 2021 and a new mayor will be elected to take his place.

Who will it be?

On the one hand, it's far too early to speculate -- after all, we're still almost three years away from the 2020 presidential election, who's thinking about the 2021 mayoral race? -- but, if you want to be mayor, it's never too early. In fact, as previous mayors and candidates indicate, it takes years to pull together a credible campaign, raise the necessary money, and position oneself to have a legitimate shot. The next mayor is out there, somewhere, planning his or her run.

Here are some of the rumored contenders thus far: 

City Comptroller Scott Stringer (D)
Public Advocate Tish James (D)
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz (D)
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (D)
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (D)
City Councilman Eric Adams (R)

Of course, some of them might not run -- or run for other offices (I wouldn't be surprised if one or two of the borough presidents go for Public Advocate or Comptroller instead, like Stringer did). Some of them might get lucky and win a congressional seat or get a high-level appointment. Some of them (naturally) might be felled by scandal. And, of course, all of them might get swept away by another Bloomberg-like candidate, a super-rich outsider who essentially outspends and outsells himself/herself to the public (and does the whole "I'm a rich outsider who's beholden to no-one and can fix it" blah blah blah -- it worked out with Mayor Bloomberg but not so much with the current POTUS).

Four years is many eternities in politics so don't be shocked if some (or all) of the above comes true. But I'll be interested, in 2021, after we elect a new mayor, to see which one of these aspirants become part of history -- and who else is destined to be forgotten.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Debbie Does Dallas@40

Or: Debbie didn't do Dallas -- Bambi bonked Brooklyn. 

The movie Boogie Nights, made in 1997, is a nostalgic look at the late 1970s "Golden Age" of adult film. The basic premise of the movie is that porn was on the cusp of becoming respectable -- that these could be movies and not just prurient recordings of sex.  At one point in Boogie Nights an established porn director, played brilliantly by Burt Reynolds, talks about how he wants to make movies that people will remember, that people will want to see as much for the story and characters as for the "boinking", that porn will take its place in the firmament of cinematic art. "I'm a filmmaker!" he exclaims defiantly at one point. 

Then, as the movie shows, the 1980s and videotape (plus Ronald Reagan and AIDS) came along and ruined it all. 

Of course, this was never really the case. Porn movies were never really going to become mainstream cinema, people weren't really going to watch them for the story/characters, there were never any such movies (even classics like Deepthroat or Behind the Green Door) that could even remotely be called "good movies" (as opposed to "good porn movies"). All videotape did was put them in their proper place -- to be watched comfortably at home instead of embarrassingly in theaters. 

That said, some adult movies are certainly better and more memorable than others. Some craft a legacy. And probably the last Golden Age movie was 1978's Debbie Does Dallas, a movie that's now forty years old. For some reason, this one's remembered. Perhaps it's the alliterative title. Perhaps it's the plot (a bunch of cheerleaders try to raise money to send Debbie to try out for the "Texas Cowgirls" cheerleading squad). Perhaps it's because the star, Bambi Woods, made very few movies and then vanished. Whatever the reason, it's one of the few, very few adult movies that people have heard of even if they've never seen it.

And here's where it gets interesting: Debbie Does Dallas wasn't made in Dallas at all but in NYC -- specifically, in Brooklyn. 

It was filmed (mostly and covertly) around the campus of Brooklyn College. It's a New York production from start to finish, and its secret filming caused great controversy when revealed. It also stars NYC natives like Robin Byrd, giving it a distinct New York flavor. It has nothing to do with Dallas at all.

For whatever reason, this movie has become perhaps one of the most "respectable" porn movies ever made. When I was in college (actually, just before I arrived on campus) it was shown by the student film society. It was a big hit in 1978 and generated sequels. People have even gone back to find the original places in Brooklyn where it was filmed. It has, for whatever reason, endured beyond its merits as a film.

I'm not going to link to this movie for obvious reasons but you can find it on the interwebs. It fell out of copyright (it was lost for some reason) so it's free to all. 

What I find most interesting about Debbie Does Dallas and the Golden Age movies like them, and what makes them historic (if not "great") movies, is that we will probably never see their likes again. They tried, and in some cases succeeded, in being cinematic if not necessary "good" movies. Thanks to the short-attention span immediacy of the Internet, porn today is no longer cinematic in any regard -- even 1980s and 1990s videotaped movies look like Bergmanesque masterpieces compared to what's being produced today -- so Debbie Does Dallas, its Golden Age brethren, and the filmmaking community that produced it is yet another NYC scene that has vanished forever. 

So, when you watch Debbie Does Dallas, you're watching yet fascinating kind of cultural and NYC history -- and that's worth remembering. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

New Labels

Look to your right and you will notice a new feature on Mr NYC: all of this blog's interviews, reviews, "memos", "classics" and travel posts (tagged "Mr NYC in ...") are now neatly labeled and easily accessible. These Labels appear just above the Previous Entries section and cover the entire lifespan of this blog.

Many eons ago someone recommended that I label all of the blog posts but they are so random and various in subject matter that doing so would be an exercise in madness.

However, having done a wonderful number of interviews, reviews and travel posts, as well as the classic posts, over the years, I thought it would be a good idea put these specific posts together and make them easily accessible.


The New York Post is Right! (For Once)

The recent school shooting in Florida is yet another horrible mass killing in this land where it's become so common that we've become numb to it. 

Remember Las Vegas? 

That was less than five months ago and now it's practically forgotten -- never mind that fifty-nine people were killed! Fifty-nine people who never went back to their families and friends, ripped from the world, gone forever. And now this tragedy in Florida where it involves kids -- children, young innocents! Remember Sandy Hook? In the aftermath of that unthinkable tragedy the Republican Congress voted down a simple gun background check law. 

The message was and is clear: we love guns more than kids. Specifically, Republicans like our President and Congress love guns more than kids -- Family Values indeed.  

The year 2018 is less than two months old and Donald Trump's America is more of a shooting gallery than ever.

But maybe ... just maybe ... possibly ... one holds out a glimmer of hope that it's possible ... that it might change. Maybe we will have sensible gun law.

To whit: this morning's New York Post -- one of the most virulent right-wing newspapers in the country -- is urging Trump to embrace gun control in a "Nixon goes to China", "you have lots of gun cred so only you can pass this" attitude. It's a shock -- a pleasant one, a broken-watch-is-right-twice-a-day one -- that even one of the most conservative media outlets is shouting "ENOUGH!" Even that old reptile Murdoch is sick of this! If enough such media and political figures  start to support better gun laws perhaps, when my own kids are older, they and their peers will be just a little bit safer.      

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A 2000 Valentine's Day Warning

Eighteen years ago on this very Valentine's Day, in the year two triple-naught, in these United States of America, including here in NYC, people were feeling relieved: we had all survived the dreaded Y2K threat, the hysterical fear that at midnight on December 31, 1999, civilization would melt down -- the electrical grid and communication systems and everything that made our world function would crash (because they wouldn't recognize yearly numbers that didn't begin with "19") and there would be riots, murder, mayhem, bedlam, all sorts of "mean nasty" stuff to paraphrase Woody Guthrie. Scary! 

But nothing happened. Everything was fine. Craziness did not ensure. And all us on January 1, 2000 entered the new millennium feeling that the world would be "foin." Optimism reigned.

Six weeks into this new year of 2000, on February 14, Valentine's Day, Howard Stern was doing his radio show. Robin Quivers reported the news. She talked about the goings on in the Republican Presidential primary (would it be Bush or McCain?) and she mentioned an odd story about how Donald Trump was no longer interested in running for president on the Reform Party line. Howard scoffed at the idea that Trump would ever run for president let alone get elected: Trump, Howard and Robin guffawed, loved "banging models" more than politics, and would rather be the president of "poontang."

Oh, if only we'd been so lucky.

Here we are, two decades later, and that threat Howard and all of us didn't take seriously at the time has come true. If fact, worst of all, we didn't even realize it was a threat! But now we all know the ugly history: Bush became president and messed up the country and now Trump is president and messing it up even more. We laughed -- and now we cry. 

Today we live inside of a bad joke gone very, very wrong. 

So just remember on this day of love, there are things (or people) that we don't take seriously that can, much later, cause us much pain. Warning signs abound. And the things we freak out about (like Y2K) become nothing while the things we don't think about (like Al Queda or Trump) can come along and ruin everything.

Consider yourself warned.

Happy Valentine's Day!  

Listen to this episode here and fast-forward to 2:51:55. 

2018 State of the City

Monday, February 12, 2018


Larry King (Brooklyn native btw) used to have a feature on his Twitter handle called "It'sMy2Cents" -- a place where the legendary broadcaster would post nonsensical statements, rhetorical questions, and various other pointless observations. Some examples:

"I know about the dangers of sugar but I still love jellybeans"

"The net in baseball parks should run right to the end of the dugouts"

"Why do turtles live well over a hundred years?"

For whatever reason, ol' Larry has slacked on providing "ItsMy2Cents" wisdom lately so, in the spirit of social media nonsense, here's Mr NYC's contributions to the genre:

"Why is it called "limon"cello?"

"What's the "cello" in limoncello?"

"Can openers are tricky"

"Suspenders are funny"

"I've never found a scarf that doesn't itch"

"No one really likes figs"

"It takes a long time to realize that life is short"

"Are pots ever used to fill potholes?"

"Do you ever feel lucky at a potluck?"

"That Eddie Van Halen sure plays a mean guitar"

"Where's the scotch in hopscotch?"

"That breadmaker is a helluva invention"

"Why is it called Wyoming?"

If this post gets enough clicks, they'll be more!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Manhattan Plaza: Kramer's Crash Pad

There's a non-distinct high-rise on West 42nd Street, basically a very large public housing project, that turns out to have been a place where an unusually large number of creative people lived in their early days (including singer Alicia Keys who was literally born there) -- a rather drab sister to the Chelsea Hotel.  

It's called Manhattan Plaza, and it remains one of the few affordable places to live in midtown Manhattan.

One resident was the notorious Kenny Kramer and he was living there when he got to know his neighbor, a struggling comedian and comedy writer named Larry David. The rest, needless to say, is television history.

Kenny Kramer actually did an interview for this blog back in 2007 which you can read here. There's also a new document about this building coming out soon called Miracle on 42nd Street. I can't wait to see it!

Frank Pellegrino, Sr. RIP

One of my most popular blog posts, from more than ten years ago, is about my first visit to famed East Harlem Italian restaurant Rao's (yes, I've gone more than once!).

It's the hardest table in town and I've gone there twice (including a visit after this original post).

The food at Rao's is amazing, the vibe friendly, and the atmosphere "old school" and funky. The restaurant is over 100 years ago and, for years, was run by a man named Frank Pellegrino, Sr. who died on Tuesday. This heartwarming tribute to the man and his restaurant is a must read. It tells you everything you need to know about this NYC institution and the man who kept it going for so long.

I was honored to twice have my order taken by Mr. Pellegrino, who couldn't have been nicer. The restaurant has no menus, he tells you what they're serving and you make your selections. This is the kind of place that makes NYC great, and Frank was reason for it. 

Rest in peace, Frank. I'm sure your table in heaven is ready for you.