Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Interview: Richard Bey

A while back Mr NYC blogged about Richard Bey and how influential and entertaining his 1990s talk show was. I finally got the chance to interview him and get his thoughts on his old show, his new show on UBATV, and on media and politics today. So without further ado, here is he, Richard Bey!

You've had a very interesting media career, ranging from Yale Drama School to influential TV talk show personality to radio and web host to appearing in the movie Bruno. How did you manage to have (and survive) such a unique career?

Sheer luck and a significant degree of determination. I was on the waiting list the first year I applied to Yale Drama School. I didn't get in that year so I applied again the next year and was successful. Television was never my ambition (except as an actor) but I had a girlfriend who had an audition for CBS. She asked me to audition with her. They hired me and didn't hire her and I began a career as a television host. After that job ended I replaced Maury Povich in Philadelphia on a live morning show called People Are Talking. I got the audition when a friend, Nancy Glass, recommended me to the program director. I was always auditioning against, replacing or being replaced by Matt Lauer through the late eighties and early nineties. Strangely he replaced me and then I replaced him at Channel 9 at one point. I'm sure, considering how things ended up he certainly doesn't mind.

Really a more relevant question might be 'Why have I not survived?" I think the answer is that I'm always driven to test the medium, push it in a new direction, try something different, mock it's pomposity and artificia lity.

The medium doesn't like that! LOL

Tell us about your new show on What are its biggest challenges and what do you love about it?

I love that I have an hour of television (or Internet vision) to do anything I want! The people I work with are all young, totally supportive and work their butts off to help me make a good show. There is a real feeling of community working together as in the theater which is something you don't find often in broadcast TV (although we did have it for quite a long time on People Are Talking and The Richard Bey Show on channel 9). The biggest challenge is that I have to produce all the elements myself. At 7:30 AM I am scouring the Internet for clips, fotos and stories to use for that day's show. Since it is live I feel it must be current and spontaneous if it is to be compelling so there is a lot of pressure and never enough time to send the crew at UBA everything I want...but we do get enough together to create something interesting, intimate and fun. And Jessica Tallerico is wonderful to work with...I am lucky to have her their with me!

I remember watching the Richard Bey Show in high school and college and thought it was the most hilarious, offensive, strange, and brilliant thing on TV. It was really ahead of its time. You held contests like "Queen of the Trailer Park", interviewed strippers and drag queens and people cheating on each other. You really cast an unsentimental spotlight on fringe America. Nowadays there are variations of your show all over network and cable TV. How does it feel to have been a trailblazer?

Trailblazers don't get residuals!! Well, lets not make too much of it....its television not Mick Jagger or Picasso. What is frustrating is to see how much of TV is just Velveeta Cheeze... its non stop in daytime...everything is so derivative, unimaginative and generic. 'Regis and Kelly' is the most spontaneous show in daytime...that tells you something.

I listened to you on the radio in 2002-2003, and you were wisely against the Iraq war and President Bush at a time when those weren't exactly popular positions to hold. Both the war and that presidency proved to be total disasters -- again, you were ahead of your time. Do you feel vindicated?

I feel there is a price to pay for speaking an unpopular truth. I'm not bitter about it...its just a fact of the business. All the radio pundits who hollered about WMD, Saddam's nuclear program and Mohammed Atta's link with Iraq are still making millions coming up with more bullshit. Is that a vindication?

As someone who's worked in both pop culture and politically commentary, what are your thoughts on the state media today as well as the state of American politics?

Go to Blockbuster and rent IDIOCRACY. It will answer that question better than I can. And its funny too!

Are you trying to be trailblazer yet again in growing field of niche media -- or are you just doing what you do best?

I'm not the trailblazer in this endeavor. John Tobacco who created, owns and runs UBATV is the guy who put all this together and that's where the trailblazing occurred. I'm just trying to find a way to create a show on a daily basis that suits the medium and the viewers.

Have you lived in New York all your life? Does being a New Yorker affect what you do? Could you ever seeing yourself moving out to LA?

I grew up in Queens went to college in California and then Connecticut, came back to NYC, lived in Philly for four years then back to NY.

I consider myself a native New Yorker but I really loved Philly when I worked there. I have lots of friends in LA from my acting days and if I had a good, creative job there I could live there. I would prefer NY but if a job is good enough (challenging, creative) I could go anywhere. I've toured for months when I was in the theater and had a great time.

Tell us something about Richard Bey that we don't know.

Here's a bonus. How about 3 things:

I cry at movies. I miss my parents every day. I want Kyle, the 10 year old boy I look after as a son to have a good, productive and happy life so deeply that sometimes it hurts when I worry that he won't.

Wow, those were all sad things weren't they...

Any final thoughts?

Where do they find these people?

I wonder about that every day. Thanks Richard!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ed Koch Governor Campaign Commercial

As everyone (ha!) knows, today is the run-off for the Democratic primary. And everyone (no, really) is talking about whether or not Governor David Paterson will or will not run next year for a full term. He may or may not and Andrew Cuomo may or may not challenge him in a primary.

Right now, talking is all people can do.

Thinking about a potentially contentious, history making primary involving a Cuomo for governor and a former Lt. Governor, I think back to the 1982 Democratic primary for governor between Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch.

Cuomo and Koch had run against each other for mayor in 1977 and Koch obviously won. In 1981, Koch was triumphantly re-elected and set his sights on the governorship (Governor Hugh Carey was retiring so the job was open). But Mario Cuomo had other ideas for Mr. Koch. After his defeat in 1977, Cuomo became Cary's Lt. Governor and decided he wanted the job for himself. He and Koch met again in a primary and this time Cuomo won. Like Koch, he went on to serve in the job he won for twelve years.

This is a 1982 commercial for Koch for Governor. It's kinda lousy so no wonder he didn't win.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Democratic Primary Run-off Endorsements

Not that anyone really cares (besides political junkies like myself) but this Tuesday is the Democratic primary run-off election for Public Advocate and Comptroller. The top two vote-getters in the September 15 primary will learn their fate this coming Tuesday, September 29. Considering how low the turn out is expected to be, anyone who votes will have a great deal of impact. Thus, any pseudo-media outlet that endorses in these races might have a considerable impact. And so here they are, Mr NYC's primary run-off endorsements:

Public Advocate: Mark Green. The guy I endorsed for the primary, Eric Goia, lost and it's come down to either City Councilman Bill De Blasio or former Public Advocate Mark Green. I really didn't know who to endorse but I'm going with Mark Green for the following reasons: 1) He's held the job before and proved to be good at it. 2) Despite his less than charming personality, he's clearly a dedicated public servant. And considering that Mayor Bloomberg is going to be a third-term mayor, it's important that we have someone who has the chutzpah to stand up to him (plus Bloomberg doesn't like Green since they ran against each other in 2001 and Green being back in government would drive Bloomberg crazy -- that's reason enough to vote for Green). 3) I've seen De Blasio on TV a bunch of times and there's something slippery and cynical about him. I don't get the feeling that he's always 100% honest. Green, on the other hand, seems honest to a fault. So I say, pull the lever for him.

Comptroller: I endorsed John Liu in the primary and he actually came in first! Obviously I'm going to endorse him again or else look like a moron. So vote for my man John Liu and help make him the first city-wide elected Asian-American in NYC history. And make Mr NYC, a pseudo-media personality, into a political pseudo-kingmaker! (What, you thought I wasn't going to make this about me? What do you think this blog is about?)

Good luck to Messieurs Green and Liu.

Mysterious Fireworks

Either someone is celebrating the Fourth of July really late or ridiculously early. Inquiring minds (well, okay, mine) want to know.

Last night my beloved and I were on the Q train to Brooklyn, headed for a party. Just as the train was screeching over the Manhattan bridge, we looked out the window and saw a beautiful display of fireworks bursting from behind the glowing skyscrapers. They were clearly coming either from the harbor or the Hudson River or somewhere in New Jersey. Either way, they were gorgeous, a veritable collage of color -- red, green, blue, purple, white, you name it. It was quite the show.

This morning I've been scouring the web, going to various news sites, trying to find out why there were these fireworks. Nothing. Found nothing. Usually a big fireworks display over the city is a newsworthy event but this one seems not to have been. It's a big mystery (at least to me).

So if anyone knows anything more about this, please let Mr NYC know!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Brian Lehrer 20th Anniversary

Easily the best local talk show in town is WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, broadcast each morning from 10 AM to noon. This call-in/interview show is not typical shock-talk, rile'em'up, partisan shout-fest -- it's a thoughtful, intelligent show that explores issues concerning the world, the nation, and, of course, New York. All the while it manages to be vastly entertaining.

The show covers a whole variety of topics, moving seamlessly from one to the next. In one segment Brian and his guests might be talking about reform in the public schools, the next about how to denuclearize Iran, the next he'll be talking calls from people who've been laid off in the Great Recession.

And besides being a great interviewer and congenial host, Brian gets the bests guests. From
Newt Gingrich to Ralph Nader, he interviews everyone. You know you've made it in this town if you're invited to appear on his show.

Yesterday Brian celebrated the 20th anniversary of his show with special guest Micheal Moore. It's a great segment. To get an idea of how good the show is, in 2007 Brian interviewed Robert Caro and other guests on the legacy of Robert Moses. It's a fascinating program and you can listen to it here.

So happy anniversary Brian -- you have the best news show in NYC. (And I know I'll made it if I'm ever invited to appear on his show which should happen oh ... you know ... probably never. But a boy can dream).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Velvet Underground - Sweet Jane Live 1970

Any reader of this blog knows that I'm totally obsessed with The Velvet Underground, one of the greatest bands in the history of rock'n'roll and the greatest band that New York City ever produced.

Anyway, there's some great news today for us Velvets fans: the release of a new boxed set called "The Velvet Underground Singles 1966-1969."

Known for their dark, offbeat music that had created a deep if not huge fan base, the Velvets recorded a bunch of singles during this time that they hoped would meet with some commercial success. None did, but the Velvets' impact went far beyond merely charting the tops: almost every great band and singer of the last forty years was influenced by them (think U2, New York Dolls, REM, David Bowie, Talking Heads, The Stipes, and on and on). It's often been said, "A lot of people didn't buy a Velvet Underground album but everyone who did started a rock'n'roll band."

One of their greatest songs was "Sweet Jane." I'm not sure if it's on this new boxed set but, if not, you can find it on their last album Loaded as well as other boxed sets. This version is from the Velvets' legendary run at Max's Kansas City here in NYC in 1970. This was just before they broke up. This song has been covered by man bands over the decades, most famously by the Cowboy Junkies (it was featured in the movie Natural Born Killers in 1994). But nothing, and I mean nothing, tops hearing the Velvet Underground do it live before an audience -- it's everything that makes this band and rock'n'roll great.

Do You Like Mike?

I blogged earlier about former New York Times columnist Joyce Purnick's book about Mayor Bloomberg. Now she's taking questions from regular New Yorkers about her book and the man who rules this city more absolutely than any mayor ever has. Check out the forum -- and see what she and others have to say.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Some Good News

Real Estate Battle Royale

And by "royale", I mean that royalty is literally involved here.

The Astor trial is winding down. All the juicy details have been spilled, all the celebrities and high-profile witnesses have testified, all the name-calling and finger-pointing has occurred, and now a jury of twelve regular New Yorkers will decide the fate of Brooke Astor's son and his lawyer. But as this sordid tale of people taking advantage of the elderly for financial gain comes to and end, and if it wasn't gross enough for you, feast your eyes on this bit of only-in-New York contretemps.

The family of a man named Walter Pincus, a once high-flying hedge fund guru now incapacitated and unable to speak, is suing and being sued and going through legal and personal hell with the woman that Pincus has been shacked up with for the last thirteen years: Princess Firyal, an aging beauty once married to the son of a King of Jordan. She is battling Pincus's son for control (and the right to live in) a duplex in the Pierre valued at $50 million!

The sons want to sell the place and give the proceeds to charity. The Princess wants to keep living in it. There have been deals and promises made and broken, memories dredged up and conveniently forgotten, and bribes offered and retracted. It's a depressing, titillating, smack-your-head I-can't-believe it story of greed and ego that proves the point that some people have wayyyyyyyy too much money for their or anyone else's good.

Read it and weep ... and laugh.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Astor Denoument

The almost five-month old Astor trial finally went to the jury today. No matter if Brooke Astor's son (and his creepy lawyer) are found guilty or not, this will be more than just a legal verdict: it will be the end of a great New York legacy.

Bored To Death (HBO)

Last Sunday I watched the premiere of the new HBO show Bored to Death. It's about a wannabe writer named Jonathan Ames (a highly fictionalized version of the life of the very real writer Jonathan Ames, creator of the show) who moonlights as a private detective to cure his loneliness and brighten his sorry life. Needless to say, he's a lousy PI and all sorts of hilarity ensues from his bad detective work. Between solving cases, there's lots of New York neurosis and pretentious conversation.

The Ames in this show is played by "that guy from Rushmore" Jason Schwartzman (in case you didn't know, he's the son of Talia Shire, Connie from The Godfather movies/Adriane from the Rocky movies, who's the sister of Francis Ford Coppola and is thus a scion of Hollywood royalty). and he's pretty good. "Ames" accomplices are his nebbishy best friend, played by a guy with a name too long to bother spelling, as well as his editor/mentor played by a brilliant Ted Danson.

I liked the first episode but didn't love it. There's some good dialogue and funny situations but I wasn't greatly entertained by it. If the show improves, it might actually be a great but, if it doesn't, it'll be insufferable.

I hope Bored to Death succeeds because it has the chance of being a really good NYC show. It's set in Brooklyn, buying into the who "Brooklyn Chic" movement of the last few years. It's nice actually to see a show (besides Flight of the Concords) that makes the outer boroughs look cool. Now if only we could get a really great show about Staten Island and then we'd really be set.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beer Garden NYC

A hundred plus years ago, my German-born immigrant great-grandfather was allowed to venture out to his neighborhood beer garden in Brooklyn once a week by his Irish Catholic immigrant wife. She permitted him to have one beer and one beer only with his friends. With eight children at home, she wasn't about to have him blow his meager wages on drink. Forget the fact that it was his money that he'd earned -- believe you me, he obeyed his wife. He was well-trained.

Back then, beer gardens were the province of immigrant laborers like my great-grandfather, soaking up suds and memories of the Old Country with friends. Sometimes they even sang an old song like "Danny Boy" (although a German probably wouldn't sing that particular sing).

But as time went by, the immigrant beer gardens gradually disappeared from New York, replaced by bars, lounges, clubs, you name it. A beer garden? most New Yorkers thought. How quaint and old fashioned. How downscale. How ... lower class.

Well, that was then. Nowadays beer gardens have come back big time. They're popping up all over the city and the hip and the beautiful are flocking to them in droves. Forget those fancy nightclubs and chic bars serving overpriced fruity drinks -- they want beer! And they wanna drink it while sitting at big picnic tables in the open air! The new chic is ... the old country ... Plus ca change.

New York magazine has a listing of a few of the new beer gardens opening up in town. But for my money, the Bohemian beer garden in Astoria is still the best.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Prez to Guv: Time to Go

President Obama has asked Governor Paterson to drop his re-election plans for next year. Paterson's approval ratings are in the cellar and just about everyone believes that the only Democrat who can win the governor's job next year is Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Otherwise our state might be saddled with a Republican Governor in 2011, most probably Rudy Giuliani.

This isn't exactly a shocking development but it's kind of depressing. It used to be heresy for Presidents of either party to intervene in state races or primaries. There was a code of national leaders being hands-off, letting the state parties and primary voters work out who the nominees for the various offices would be, then backing the nominees in the general elections. But in the era of 24/7 big money campaigns, where elections can be close and both sides are playing for keeps, hands-off isn't an option anymore.

Hopefully Paterson will listen to reason and Obama can give the man a job in his administration. Seems only fair. It's very ironic: even though I'm a big fan of Obama, let's not forget that he became President in part by fighting through a long, bloody primary and not "stepping aside" to that member of political royalty, Hillary Clinton. And now he's asking our governor to step aside in order to avoid a long, bloody primary with another member of political royalty, Andrew Cuomo.

Just shows you that all politics is situational.

Chez Napoleon

Recently a friend recommended that my beloved and I check out the small French restaurant Chez Napoleon on 50th street between 8th and 9th avenues. We've been looking for a place with old-fashioned, down home, classic French cooking for a while (not nouvelle cuisine) so we went. And it was great!

First, the decor and atmosphere are awesome. There are lots of historic maps of France on the walls along with pictures and kitch from French history. They also play classic French music but it is very much in the background, it doesn't overwhelm you, just adds to the mood.

Second, this is a family restaurant and the service was beyond good -- it was lovely. The waiters joked with us, kept supplying us with copious amounts of bread and water, and made us feel at home. It was only our first time there but they made us feel like old regulars.

Third, the food: FANTASTIC! Again, the menu is classic French so they have things like onion soup, coq au vin, frogs legs, etc. but they also have lots of other things I'd never heard of. Before we even ordered, they gave us a delicious homemade vinaigrette to dip our bread in. This helped excite the pallet and get the gastric juices flowing. We started our meal with a delicious pork and goose pate along with scallops in a cream sauce. Then, for the entrees, I had a veal sweatbreads (yes, that's brains) in mushroom sauce and my wife had quail wrapped in bacon. Both were succulent and delicious. Then we finished our meal with a miraculous Grand Marnier souffle and coffee. This was easily the best souffle I've ever had and it just makes love to your mouth. Some advice: you need to order your souffle when you order your meal because it takes some time to prepare it. Also, let the waiter put the cream into the center of the souffle (you can put in on yourself), trust me, it's better this way.

I cannot wait to go back to this place and urge you to go too. Just remember: this is not politically correct French food, this isn't the kind of stuff they serve in sleek, ultra-hip places where models and celebrities go and all the waiters are dressed in black. This is exactly the kind of tucked away, secret, super-great restaurant that only a real New Yorker-in-the-know knows about.

So go to Chez Napoleon and have a great dinner and wonderful French New York experience.

Definitely check out the website, for an old-fashioned restaurant they have a very cool, sophisticated site. Also, read this charming article about the place from The New York Times last year. We actually met Grand-mere, the matriarch of Chez Napoleon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Classic Mr NYC

As everyone knows, a roaring drunk Kanye West committed career suicide this past weekend when he jumped on stage at the MTV VMAs and "dissed" singer Taylor Swift by saying she was undeserving of some stupid meaningless award.

How dare he! gasped America. President Obama even called the dude a "jackass."

Oh shnap!
Bros before hoes Mr President!

Funny thing is, subway riders here in NYC were subjected to a variety of "Be Kanye" ads papered all over the trains and stations last year (it turned to be some ingenius campaign for Absolut vodka). These were the dumbest ads I'd ever seen in my life and you couldn't get away from them! I blogged about it last year and included the "Be Kanye" video with it. I'm sure Absolut is now looking for a new spokesman.


Sorry, Kanye. There are no Absoluts in life. Ba dum bum.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Primary Wrap-Up

Well most of the candidates I endorsed on Monday lost. That's nothing new: I usually vote for losers, support the people who have no chance (just like I'm that guy who goes to movies that bomb and watch TV shows that get canceled). At least I can boast about not following the heard. Yeah, I'm a rebel.

There was one glaring exception: John Liu. He did incredibly well, winning 38% of the vote, just two points shy of an outright victory. He'll be going into a run-off against David Yasskey, who came in second with 30% of the vote.

Yasskey was favored in the race, with all the big-time endorsements and money and institutional support, but Liu came out blazing and stunned him into second place. It really was a remarkable achievement and now he's favored in the run-off. Liu's support is deep and intense and he really has the Big MO now. If he wins, he'll become the first Asian American elected to city-wide office.

Mr NYC wishes him well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Howard Stern @ Hollywood Sqares 1988

Mr NYC has noticed that this blog has gotten a little too serious lately so here's something that's just totally silly and fun.

Monday, September 14, 2009

NYC Democratic Primary Endorsements

So tomorrow is Primary Day here in NYC. That's when candidates vying for the various political offices will either win the blessing of the Democratic party electorate or be told to look for work elsewhere. There are so many offices and so many candidates, its impossible to keep track of them all.

Some candidates don't have primary challengers so they won't be on the ballot tomorrow (they're just killing time until the General election in November). However, the Primary tomorrow is still important because most of those who triumph tomorrow are 99.9% guaranteed to win in the General.

The one glaring exception is the Democratic primary for Mayor. The winner of that race is almost 99.9% certain to be steamrolled by Mike Bloomberg's Republican wallet into a defeated pancake. Such is life.

Mr NYC has various reasons for the following endorsements but the big one is this: I will NOT endorse anyone who either voted for and/or is running for a third term to the same office. I am one New Yorker who is still super-pissed about the term limits change last year. Lest we forget ...

So here they are, the first Mr NYC primary endorsements (I'll give my other reasons, if any, as well):

Mayor: Bill Thompson. Been a great Comptroller these last eight year, met him a few times and he's a good guy. He should be Mayor.

Public Advocate: Eric Goia. Really good guy and a very hard worker. He's a kid from Queens who's done good and never forgotten his old neighborhood. When he could have been earning a fortune at a high-priced law firm, he instead dedicated his career to public service. We're lucky to have him.

Comptroller: John Liu. Another dedicated public servant who've I met a few times. Good guy. Recently I saw him at a forum on an 85 degree night where he took questions for quite a while in a room without air conditioning. He's got my vote just for that.

Manhattan District Attorney: Richard Aborn. This has been probably been the most entertaining election this year. Ninety-year old Robert Morgenthau is retiring after 35 years in office and the three-way race to succeed him is tight. Leslie Crocker Snyder (who challenged him four years ago) is running again and making all sorts of wild and fallacious attacks against her opponents. Cy Vance Jr is running and seems to have no real qualifications for this job other than his father was Jimmy Carter's Secretary of State and was pals with Bob Morgenthau. Aborn, on the other hand, is the only one behaving like an adult in this race and I've liked what I've read about him. So I say, vote the grown-up!

Queens Borough President: Marc Leavitt. The incumbent Queens Borough President, Helen Marshall, is running for a third term. Case closed.

Brooklyn Borough President: Whoever isn't Marty Markowitz. I don't know if anyone is challenging this idiot who's running for a third term but Markowitz is so obnoxious and such a dope that anyone who's living in Brooklyn and reading this and voting tomorrow, just please vote against him if you can. PLEASE!

If you need any more info, please visit the New York City Board of Elections website.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Health Care Crises hits NYC

You must read this story about a young New York woman whose life was ruined just because she committed the terrible crime of getting sick.

Medical expenses is the number one reason for bankruptcy in this country. This woman is a local NYC example but she's sadly just one of millions in this country who suffer om this exquisitely evil way.

It's a national tragedy. The health care system in this country is basically a criminal enterprise. It's mind boggling to me that people don't want to make sure that everyone who lives in the richest nation on earth isn't covered.

Where are these people's humanity? They are, in my opinion, the real "death panel" in this country. Shame on them.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Happy Anniversary

As we mark a sad anniversary today and celebrate our nation's strength, tomorrow we New Yorkers celebrate a happy anniversary: our city's discovery.

On September 12, 1609, Henry Hudson and his crew of Dutch and English sailors, employed by the Dutch East India company, sailed into what is today New York harbor. Their ship, the Half Moon, then cruised up what is now known as the Hudson River -- and the rest is American history.

They were just a bunch of men doing their job. When Hudson and his crew laid their sights on this bunch of islands, they thought they'd found a passage to the Orient.Little did they know they were making history.

So, in a nutshell, our city turns 400 years old tomorrow.

It must have been an amazing feeling for those sailors to have discovered this place. Especially since it turned out not to be a shortcut to Asia but instead a whole, wild New World. Not until men walked on the moon (another momentous event we celebrated this year) did mankind make such a reality-altering discovery.

And in homage to this great anniversary, let me quote what the great writer F. Scott Fitzgerald had to say about at the end of his masterpiece The Great Gatsby. His beautiful words perfectly express what must have been the thrill of a lifetime:

"... as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder."

Let's never lose that capacity.

September 11: A Salute to the Bravest of the Brave

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One of Them Days

While America debates health care, Obama's speech, and the predictably stupid Republican hysteria over it, New York City has awoken from its summer doldrums and is heading into a busy fall.

Where to start?

Well, tonight is something called Fashion's Night Out where there'll be lots of parties being held around town featuring lots of celebrities (including the Olsen twins tending bar somewhere and Vogue matriarch Anna Wintour holding court at a mall ... in Queens!). All this sexy partying is in order to kick off Fashion Week here in NYC. I guess if you're beautiful enough and have lots of money (plus you don't have to work tomorrow) then you can go out tonight and help the fashion industry celebrate itself. For the rest of us ordinary New Yorkers, we'll stay home and sip a nightcap.

And talking about cash, look at who's going broke! Atlantic Yards is a mess, the purchase of Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town is turning into one of the biggest real estate debacles in city history, and Tavern on the Green just declared bankruptcy. You know the economy is in trouble when the New York City real estate industry and one of the highest grossing restaurants in the whole country are hurtin' for cash.

But not everyone is doing bad. One New Yorker is movin' on up. Judge Denny Chin, the guy who sent Bernie Madoff to the pokie for the next century and a half, is to be nominated to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This is the same court where Justice Sotomayor served until she became a US Supreme.

Here's an idea: it's rumored that Justice Stevens (who's pushing 90) is going to retire soon. And Judge Chin -- who has an amazing life story plus the added bonus of being the guy who sent Bernie Madoff to work in a laundry room and watch his tuckus in the shower room for the rest of his life -- is widely respected and only 55 years old. He'd be a great pick (Denny, not Bernie) and would be the first Asian American on the court. This could help Obama and the Democrats rally the Asian vote the same way Sotomayor helped with the Hispanic vote. Sending Judge Chin to this court now might be the White House's way of getting him onto the Supreme Court within the next year or so. Chief Justice Roberts was on an appeals court for only two years before going to the Supreme Court so there's a precedent for this kind of. It would also be another New Yorker on The Court. Hope this happens.

Of course, tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. We will all observe it in our own way.

Also, tomorrow marks the return of Radiolab, the great, great WNYC show. Tune in tomorrow at 3 PM on 93.9 FM for one of most imaginative radio shows ever made.

Oh, and next Tuesday is Primary Day. Mr NYC's endorsements will follow soon.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brooklyn Eats

Mr NYC's been doing some hanging in Brooklyn recently, chilling in what used to be America's 4th largest city. Specifically I've been in Bayridge and Park Slope, two of the most beautiful and picturesque neighborhoods in the whole city. I've also had the pleasure of sampling some really great food in both 'nabes.

Peppino's: this pizza restaurant in Bayridge has, hands down, the best pizza I've ever had in NYC. Not kidding. Serving classic Neapolitan fair, they make a great brick oven pie. I had a plain medium sized pie that was still pretty big and the cheese and the sauce and the crust were just perfect that it melted in my mouth. You can tell that they use really good ingredients for their pizza. Also, the prices are much more reasonable than Manhattan and the service was friendly and good. You seriously need to go to this place.

Bonnie's: if you want a burger and great fries, this popular Park Slope is a must go to. It's often referred to as being like a college diner, but to me it had the feeling of an old-fashioned greasy spoon joint -- without the grease. The burgers are char-grilled and served with your choice of cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, and onions. The fries are really good, not too salty or oily, and they come in large portions. Better yet, on the tables, in addition to ketchup and mustard, they have things like Tabasco sauce, A1, and other seasonings. They also have a special mayo sauce that everyone loves. Bonnie's is probably best known for its genuine Buffalo wings. They are good! I don't even like wings that much but I liked these. Just be warned: they are really spicy. Even the so-called medium spiced wings were really hot. Best of all, the prices are quite reasonable. We ordered a lot of food but the bill, for four people, came to less than $20 a person and we ordered drinks (even wine). So if you're in the Slope, go to Bonnie's.

"Wall Street" Redux

Today Oscar-winning movie director Oliver Stone starts shooting the sequel to his 1987 classic Wall Street. Mr NYC blogged about this flick and its cultural impact in December, 2007, twenty years after its debut. It's strange reading it now, considering the epic financial collapse of 2008 and all the resulting misery and unintentional hilarity it wrought. No wonder Stone is making a sequel now -- the story of greed and excess and destruction it causes has never been more relevant.

Monday, September 7, 2009


If you've never been to the Museum of the City of New York, it's definitely worth checking out. It's not a huge overwhelming place like the Met but a small quiet museum dedicated to the history of our fair town. It's located at 103rd street and Fifth Avenue, on the north end of Museum Mile.

They have a few permanent exhibits including some beautifully decorated period rooms. Also, there's a short film you can watch that explains the evolution of NYC from a forest in the New World to the world's greatest metropolis.

Speaking of which, you must see the special exhibit on now called Mannahatta/Manhattan. This is a multimedia exhibit that explores the ecology and topography of Manhattan island and how it evolved and changed after Henry Hudson discovered it 400 years ago this month.

It's amazing to see how Manhattan island went from being an isolated, wooded refuge for the Lenape Indians to the headquarters of the world. You see some of the original maps that the Dutch and later the English made of the island, and you see how they built in and around the island and changed it into what we know as Manhattan today. There were lots of huge forests and fields where the Lenapes grew their corn. There were also streams and rivers and little islets within and around the main island. You also can understand where neighborhoods like Kips Bay and Turtle Bay got their names.

Also, down around what is now Foley Square, there was a huge lake called the Collect Pond where the Lenapes got their fresh drinking water. This pond/lake actually existed until around 1809 when it became too polluted and was filled in with concrete. (One of the prices of progress I guess.)

This exhibit has a huge model of the original, unspoiled island where various graphics pop up on it and you see where all the forests were, where the Lenapes had camps, what kinds of soils and animals existed here back then, and on and on. They have also some computer monitors where you can sit down, type in your address (not just those in Manhattan but anywhere in New York City) and see what your place of residence looked like in 1609 (both of the places I've lived in NYC were in the middle of thick forests. Cool.).

This exhibit runs through early October so I urge you to go now. You'll literally see the world's greatest city in a whole new way.

P.S. As some of you may know, "Manhattan" means "Island of Manhattan Hills" in the language of the Lenapes. And boy, did Manhattan have lots of hills back then! Also, it sheds some light on the myth that the Dutch bought this island for $24 or 600 Guilders. Some money was exchanged but also some goods were exchanged too. While this still remains a hell of a good real estate deal, it wasn't quite as cheap as history has made it out to be.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wayne Barret Rules

As Mike Blooomberg runs (more like advertises) for a cynically and expensively acquired third term, most of the New York City press is accepting his victory as a fait accompli and doing absolutely no investigative reporting either into the man or his record

Some of this is due to the dying newspaper business. Some of this is due to the cynicism and ennui that has enveloped modern political culture. But most of this due to the fact that Mike Bloomberg is so rich and powerful that reporters in this town dare not cross him for fear of being "frozen out" or "blackballed" by his rich and powerful allies.

Except for Wayne Barret. He is fearless. This legendary reporter is the only honest voice in New York City politics today, who dares to do what reporters use to do: afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Dig deep and find the facts. Speak truth to power.

He explodes the myth that Mike Bloomberg is just an honest and selfless public servant, using his millions to deliver nobless oblige to the masses.

Do you know that someone who worked for disgraced ex-Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich works for him?
Do you know how he's weakened the teacher's unions?
Do you know how he's handled (or not) Ground Zero and how it lead to deaths in the Deutsche Bank building fire?
Do you know about his alliance with (and financing of) the creepy Independence Party?
Do you know how his money has infected and warped New York City politics?

Check out Wayne Barret's Village Voice archives and find all of the stories he's done about Bloomberg and other powerful New Yorkers that most of the media in this town completely ignores.

Must Read!

This week, The New York Times has a great article called Reading Underground where a reporter interviewed people on the subway about what they like to read during their daily commutes.

Some are students, studying for exams or doing homework. Some are people trying to learn a new language. Some are professionals catching up on work. Some are taking the time to read the Bible, the Talmud, the Koran or other spiritual texts. Some are actors or actresses, preparing for auditions and performances. Some are reading newspapers and magazines, fighting the good fight to keep print publications alive. And, of course, some are just reading to be entertained or edified, reading the latest bestsellers or old favorites.

Increasingly, many more people are reading all of these things on Kindles.

Personally, I enjoy reading the free newspapers every morning or one of my magazines or a good book. I read most of The Power Broker on the subways (how appropriate!) plus some of my favorites like Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, Brideshead Revisited, as well as some of the recent Bob Woodward bo
oks (Plan of Attack, State of Denial) and Tom Friedman's The World is Flat and Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

We New Yorkers still love to read. in this, the most sophisticated and modern city in the world, old-fashioned reading remains vital.

And in yet another example of why public transportation is a great thing, it gives people the time -- time! that most precious of commodities -- to educate and improve their minds instead of wasting it worrying about driving their cars and negotiating traffic. Books on Tape, well, they just ain't the same.


Since my return from vacation, life events (good ones!) have prevented me from blogging regularly. However, rest assured Mr NYC fans, I am here and can't wait to get back to sharing my insights and knowledge about this city!