Thursday, December 31, 2009
This is not a surprise. The recession is not imaginary and we have friends who had been frequent NYC visitors before the economic downturn. I am glad this NY Times report included the fact that the downturn in domestic visits was offset considerably by foreign tourists taking advantage of the weaker dollar. I have never before this year heard foreign languages prevail on city sidewalks.
Let's boil down the stats presented. Visitors predicted to be down by 5%. Hotel occupancy rates down 5% and Broadway show attendance down 5%.
Looks like the downturn is 5%, no? Expect some discounted room and ticket prices in the new year. Don't hold your breath for Amtrak to wake up.
Glittery booze for a better 2010!!
the whole goddamn decade was one long reason to get plastered, if you were paying attention to current events. But I started focusing on, specifically, cocktail drinking late this year because of an article about making proper drinks for a party that I edited for the magazine where I work.*
Then I saw The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff in a Papyrus store and bought it on impulse, though it was an impulse purchase backed with the knowledge—gained from the wine and spirits columnist for the magazine—that DeGroff is pretty much the person you'd want to learn about cocktails from. And I've been having lots of fun reading it and taking in the drink-porn photos.
For Christmas, at my request, my sister and her family gave me a sleek and sexy cocktail shaker, a jigger, and a cocktail spoon that doubles as an ice chopper.
Now all I need is some booze! And some recommendations. I've been on a kick for gin and tonics lately** but I'm eager to branch out. What cocktails do you make at home or request at a bar that I should try? I'm also curious about which brands of liquor you think are best and which expensive ones aren't worth the extra coin.
*In the interest of keeping my working and blogging lives separate, I'm not going to link to the story here. If you're curious to read it, shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you the link.
**That's the result of another article I edited by that columnist about new ways to spruce up the classic G&T. I'm obviously highly impressionable when it comes to what I drink. :-)
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I really enjoyed this profile of Larry Kramer from New York magazine. It sounds like he'd be a nightmare to deal with on a personal basis day after day, but in this time when the Democratic Party listens only to the wishes of its corporate overlords and Americans seem indifferent to everything except the latest celebrity scandal, we're sorely in need of about a hundred Larry Kramers to kick some major ass. I'll be buying his The American People in whatever form it eventually materializes.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
When I heard that the tale of Guido Contini was coming back to film, I was excited. Having seen the revival of Nine on Broadway in 2003 (even with the replacement cast), I had high hopes. With Rob Marshall at the helm, following his great success with "Chicago" in 2002, the potential was great.
Casting announcements were also pretty exciting - - Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, even Fergie - - quite a starry production. I was skepticalat first when Daniel Day-Lewis was announced as Guido, but knowing his work in such a wide variety of characters, I thought he would be a pleasant surprise.
Then I went to see it last weekend.
Avatar. I highly recommend seeing this in 3D.
I loathe and avoid reading reviews that explain a movie and being subjected to trailers and stills that skim the best moments and use them to tease you into the theater. All I knew about Avatar was that it is supposedly visually fantastic. I was skeptical. Would I feel anything for animated blue aliens and more rampaging dino-beasts? Surely, I'm not the most jaded of movie-goers, but I am not easily pleased as an audience member.
Over the last week I caught a number of different productions and films, and I know you are all just salivating with anticipation to hear my opinion on the merits of each.
But for now - Nine.
(click below to read the full review)
Monday, December 28, 2009
According to this 2007 press release from the Mayor’s office, the daffodil is the official flower of New York City. The “Daffodil Project" is a fine way to beautify the city, and an economical one, considering the fact that daffodils return and multiply with every spring.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I sometimes suspect that everyone outside New York likes the illusion that all New Yorkers live in immense converted industrial lofts and throw huge parties attended by fascinating and beautiful people. Ray and Bob's annual Christmas Party at their penthouse home on West 27th St lives up to that fantasy.
We took a taxi that fishtailed through the new snow on Fifth Avenue.
Photo/video of the party, after the jump.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I made this video on Memorial Day, May 25, 2009, recording the celebration of the opening of the Broadway pedestrian mall.
Friday, December 25, 2009
In this post, QNY's Brooklyn Bill makes ice cream inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe for chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies. They sounded wonderful so I decided to make a batch as my contribution to the menu of a Christmas Day dinner at the home of friends.
They came out perfect and they are extremely aromatic. After the jump, a step-by-step photo chronicle of the process will augment what Martha tells you to do. Her television studio is located at 221 West 26th Street. (It always makes me happy to use a few vintage kitchen bowls.)
Thursday, December 24, 2009
I'm really enjoying Alicia Keys's new album, The Element of Freedom, and one of my favorite songs from it is a love song to New York called "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down."
"I'm gonna make it by any means. I got a pocketful of dreams. Baby, I'm from New York," Keys sings. "Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There's nothing you can't do. Now you're in New York."
The original "Empire State of Mind" was a Jay-Z song that featured Keys playing piano and singing what's now the chorus of "Part II."
Because I bought the deluxe version of the album, I got an "intimate 'acoustic' studio performance" video of "Part II," which has a lot to recommend it:
Rather than write a post about all the adventures I did have today, I decided to drop a little ditty here at Queer New York about one of the best, most enviable things I can think of about New York City: I have an entire day off from work and I'm in the city (after a much extended absence) with absolutely nothing to do. This means I can set out this morning with nothing but NYC wanderlust crashing up against the Christmas Eve vibe of the city. Running through Central Park! Museums! Christmas Windows! Walking around looking at weirdness and wonderfulness! Dare I stop in somewhere for a glass of wine for lunch?
I suppose you can do this in any city, but can you think of one more fun or full of possibilities than New York?
(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertpaulyoung/ / CC BY 2.0)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Carrying a heavy shoulder bag and dragging a wheelie, I get into the B train and deliver my question.
My pal and fellow Manhattanite, Bob Gregson, is a "play artist". Here's what that means:
WHAT IS PLAY ART?
|PLAY ART is a new art form that calls for active participation of the viewer. Only through interaction does Play Art disclose its secrets and inherent principles. It is the intention of Play Artists that their work be touched, influenced, and experienced; these are works that demand to be manipulated, rearranged, or set into motion.|
|Some Play Artists focus on shapes and structures, others rely on scientific techniques like mechanical principles, physics or digital technology. Whatever the elements, Play Art aims to stimulate curiosity and creativity. Play Art captures the viewer's imagination and gives rise to the joy of discovery by encouraging hands-on experimentation.|
Watch the video and tell me if you think this is good art or hogwash.
This past Sunday I attended a fundraiser in the West Village, just south of Washington Square Park.
The event was called Teddy Cares and is hosted and driven by Ruby Rims. Ruby is a drag queen, by the way, for those of you readers in Topeka.
Teddy Cares raises money for the Actors Fund AIDS Program. The event also supports Judson Memorial Church, where the performances were held. Judson is also deeply involved with the community and provides life-saving programs to any and all who need them.
I was there because of Ruby. I was first exposed - I don't think there is a better word for it - to Ruby when I was a regular at Eighty Eights, a long lamented piano bar that I have spoken of previously. Ruby was part of the inner circle at Eighty Eights that welcomed me almost immediately from the first night I happened upon the place. I, too, became a regular and in the years following the bar's demise, annual events such as this became the primary time we saw each other. [More, with pics and video, after the jump.]
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
We have tried a variety of NYC spas but there is one to which we frequently return. It is located in the Chelsea Piers complex.
Monday, December 21, 2009
The snowpocalypse this past weekend wan't much of anything but the cold dregs and coming months of winter have me turning to the list of things I would like to do (or should want to do) in New York City before the end of my days. Having drinks at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel in Midtown East was an easy choice. It was not so much about having expensive cocktails in a dark-paneled, up-scale location where supposedly the Bloody Mary was introduced to the US, but rather the famous Maxfield Parrish mural backing the entire length of the bar.
The BBC is reporting that British Probation Officers have denied permission for Boy George to appear in the British version of Big Brother. The Boy is appealing the decision. Many state that the British version which is very popular is better than the American version. George was being cast to stay in a home with Pamela Anderson of Bay Watch Fame and rap artist MC Hammer, and to me that would be punishment in itself.
George is currently on probation after the British courts found him guilty of handcuffing and imprisoning a Swedish male escort Auden Carlson.
The "Boy" lived in New York for a while and was busted in October of 2005 here in New York City for having cocaine in his residence. This was when he was working with Rosie O'Donnell in the "TABOO" Broadway show. He was sentenced to community service and was required to sweep up our Broadway streets.
We were, however, very surprised to see this ad on West 66th at the center of our Upper West Side neighborhood, Maclarendale.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
When I was a little boy in the 60s, with high school and college in the 70s, I grew up with WABC until the FM radio format led by WNEW overtook "AM" radio. My first 45 was a song by the 1910 Fruit Gum Company called 1-2-3 Red Light. ( click on 1-2-3 to hear some bubble gum).
Posted by Mondschein
"The Jew of Malta" presented by The York Shakespeare Company at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, December 17, 2009.
(Photo by Michelle Sims)
Christopher Marlowe's sixteenth century tragedy is presented as a farce in this barebones production by The York Shakespeare Company, running in repertory with Shakespeare's later "Merchant of Venice."
It's an interesting concept, but questionably executed by the large and attractive, yet minimally skilled cast in this production directed by artistic director Seth Duerr. The plot, almost Byzantine in its twists, turns and reversalsis summarized here. More interesting is the premise and attitude towards Jews afforded by Mr. Marlowe. The titular Jew, Barabas (Paul Rubin) is presented as a scheming, godless villain, quick to deception and murder in the name of greed and revenge. His only daughter Abigail (Emily Rose Prats) only gets sympathy for her repentant conversion to Christianity as she learns of her father's evil deeds. In what was apparently the style at the time, bodies litter the stage both on and off in ever-increasing numbers as the villain-Jew is vanquished.
Mr. Rubin's Barabas suffers under the burden of the period language leaving us with a stiff and stilted performance. Faring far better is Matthew Foster as the Maltese Governor, Ferneze. His command of the character and the language are commendable in an energetic performance. One or two other exceptions raise themselves from the rest of the cast, including Brian Morvant's Don Mathias and Nate Washburn's Don Lodowick, in excellent swordplay as they murder each other over the hand of the fair Abigail. My old friend David Dewitt, returning to the NY stage after an extended absence shows his own core skills as Father Barnardine.
As I mentioned above, the concept of tragedy as farce is an interesting approach, but only occasionally successful. Playing upon a bare stage, Mr. Duerr does little to differentiate scene locations other than the filing in of the various characters and their supporting entourages. The traffic is directed pretty well, but it feels that a little more time might have been spent on character development.
My favorite cookies of all time are Martha Stewart's Chocolate-Gingerbread Cookies. I also love to make ice cream; during the spring and summer, I typically make 6 to 10 batches of various flavors (and I'll make the occasional batch in fall and winter). So it was probably inevitable that I'd eventually get the big idea to make an ice cream version of the cookie. The results, I gotta say, were pretty damn good.
"A Christmas Carol: Scrooge & Marley" Barefoot Theatre Company presented by Horse Trade Theater Group at The Kraine Theater, December 16, 2009
As part of their 70/70 Horovits Project, celebrating playwright Israel Horovitz' 70th birthday with 70 of his plays presented around the world, Barefoot Theatre company presents his adaptation of the Dicken's short story.
The 85 minute piece, performed without intermission is a faithful retelling of the greed and redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge (John Gazzale). Here, the story is narrated by the ghost of Jacob Marley (Ken Glickfield) and directed in an eclectic mixture of styles by Robert Bruce McIntosh. I'm sure many of his choices, such as mixing in a bit of kabuki, were directed by budget (or lack thereof), with some more successful than others, but resulting in a uneven performance with sometimes jarring transitions. Also uneven were the performances among the cast.
Carrying the majority of the burden, and successfully so to our fortune is Mr. Gazzale. Whether written or directed as such, his Scrooge is quite the teary and regretful soul, with the waterworks beginning during the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past (Caitlin Davies), and flowing freely until the final curtain. Still, he commands the stage and delivers with conviction, head and shoulders above his castmates. Almost as successful is Mr. Glickfield's Jacob Marley. While his makeup looked more canine than rotted, his delivery stumbled and stammered from time to time. Sadly, the rest of the cast, for the most part, were rather amateurish despite their energy and intent. Despite that, the play's excellent writing does manage to shine through.
Yesterday, the East Coast was hit by a winter storm, dumping several feet of snow on many lucky children hoping for a white Christmas. The weathermen on every network were making predictions for New York City: the storm will hit at noon, or 4pm, or 10pm - we'll get 23+ inches!! Certainly!
I'm sure amounts vary by neighborhood, but I'm looking at no more than 10 inches here in Manhattan. Still, it's pretty for now. Time to go take some pictures of the non-blizzard aftermath.
Public art. Can't live with it or without it. More often bad than good. In this case, I have to admit that I've seen tourists smile while sitting on the turned up ends that form stools. On that level, it works. To me, it looks like a corrupted strand of mutant DNA. Ignoble.
"Altar Boyz" at New World Stages, December 10, 2010
After an almost 5 year run, "Altar Boyz" is closing January 10, 2010, having played over 2,000 performances. I've seen the show on two other occasions during its run, as it evolved from a full two-act production, to a 90 minute one-act. Hatched from a successful premiere at the New York Musical Theater Festival in September, 2004, it moved quickly to its current home in February of 2005.
The first two visits were to a tightly-run performance, with some nuance and detail in the story of the Christian boy band of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham. In this last visit, the age is showing with character performances reduced to mere stereotypes. Guiltiest of this was Travis Nesbitt's Mark, played more like a 15 year old girl, rather than the twink of questionable sexual orientation that Mr. Nesbitt's predecessor's accomplished more credibly. Michael Kadin Craig's Matthew is also missing some of the pretty boy glamour of those who came before him.
Still it's a high energy evening, with plenty of heavy-handed laughs.
"Noel Coward's Brief Encounter" presented by Kneehigh Theatre at St. Ann's Warehouse, December 8, 2009
(photo by Pavel Antonov)
In a lovely production mixing film, theatre and British music hall style numbers, the tale of two noble lovers comes to life in Brooklyn. Director Emma Rice has adapted the classic 1945 film, which actually began as part of Noel Coward's cycle of ten one-acts, "Tonight at 8:30" entitled "Still Life" from 1936.
The event begins in the lobby as the ensemble, dressed as uniformed movie ushers, entertain the waiting audience with musical numbers from the 1930s and 1940s, accompanied by a snare drum, ukelele, and trumpet.
Ms. Rice's staging makes great use of simple stage elements, which reminded me a bit of the staging technique used by Maria Aitken in another British film adaptation of "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" in 2008. She does take a slightly different approach, using black and white film sequences which the actors appear to jump in and from for various transitions. The film relies heavily on Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, though Ms. Rice makes quite judicious use of its lush music, at one point using a choral vocalise of one section when emotion runs high. The impact is breathtaking.
Leading the cast is a truly lovely and touching performance by Hannah Yelland as Laura. There's a bit of Dorothy McGuire about her, which adds a sweet layer of vulnerability. Tristan Sturrock's Alec, dashing and handsome, matches Ms. Yelland's intensity, but edges near melodrama from time to time. Their story is cleverly supported by an eclectic ensemble chorus playing all of the supporting roles to often hilarious effect. Special mention goes to Dorothy Atkinson, small in stature, but bringing in some of the biggest laughs of the evening.
The show has been extended to run through January 17, 2010.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
We thought we should see the view from the rooftop outdoor deck/lounge/pool space at the reopened Hotel Empire across from Lincoln Center. The sign above that rooftop space is huge. Each letter is eight feet high.
Friday, December 18, 2009
"Ragtime" at the Neil Simon Theatre, December 6, 2009
In its first Broadway revival, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's epic tale of three very different American families makes a triumphant return, focusing on their excellent score.
I count myself fortunate for having seen the original production, at what is now the Hilton Theatre, even if it was late in the run (none of the original leads remained). It was an overwhelming experience - a three story set on which they drove and destroyed a Model T Ford eight times a week.
The focus here, as I mentioned, is now on the score, not a mammoth theatrical installation, although you can't describe Derek McLane's cast iron set small. It's a nice tribute to the old Pennsylvania Station designed by Stanford White, whose personal demise is featured early in the show as Evelyn Nesbitt (Savannah Wise) is introduced.
But I digress.