Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Then and Now: Bowery Street, Coney Island, NYC

A Coney Island Wonder

Coney Island Wonder Wheel randommusings.filminspector.com
Bowery Street at West 12th Street, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York, in 1993 (Gregoire Alessandrini).
While most of the posts on this blog show places in Manhattan, that's only because it is the most recognizable part of New York City to a wide audience. New York City is much more than Manhattan, of course, so occasionally we venture outside the confines of that island to look at other neighborhoods. In this post, we look at a simple street scene in Brooklyn, specifically, at Coney Island.

The photo above was taken at the corner of Bowery Street and West 12th Street. The center point of the photo is the Wonder Wheel. This is located between West 12th Street and the famous Coney Island boardwalk, actually called the Riegelmann Boardwalk.
Coney Island Wonder Wheel randommusings.filminspector.com
The Wonder Wheel in 1941, taken from the same location as the photo at the top of this page (Alfred Palmer, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress).
The Wonder Wheel is an institution in Coney Island. Designed by Charles Hermann and constructed in 1920 by him, William J. Ward, and Herman Garms along with famous Coney Island impresario George C. Tilyou, the Wonder Wheel survived the decline of Coney Island as a resort after the 1940s. It changed hands in 1983 when the Vourderis family took over. The portion of West 12th Street adjacent to the Wonder Wheel is now named Denos D. Vourderis Place after the family patriarch. He renamed the area around his new property Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.
Coney Island Wonder Wheel randommusings.filminspector.com
Another photo of the Wonder Wheel from the same location in the 1940s (Image courtesy of the Coney Island History Project).
While it looks like many other Ferris wheels, the Wonder Wheel is actually a bit different than many of them. It is an "eccentric" wheel. This means that riders can choose cars that drop away from the wheel at various times, giving the impression of free-fall. Naturally, that is exactly what some guys are looking for on dates as their companions squeal out in sudden terror.
Coney Island Wonder Wheel randommusings.filminspector.com
The Wonder Wheel at its opening in 1920 (photo courtesy of Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park).
There aren't a lot of the original attractions remaining in Coney Island, so the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission officially designated the Wonder Wheel as a landmark in 1989. It remains a family business as of 2020, its centennial.
Coney Island Wonder Wheel randommusings.filminspector.com
Bowery Street at West 12th Street, October 2019 (Google Street View).
As can be seen from a recent view, nothing much has changed through the years. The streets are the same, the Wonder Wheel is still there spinning around, and the usual touristy buildings surround it.
Coney Island Wonder Wheel randommusings.filminspector.com
Bowery Street sign at West 12th Street, Coney Island in October 2019 (Google Street View).
One interesting thing is that the "Bowery Street" sign is badly faded - it may actually be the same one seen in the 1993 photo. Or even earlier. It's curiously befitting a scene that extends virtually unchanged back well before almost all of us were born.

I hope you enjoyed this brief trip down memory lane in an obscure corner of Brooklyn. The spirit of Coney Island lives on even as the community has changed and grown. Please visit some of the other entries in this series!

2020

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Then and Now: West 88th Street and Broadway

Broadway at West 88th Street, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
Broadway at West 88th Street, NYC, in 1960.
Some areas of Manhattan survive the strains and struggles that swirl around them decade after decade and wind up looking at worst about the same. This is the case with the street scene shown above. The residential areas of Manhattan tend to change very little over time. While office buildings in some sections of the city can come and go, apartment buildings tend to have very long lives. Let's take a look at Broadway and West 88th Street then and now, a classic Upper West Side area, and so how it has fared over the past sixty years.

The picture of the intersection from 1960, above, shows a typical Manhattan scene. There are the usual solid edifices on either side of the street, with small businesses such as a drug store that catered to the local residents. The scene looks barren, everything aside from the people and cars being composed of lifeless rock and asphalt.
Broadway at West 88th Street, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
Broadway at West 88th Street, NYC, in 2020 (Google Earth).
The first thing we notice from a recent picture of the same scene is that the buildings haven't changed much at all. The building on the far (southwest) corner, 2389-2395 Broadway, is a 7-story office building that was completed in 1920. The building across from it, at 255 West 88th Street, is a 14-floor residential building completed in 1924. So, 1960 was just a typical and random year for this corner over the past 100 years, just as 2020 is and likely 2050 will be as well. Nothing much changes when buildings serve their purpose, and there's nothing wrong with that at all.
Broadway at West 88th Street, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
Broadway at West 88th Street, NYC, in 2020 (Google Street View).
A ground-level view shows that some things never change. People need drug stores, so Zelnick's Drug Store has given way to a Duane Reade pharmacy (though apparently, it has closed). The 2007 MillionTreesNYC initiative certainly has softened street corners like this, which previously looked like industrial wastelands.
Broadway at West 88th Street, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
Broadway at West 88th Street, NYC, in 2020 (Google Street View).
One last change that can be seen is that the variety of stores has gone down drastically since 1960. In the 1960 photo, you can see a drug store, a cigar store, what looks like a haberdashery (Bilks), and several other businesses. In 2020, you have the massive Duane Reade, a bank, and an eatery. You literally can find these same businesses on practically every other street corner in NYC these days. The invasion of the chain stores and bank branches has reached epic proportions in Manhattan shows no signs of stopping.

I hope you liked this entry in our "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. There's something to be said for permanency in residential areas like the Upper West Side, and if that's what you're looking for, you can do a lot worse than the corner of Broadway and West 88th Street. Please visit some of our other entries in this series!

2020

Then and Now: The Beacon Theater on Broadway

Faded Glory

Beacon Theater NYC ca. 1981 randommusings.filminspector.com
Beacon Theater on Broadway and West 74th Street, NYC, ca. December 1980.
There's no question that New York went through hard times in the 1970s. Bankruptcy loomed, crime exploded, and nobody respected much of anything, particularly bare walls that were just beckoning some young "street artist" with a spray can of paint. New York City used to be the home of many monumental movie palaces. Most of them are long since gone, but a few theaters from the grand age of vaudeville in the 1920s and 1930s remain. Let's take a look at one of these grand survivors, the Beacon Theater at 2124 Broadway, NYC.
Beacon Theater randommusings.filminspector.com
The Beacon Hotel and Theater not long after its completion in 1928.
The Beacon was a 2,894-seat, three-tiered palace designed by Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager, who had just designed the nearby Roxy in 1927. Trying to duplicate the Roxy's glamour, the Beacon's first name was the Roxy Midway. With the building completed November 1928, and the enclosed theater opened in 1929, the Beacon contained the usual theater kitsch of the era, complete with seated golden lions on each side of the stage and a Wurlitzer 4 manual 19 ranks theatre organ. Warner Bros operated the Beacon until 1932, when it sold it to the first of many subsequent operators.
Gold Diggers of Broadway showing at the Beacon randommusings.filminspector.com
The Beacon showing the technicolor "Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929) during its glory days.
As the decades rolled along, the old theaters succumbed to age and urban renewal. In the mid-70s, Steven Singer and Stephen Metz bought the Beacon and hosted a series of concerts by the Grateful Dead in 1976. The new crowds weren't as respectful of the kitsch and the theater began to deteriorate quickly.  By 1986, the Beacon was the largest surviving picture palace in Manhattan. It was in sad shape by the 1980s, though, as the picture at the top of this page shows. New owners in 1986 converted the theater into a disco, a bit late to that fad but better late than never! Unfortunately, that meant gutting the interior, so if the golden lions were still there then, they weren't thereafter. On November 4, 1982, the entire 24-story Beacon Theater and Hotel was designated a national landmark and is now on the Register of Historic Places.
Beacon Theater featured in "Who's That Knocking At My Door?" randommusings.filminspector.com
Stars Harvey Keitel and Zina Bethune in Martin Scorcese's "Who's That Knocking At My Door" (1969), with the Beacon Theater looming in the background.
Martin Scorcese is a big fan of the Beacon and has featured it in his movies. While a student at NYU in the 1960s, he filmed "Who’s That Knocking At My Door?" (1969), starring Harvey Keitel, and the Beacon makes its first appearance in a Scorcese film. It reappears in his 2006 documentary “Shine a Light” about the Rolling Stones shows that year at the theater.
Beacon Theater randommusings.filminspector.com
The same view as the one at the top of this page in May 2019 (Google Street View).
The Beacon obviously has been through a lot of incarnations through the years and no doubt has many more to come. Currently, Cablevision, which has been gobbling up New York City showplaces such as the Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, holds the lease to the Beacon Theater. It has restored the Beacon to a much more presentable appearance that hosts top acts in a variety of entertainment formats. The interior is still majestic, though nothing like the original glamor of the 1920s.
Beacon Theater randommusings.filminspector.com
Beacon Theater at 2124 Broadway in May 2019 (Google Street View).
I hope you enjoyed this trip through time with the Beacon Theater. Please visit some of our other pages if you liked this one!

2020

Friday, October 16, 2020

Then and Now: Big Top Theater and Circus Cinema, NYC

A Change of Habits

Broadway at 49th Street, NYC, in the 1970s randommusings.filminspector.com
Looking north on Broadway at 49th Street, NYC, during the 1970s. 
Times Square is one of the great tourist attractions in the world. Tourists come from around the world to walk through it and admire the lights and the architecture and the hustle-and-bustle. It may look very similar to the way it used to, but in truth, it has changed dramatically in the last 40 years.

The Times Square area has been cleaned up quite a bit during the last few decades. "Hustle" had a completely different meaning in the Times Square of the 1970s. During the city's dark days, the adult industry invaded the area in a big way. It wasn't hidden away, either, it was right there out in the open. You've heard of Broadway theaters, well, the Broadway theaters of the 1970s were not just showing "Man of La Mancha" and "Chicago."

The corner of 49th Street and Broadway is right on the fringes of Times Square. It's just a short walk from Madame Tussauds and the Disney store. Great place to bring the family these days.

Well, the area serviced a completely different clientele back in the day.
The Big Top Theater at Broadway at 49th Street, NYC, around 1984 randommusings.filminspector.com
Located at 1604 Broadway were two theaters that easily could be mistaken for just one. The more obvious theater with the big marquee was Circus Cinema. It showed films for the heterosexual raincoat crowd throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Somewhat obscurely located to its side was a completely different experience, "Big Top Theater."
Big Top Theater randommusings.filminspector.com
The Big Top Theater, also sometimes just advertised as the "Top Theater" in perhaps risque multiple plays on words, was entered discreetly via a stairway just to the south of the other entrance. This stairway led to a completely separate theater above Circus Cinema. This catered to a same-sex clientele. So, the building catered to a broad spectrum of people looking for something a little different in the 1970s than "The Aristocats" and "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Star Wars." And it had a free buffet on Sunday evenings! What a deal!
The Big Top Theater at Broadway at 49th Street, NYC, around 1984 randommusings.filminspector.com
The advertising for the Big Top, though, wasn't particularly discreet. Just looking at the advertisements that appeared in all of the normal newspapers of the day (such as the New York Times, the Daily News, Newsday, you name it) gives you some idea of the types of shows shown at the Big Top. These ads generally were located back near the sports section of the paper. "New! Live! Go-Go Boys!" reads one advertisement. This was all out in the open, anyone reading through the paper would see the ads. Yes, those were different times. Live and let live, I'm personally against censorship but opinions will differ.
The Big Top Theater at Broadway at 49th Street, NYC, around 1984 randommusings.filminspector.com
"Men Between Themselves" was not a World War II film - I think. Actually, I don't know when it was set, but I have a feeling the setting was likely Fire Island or Key West. But, who knows, maybe it was about sailors going through a Kierkegaardian existential crisis on their way to battle.
Broadway at 49th Street, NYC, ca. 2020 randommusings.filminspector.com
Broadway at 49th Street, NYC, ca. 2020 (Google Street View).
These days, the raunchy theaters are almost all gone (there may still be one or two over on Eighth Avenue, I'm not entirely sure, but I don't recall seeing any in quite a while). The scene above shows how the same corner looks recently. Just to verify that this is the same location, notice the medium-sized brown building in the background of the photo at the top of this page. I've zoomed in on that particular building below just to verify the location because it has changed so much over time that it's tough to see the comparison.
Broadway at 49th Street, NYC, ca. 2020 randommusings.filminspector.com
A close-up of the building in the background of the original 1970s photo. This is from ca. 2020 and it hasn't changed at all (Google Street View).
One of the themes of this blog is that despite the fact that NYC streets and buildings look the same as in the past, the world around them has changed. It now is a completely different world even though in some ways it looks the same. Times change, people change, but in New York City, many of the buildings stay the same.

I hope you enjoyed this entry in our "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. Please visit some of our other pages if you liked this one!

2020

Monday, October 12, 2020

Then and Now: Horses in Manhattan

A Subtle Change in the Heart of Manhattan

Grand Army Plaza, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
Grand Army Plaza, 59th Street in NYC, in 1979.
A casual comparison of old and new photos of midtown Manhattan might not show much change at all aside from vehicles, clothing fashions, and the like.  Many buildings there have lasted for 100 years and may last for 100 more years. However, subtlety does not bother us, we're going to uncover a very subtle change in this article that reflects changes around the seemingly permanent buildings and streets.

The above photograph is from 1979 and shows Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan. This is one of the most well-traveled locations in the city, providing a rare midtown break from the grid pattern and providing a grand entrance to Central Park from the southeast. The photo shows a very peaceful and sedate scene, with horse carriages lined up ready to take lovers and tourists on a ride through the park. While it might not be apparent at first glance, though, something very noticeable about that scene has changed, and very recently.
Grand Army Plaza, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
Grand Army Plaza recently, using Google Earth.
First, let's zoom in on Grand Army Plaza using Google Earth. We immediately see that the basic street pattern is the same, and the buildings look the same, too. That's the Plaza Hotel on the left, which was built in 1907, so it sure hasn't changed in the last 40 years. The Sherry-Netherland hotel (781 Fifth Avenue) barely visible on the right was completed in 1927, so that sure hasn't changed much. The same goes for the low Metropolitan Club building (One East 60th Street) just beyond it that was built in 1894. You get the picture: this is not an area of the city that has seen a lot of big changes recently. However, as noted above, something about it has changed, so let's get to that.
Grand Army Plaza, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
Grand Army Plaza recently, using Google Street View.
A very careful look at the 1979 photo shows, as mentioned early, a scenic lineup of horse carriages primarily for the tourist trade. The more recent photos ca. 2020 do not. This is not an accident or anomaly, the carriages no longer are there. Why they are no longer there leads us into the big change that has taken place recently.
Grand Army Plaza, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
Grand Army Plaza recently, using Google Street View.
While there are conflicting views and evidence as to how well horses fare in big cities, in recent years a movement has arisen to eliminate them for their own well-being. Montreal has banned carriages, and Chicago appears likely to do so shortly (if it already hasn't by the time you read this). New York City's current mayor, Bill de Blasio, tried to ban them outright in 2014 but failed. This may in part have been because carriage rides rank as one of the top three visitor attractions in NYC (Tripadvisor).
Grand Army Plaza, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
Grand Army Plaza recently, using Google Street View.
While the ban failed, New York City enacted a rule in 2018 forcing carriage pickups to take place only within Central Park itself. As noted above, the carriages shown in the 1979 photo are parked on 59th Street. That is no longer an allowed pickup spot, and the rule now requires those carriages to be parked further north within the park itself at the entrance on 60th Street. This, presumably, protects them from traffic and noise.
Grand Army Plaza, NYC randommusings.filminspector.com
This may not seem like the most earth-shaking change, and you would be right. However, as we have seen, changes in this area are few and far between. The buildings are the same, the streets are the same, but the horses are gone for good. The setting may look the same, but the world is changing around it.

Thanks for visiting! If you enjoyed this page, please consider visiting some of our other "then and now" articles.

2020

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Then and Now: Vanishing Parking Lots

Port Authority in 1979 randommusings.filminspector.com
Port Authority Bus Terminal, viewed from the southeast in 1979.
This is a review of how things compare to the past, not a polemic on changing city policies or anything like that. Looking at the changes of the city over time, though, inevitably brings up changing city polities and the impact they have on daily life. This is one of those instances. While we don't take a position on the wisdom of these changes, they are worth noticing anyway.

Above is a view of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan sometime during 1979 (from the looks of it, during the winter). It is taken from the southeast and shows the intersection of West 40th Street and Eighth Avenue. People familiar with the city know this is about a block west of Times Square, though most tourists probably never go over to see it. If you're not travelling by bus, there's really not much reason for a tourist to visit this area.

Incidentally, nobody actually calls it "The Port Authority Bus Terminal" unless theyr'e trying to sound formal. It's just the Port Authority to most New Yorkers. If you say you're heading to the Port Authority, everyone will understand where you're going.

I'm going to dissect part of this photo that you're likely not noticing and discuss how that reflects a changing truth about New York.
Port Authority in 1979 randommusings.filminspector.com
Port Authority Terminal recently (Google Earth).
Viewing the Port Authority Terminal from the same angle we can see that it looks pretty much the same. Let's get a little closer.
Port Authority in 1979 randommusings.filminspector.com
Port Authority Terminal recently (Google Earth).
We can see from this view that the Port Authority structure is the same as it was in 1979. There has been some superficial work on the exterior, but not a lot has changed. Basically there it was, and there it is, and that is that.
Port Authority in 1979 randommusings.filminspector.com
Port Authority Terminal recently (Google Earth).
One thing that has changed, though, is the parking lot on the southwest corner of the intersection. In 1979, it was just a parking lot. You may not know this unless you drive in the city, but parking has changed a lot in New York City in the last 40 years. And that uncovers a larger truth about NYC.
Port Authority in 1979 randommusings.filminspector.com
Port Authority Terminal recently (Google Earth).
Public surface parking lots are disappearing in Manhattan, victims of condo development and growing official disfavor of motor vehicles. Nowadays, getting a private parking spot is considered one of the pricey perks of buying a condo and is very hard to do otherwise. Since the condos themselves have been one of the prime causes of disappearing public lots, this has worked out well for the condo developers.
Port Authority in 1979 randommusings.filminspector.com
Port Authority Terminal recently (Google Earth).
Things have changed drastically regarding parking since the 1979 photo was taken. It used to be that developers were required to provide parking because, you know, the United States was a car culture and people needed their cars. Private developers in much of the city were actually required to provide a parking space for four out of every 10 apartments in their buildings. This led to a lot of land set aside for lots.
Port Authority in randommusings.filminspector.com
Port Authority Terminal recently (Google Earth).
However, this changed completely in 1982, when the city effectively banned new parking lots south of 110th Street. Ever since, the number of parking spaces provided by developers cannot exceed 20 percent of the total number of apartments in buildings from Midtown down to Manhattan’s southern tip. In addition, a 35 percent cap applies to the Upper East and West Sides. So, instead of there being a requirement that a minimum number of parking spots be provided, now there is a limit on how many can be provided. You are not required to provide any at all. That's a big, but subtle, change.
Port Authority in randommusings.filminspector.com
Port Authority Terminal recently (Google Earth).
So, basically, everything has been conspiring against the parking lots that used to dot Manhattan. The city disfavors them, and the condo developers now can offer them as a "special perk" to their clientele - for a price. Believe it or not, some establishments now charge upwards of $200,000 for a parking spot. No more of this "$10 for 10 hours" stuff. You buy a parking spot just like you buy your apartment, and if you don't, you have nowhere to park except wherever you can find a space on the street. Good luck finding one nearby, and then you have to play the "alternate side parking" game and all that.
Port Authority in randommusings.filminspector.com
Port Authority Terminal recently (Google Earth).
Anyway, the former parking lot site is now home to the Beer Authority, considered one of the best beer gardens in the city. It's only a two-story building, probably because the property owner long ago sold the air rights to some nearby tower. This is the Garment District, and people like their beers and typical pub fare like chicken wings. There are over 100 beers on draft, in addition to a full bar. Now that's a nice selection! So, if you're a prospective tourist reading this, you may not be able to park your car, but you now can get your fill of beer!
Port Authority in randommusings.filminspector.com
View looking southeast from the Port Authority Terminal recently toward where the original picture was taken in 1979 (Google Earth).
Anyway, the point I'm making is that New York City is a very subtle place. A simple tourist snapshot from the 1970s compared with the current location uncovers some surprising truths about changing life in the city. A missing park lot may seem like small potatoes - but not when it uncovers a much larger and pervasive truth.

Many thanks for visiting! If you like this content, kindly consider visiting some of my other "Then and Now" pages.

2020

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Then and Now: Chinatown, NYC

Taking It Down to Chinatown

Pell Street, NYC, in the 1970s randommusings.filminspector.com
Looking west on Pell Street, NYC, in the 1970s.
There are a lot of neighborhoods in New York City in each of the five Boroughs. Each can be a world unto itself. Even savvy New Yorkers may be completely unfamiliar with some of these neighborhoods even when they go by them all the time. To learn about them, especially in lower Manhattan, you need some reason to follow narrow, winding lanes that don't provide any kind of shortcut to anywhere. Here, we're looking at exactly one of those areas.

Some of the quainter streets in Manhattan are in the Lower East Side, and specifically in Chinatown. This area has never really been gentrified to the extent of points further north and south. Even Little Italy has become glitzier over time. However, you can walk down some streets in Chinatown and easily imagine yourself back in the 1970s.
Pell Street, NYC, in the 1970s randommusings.filminspector.com
Temple Garden had its own matchbooks.
Above we have a typical tourist snapshot of Pell Street, a two-block sidestreet off of the Bowery. Prominently shown is Temple Garden Restaurant. This was described at the time as:
a tourist-savvy spot, all red on red with “carved” Chinese intaglio, a long list of bartender tricks – from apricot sour to zombie – and a menu of current favorites from the Mandarin, Szechuan, Hunan, Shanghai, and Cantonese repertoires.
Never having tasted General Tso's Chicken at Temple Garden, it's impossible to comment on the cuisine. However, we can all appreciate a tourist trap catering to visitors wishing an "authentic" Chinese dining experience.
Pell Street, NYC, in June 2019 randommusings.filminspector.com
Pell Street, NYC, June 2019 (Google Street View).
Well, the street looks fairly similar. We know we're in the same spot from the red building on the far corner of that intersecting street up ahead on the left (Doyers Street). You'll notice all the fire escapes - another hint that this area hasn't changed much in the last fifty years. In fact, except for the signage, it appears very little has changed over the years since the original photo was taken. They have taken out the garish street lamps, but that's about it.
Pell Street, NYC, in June 2019 randommusings.filminspector.com
16 Pell Street, NYC, June 2019 (Google Street View).
But let's get back to the subject of the original photograph, Temple Garden. As you've no doubt noticed already, it is long gone. Pell Street is no longer a tourist destination, apparently. Its space now is occupied by a back rub place. And there we have today's lesson, the two truly enduring types of businesses in New York City are restaurants and... back rub joints. You can always do with a nice massage, right?
Pell Street, NYC, in June 2019 randommusings.filminspector.com
Pell Street, NYC, looking back toward the east (Google Street View).
I hope you enjoyed this entry in our "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. Ordinary street scenes from the past tell a lot about the people of the time and how those residents have changed over time. Please visit some of the other pages in this series!

2020

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Then and Now: "You Belong to the City" by Glenn Frey

New York City as it Was and Is

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
A scene from Glenn Frey's "You Belong to the City" music video (all screen captures courtesy of MCA Records).
Glenn Frey had a big hit in 1985 with "You Belong to the City." It was a typical mid-80s song that combined soulful sax jazz with a thumping techno beat. Off of the Miami Vice soundtrack album, the song peaked at number 2. It was held out of the top stop only by Starship's "We Built This City." It should have taken the top spot, but I guess showing Abraham Lincoln jumping out of his chair to Boogey was more in tune with the times than long, languid vistas of the Empire State Building. Anyway, it's a great song and I highly recommend it. However, for our purposes, I am going to zoom in on some of the evocative scenes from the video. To set the stage, the music video features Glenn Frey and a mysterious lady in blue who are both out on the town one night and find each other.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
West 42nd Street looking east from Eighth Avenue in 1985.
In the Frey video, there are several shots of West 42nd Street near Times Square. This imbues a "gritty" feel to the video. One of these shots shows the classic lineup of theater marquees on the north side of the street. It's a very artsy shot, you had to be at just the right angle to show all of the theaters in one shot like that. It probably took some time to compose that shot. Most of the theaters were, shall we say, somewhat seedy in the mid-80s. It was a very distinctive block and there was nothing like it anywhere else.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
West 42nd Street looking east from 8th Avenue (Google Street View, August 2013).
Today, 42nd Street has been transformed. That happened during the 1990s and was pretty much completed by the early 2000s. Gone are the adult films! Everything is Disneyfied! Isn't that wonderful?

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
The lady in blue finds a place to have a drink or two. Mysteriously, she has switched cabs, from one without a placard to one with a big blue one on the roof. Maybe she stopped somewhere else while Glenn was hoofing it downtown.
A key spot in the video is an unnamed bar where the Frey character meets a lady friend. However, the street address, 478, is shown. And that is our first clue as to its identity.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
The Glenn Frey character walks by the same bar that the lady went in. Incidentally, to walk from 42nd Street where he first spies the lady in blue down to West Broadway would have taken him the better part of an hour. I've done it, a nice walk, actually. It's a logical destination if you're just wandering downtown aimlessly taking in the sights.
Later, we find out what street that 478 is on when Frey walks by a sign that says "Central Falls" and spots the lady in the blue dress inside. Hey, I can add 1 + 1 and get 478 just like the next guy. Turns out to be 478 West Broadway and the bar's name indeed is "Central Falls." It was just south of Houston Street on the right as you are walking south. A February 8, 1985, dining guide article in the New York Times notes that Central Falls was "A cheerful and trendy restaurant with a generous bar and changing exhibitions by contemporary artists." It was open to 2 a.m. on the weekends, so a good place to go after the shows. These places with the big glass fronts and dinner and dining were a dime a dozen in the 1980s, but there's something to be said for going down to Soho for a drink.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
478 West Broadway (Google Street View June 2019).
Alas, Central Falls has vanished into history, a victim of rising rents after ten years in business. It closed sometime in the late 1980s. Now, that space has become another gallery along with all the other chic galleries on West Broadway. Maybe still a good place to pick up the ladies, though, who knows. If you're wondering "Why was it named Central Falls, anyway, that doesn't sound very New York City-ish?" like I was, well, I'm your hero because I have the answer! Central Falls was its name because it was run by a guy named Goldstein from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, which just so happens to be next to a city called Central Falls. Why exactly he called it Central Falls and not Pawtucket I cannot say, maybe he actually lived in Central Falls even though he is said to be from Pawtucket. Anyway, everyone automatically knows that Pawtucket is in Rhode Island, but Central Falls could be, you know... anywhere. There's actually a book about Goldstein and his restaurants, "Flash in the Pan: Life and Death of an American Restaurant," by David Blum.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
"Tin Pan Alley" was an edgy bar on West 49th Street 
There is a brief shot of a canopy that says "Tin Pan Alley." At first, I thought it would be on the real Tin Pan Alley on 28th Street, but was mistaken. Tin Pan Alley Bar was located at 220 West 49th Street in what then was an SRO hotel. The bar was a popular hangout with people in the animators' union and the various seedy businesses in the Times Square area. Let's call a cat a cat, it was patronized by a lot of hookers, strippers (oh, excuse me, "dancers"), and transvestites. The bar was run by a woman named Maggie Smith who was a self-described "social activist." She ran it from 1978-1988 and supposedly had a gangster boyfriend who actually owned the bar and let his ne’er-do-well twin brother "run" it. The bar was staffed by a lot of people who later became famous, such as artist Nan Goldin. It was considered a cool hangout, and customers such as Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth were happy to be seen drinking at the bar. It has been described as an anarchist lesbian punk rock dive bar.

Tin Pan Alley might be somewhere someone artsy would go after having drinks at, well, Central Falls. Well, there or Florent down in the Meatpacking District. In 1985, that is. But, I digress.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
The site of "Tin Pan Ally" on West 49th Street (Google Street View June 2019).
Tin Pan Alley Bar is long gone. The SRO has become a "luxury boutique hotel" and you may book a room there if you like. I find its name "The Pearl" to be a bit precious given its former occupant. Anyhoo... Tin Pan Alley is gone but not forgotten - it was the inspiration for the fictional Hi-Hat bar in "The Deuce," an HBO show that comprised 25 episodes and ran from September 10, 2017, to October 28, 2019. Whoever picked the locations for the Glenn Frey video certainly knew the edgy places of the time.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
The lady's abode is pretty easy to identify, as the street number is on the sidewalk now just as it was in 1985.
The number "200" is seen multiple times in the video associated with the lady's address. The distinctive entranceway is a dead giveaway as to the location, too. I mean, you don't get much more unique in Manhattan than having your street number built into the sidewalk. I'd love to know how they pulled that off, someone definitely had... pull.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
200 West 57th Street, NYC (Google Street View May 2019).
While the entranceway has been modified slightly, 200 West 57th Street looks virtually identical to the way it looked in 1985. I think it looks better with the flags and sconces.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
200 West 57th Street is on the right (Google Earth).
Anyone who knows New York City knows that West 57th Street is one of the most exclusive areas to live. This is the home of billionaires and celebrities. In some ways, it is posher than either the Upper East Side or the Upper West Side and certainly more exclusive than anything (sniff) downtown. In the 1980s, though, it was not quite as fancy as it has become.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
West 57th Street and Seventh Avenue in 1985.
The distinctive closing shot looks down 57th Street to the east. The tall building in the center is the iconic Solow Building. Constructed in 1974, it was one of the first non-rectangular skyscrapers in New York City.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
Looking east from West 57th Street and Seventh Avenue (Google Street View May 2019).
 The Solow building is still there, though it no longer stands out for its height as it did in the 1980s. It has a very recognizable curved side facing the street and remains one of the most attractive buildings in the city.

Glenn Frey You Belong to the City randommusings.filminspector.com
The Solow Building (Google Street View June 2019).
So, that wraps up our tour of street scenes from the Glenn Frey music video for "You Belong to the City." Thank you for stopping in this edition of "the more things change, the more they stay the same. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did making it!


2020