Category Archives: Podcasts

The Beauty Bosses of Fifth Avenue: Elizabeth Arden & Helena Rubinstein

PODCAST Fifth Avenue’s role in the ‘revolution’ of beauty, as led by Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, New York’s boldest businesswomen of the Jazz Age.

The Midtown Manhattan stretch of Fifth Avenue, once known for its ensemble of extravagant mansions owned by the Gilded Age’s wealthiest families, went through an astonishing makeover one hundred years ago. Many lavish abodes of the rich were turned into exclusive retail boutiques, catering to the very sorts of people who once lived here.

On the forefront of this transformation were two women from very different backgrounds. Elizabeth Arden was a Canadian entrepreneur, looking to establish her business in the growing city of New York. Helena Rubinstein, from Poland by way of Australia, already owned an established company and looked to Manhattan as a way to anchor her business in America.

Their products — beauty! Creams, lotions, ointments and cleansers. Then later: eye-liners, rouges, lipsticks, mascaras.

In this episode we observe the growing independence of American woman and the changing beauty standards which arose in the 1910s and 20s, bringing ‘the painted face’ into the mainstream.

And it’s in large part thanks to these two extraordinary businesswomen, crafting two parallel empires in a corporate framework usually reserved for men.

ALSO: Theda Bara, Estee Lauder, Max Factor and a whole lot of sheep and horses!

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Google MusicStitcher streaming radio and TuneIn streaming radio from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #226: THE BEAUTY BOSSES OF FIFTH AVENUE — ELIZABETH ARDEN AND HELENA RUBINSTEIN

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

We are now producing a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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FURTHER LISTENING — Check out our spin-off podcast The First: Stories of Inventions and their Consequences, in particular, the episode on the invention of the bikini — The Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Revolution

FURTHER READING AND VIEWING: If you liked this episode, you might also like:

Hope In A Jar: The Making of America’s Beauty Culture by Kathy Peiss

Helena Rubinstein: The Woman Who Invented Beauty by Michèle Fitoussi

“The Powder and the Glory” Documentary produced, written, and directed by Ann Carol Grossman & Arnie Reisman

War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden, Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry by Lindy Woodhead


A few images of Fifth Avenue between 50th and 57th, in the years of transition — from residential to retail.

1898

MCNY

1904

Museum of the City of New York

 

1922 — Fifth Avenue and 57th Street

The Collis Huntington mansion on 57th and Fifth Avenue. Helena Rubinstein moved her salon in here in the mid 1920s.

Elizabeth Arden, circa 1915, near the start of her career.

Helena Rubenstein, photo date 1924

An example of Helena’s Valaze cream, made from lanolin

 

A selection of Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein vintage ads, courtesy Vintage Ad Browser

 

A variety of facial treatments from a Helena Rubinstein salon, circa 1941

Nina Leen/Photography

 

Helena employed many of her family members.  Mala Rubinstein, Helena Rubinstein’s niece, shows the ladies how beauty is done at the 715 Fifth Avenue salon

Courtesy NYT Photograph by Bradford Robotham

The commercial featured on this week’s show!

A very affected presentation, but this video does show Rubinstein in action!

The “beauty process” was in vogue by the 1930s as evidenced by this short film starring Hollywood film actress Constance Bennett.

Helena Rubinstein latched onto Hollywood celebrities both as a way to inspire beauty regiment — and, of course, to sell more products.

For Theda Bara, Helena even sold a line of ‘vamp’ make-up, tying into her scandalous reputation. (Read more about Theda Bara here.)

 

Even Marilyn Monroe was an Elizabeth Arden fan, frequently popping into the New York salon.

 

Chelsea Piers: New York City
 in the Age of the Ocean Liner

PODCAST The Chelsea Piers were once New York City’s portal to the world, a series of long docks along the west side of Manhattan that accommodated some of the most luxurious ocean liners of the early 20th century.

1Passenger ocean travel became feasible in the mid 19th century due to innovations in steam transportation, allowing for both recreational voyages for the wealthy and a steep rise in immigration to the United States.

The Chelsea Piers were the finest along Manhattan’s busy waterfront, built by one of New York’s greatest architectural firms as a way to modernize the west side.  Both the tragic tales of the Titanic and the Lusitania are also tied to the original Chelsea Piers.

But changes in ocean travel and the financial fortunes of New York left the piers without a purpose by the late 20th century. How did this important site for transatlantic travel transform into one of New York’s leading modern sports complexes?

ALSO: The death of Thirteenth Avenue, an avenue you probably never knew New York City ever had!

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #180: Chelsea Piers in the Age of the Ocean Liner

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The Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast is brought to you …. by you!

Starting this month, we are doubling our number of episodes per month. Now you’ll hear a new Bowery Boys podcast every two weeks.  We’re also looking to improve the show in other ways and expand in other ways as well — through publishing, social media, live events and other forms of media.  But we can only do this with your help!

We are now a member of Patreon, a patronage platform where you can support your favorite content creators for as little as a $1 a month.

Please visit our page on Patreon and watch a short video of us recording the show and talking about our expansion plans.  If you’d like to help out, there are five different pledge levels (and with clever names too — Mannahatta, New Amsterdam, Five Points, Gilded Age, Jazz Age and Empire State). Check them out and consider being a sponsor.

We greatly appreciate our listeners and readers and thank you for joining us on this journey so far. And the best is yet to come!

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The offices of Steamship Row near Bowling Green and Battery Park. With the rise of ocean travel in the mid 19th century, passengers went to these buildings to make voyage accommodations.  These were later replaced with more lavish offices, many of which are still around in the neighborhood today.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

 

A jaunty song written for the Cunard ship Mauretania, sister ship of the Lusitania.
A jaunty song written for the Cunard ship Mauretania, sister ship of the Lusitania.

 

The crazy scene out in front of West Washington Market in 1905. The market was built well before the Chelsea Piers and helped preserve a bit of 13th Avenue when most of that street was eliminated for the Piers’ construction.

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

Construction of the Chelsea Piers complex in progress, looking northwest from 16th Street, 1910.

Courtesy New York Department of Records
Courtesy New York Department of Records
Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress

The lavish Chelsea Piers headhouse, designed by Warren and Wetmore of Grand Central Terminal. This picture was taken in 1910 at their completion. It looks very calm on the street in front, a rarity!

Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

 

An insurance map from 1885, detailing the streets near the areas of waterfront along West Village and the Meat-Packing District.  Note the location of 13th Avenue along the water, running along the top from center to right. Most of this was removed for the construction of the piers.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

The arrival of the White Star ocean liner Olympic into New York harbor, 1911.

Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress

 

The Titanic on its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. This was obviously taken from Southhampton where they had much more room for massive ocean vessels!

Titanic

 

Crowds gather at a location near Chelsea Piers awaiting the survivors of the Titanic disaster.

Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress

People gather in New York to await the arrival of survivors of the sinking of the RMS Titanic aboard the RMS Carpathia

The RMS Carpathia arrives at Pier 54 on April 18, 1912.  Reporters scurry to interview survivors of the Titanic.

Courtesy New York Times
Courtesy New York Times

The Lusitania in New York Harbor, and other with the Lusitania at Pier 54 (date unknown but obviously before the Chelsea Piers were completed)

lusitania

 

pier54cunardlusitania

This striking image (cleaned-up photography courtesy of Shorpy) shows the Chelsea Piers in context with the streets of Chelsea in front of it. 1920

Courtesy Shorpy
Courtesy Shorpy

 

An excellent image of the crazy pier situation in lower Manhattan. This picture is from 1931. Chelsea Piers would be in the upper left-hand corner.

Courtesy Internet Book Image Archives
Courtesy Internet Book Image Archives

 

There were of course other pier structures running down the Hudson shoreline, many of them quite imposing such as this one at Pier 20 and 21 for the Erie Railroad Company at the foot of Chambers Street, picture taken in 1930.

Wurts Brothers, courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Wurts Brothers, courtesy Museum of the City of New York

A photomechanical postcard of the piers further south of Chelsea Piers, 1916.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

 

The three largest ships in the world in 1940, all docked in mid-Manhattan, not Chelsea Piers because it could not accommodate their size.

The three largest ships in the world, all docked in mid-Manhattan, not Chelsea Piers because it could not accommodate their size (Courtesy State Library of New South Wales)
(Courtesy State Library of New South Wales)

 

This is what Pier 54 looked like in 1951 after Cunard and White Star merged to become a single transatlantic company.

Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library
Courtesy New York Public Library

The piers of Washington Market in the 1970s. Most of the pier structures along the water had badly deteriorated by then.

Courtesy Andy Blair/Flickr
Courtesy Andy Blair/Flickr

The Elevated West Side Highway being torn down in front of Pier 62. The area looks quite different today. In fact Pier 62 is part of the Hudson River Park system.

Photo by Edmund V. Gillon, courtesy the Museum of the City of New York
Photo by Edmund V. Gillon, courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

The Chelsea Piers sporting complex was constructed in the 1990s, saving a portion of the original Chelsea Piers from further deterioration. Although I think we can all agree the exterior could be a bit sexier.

chelsea

 

Meanwhile Pier 54 continues to find a variety of new uses.  Here’s a dance party deejayed by Paul Van Dyk from 2008.

Courtesy Rukes/Paul Van Dyk Fan Board
Courtesy Rukes/Paul Van Dyk Fan Board

 

And finally….

The complete words of Charles Dickens, describing his voyage over on the Cunard steamship Britannia to the United States in 1842 :

To say that she [the ship] is flung down on her side in the waves, with her masts dipping into them, and that, springing up again, she rolls over on the other side, until a heavy sea strikes her with the noise of a hundred great guns, and hurls her back — that she stops, and staggers, and shivers, as though stunned, and then, with a violent throbbing of her heart, darts onwards like a monster goaded into madness, to be beaten down, and battered, and crushed, and leaped on by the angry sea — that thunder, lightening, hail, and rain, and wind, are all in fierce contention for the pastry — that every plant has its grown, every nail its shriek, and every drop of water in the great ocean its howling voice — is nothing.  

To say that all is grand, and all appalling and horrible in the last degree is nothing. Words cannot express it. Thoughts cannot convey it. Only a dream can call it up again, in all its fury, rage and passion.

This is in describing his voyage to the United States. Horrible, to be sure.  But given the thousands of people who involuntarily traveled across the Atlantic in the decades earlier, and the wretched conditions they faced, it’s hard too be overly sympathetic to Mr. Dickens’ inconvenience!

The big history of Little Italy

PODCAST Little Italy is the pocket-neighborhood reminder of the great wave of Italian immigration which came through New York City starting in the late 1870s.  This was the home of a densely packed, lively neighborhood of pushcarts, cheese shops, barber shops and organ grinders, populated by thousands of new immigrants in dilapidated old tenements.

The area has some of New York’s oldest still-operating shops, from Ferrara Bakery to Di Palo’s.  But there’s also a dark side to this neighborhood, memories of extortion plots by the Black Hand and a perpetual presence of organized crime.

The present-day Little Italy is completely charming but constantly shrinking. How long can the neighborhood survive in the face of a growing Chinatown and the threats of gentrification?

PLUS: Our love/hate relationship with Nolita — REVEALED!

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #177: Little Italy: La Grande Storia

An Italian boy on his way to school in New York, taken between 1910 and 1915.
An Italian boy on his way to school in New York, taken between 1910 and 1915.
A street musician and a cop on Mulberry Street, 1897. (Courtesy Museum of City of New York)
A street musician and a cop on Mulberry Street, 1897. Notice the banks in the background.  Mulberry Street was known as ‘the Italian Wall Street’ for all the banks which assisted in Italians saving and sending home their earnings.  (Courtesy Museum of City of New York)
Children dancing on Mulberry Street as a man plays a barrel organ. (No monkey in sight!) 1897 (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)
Children dancing on Mulberry Street as a man plays a barrel organ. (No monkey in sight!) 1897 (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)
Playing on the street in Mulberry Bend, 1897. This was the year Mulberry Bend Park opened (see below) so hopefully they got out of that filthy street! (Museum of City of New York)
Playing on the street in Mulberry Bend, 1897. This was the year Mulberry Bend Park opened (see below) so hopefully they got out of that filthy street! (Museum of City of New York)
Mulberry Bend Park in 1900, replacing a set of the worst tenements in this area of Five Points
Mulberry Bend Park in 1900, replacing a set of the worst tenements in this area of Five Points
Elizabeth and Broome Streets -- June 18, 1904
Elizabeth and Broome Streets — June 18, 1904
Street vendors on Mulberry Street, 1898 (Library of Congress)
Street vendors on Mulberry Street, 1898 (Museum of City of New York)
Elizabeth Street near Houston Street 1912 (Cleaned up image courtesy Shorpy)
Elizabeth Street near Houston Street 1912 (Cleaned up image courtesy Shorpy)
Mott Street all fancied up for a religious festival in 1908. It's May 16, so perhaps Ascension Day? (Cleaned up picture courtesy Shorpy)
Mott Street all fancied up for a religious festival in 1908. It’s May 16, so perhaps Ascension Day? (Cleaned up picture courtesy Shorpy)

 

An Italian bank at Lafayette and Spring Streets, damaged in a Black Hand dynamite attack, 1915 Nov. 6 (Courtesy Library of Congress)
An Italian bank at Lafayette and Spring Streets, damaged in a Black Hand dynamite attack, 1915 Nov. 6 (Courtesy Library of Congress)
Another view of the damaged bank (Courtesy Library of Congress)
Another view of the damaged bank (Courtesy Library of Congress)
A sample extortion letter from the Black Hand. "“You dog, spy, informer. If you do not do what we say, we have a shot gun prepared for you. What a fine feast for the rats your fat carcass will make. Do what we say, it will be better for your skin.” (Courtesy the National Law Enforcement Museum)
A sample extortion letter from the Black Hand. ““You dog, spy, informer. If you do not do what we say, we have a shot gun prepared for you. What a fine feast for the rats your fat carcass will make. Do what we say, it will be better for your skin.” (Courtesy the National Law Enforcement Museum)

 

149 Mulberry Street, near Grand Street. 1932. Banco Stabile which is off-picture to the right is the home of the Italian American Museum today. (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)
149 Mulberry Street, near Grand Street. 1932. Banco Stabile which is off-picture to the right is the home of the Italian American Museum today. (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)
San Gennaro Festival, 1948, taken by Sid Grossman
San Gennaro Festival, 1948, taken by Sid Grossman
Bella Napoli (taken from a great Facebook feed called 'Mulberry Street 1900s)
Bella Napoli (taken from a great Facebook feed called ‘Mulberry Street 1900s)
Umberto's Clam House, site of the infamous mob hit on gangster Joe Gallo in 1972 (Courtesy New York Daily News)
Umberto’s Clam House, site of the infamous mob hit on gangster Joe Gallo in 1972 (Courtesy New York Daily News)
Oddly enough, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan appeared at the San Gennaro Festival in 1980. (New York Daily News)
Oddly enough, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan appeared at the San Gennaro Festival in 1980. (New York Daily News)

Billie Holiday’s New York: Here’s to Swing Street, Harlem’s 133rd Street and other landmarks of jazz

Courtesy Columbia Records

 

PODCAST Grab your fedora and take a trip with the Bowery Boys into the heart of New York City’s jazz scene — late nights, smoky bars, neon signs — through the eyes of one of the greatest American vocalists who ever lived here — Billie Holiday.

Eleanora Fagan walked out of Pennsylvania Station in 1929 and into the city that would help make her a superstar. Her early years were bleak, arrested for prostitution and thrown into the Welfare Island workhouse. But music would be her savior, breaking out in Harlem first in the nightclubs on 133rd Street, then in the basement clubs of ‘Swing Street’ on 52nd Street.

Her recordings make her an international star, but the venues of New York helped solidify her talents — from the Apollo Theater to Carnegie Hall. But one particular club in the West Village would provide her with a signature song, one that reflected the horrible realities of racism in the mid 20th century.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #176: Billie Holiday’s New York

Billie Holiday at Club Downbeat, 1947

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Locations featured in this episode:

1) Pennsylvania Station (circa 1930s-40s)

Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress

2) Jefferson Market Courthouse, pictured here in 1935

1
Photographed by Berenice Abbott, courtesy New York Public Library

 

3) Welfare Island, pictured here in 1931

Photographed by Samuel H Gottscho, courtesy Museum of City of New York

 

4) 133rd Street — “Jungle Alley” or The Street — outside Connie’s Inn

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

 

5) Apollo Theater, pictured here in the mid 1940s

Courtesy Library of Congress, photographer William Gottlieb
Courtesy Library of Congress, photographer William Gottlieb

 

6) Lincoln Hotel

Hotel Lincoln, 44th to 45th Street at 8th Avenue New York City
Hotel Lincoln, 44th to 45th Street at 8th Avenue New York City

7) Billie Holiday at Cafe Society 1939

Photo by Charles B. Nadell
Photo by Charles B. Nadell

8) 52nd Street aka Swing Street

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Billie at Club Downbeat (with her dog Mister) — June 1946

Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress

9) Town Hall, sometime in the 1940s

Exterior view of The Town Hall, courtesy New York Public Library
Exterior view of The Town Hall, courtesy New York Public Library

10) Billie Holiday at Carnegie Hall for her rave 1948 concert

Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress

 

An extraordinary performance of ‘Strange Fruit’, performed in February 1959, months before she died. This was recorded for a British television show called ‘Chelsea At Nine’.

 

Billie Holiday — playing a maid — in the 1947 film New Orleans

 

And a live performance of one of her greatest songs — well, really, one of the greatest songs — “God Bless The Child”

The Best of 2014: The Bowery Boys Year In Review

PODCAST  When historians look back at the year 2014, what events or cultural changes within New York City will they deem significant?  In this special episode, the Bowery Boys look back at some of the biggest historical events of the year including the opening of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the troubling trend of mega-condominiums along 57th Street and the continuing gentrification of several New York City neighborhoods.

We also answer some questions from listeners and present some resolutions and thought on how you can help protect and preserve the historical landscape of New York City — whether you live here or not.  Cheers to 2015!

NOTE: We recorded this episode on December 17, and so were unable to make note of events from the recent few days including the tragic shooting of two NYPD officers on December 20, 2014.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #175: The History of 2014: The Bowery Boys Year In Review
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Here are our 2014 podcasts. Check out any you’ve missed!

Tompkins Square Park [download]
FDNY [download]
George Washington Bridge [download]
South Street Seaport [download]
The Astor Place Riot [download]
Ladies’ Mile [download]
General Slocum Disaster [download]
Cleopatra’s Needle [download]
DUEL! Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton [download]
The Tallest Building In New York [download]
The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino [download]
The Keys To Gramercy Park [download]
Ghost Stories of Brooklyn [download]
Ruins of the World’s Fair: New York State Pavilion [download]
The Rockettes [download]

And finally, a great big THANK YOU to all of you who donated to the Bowery Boys in 2014! Thanks to you, we have been able to improve our equipment and our sound quality this year, as well as pay for some of our uploading and distribution services. Our thanks to you: Ted D, Sam H, Andrew K, Nicole B, Marie M, Brian H, Joeanna S, Matthew R, Kristin O, Edge of Yonder, Douglas G, Ann C, Richard K, Daniela S, Melissa S, Anthony C, Marjorie W, Carol V, Michael W, Rosa A, Kathleen C, Jamie H, Dan K, Mary Y, Horacio B, Louis G, Nastassia V, Katherine C, John B, Melissa A, Lachlan C, Patricia C, Eric R, Gary J, Michael R, Daniel S, Susan D, Jack L, Ellen L, George S, Jatuporn S, Erin B, Christina H, Robert C, Paula K, Kathy H, Jennifer W, Suzanne H, Kristina E, Milica P, Simone F, Dianne S, Joshua O, Michele O, Susan W, Marsha C, Mark S, Charles L, Bjorn K, Paula K, Ana Lia R, Kimberly T, Saralaughs, and Jean B!

American Kicks: A History of the Rockettes

Lifted spirits: The Rockettes practice for a 1964 productions. (Life/Arthur Rickerby)

PODCAST The Rockettes are America’s best known dance troupe — and a staple of the holiday season — but you may not know the origin of this iconic New York City symbol. For one, they’re not even from the Big Apple!

Formerly the Missouri Rockets, the dancers and their famed choreographer Russell Markert were noticed by theater impresario Samuel Rothafel, who installed them first as his theater The Roxy, then at one of the largest theaters in the world — Radio City Music Hall.

The life of a Rockettes dancer was glamorous, but grueling; for many decades dancing not in isolated shows, but before the screenings of movies, several times a day, a different program each week.  There was a very, very specific look to the Rockettes, a look that changed — and that was forced to change by cultural shifts — over the decades.

This show is dedicated to the many thousands of women who have shuffled and kicked with the Rockettes over their many decades of entertainment, on the stage, the picket line or the Super Bowl halftime show.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #174: American Kicks: A History of the Rockettes
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And we would like to thank our sponsors:

— Audible, the premier provider of digital audiobooks. Get a FREE audiobook download and 30 day free trial at www.audibletrial.com/boweryboys. Over 150,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player Audible titles play on iPhone, Kindle, Android and more than 500 devices for listening anytime, anywhere.
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The first New York home of the Rockettes (as the Roxyettes) was the Roxy Theatre, almost as large as Radio City Music Hall and located just nearby. (MCNY)

Radio City Music Hall, which opened in 1932, was quickly transformed into the world’s largest movie house after a notorious opening night.  It would be here that the Rockettes would perform a few times a day, seven days a week, for over fifty years. (NYPL)

The Rockettes, 1935, in a ‘Cavalcade of Color’, choreographed and directed by Leon Leonidoff. The constant high-kicking routines required great athleticism, precision and balance. (MCNY)

The Rockettes in 1937, beauty in duplication. (Courtesy the Rockettes)

In 1939, the Rockettes gave salute to the Gay Nineties in these extravagant costumes. (Courtesy the Rockettes)

Faces of the Rockettes: A few of the dancers from the 1935 configuration.. These photos are by the Wurts Brothers, from the Museum of the City of New York Collection. You can see the complete group here. Unfortunately there are no names attached to the portraits but if any of these women look familiar, drop me their names in the comments section!

The Rockettes in the 1950s

In 1967, many Rockettes went on strike for a month to demand better wages to compensate for their vigorous schedule and unpaid rehearsal time. Needless to say, they got everybody’s attention. (Courtes Kheel Center).

Pam Palmer and Kim Heil, two Rockettes from the late 1970s. (Photo by Jay Heiser)

The Rockettes at a Fleet Week event in 2006. (Photo by Gabriela Hurtado)

Various newsreel footage of the Rockettes, including images of the troupe rehearsing on the roof of Radio City!

The Rockettes at the 1988 Super Bowl halftime show:

Ruins of the World’s Fair: The New York State Pavilion, or how Philip Johnson’s futuristic architecture was almost forgotten

A little bit Jetsons, a little bit Gladiator, a little bit P.T Barnum. Photo/Marco Catini

PODCAST The ruins of the New York State Pavilion, highlight of the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, have become a kind of unofficial Statue of Liberty of Queens, greeting people as they head to and from LaGuardia and JFK airports.  Its abandoned saucer-like observation decks and steel arena have inspired generations of New Yorkers who have grown up with this oddity on the horizon.

The Pavilion holds a great many surprises, and its best days may be yet to come.  Designed by modernist icon Philip Johnson, the Pavilion was saved from the fate of many of the venues in the World’s Fair. But it’s only been used sporadically over the past 50 or so years, and the fear of further deterioration is always present.

For the first part of this very special episode of the Bowery Boys, I take you through the pavilion’s presence in the World’s Fair, a kaleidoscopic attraction that extolled the greatness of the state of New York.  In its first year, however, a battle over controversial artwork was waged, pitting Robert Moses and Nelson Rockefeller against the hottest artist of the day — Andy Warhol. Other controversies at the Fair threatened to derail the message behind its slogan ‘Peace Through Understanding’.

In the show’s second half, I head out to record at the Queens Theater — the only part of the New York State Pavilion that’s been rehabilitated — to explore the venue’s ‘lonely years’ with filmmaker Matthew Silva, a co-founder of People For The Pavilion, an organization that’s successfully bringing attention to this weird little treasure.  Matthew gives us the scoop of the pavilion’s later years, culled from some of his interviews in the film Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion.

This is crucial time in the history of this spectacular relic. With public attention at an all time high, we may now be at the right time to re-purpose the Pavilion into a new destination for New Yorkers. What do you think should be done with the New York State Pavilion?

An airplane passes over the park, its shadow captured inside the Pavilion. (Photo by George Garrigues)

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #173: Ruins of the World’s Fair
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And we would like to thank our sponsors:

— Audible, the premier provider of digital audiobooks. Get a FREE audiobook download and 30 day free trial at www.audibletrial.com/boweryboys. Over 150,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player Audible titles play on iPhone, Kindle, Android and more than 500 devices for listening anytime, anywhere.
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Here’s the trailer to Matthew’s film Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion:


Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion – Promo I from Matthew Silva on Vimeo.

Thank you Matthew for helping out with the show this week!  He’s finishing his film.  If you would like to help out, go over to the Modern Ruin GoFundMe page and donate.  You just be helping out the film, but the Pavilion itself.  The film will probably be the first time many people ever hear of the New York State Pavilion.

And for a different (fictional) film take on the Pavilion, try out these appearances from The Wiz, Men In Black and Iron Man 2:

And thank you to commenter Signed D.C. who points out that the venue was featured in an music video by They Might Be Giants who, generally speaking, who a bit obsessed with the World’s Fair. (It pops up in several of their songs, including a lyric to their song “Ana Ng.“) At one point, the lead singer floats over the Texaco map.


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Looking down at the Texaco map of New York state. (Courtesy New York Daily News)

A close up of Long Island, photo taken in 1964.  (Courtesy Flickr/Susan DeMark)

An overhead shot of Philip Johnson’s extraordinary rooftop, a stunning colorful ovoid that projected a rainbow of colors down upon fair-goers.(Courtesy AP)

Theaterama, part of the New York State Pavilion, is today’s Queens Theater.  Johnson commissioned the work of several pop artists to hang along the walls of the pavilion. (Courtesy Bill Cotter/World’s Fair Community)

A view of Theaterama showing the Roy Lichtenstein mural upon its side (Courtesy Jon Buono):

Andy Warhol‘s Ten Wanted Men on the side of Theaterama, with the Tent of Tomorrow in the background.  Although we can almost guarantee that it was not beloved by Robert Moses, it’s believed it was taken down because of Governor Rockefeller.

Robert Moses beams from the sidewalk of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.  The mosaic is based on the work of Andy Warhol.

The Federal Pavilion — “the square donut on stilts” — was designed by Charles Luckman, who also designed the current Madison Square Garden.

The photographer Marco Catini has taken some recent images of the Pavilion.  You can find much more of his work here. Thanks Marco for letting me use your work here!

Here are a few of my photos taken on the afternoon of recording.  The New York State Pavilion Paint Project is responsible for keeping the place is festive shape. The candy stripes are similar to the look of the 1964 pavilion.

MY THANKS AND GRATITUDE to the Queens Theatre in The Park for allowing us to record in the cabaret room!  I know we went on and on about the observation desks and the Tent of Tomorrow, but you should really check out a show within the greatly renovated theater.  Coming in December: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol!

Visit the People For The Pavilion website for more information on upcoming events, news and fund-raisers. And a shout-out to the organization’s co-founder Salmaan Khan!

The New York Daily News just yesterday published an article about People For the Pavilion and its co-founder Christian Doran who passed away in February. There’s a fund-raiser tomorrow in his honor. [More info here]

ALSO: I didn’t get to plug this on the show, but historian Christian Kellberg has just released a book of photography of the New York State Pavilion, part of the Images of America series.  Most of the pictures are exclusive to this book including some extraordinary shots of the pavilion construction.

And of course there’s Joseph Tirella‘s terrific book Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Transformation of America, putting the entire fair within context of the rapidly changing America of the 1960s.

And since I mentioned it on the show, here’s a link for Robert Caro‘s The Power Broker as well!

Podcast rewind: the New York City Marathon, a brisk history of the five-borough race and the amazing athlete who created it

Above: The 1971 marathon. That’s Fred Lebow on the far right (#24). Pic courtesy TCS NYC Marathon

Next week (November 2, 2014) brings the TCS New York City Marathon so I thought I’d dust off an older podcast on its funky, fascinating and furious history.

The New York City Marathon hosts thousands of runners from all over the world, the dream project of the New York Road Runners and in particular one Fred Lebow, an employee of the Fashion District turned athletic icon. Find out how he launched a massive race in the midst of bankrupt 1970s New York.

ALSO: our guest host Tanya Bielski-Braham takes us on a speedy tour of the course, from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Tavern on the Green.

A special illustrated version of the podcast on the New York City Marathon (Episode #68) is now available on our NYC History Archive feed, via Stitcher streaming service and of course on iTunes.  Chapter headings with images have been embedded in this show, so if your listening device is compatible, just hit play and a variety of pictures should pop up.  The audio is superior than the original as well.

There’s also a map included in the enhanced features of this show from the current 2014 race. Please consult www.nyrr.org for more information.

NOTE: This show was originally recorded in October 2008.  George W. Bush was still president! I even make a reference to the election.  However, as a result…..

1)  The cancellation of the New York City Marathon in 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy — and the controversy surrounding that — is not mentioned in this show. Hopefully one day soon I’ll get to officially amend this episode with recent history.

2) The race is now sponsored by TCS.  When this show was recorded, the sponsor was ING and we make mention to that.

3)  Thanks again to Tanya Bielski-Braham for helping me out with this show. She performed admirably in the marathon that year and has since moved to Pittsburgh.  Come back to New York, Bowery girl!  You’re truly missed.

For this and our older episodes (Episodes #3-#65, subscribe to The Bowery Boys: NYC History Archive feed, on iTunes, directly from our host page, or directly via our RSS feed.

Haunted Hipsters: Four Ghost Stories of Brooklyn

Dark skies over the Brooklyn Bridge, from a 1905 postcard (courtesy MCNY)

PODCAST  Brooklyn is the setting for this quartet of classic ghost stories, all set before the independent city was an official borough of New York City.  This is a Brooklyn of old stately mansions and farms, with railroad tracks laid through forests and large tracks of land carved up, awaiting development.  These stories also have another curious resemblance — they all come from local newspapers of the day, reporting on ghost stories with amusement and more than a little skepticism.

1)  The Coney Island and Sea Beach Railroad took passengers to and from Brooklyn’s amusement district.  But nobody was particularly amused one evening to be stopped by a horrific, gangly ghost upon the tracks near Mapleton.

2)  In Clinton Hill, a plantation-style house built in the early years of the Brooklyn Navy Yard has survived hundreds of unusual tenants over the years, but certainly the scariest days in this historic home occurred in 1878 with a relentless, invisible hand that would not stop knocking.

At right: Death will not deter this Brooklynite from ordering a great craft beer. (courtesy Powerhouse Museum)

3)  The Oceanic Hotel was one of Coney Island’s first great hotels, an accommodation for almost 500 near the increasingly popular beaches of Brighton Beach.  But in 1894, the hotel was virtually emptied out and reportedly haunted.  Did it have something to do with the murder upstairs in Room 30?

4) And finally, the area of Bushwick nearest the Queens border are populated with various burial grounds like the Evergreens Cemetery, borne of the rural cemetery movement which transplanted thousands of previously buried bodies from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

In 1894, with Bushwick prepared for a spate of new development, the sudden appearance of an oddly dressed spirit threatens to disrupt the entire neighborhood.  During one evening, a drunken party of 300 ghost hunters, brandishing swords and revolvers, come across one terror that proved to be very real indeed.

ALSO: Secrets of The Sentinel, a 1977 horror film set in an old house along the Brooklyn Promenade.

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #172: Ghost Stories of Brooklyn
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10 Montague Terrace, setting for the 1970s horror film The Sentinel, sits at the end of this elegant block on the Brooklyn Promenade.

[Looking west from Brooklyn Bridge Park to the houses on Montague Terrace.]

The theatrical trailer to The Sentinel

1) MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO TERROR
Phenomena reported August 1894 in several publications, including the New York Evening World

The incident in question occurred near the Mapleton station along the Coney Island and Sea Beach Railroad (Map of Brooklyn railroad lines courtesy The Weekly Nabe who has more information on the early days of Mapleton.)
2) WHO’S KNOCKING AT MY DOOR?
Phenomena reported December 1878 in several publications, including the New York Sun
A view of Wallabout Bay and the land which became the Brooklyn Navy Yard, circa 1830s.  That would appear to 136 Clinton Avenue (the oldest house in the area) however the general proportion of the region looks a bit off.  Below it, two pictures of the house on Clinton Avenue, including a close-up of the infamous door. (Pics courtesy Flickr/sjcny and Long Island Historical Society)

3) THE GHOSTLY GUEST IN ROOM 30
Phenomena reported August 1892 in several publications, including the Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The haunted Oceanic Hotel, located at Neptune Avenue and W. 6th Street. Perhaps this looks surprising for a 500-room hotel, but out of frame are bungalows and other adjoined buildings.  But you can see how this sort of accommodation went out of fashion rather quickly.

[First hotel at Coney Island, Oceanic Hotel.]
http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1930/07/01/98307449.html?pageNumber=18

4) THE GHOST OF KNICKERBOCKER AVENUE
Phenomena reported November 1894 in several publications, including the New York Times

1924 — A view of the tracks which separate Bushwick from a cluster of cemeteries. Buildings to the left sit in the vacant lots which were mentioned in this story.  The cemetery nearest this photograph is Most Holy Trinity Cemetery.  You may remember the name Most Holy Trinity for it was this Bushwick congregation that was featured in a ghost story a couple years ago in the show ‘Haunted Histories of New York.’

Opposite Trinity Cemetery.

The Bowery Boys 8th Annual New York Ghost Stories Podcast rises from the grave this Thursday

It’s our favorite time of year — time for the annual Bowery Boys New York ghost stories podcast. The new show — featuring four more frightening tales — will be available this Thursday.

Our new show will feature an otherworldly spirit from a Brooklyn cemetery, an apparition on the train tracks, a purportedly haunted hotel in Coney Island and the tormented haunting of a curious 1830s home so famous that it was covered by every major New York newspaper of the day.

Catch up on the tradition by listening in to our last seven ghost story shows. You can listen at the links below, download them from iTunes or find them anywhere you listen to podcasts:

Ghost Stories of Old New York (2013) [download] [iTunes]
Four stories set mostly before the 1840s featuring sinister stories of murder, shipwreck and death by fright!  Up in the Bronx, the spirits of dead Lenape Indians may haunt the forest of Van Cortlandt Park. A romantic West Village restaurant finds its home inside the former carriage house of Aaron Burr. Might the vice president still be visiting?  We bring you the legend of an old Brooklyn fort that once sat in Cobble Hill and terrified those who traveled along on old Red Hook Lane.  And finally, over at St Paul’s Chapel,  a respected old actor wanders the churchyard, looking for his body parts.

Mysteries and Magicians of New York (2012) [download] [iTunes]
Grab a drink at the Ear Inn, one of New York’s most historically interesting bars, and you might meet Mickey, the drunken sailor-ghost.  A frightening story of secret love at old Melrose Hall conjures up one of Brooklyn’s most popular ghostly legends.  A woman is possessed through a Ouija board, but while she accept the challenge by one of New York’s first ghostbusters?  And a tale of Harry Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the line between the supernatural and mere sleight of hand. [original blog post]

Haunted Histories of New York (2011) [download] [iTunes]
What’s horrors are buried at the foot of the Statue of Liberty? What’s below a Brooklyn Catholic church that makes it so dreadfully haunted? What ghost performs above the heads of theatergoers at The Palace? And what is it about the Kreischer Mansion that makes it Staten Island’s most haunted home? [original blog post]

Supernatural Stories of New York (2010) [download] [iTunes]
The scary revelations of a New York medium, married Midtown ghosts who fight beyond the grave, a horrific haunting at a 14th Street boardinghouse, and the creepy tale of New York’s Hart Island. [original blog post]

Haunted Tales of New York (2009) [download] [iTunes]
The secrets of the restless spinster of the Merchants House, the jovial fright of the Gay Street Phantom, the legend of the devil at Spuyten Duyvil Creek, and the spirit of a dead folk singer. [original blog post]

Spooky Stories of New York (2008) [download] [iTunes]
The drunken spirits of the Algonquin, the mysteries of a hidden well in SoHo, the fires of the Witch of Staten Island, and ‘the most haunted brownstone in New York’. [original blog post]

Ghost Stories of New York (2007) [download] [iTunes]
The ghosts of a tragic Ziegfeld girl, a scandalous doyenne of old New York, a bossy theater impresario and the ghoulish bell-ringer of St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowery. [original blog post]

Top photo: from the book ‘The Oracle’ (1919) Internet Archive Book Images
Second photo: from the book “Rhyme and Reason” (1901) Internet Archive Book Images
Third photo: “Two of William Hope’s friends lean on their motor car whilst a figure – the couple’s deceased son – is revealed at the wheel.” Photo by William Hope (1920) National Media Museum