Film History It's Showtime ON TELEVISION

When New York hosted the Oscars

Despite the Academy Awards being a celebration of all things Hollywood, New York has actually hosted the Oscar ceremony on more than one occasion. Or rather, they co-hosted the event — from 1953 to 1957 — in a rare and soon abandoned bicoastal ceremony that taxed the mechanics of television’s earliest production crews. There were… Read More

Neighborhoods Podcasts

The Astor Place Riot of 1849: Bloodshed and Shakespeare splits New York at a busy crossroads

“By the pricking of my thumbs / something wicked this way comes” — Macbeth PODCAST In old New York, one hundred and seventy years ago, a theatrical rivalry between two leading actors of the day sparked a terrible night of violence — one of the most horrible moments in New York City history. England’s great… Read More

Those Were The Days

Joyful mourning: The Lower East Side honors a forgotten star

An extraordinary photograph of Yiddish theater stars!  Front row: Jacob Adler, Sigmund Feinman, Sigmund Mogulesko, Rudolph Marx;  Back row: Mr. Krastoshinsky and David Kessler For a passionate sub-set of New Yorkers, Mogulesko was everything. The Romanian-born theater star Sigmund (also written as Zigmund or Zelig) Mogulesko came to America in 1886 already a star of Europe’s… Read More

Gold-diggers in Union Square, in the hit play of 1878

‘The Banker’s Daughter’ was the hot new play of 1878 by Bronson Howard, “then the best playwright in America.” It played the Union Square Theater for over 140 performances and to rapturous praise. The plot? “How a woman grows to love the older man she married for his money.” In 1899 Howard wrote a play… Read More

Mad Men

‘Mad Men’ notes: A movie theater classic in its final days

The Capitol in 1935, its feature attraction the spy thriller Rendezvous Every Monday I’ll try and check in with the Mad Men episode from the night before and focus in on one or two historical references made on the show. Spoilers aplenty, so read no further if you don’t want to know…. While doing some… Read More


Xenon and the strange journey of a Broadway theater: Noel Coward, Fellini, porn, disco, ‘Cabaret’, Dame Edna

You know it’s a good night at Xenon when you’re drunk on the dance floor, and all of a sudden, the actress Valerie Perrine and the Village People appear (source) FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER To get you in the mood for the weekend, on occasional Fridays we’ll be featuring an old New York nightlife haunt, from… Read More

100 Years Ago: Worst theatrical review ever written?

Readers of the New York Times on January 19, 1910, were greeted with the following theatrical review: FAT PEOPLE MUST AVOID THIS FARCE;Unless They Want To Put On Extra Pounds To Prove An Old Adage If you’re confused, the lead of the review elaborates: “If to laugh is to grow fat, obesity patients had better… Read More

History in the Making: Tea and Peanuts Edition

Local comedian and theatre star Gus Phillips, known professionally as Oofty Gooft , threw on a production of ‘Under The Gaslight’ in New York sometime around 1879, starring himself and his wife Mary Hooper, who once shot him. Christmas Past: The Morgan Library & Museum unveils an early copy of Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’… Read More

Wonderland: Walt Disney’s seven Big Apple moments

Yesterday’s news about a new Times Square flagship store for Disney had me wondering what influence if any New York had on the career of Walt Disney, arguably one of the most successful men in history to make his name on the West Coast. Come to find out, the world might never have had Mickey… Read More

Chelsea’s old Opera House: from robber barons to BBQ

In last Friday’s podcast on the Hotel Chelsea, I mentioned a building that was located very near by called the Grand Opera House, at the northwest corner of 23rd Street and 8th Avenue. Here it is: The opera house sprang up in 1868, the project of Samuel N. Pike, who purchased the land directly from… Read More

Sarah Bernhardt’s favorite New York landmark

Sarah Bernhardt may be the most famous and most mysterious actress who ever lived and certainly “the greatest celebrity of her era.” Working mostly in the days before recorded medium (there are exceptions), Bernhardt crafted a legend matched by outrageous behavior and provocative stage performance. Naturally, she brought both with her when she came to… Read More

My Broadway ‘Whirl Girl’ obsession

See these lovely lasses? This is a photograph that ran on the HD photo website Shorpy last week, featuring some chorines from a 1921 Broadway show. “The Broadway Whirl,” a lively revue knockoff, played the Times Square Theatre, a ‘legitimate’ stage at 217 West 42nd Street that was closed in the 1980s. If you’re trying… Read More


Jimian? The strange affair of Lillian and Diamond Jim

Had there been a paparazzi in the 1880s, the woman they would have hounded the most would be New York stage singer and actress Lillian Russell. Like a Scarlett, she was always hanging on the arm of a famous, powerful man. Like an Angelina, she did dramatic things in her personal life that often upstaged… Read More

The REAL story behind those confusing numbers

Some architectural monstrosities just beg to be ripped upon. Topping this list is One Union Square South, a bland 33-story structure and pioneer in the mall-ification of Union Square. Although its storefronts feature a Circuit City and a dying Virgin Mega-store, One Union Square South is defined by a piece of public art that has… Read More

One-eyed Willie takes the stage

Even though the British kept the burnt, chaotic city of New York as their military base during the Revolutionary War, life did manage to go on for some residents. In fact the population of New York began to swell, as those still loyal to the British — for practical as well as philosophical reasons —… Read More