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Apartment Life

Law & Order: The Misdemeanors

Nypd carSome of my high school classmates back in Pittsburgh can't quite fathom the thought of living in Manhattan, but I thrive on the fast pace, and the perceived danger is a bit overblown.  Sure, I've had some experiences with it but, thankfully, nothing serious.  Since moving to New York City in 1981 I've been a victim of a crime six times.  Five of the six occurred in the 1980s, and the last time was in 1998.  Two of my apartments have been burglarized, my wallet has been lifted at work twice and I've been mugged and the victim of a scam one time each.  (Truth be told, I've committed a number of "fashion crimes", but that's the subject for another post.)

 

 

April 1981 - At TriBeCa Apartment

This was my first apartment in NYC.  It was in a loft space on Lispenard St. in TriBeCa that I shared with a husband, wife, baby and a vicious cat (whose name was 'Mouse').  The break-in occurred one month after I moved in.  Although the door was locked, the prefabricated wall was knocked down to gain entrance.  The loft was in a building that I was later told the landlord was trying to get renters out of the apartment and turn into a commercial building.  My stereo was stolen along with four rolls of quarters that I hadn't had a chance to take to the bank.  I moved out two months later (as did my loft mates).

 

Lispenard street tribeca

 

July 1983 - At West 15th St. Apartment

Like the apartment in TriBeCa, this burglary also occurred one month after I moved into it.  The apartment was on the ground flood and had a garden with a door, but the burglars entered through the front door, using tin snips to cut into the door, then putting their hand through the incision and unlocking the door from the inside.  They stole a vacuum cleaner, our answering machine, some subway tokens and, inexplicably, ate a half grapefruit that was in the fridge, but what hurt most was their stealing of my boyfriend Rick's 35 MM camera,which had a roll of undeveloped film in it with pictures from Memorial Day weekend in Provincetown.

Later in the evening we got a call from the manager of the Lindy's restaurant across the street from Radio City Music Hall.  Someone had tried to charge their meal using my Mastercard, which had been taken out of the pocket of my bathrobe (they were thorough). 

 

Grapefruit  

May 1986 - At Jones St. Apartment

This was a scam rather than a burglary.  And it occurred at the front door of my apartment building in Greenwich Village.  A young man with a dog rang the doorbell and I answered.  He told me that he lived on my street and was walking his dog and discovered that he had locked himself out of his apartment.  Although his grandmother had a spare set of keys, she lived in Brooklyn and the young man didn't have money for cab fare.  I gave him $15 and asked if he wanted to leave his dog with me but he said he couldn't because it was abused as a puppy and didn't take well to strangers.  A few hours later it dawned on me that I'd likely been scammed and would never be repaid.

But to my surprise he returned, supposedly to repay the money I had loaned him.  However, he only had a $100 bill and needed change to pay the taxi, which for some reason, was parked a few blocks away.  This time I was onto him so I told him I'd break the $100 if the taxi came in front of my apartment building.  Of course, this didn't happen.  So, although I was still out $15 ($33 adjusted for inflation) I felt somewhat better knowing that my loss wasn't greater.

 

Conartist 

 

October 1988 - NW Ayer

On Halloween my wallet was taken from my suit jacket that was hanging behind the door in my office at ad agency NW Ayer.  I had $200 in cash in it and ten credit cards (back then I had cards for department stores in addition to Visa).  A few days later a colleague found the wallet jammed behind the toilet paper dispenser in a stall in the men's room.  It was this incident that got me to start using an ATM card rather than take out money I'd need for the next few weeks.

 

Stolen wallet cash

 

December 1989 - Number 1 Subway

This is the only time I was physically robbed.  After a doctor's appointment down in the West Village at lunchtime I went back to my office on W. 50th St. and took the Uptown Number 1 train.  When I got into the car there were three teenagers sitting opposite me.  One addressed me as Inspector Gadget because I was wearing a black trench coat.  Shortly after the doors closed they came over and surrounded me, the ringleader sitting next to me on my right.  He said I looked like I could easily spare my cash and if I didn't give it up I'd have to contend with the fellow standing to my left who had his hand in his coat pocket, suggesting there might be a weapon.  Fortunately, I only had eight dollars on me.  And I was very happy they didn't take my wallet.  After they ran out at the W.23rd St. stop an elderly man sitting across from me chided me for giving them my money as they also tried to get some from him but he refused.  When I got off at my stop I told the token clark (in the pre-MTA card era) and he called the police. 

A month later later I was asked to come to to the Transit Police station in the Port Authority building on 42nd St. to look at photos ("mug shots").  When I told the officer that the perpetrator was white he came back with a rather thin book.  When I expressed surprise he told me with a bit of a weary chuckle that all of the other binders on the shelves contained mug shots of blacks and Hispanics.  I pointed to one guy but after he was contacted he claimed that at the time of the mugging he was attending a parole hearing with his father.  Frankly, I was partly relieved because I wasn't certain the fellow I pointed out was actually the perpetrator.

 

Subway entrance

 

March 1998 - Foote, Cone & Belding

Once again my wallet was lifted from the inner pocket of my suit jacket was hanging behind the door of my office (back in the era before "open architecture" work spaces).  This time I only had $27 in the wallet and one credit card.  Then a week later I got a call at home from a customer service person at Omnipoint Communications in eastern Pennsylvania who wanted to verify that I was ordering cellular phone service.  When I told her I wasn't she then confided that she had someone on hold who was attempting this purchase using my credit card.  She became suspicious because the person sounded like a "negro" (her word) and she thought it was strange that he'd have my last name.

 

Customer service  

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Recalling Celebrity Sightings in New York City

LeonardodecaprioSubway-celebs-1 Living in New York, friends who live elsewhere often ask me about the celebrities I've seen.  This got me thinking about how many sightings I've had in the 40+ years I've lived here.  I'm sure many pass by me unrecognized because they're under hats, behind sunglasses, or I'm just not looking at faces as I go about my business.  (When I walk around my neighborhood in sunglasses during weekday afternoons I often wonder if tourists think I'm a celebrity.)  What follows is a list of nearly 80 celebs I've spotted, who I've grouped into the following categories: My Neighborhood; On the Subway; At Fire Island; At the Gym; Elsewhere in Manhattan; and Those I've Spoken To

 

- IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD (Greenwich Village) -

Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Actor) - I've probably seen him most since he lives in an apartment building across the street from me.  I've seen him walking with one of his his kids, one time on a bicycle, another time chatting on his cell phone.  The last time he was sitting outside with his family at a restaurant on Hudson St.  (This was written less than a week before his untimely death on Feb. 2 in 2014.)

 

Philipseymourhoffman.newyork

 

Matthew Broderick (Actor) I've seen him a number of times, sometimes with his son, and once (in Sept. 2019) with wife Sarah Jessica Parker as they crossed Seventh Ave. South and walked to the Sheridan Square subway station (uptown side).

Susan Sarandon (Actress/activist) - In the winter of 2013 I spotted her shopping for veggies at Citarella, wearing a kerchief and sunglasses.

Jake Gyllenhaal - I spotted him walking down Christopher St. alone at the intersection with Seventh Ave. South.  Others I've passed on this street include Johnny Galecki from the Big Bang Theory, Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps and, in separate sightings, SNL alums Seth Meyers and Andy Samberg.

 

Jake-gyllenhaal-night-crawler-night-reporter-02

 

Bebe Neuwirth (Actress) - Three times I've sat across from her at The Village Den restaurant on Greenwich Ave.

Emma Stone (Actress) - She turned onto 6th Ave. from West 10th St. (on the block where Citarella is) and was walking behind me and I recognized her hearty laugh.  It was winter 2012 and she was wearing a very pretty purple-colored coat that contrasted nicely with her auburn hair.  She was with a young man.

 

Emmastone

 

I've walked past John Waters, Isaac Mizrahi, Ric Ocasek and Wallace Shawn all in the vicinity of the corner of 6th Ave. and 12th St.  By coincidence, I was going to see Waters' new movie Serial Mom (spring of 1994) when I spotted him.

Aziz Ansari (Comic/actor) - He was rushing somewhere while looking at his cellphone, heading west on W.4th St. after crossing 7th Ave. South.

 

Aziz.ansari

 

Jason Sedakis (Sat. Night Live/actor) - He was walking along Bleecker St. (where he used to live).

Willem Dafoe (Actor) - Walking in front of Gourmet Garage.

Lauren Bacall (Actress) - She was shopping at Balducci's on 9th St./6th Ave (before it was bought by Citarella).

Leontyne Price (Opera singer) - Spotted just south of Bleecker St./7th Ave. South.

Everett Quinton (Off-Broadway actor) - He's probably only recognizable to a small number of New Yorkers who recognize his work with the Ridiculous Theater Company (which used to be across the street from my apartment).  I've seen him on numerous occasions walking about or having a meal at Manatus on Bleecker St.

 

Everett.quinton

 

Michael Urie (Actor) - He was walking into the CVS at the corner of 6th Ave./Washington Place.  This was in the fall of 2014 and he was finishing up his run in the one-man show Buyer Cellar at the Barrow St. Playhouse and this sighting was about an hour before the curtain.

 

Michael.urie_buyerandcellar

 

Barry Diller (Movie/TV executive) - He and a much younger man were eating next to us at Mi Cocina.  This was in the late 1990s.

Mary-Louise Parker (Actress).  I was standing behind her and her daughter in the checkout line at Gristede's.

Harvey Weinstein (Film executive) - He was attending a dance performance at the Joyce Theater.  I also saw him crossing 7th Ave. South near Charles St. heading to the restaurant Morandi.

 

Harvey.weinstein

 

Anderson Cooper (CNN News Anchor) - On time he was riding a bike, the other time coming out of the David Barton gym in Astor Place.

Tim Robbins (Actor) - In May 2002 I was standing behind him and one of his sons on the up escalator at the Village East movie complex on 3rd Ave./12th St.

Jesse Eisenberg (Actor) - The first time I saw him he was walking into the restaurant Dublin 6 on Hudson St. wearing a ski cap.  The next time he was checking out at Gourmet Garage during the time he was directing/acting in the play The Revisionist (with Vanessa Redgrave) at the Cherry Lane Theater in the Spring of 2013.

Louis CK (Comic/actor) - I was eating dinner in a Thai restaurant at the corner of Cornelia and Bleecker Streets when he walked by alone, hands in pockets.  Then during the summer of 2013 I saw him with his kids on Grove St. in Sheridan Square.

 

Louisck

 

Liv Tyler (Actress, Steven Tyler's daughter) - She was walking out of my apartment building, and I have no idea who she might have been visiting.

Mark Adsit (30 Rock) - He was strolling through the Union Square Christmas fair with his wife and child in 2012.  Then three years later I saw him, also in December, at the West Village restaurant Gaetana's (corner of Christopher/Greenwich Streets).  This time he was with a woman who may have been his mother and he was sporting a beard.

 

Mark.adsit

 

Gregory Hines (Deceased dancer/actor) - Dining with friends at an outside table at a restaurant on Hudson St.

Lee Delaria (Comedian/actress) - She was walking up 5th Ave. and was dressed like she was shooting a scene from The Hunger Games as she was wearing a long black leather trench coat with black boots and was sporting a severely cut/punk hairstyle.

 

Lee.delaria

 

Malcolm Gladwell (Author, contributor to The New Yorker) - I've seen him a number of times walking in the neighborhood.)

John Cameron Mitchell (Director/actor) - He lives on Greenwich Ave., where I've seem him a number of times.  The last time was in April 2014 when I was going to work and he was in my subway car.

 

John.cameron.mitchell

 

Kyan Douglas (Hair stylist from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) - I was eating dinner at Bus Stop Cafe with a few friends and I spotted him there with a group of eight guys.

Parker Posey (Actress) - On a Saturday evening n Feb. 2014 she was sitting at the bar chatting with friends at Gene's, an old-school Italian restaurant on W. 11th St. that attracts a neighborhood crowd. 

Zachary Quinto (Actor) - My most recent encounter, in June 2014.  He was wearing a backwards-turned baseball cap, t-shirt and jeans and was walking his two dogs on the main path of Washington Square Park heading in the direction of Sixth Avenue.  And he wasn't wearing glasses.  

Alec Baldwin (Actor) - On the Saturday of Labor Day weekend 2016 he pedaled by on his bike in the middle of the afternoon, turning from Greenwich Ave., east onto West 10th St. heading to 6th Ave.  He may have been coming from Equinox Gym, where a friend of mine has seen him working out.

 

Alec baldwin on bicycle

 

Wynton Marsalis (Jazz Musician) - On Election Day 2016 he and one of his children were walking into my polling place at PS 41 on W.10th St. as I was leaving at around 9:30AM.  He was wearing a suit.

Kyle Mooney (SNL writer/actor) - I was walking behind him on Sixth Ave. between Waverly Place and Washington Place on a fall evening in 2017.  I've also seen him at my gym (NY Sports Club).

Andy Cohen (Bravo executive) - As I was taking a run along Hudson River Park on a warm Saturday afternoon in April 2019 I made split-second eye contact with Andy Cohen, who was sitting on a park bench with his baby, a cute dog (which is what got my attention) and a younger woman.

 

Andy-cohen-baby-benjamin

 

John Mulaney (stand-up comic) - On an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in November 2020 (it was the day Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election) I spotted him strolling with a woman pushing a baby carriage in Hudson River Park across from Christopher St. (I assume they were his wife and child).  I wouldn't have noticed him, but when I heard his distinctive voice I looked behind me and saw him.

 

John mulaney

 

- ON THE SUBWAY -

Cherry Jones (Tony Award winning actress) - She was seated and chatting with a friend on the downtown #1 train.  Then in April 2014 I saw her entering the West 14th entrance to the #1 train on 7th Avenue.

 

Cherry.jones

 

Keith Hernandez (New York Mets) - I spotted in my car on the downtown Lexington line during mid-afternoon, standing alone.  This was years after he was Met.

Chris Parnell (Sat. Night Live) - Seated, reading a folded up piece of paper, perhaps a script.

 

Chris.parnell

 

Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) - He was waiting for the uptown Express train with friends at Times Square station late on a Saturday night.  I was heading uptown after seeing Bye Bye Birdie in the winter of 2010.

Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) - On my way to work one autumn morning in 2015 I saw him going through the turnstile at the West 4th Street subway station.  He was carrying a skateboard.  Because of his height the turnstile was at neck level.   

Norm Lewis (Actor) - Coming home from work on the 1 train downtown in the summer of 2017, I got out at 14th St. because the train was skipping my stop (Christopher St./Sheridan Sq.).  Standing next to me on the platform was Broadway actor Norm Lewis, wearing a t-shirt and shorts.  For the life of me I couldn't remember his last name and this, combined me being tired and wilted from the warm platform, kept me from telling him that I enjoyed his performance in Porgy & Bess that I saw in 2012.  We both got on the next train and he got out at my stop and then went to Starbucks in Sheridan Square.

 

Norm lewis  

 

David Muir (anchor, ABC World News Tonight) - I was on the uptown platform at the Christopher St. station on a weekday afternoon in late March 2018 when he came through the turnstile and sat down on a bench.   

Richard Kind (actor, Spin City) - On my way home from work on the evening of Sept. 25, 2018 he passed me on the stairway leading up from the subway platform at the Times Square station.

 

- AT THE GYM (Crunch/Archive Building) -

Dean Winters (The All-State 'Mayhem' guy) - Working out with a trainer.

Andrew Sullivan (Blogger/political commentator) - On another occasion I was walking behind him, his husband and dog on Bleecker St. near the now-closed Manatus restaurant.

 

Andrew.sullivan

 

Rupert Everett (Actor) - Saw him on numerous occasions in 2000 and 2001.  He usually wore a cap, white sweatshirt and blue sweatpants.

John Lutz (30 Rock/comedy writer) - A regular on the treadmill beginning two or three years ago.  Over the course of this time he slimmed down noticeably.

 

John.lutz

 

Chris Meloni (LA Law/HBO's Oz) - I stood behind him at the water fountain.

Sandra Bernhard (Comedian/actress) - I also spotted her in the checkout line at Citarella where she was dressed all in white (including a hat).

Calvin Klein (fashion designer) - This was my most recent sighting (January 2016) but it wasn't at Crunch, but at the New York Sports Club on Seventh Ave. South, which I switched to in 2013.  During a Saturday afternoon weight workout I saw him working out with a trainer.  I overheard them discussing men's briefs.  Calvin was touting the 2xist label while the trainer was raving about the H&M brand.  This sighting surprised me because I had heard CK was a member of the more exclusive Equinox gym.  After this sighting I saw him at the gym three or four other times.

 

- FIRE ISLAND -

Neil Sedaka (Composer/singer) - He was one of many guests who attended our house's annual Hat Party, in August 2003.

 

Neilsedaka

 

Sam Champion (TV weatherman) - This was in the late 1990s when he was still the local weatherman on Channel 7.  The first time I saw him he was playing in the surf with his dog.  The second time he was sashaying ever so slowly down Fire Island Boulevard with his long haired boyfriend at the time.

Jerry Mitchell (Tony Award winning choreographer) - Saw him at Sip'n Twirl during evening tea dance, summer of 2013.

 

Jerry.mitchell

 

Andy Cohen (Bravo exec/Real Housewives) - Buying cold cuts at Pines Pantry grocery store, August 2013.

David Geffen (Record executive) - He briefly owned a house at the end of the walk where my house was the was previously owned by Calvin Klein - who I also saw out there.

 

David.geffen

 

Carson Kressley (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) - Mr. Personality, I've passed by him on Fire Island Blvd. and seen him at low tea.

 

- MANHATTAN, NORTH OF 23rd ST. -

Judd Apatow (Movie director) - During the summer of 2009 Apatow, his actress wife Leslie Mann, and their two daughters were standing behind me in the ticket line for the Titanic artifact exhibition at the Discovery Times Square Exposition Center.  And then very recently (April 2014) I saw him walking with one of his daughters along Bleecker St. near Bank Street tin the West Village.

 

Juddapatow.lesliemann

 

Brooke Shields (Actress/model) - In the early 1980s, when she was still in her teens, I saw her walking through the first floor of Bloomingdale's with her mother.  She looked very self-conscious, walking quickly, eyes downcast and biting her lip.

Ron Darling (Mets pitcher) - I was walking to work in the late 1980s when I passed by him on East 30s/Madison Ave.  He lived in Manhattan's Murray Hill neighborhood at the time.

BD Wong (Actor) - We walked past each other in the Manhattan Mall a few weeks before Christmas 2008.

 

Bdwong

 

Liz Smith (Gossip Columnist) I was having lunch on the outside terrace of El Rio Grande on Third Avenue and East 38th St. in the spring of 2008 when she walked through the tables on the way to her apartment building which was adjacent to the restaurant.

Frank Perdue (Businessman) - I rode in the elevator with him at my office building at 800 Third Ave.  His account was with the ad agency I was working for at the time in 1980 - Scali, McCabe, Sloves.

Al Franken (Comedian, US Senator) - Another elevator encounter, this time in my office building at 3 Park Ave. in 2004.  Franken was on his way to the liberal radio network, Air America.  This was before he was elected to the US Senate.

 

Alfranken

 

Buck Henry (Sat. Night Live comedy writer and actor) - He was my first celebrity siting, occurring in July 1979 as I was walking to the big post office on 3rd Ave. between 55th & 56th Streets (FDR Station) with a co-worker at lunchtime. 

Hal Linden (Barney Miller) - Like Buck Henry I spotted him on 3rd Ave. in the 50s while I was out for lunch.  This was during the Spring of 1980.

 

Hal.linden

 

- CELEBS I'VE SPOKEN TO -

Andrew Rannells (Broadway and TV actor) - This encounter was on a Friday afternoon in April 2014.  He walked into the Karavas pizza joint in Sheridan Square as I was waiting for a slice I had ordered for a late lunch.  I told him that I had just seen him perform at the Broadway Cares event, "Broadway Backwards", where he sang The Man That Got Away

 

Andrew.rannells

 

Victor Garber (Broadway, TV and movie actor)- I was going to a Wednesday matinee of Evita in August 2012 and spotted him waiting for the #1 uptown local at 14th St.  I walked over to him and told him how much I enjoyed him in Showtime's sitcom Web Therapy (in which he plays Lisa Kudrow's gay husband).  I've also seen him walking in front of Gourmet Garage. 

 

Victor_garber_webtherapy

 

Paul Schneider (Parks & Recreation/the movie The Family Stone) - I saw him on 6th Ave near my apartment as I was exiting the ATM at HSBC.  At first I didn't recognize him because his hair was long.  I told him that I was sorry he was no longer on the show and he told me that he left because his character wasn't developing the way he had hoped.

 

Paul.schneider

 

David Hodo (Construction worker character from the original Village People) - He was a guest at a brunch I attended in March 2013 on the Upper West Side.  He wasn't introduced as the construction worker, but a friend of mine took me aside and told me.

Tanner Cohen (Actor) - In 2008 he starred in a sweet gay-themed film Were the World Mine, which I saw.  Then a few months after I saw it I was walking through H&M on lower 5th Ave. when he walked into the store.  I stopped him and told him how much I enjoyed him and the movie - this was the first time I ever spoke to a celeb.

 

Tanner.cohen

 

 

 

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OJ Simpson Freeway Chase Mesmerizes The Nation (June 17, 1994)

White-bronco The evening of June 17, 1994, a Friday, was warm and muggy and I had just returned to my apartment in Greenwich Village after a five-mile run in Hudson River Park.  Before showering I turned on the TV to check the score of Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets.  Instead, what appeared on the screen was a white SUV speeding along a highway.  I thought that perhaps it was a scene from a repeat of NBC's Law & Order, but when I changed channels it was also on ABC, CBS and CNN. 

 

I soon learned that the white Bronco was carrying OJ Simpson on LA’s 405 Freeway, and it was being pursued by a phalanx of LAPD police cruisers.  It seems OJ, who was the prime suspect in the murder of his 35-year-old wife, Nicole, and her male friend earlier in the week, didn't turn himself in, as he had agreed, and was now sitting in the back of the vehicle holding a gun to his head and threatening to shoot himself.

 

OJ_Simpson_Chase 

 

The chase was so mesmerizing I couldn’t pull myself away to go to the grocery store to get dinner.  I watched for at least two hours waiting for the moment when, befitting this perfect Greek tragedy, OJ was going to end it all.  What sticks with me was the circus-like atmosphere as cars pulled over on the freeway and crowds lined the road and overpasses cheering (or jeering) as he drove by.  And when the Bronco finally pulled into the driveway of OJ’s home another surreal thing happened.  An eyewitness claiming to be across the street from OJ’s house was interviewed on the phone by ABC News’ Peter Jennings but he turned out to be a crank caller who made an inane comment about his allegiance to Howard Stern.

 

Oj_nicole_simpson
In happier days ...

 

 

Fast forward sixteen months to Oct. 3, 1995, the day of the verdict in OJ’s murder trial.  I was eating lunch in my office (at ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding) and turned on the radio to listen to the live coverage of the jury’s verdict.  I had decided not to watch the coverage on TV in the conference room with others because I didn’t want to see which co-workers might be happy if he was found innocent.  When I heard the not-guilty verdict I got up and closed the door to my office and sat for a while with my eyes closed trying to process the jury's decision before continuing with the rest of my day.

 


Oj_acquitted

 

 


Johnny Carson Steps Down As "Tonight Show" Host (May 22, 1992)

Bette_midler_johnny_carsonJohnny Carson's final week as host of the Tonight Show in May 1992 coincided with me packing and moving into the Greenwich Village apartment (where I still live in 2014).  My official move-in date wasn't until June 1, but the apartment had been vacant for a number of months so I was permitted to move in early.  While packing during the first half of the week, I tuned in to Tonight and watched a stream of honored celebs pay tribute to Johnny.  On the penultimate telecast, and the first night living at my new address, I watched Bette Midler sing her charming version of You Made Me Watch You to Johnny while she sat on his desk. 

 

 

These episodes were more uplifting than the last somewhat somber telecast that simply had Johnny reminiscing about his 30 years as host - with no guests.  Not surprisingly, it delivered a stupendous (for the Late Night time period) Nielsen household rating of 28 and a 63 share of viewing; 41 million persons tuned in (compared to a typical 6.7 million). 
 

Johnny_carson_last_show

 

After Johnny left Tonight, it was almost as if he had died as he largely disappeared from public view until his death in 2005.  the Tonight Show's Jay Leno era began three days later on May 25.  Leno remained host until February 2014 when Jimmy Fallon took over the helm (Leno's reign was interrupted briefly in 2009 when Conan O'Brien was appointed host and Leno moved to primetime).  An enjoyable book about Carson's Tonight Show reign is Here's Johnny: 30 Years as America's Favorite Late Night Entertainer.

 

Tonightshow_curtains

 

Three other notable TV events occurred that week in May 1992.  First, Vice President Dan Quayle castigated actress Candice Bergen's Murphy Brown character for having a baby without the benefit of marriage in the show's last episode of the season (Monday, 5/18).


 

Murphybrown_danquayle

 

The following day, the names Joey Buttafuoco and Amy Fisher became part of the nation's zeitgeist after 17-year-old Amy (aka "The Long Island Lolita") shot Buttafuoco's wife Mary Jo in the face at the front door of her home.  This tawdry affair was made into three TV movies that aired within weeks of each other at the end of the year (one starred 18-year old Drew Barrymore).  Finally, on Thursday MTV premiered The Real World, which started TV's "reality" craze.

 

Amyfisher_joeybuttafuoco

 

One more thing I remember about this week is that New York experienced an early heat wave - including a sizzling 93° on the day of Carson's last show.  It turned out to be one of the few hot spells during an unseasonably mild summer - apparently, the result of the cooling effect of clouds of ash from the eruption of the Mount Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines the year before.

 

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Rodney King Verdict Sparks Deadly L.A. Riots (April 29, 1992)

Time_la_riots1992 With our lease up for renewal at the end of May 1992, my roommate had decided to move in with his boyfriend and take a new apartment.  Although I didn't want another roommate situation, I couldn't afford to keep the apartment on my own, so I decided to look for a new apartment.  On April 29, a Wednesday, I left work at 4:00 to see two apartments, one a garden apartment on Christopher St., the other a small one-bedroom in the Sheridan Square area of Greenwich Village, both a few short blocks from where I lived.  Largely because of the amount of light it got (it was on the top floor), I decided to take the second apartment (where I still live).

 

 

After seeing the apartments I got a haircut and then arrived home shortly before 6:00.  I switched on the evening news and heard the breaking story that the LAPD officers involved in last year's Rodney King beating had been acquitted.  The verdict was met with frightening fury by Los Angeles' black community and rioting began shortly thereafter. 

 

Rodney_king_cant_we_allgetalong Later that evening a news-copter showed a truck driver being pulled from the cab of his semi at an intersection in South Central LA.  He was kicked repeatedly in the head and bashed with a cinder block.  Like the beating of King, this video clip was aired endlessly.  Two days later an overwrought Rodney King addressed the media and delivered one of the decade's most quotable lines, "Can't we all just get along?"

 

 

 

Two days later, a Friday, I signed my new lease before going to work.  Then later in the day as I was walking back to work after lunch it seemed that everyone from my office (ad agency NW Ayer, located on West 50th St. at Worldwide Plaza) was walking in the opposite direction.  It turned out the office (like many others) had closed early because of wild stories of looting and transit disruptions. 

 

These rumors turned out to be untrue (e.g., Macy's was being looted, the Brooklyn Bridge had been blocked by rioters), but since no one knew it at the time, my commute home on the subway was made with trepidation as riders wondered what might be occurring above ground.  Indeed, some of the stores in my neighborhood were closed and a few had boarded up their windows. 

 

Later that afternoon I was curious to see if there had been any further problems in my neighborhood so I went for a run but found nothing out of the ordinary except for a larger police presence.  That night President Bush addressed the nation to assess the situation and assure viewers that calm would prevail and justice served.  

 

La_riot_fire The inconvenience suffered by New Yorkers on that day paled by comparison to Angelenos who struggled through nearly a week of unrest.  More than 50 persons were killed, thousands were injured or jailed and property damage was close to $1 billion.  Since the turmoil threatened to spread to affluent neighborhoods, some residents there stood on rooftops with guns.  Sporting events were cancelled, freeway and air traffic was disrupted and restricted.  It was the worst rioting in the U.S. since the assassination of Martin Luther King 24 years earlier.

 

 

Bill_cosby_showThis unrest coincided with the final episode of the Cosby Show on Thursday.  NBC considered postponing the telecast until the following week, but Cosby was against the idea because he felt airing it as scheduled would maintain a semblance of normalcy.  (He asked NBC if he could address viewers in Los Angeles to plead for calm.)  The episode posted a 28 household rating/45 share (nearly double its season average), making it the 6th highest rated telecast of the 1991/92 season.

 

 

 

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"Storm of the Century" Immobilizes Eastern U.S. (March 12-13, 1993)

Snowtotals-13mar93 On Feb. 26, 1993 New York, and the nation, was shaken by the terrorist bombing in a parking garage at the World Trade Center.  Two weeks later Mother Nature was preparing her own assault as a monster storm swept up the East Coast.  I didn't pay much attention to news of the impending storm until the night before it hit, a Friday.  After work I had gone out with friends to Splash, a sprawling new gay bar in Chelsea.  Once home I turned on the Weather Channel to hear about the approaching "white hurricane".  (And the first day of Spring was just one week away).

 

The storm's full fury hit New York Saturday morning (March 13) and continued thru mid-afternoon.  (This photo, near my apartment in Greenwich Village, was taken at around noontime.)  However, after ten inches of snow had fallen a changeover to sleet and rain began in late afternoon, keeping the accumulation down.  I was outside when the changeover began and the sleet pellets really stung because they were being propelled horizontally by winds gusting between 40-60 mph.  The noise the sleet created as it lashed against the windows in my apartment was deafening.  I was concerned that my floor to ceiling living room window might blow in so I pulled down the blind.  

 

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Sheridan Square, Greenwich Village

 

 

Happily, I suffered no window damage, but after the storm subsided (at around midnight) that's when my problems started.  Hearing a dripping sound, I looked up and saw that the ceiling in one corner of my living room was cracking and buckling.  It turned out that the snow on the roof (I lived on the top floor) had piled up high enough to cover a drain pipe, so melting snow had nowhere to go and collected in one spot.  I was thankful to be home so I could move my sofa and TV out of harm's way.  However, I couldn't get in touch with my building super so I had to make due with a collection of pots and pans to collect the dripping water.  However, the steady "ping" of the dripping made sleep nearly impossible. 

 

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The next morning I got up early and found the super shoveling snow.  He was unable to go up on the roof and clear the blockage because snow was drifted against the door so he brought up two large trash bins to my apartment to collect the water which poured out when he poked a few holes in my ceiling.

 

Compared to other parts of the Eastern US New York was spared paralyzing amounts of snow (a nearby street in my neighborhood is pictured).  Elsewhere, however, there were record accumulations not only in the Northeast (Pittsburgh had 26", Syracuse 36") but in the South as well, e.g., Atlanta had 9"; Birmingham 13"; Chattanooga 23".  Even Mobile, Alabama on the Gulf Coast, reported three inches of snow!  The Weather Channel would later rank the storm, which affected nearly half of the US population and left more than 250 dead, as one of the top five weather events of the entire 20th century. 

 

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Waverly Place (March 14, 1993)

 

If you'd like to read about other New York City snowstorms I've written a post on my weather blog, New York Weather Archive, that recaps the snowstorms we've experienced since 1970.  To go to it please double click here.  And on this blog I've written posts on four other famous NYC snowstorms:  

The Lindsay Snowstorm (Feb. 1969)

Blizzard of '96 Brings New York & Mid-Atlantic to a Halt (Jan. 1996)

New York's Biggest Snowfall of All Time (Feb. 2006)

April Blizzard Stops New York, Puts Spring on Hold (April 1982)

 

Finally, snowstorm lovers may find the book Northeast Snowstorms by The Weather Channel's winter storm expert Paul Kocin of great interest.

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Revered Anchorman Walter Cronkite Retires from "CBS Evening News" (March 6, 1981)

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March 6, 1981 was a Friday and the streets of Manhattan were a sloppy mess following a snowstorm the day before that dumped nearly nine inches of wet snow (the biggest snowfall of a relatively snowless winter).  But the day's big story was the evening broadcast of the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite's last as its revered anchorman. I caught the last five minutes of this newscast after getting in from work (ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves).

 

Cronkite's retirement sticks with me largely because his final week on the air coincided with a big life event for me.  After living in Bayonne, New Jersey for two years I had moved into Manhattan earlier in the week.  Truth be told, it was an impulsive decision made after my brother got married at the beginning of February.  We both lived in Bayonne, so when he moved to another town I figured it was a good time to move into the "big city".  I put an ad in the Village Voice and ended up in a peculiar living situation with a family in their TriBeCa loft at 60 Lispenard St., a dreary alley-like street out of a Dickens novel, just south of Canal St.  It was me and the Sears family: artist-husband David, his Harvard educated stay-at-home wife Linda (a real chatterbox), their curly red-haired baby Jonah ... and a vicious white cat named Mouse.  

 

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I lived there for just three months when the landlord pressured us to move because he wanted to convert the building to commercial-use only. (He was probably the one behind our loft being burglarized a month after I moved in.)  Happily, I found a much better situation up in the West Village in a 2-bedroom apartment with another family of sorts - Gary and Jason and their doberman, Sabrina.  The Sears family moved as well, but Mouse was left behind after he jumped across the air shaft and sat on the windowsill of the neighboring building - and that's where he stayed. 

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After retiring Cronkite kept a low-keyed presence in the news arena but narrated the occasional documentary and served as a pundit regarding his views on the changing news media. (He memorably had a number of unflattering things to say about his replacement, Dan Rather, in a CNN interview and an article in The New Yorker, shortly before Rather's retirement in 2005).  Naturally, he penned a best-selling book, A Reporter's Life, in which he revisited some of the key historical moments that he was a part of as a reporter.  Cronkite lived to be 92 and died in the summer of 2009.

 

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And that's the way it was ... on March 6, 1981.

 


Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up Over Texas (February 1, 2003)

Columbia_disaster_TimeMagazine February 1, 2003 was a gray and chilly Saturday and I was immersed in my winter project, which was a makeover of my apartment.  I did it with the help of my friend William.  I supplied ideas and the capital and he made it happen, which involved painting the bedroom Arctic Blue, California Gold in the living room and the kitchen Antique White; hanging artwork; assembling a glass TV stand for my new plasma TV and drilling decorative shelving into the living room walls.  We had just returned from breakfast when we heard the news on the radio about the disintegration of space shuttle Columbia.  It happened over the skies of Dallas during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere - just 15 minutes before it was scheduled to land in Florida.  All seven astronauts on board were killed.  By eerie coincidence NASA's two previous fatal space accidents also occurred in the dead of winter: On Jan. 27, 1967 a fire on board Apollo 1 as it sat on the launching pad killed the three astronauts on board (pictured), and on Jan. 28, 1986 the Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff, killing all seven crew members. 

 

 

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Hurricane Gloria Smashes Long Island, Lashes New York City (September 27, 1985)

Glorianewsday At one point earlier in the week Hurricane Gloria was a formidable category 4 storm with winds approaching 145 mph.  However, by the time it made its way up to the Mid-Atlantic region (after making an initial landfall in North Carolina) it had weakened somewhat, but was still a worry since hurricanes make so few landfalls in the New York metro area.  And although a hurricane warning had been issued for Manhattan at 4 PM on Thursday, it didn't keep me from attending a cocktail party that evening hosted by Travel & Leisure magazine to promote its jungle safari-themed November issue.  The event was held at The Safari Club, a few blocks north of Bloomingdale's. 

 

 

For whatever reason, I wasn't feeling alarm over Gloria so when I arrived home I was surprised to hear on the news that the World Trade Center would be closed the next day as well as New York City schools.  Furthermore, residents of high-rise buildings were advised to tape their windows to keep glass from showering sidewalks below if they were blown in.  I didn't worry about that since I lived in a basement/garden apartment, but I had concerns about potential flooding. 

 

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To get in the spirit I went to the supermarket and bought candles (not that there were any above-ground power lines in Manhattan to be blown down).  It was the first time I experienced panic-shopping and hoarding.  Since a hurricane was a novelty in these parts few of us knew what to expect as we turned in for the night. 

 

On Friday morning (Sept. 27) I got a call from my boss at 8:00 telling me that the office (ad agency Young & Rubicam) was closed because of the storm.  However, not everyone got word and after coming in they were stranded when rail and subway tunnels were closed due to flooding.  I ventured out to pick up the paper and breakfast but I mostly wanted to experience the storm.  As I walked along Bleecker St. in the West Village I saw awnings tested mightily by the rain-blown gales and a few trash cans blowing down the street.

 

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Manhattan was spared hurricane-force winds as the storm stayed to our east.  Gloria's "eye" moved over the Nassau/Suffolk county line (50 miles east of Manhattan), with Suffolk Co. bearing the brunt of the storm.  My friend Nina was impacted because she lived in a beachfront condo in Long Beach.  Another friend, Marina, had just moved to Southampton in Suffolk Co. and her yard suffered extensive tree damage and power was out for more than a week.  And out on Fire Island, Calvin Klein's oceanfront home in the community of the Pines lost part of its roof which landed in the swimming pool of the property behind it.

 

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More than three inches of rain fell in Central Park that morning but skies cleared rapidly early in the afternoon. (This was much needed rain as New York was in the midst of a serious drought.)  I went out for a jog to survey the damage, which was minimal.  All I came across was a small tree blown down in the plaza of the World Trade Center.  The storm was a quick mover so it spared us from more wind damage or flooding.  I was relieved that disruptions were minimal because I had a date that night.

 

For a fascinating first-hand account of what it was like to experience Gloria out on Fire Island, you may want to read John Jiler's book Dark Wind: A True Account of Hurricane Gloria's Assault on Fire Island.

 

 

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9-11 Attacks Stun the World (September 11, 2001)

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On the morning of Sep. 11, 2001 I left my apartment 15-20 minutes earlier than usual because I wanted to vote in New York's primary election for mayor before going to work.  It was about 8:40 when I left my apartment in the West Village.  A few minutes later as I was walking along Christopher St. I took notice of the roar of an extremely low-flying plane overhead; however, I couldn't see it because of the trees lining the street.  Perhaps 15 seconds later I heard a loud "boom" in the distance, but didn't think anything of it, and certainly didn't connect it with the plane.  I figured it came from a construction site.

 

As I approached the corner of 6th Avenue and West 9th Street I saw a number of people looking intently southward so I turned to see what they were looking at and was stunned to see a large gaping black hole in the north tower of the World Trade Center with plumes of black smoke billowing out of it.  My first thought was, "how did a plane crash into the building on such a crystal clear morning?"  After 30 seconds or so of incredulous staring I continued on my way to the polling place a few blocks away (walking north).  Traffic on 6th Avenue had mostly stopped as drivers and passengers got out of their vehicles to get a look.  It was like a scene from a movie.

 

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I voted, got on the subway and made my way to work at ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding, which was on East 42nd St.  (At this point this was still just a terrible accident so there was no reason not to go into the office.)  On the train I heard a woman tell someone that it was a passenger jet that had gone into the tower and not a wayward private plane.  At the office I was walking to the other side of the floor for our weekly directors meeting but found everyone crowded into the media director's office watching the TV.  A second plane had just crashed into the other tower and it was witnessed live on TV by millions (however, I didn't see it.)

 

 

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This was no longer a horrible accident but something frighteningly more sinister.  I watched a few replays of the plane going into the south tower and then walked back to my office.  I called my mother in Pittsburgh who had seen the second plane on TV.  Then I reviewed a few e-mails from friends living outside of New York checking to see if I was OK.  A number of people in the office were frantically trying to get in touch with family members who worked in the Trade Center or in that neighborhood.  It seemed like every 15 minutes something unimaginably horrible was happening, i.e. the Pentagon was hit, then the plane in Pennsylvania went down.  I was listening to a live radio report from the WTC site when the south tower fell.  Shortly thereafter the office closed, largely because we were considered at risk since our office was across the street from the landmark Chrysler Building, which made it a prime target. 

 

 

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I left my office and walked along 42nd Street to the New York Public Library at the corner of 42nd St./5th Ave. to meet my friend Nina.  Nina lived on Long Island and couldn't get home since rail traffic had been suspended, so she stayed with me until travel restrictions were lifted.  Not surprisingly, the streets were abuzz and crowded with people spilling out onto the streets, but it was a controlled panic.  There were long lines at every pay phone.  I think the day's bright sunshine helped to keep me calm.  

 

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Nina and I casually walked the 40 blocks down to my apartment against a wall of mostly disheveled office workers heading north from lower Manhattan.  We stopped into a Starbucks near Penn Station to use the lavatory and while standing in line I overheard a man behind us telling someone that his sister in Chicago had called to say the Sears Tower had been hit.  Because of all that was happening it didn't seem out of the realm of possibility.  It wasn't until we got to my apartment and listened to news reports that we realized that he was just a crazy guy.

 

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As we neared the block on which I lived we passed St. Vincent's Hospital which had set up chairs and gurneys on 7th Avenue covered in white bed sheets in anticipation of hundreds of injured who would need to be attended to - but none would be delivered.  A strong odor similar to that given off by an electrical fire pervaded the air and the southern horizon was obscured by a thick wall of black, gray and white smoke (the north tower had collapsed by then as well).  Fortunately for my neighborhood, the smoke was being blown out to Brooklyn by a northwesterly wind. 

 

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Later that afternoon the first "Have You Seen ...?" posters of missing office workers began appearing on lamp poles and walls.  Rail service resumed later that afternoon and I walked Nina up to Penn Station (there was still no subway service).  It was eerie because there were so few people on the streets and no vehicular traffic.  The sheet-covered chairs and gurneys in front of St. Vincent's were now gone.  Before going home I stopped into the supermarket across the street from my apartment (I was surprised it was still open) and while waiting in the checkout line I heard on the radio that the 50-story World Trade Center 7 had just collapsed.

 

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For the next few months the odor from the fires lingered and was especially noticeable on days when the wind came out of the south.  We were advised that dust in the air and collecting on surfaces in our apartments likely contained trace particles of pulverized bones from victims of the collapsed towers.  The catastrophe turned out to be the impetus for me to finally get a cell phone.  And to this day anytime the sky is clear and the temperature pleasantly warm I think back to the terrors of the morning of 9/11. 

 

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(The 9/11 Commission Report makes for riveting reading as it goes into great detail about the missed opportunities to thwart the 9-11 attacks as well as the events of that day as they unfolded.)

 

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