Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tommy Tune's Penthouse Party...

Finding Pieces for My New York 
               Skyline Puzzle 

From a tipsy barefoot Robert Redford prancing before Jane Fonda in Washington Square Park in Barefoot in the Park, to John Travolta admiring the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Saturday Night Fever to the baptism of Christ, played by Victor Garber, in Bethesda Fountain in Central Park in Godspell, New York City has served as a backdrop for many movies and television programs.
(YouTube Videos for movies posted below)

I enjoy scrutinizing old film clips and pictures of the city. I have a good sense of places and locations, yet I still get lost exploring its neighborhoods or when viewing the wonderful photos of Gary Winogrand, Helen Levitt, and Berenice Abbott and their images of old New York, one I never knew. 

Months ago when I received an email and photo attachment (posted below) from my friend Jim Malcolm I accepted it as a personal challenge.

He wrote,  "This is a penthouse party near Union Square. What street is this?

Jim, a native New Yorker, moved away years ago. He is retired living in California.

I emailed back, “Not near Union Square.”

It is!” Jim replied.”  It’s TommyTune’s apartment. My neighbor was there.”

To showcase his roots and knowledge of Manhattan to his neighbor Jim wrote, “Can you name any of the buildings.” 

“Easy!” I never thought it would take me parts of three weeks to answer his question. I reviewed Google Maps, Instagram, and real estate websites. I made four tours of east side streets with binoculars, camera and notepad.

Why did it take me so long? I found Tommy Tune’s place and the names of four buildings quickly. 
I knew the party took place somewhere between 49 and 55th Streets on First Avenue judging 
from the angle of the terrace and building 4.

When walking the streets of midtown east it is difficult to get a clear view of building tops. With the help of the Internet I found building 5 – and its white crown top. I located buildings 1 and 3. At first I mistook 1, the Libya House, for Verizon’s monolith on East 38th (now NYU Medical Center) with its stone slab sidings.

I had all the pieces, except one, building 2. At first, I assumed it was the Chrysler Building. Its fragmented top and stripped down Charlie Brown Christmas tree tower left me doubtful.

I focused on the Chanin Building, Lexington and 42nd Street. The 1929, 56-story city landmark in buff brick and terra cotta, is topped with a spindly radio antenna. Mystery solved? NO! The antenna looked small and unimpressive.

Fortunately I spotted a white antenna soaring high above midtown as I stood at 41st and Eight Avenue looking east. I searched the entire area with no luck. Ten days later sitting in Bryant Park I found it. It was not an antenna, but a huge crane at a construction site for a new office building, 7 Bryant Park.

Ready to raise the white flag I decided to scan the midtown skyline with my binoculars from the 22nd floor of the Time Life building where I work. Keith Aurelio a co-worker and imaging specialist asked what I was doing. I showed him the photo and explained my dilemma. He opened a digital version of the picture in photoshop, then doodled some, and “Presto”! The Chrysler building materialized.

Where did the party take place?  Jim was right, in a way. Nine-time Tony award winner Tommy Tune had lived on 18th and Park Avenue South near Union Square but moved to First and 52nd, the scene of the party.

*Pieces of the Puzzle!
1_Libya House –East 48th, Second Ave; 24-stories, built in 1982, home to Libya’s mission to the United Nations.
2_Chrysler Building – Lexington Ave., 42-43rd Streets. This 77-story Art Deco wonder, built in 1930, served as Chrysler’s headquarters until the1950’s.
3_One Dag Hammarskj√∂ld Plaza – Second Avenue and 47th. The 1972, 49-story tower is home to various companies and U.N. agencies.
4_Met Life - Park Avenue at 45th Street; 60 stories, completed in 1963, for Pan Am; offered rooftop helicopter service to Pan Am’s JFK terminal until an accident killed five people.
5_Sterling Plaza – Second Avenue at 49th Street, 32-story residential condominium built in 1985.

*YouTube Segments of Movies listed above:
Barefoot in the Park
Saturday Night Fever

Photo: Unknown Source; location Southgate Apartments at East 52nd Street near Sutton Place/Beekman Places; designed by Emory Roth.