Tag Archives: Pop Culture History

Adirondack Museum Offers "Passion in the Park"


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The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake wants visitors to discover the romantic side of the Adirondack Park, by joining them for a special Valentine’s Day program that explores love stories happy, melodramatic, and tragic – all set in the North Country. Museum officials are suggesting you “bring a special loved one and plenty of handkerchiefs” on Sunday, February 14, 2010 as the Adirondack Museum presents “Passion in the Park” a Valentine’s Day edition of the Cabin Fever Sunday series with Curator Hallie E. Bond.

The presentation will be held in the Auditorium, and will begin promptly at 1:30 p.m. Cabin Fever Sunday programs are offered at no charge to museum members. The fee for non-members is $5.00. There is no charge for children of elementary school age or younger. Refreshments will be served. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at
www.adirondackmuseum.org.

Some of the love stories that Bond will share are part of the established folklore and history of the region. Others have recently come to light through research in the Adirondack Museum’s fine collection of diaries and personal letters.

Bond will discuss how the reputation of the Adirondack Mountains as a romantic spot was established in the mid-nineteenth century and share the ways Valentine’s Day was celebrated before the era of cards from Hallmark. The program will be illustrated with charming images of vintage Valentines and photographs from museum collections.

Hallie Bond has been Curator at the Adirondack Museum since 1987. She has curated a number of popular exhibits including “Common Threads” 150 Years of Adirondack Quilts and Comforters,” “A Paradise for Boys and Girls: Children’s Camps in the Adirondacks,” and “Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks.” She has written extensively about regional history and material culture.

Photo: Valentine greeting, ca. 1910. Collection of the Adirondack Museum.

New Book: America in the Sixties


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Sandwiched between the placid fifties and the flamboyant seventies, the sixties, a decade of tumultuous change and stunning paradoxes, is often reduced to a series of slogans, symbols, and media images. In America in the Sixties, Greene goes beyond the cliches and synthesizes thirty years of research, writing, and teaching on one of the most turbulent decades of the twentieth century.

Greene sketches the well-known players of the period—John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Betty Friedan—bringing each to life with subtle detail. He introduces the reader to lesser-known incidents of the decade and offers fresh and persuasive insights on many of its watershed events.

Greene argues that the civil rights movement began in 1955 following the death of Emmett Till; that many accomplishments credited to Kennedy were based upon myth, not historical fact, and that his presidency was far from successful; that each of the movements of the period—civil rights, students, antiwar, ethnic nationalism—were started by young intellectuals and eventually driven to failure by activists who had different goals in mind; and that the “counterculture,” which has been glorified in today’s media as a band of rock-singing hippies, had its roots in some of the most provocative social thinking of the postwar period.

Greene also chronicles the decade in a thematic manner, devoting individual chapters to such subjects as the legacy of the fifties, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the civil rights movements, and the war in Vietnam. Combining an engrossing narrative with intelligent analysis, America in the Sixties enriches our understanding of that pivotal era.

John Robert Greene is the Paul J. Schupf Professor of History and Humanities at Cazenovia College. He has written or edited thirteen books including The Limits of Power: The Nixon and Ford Administrations and The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford. He is a regular commentator in the national media, having appeared on such forums as MSNBC, National Public Radio, C-SPAN, and the History Channel.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

2009 National Film Registry Announced


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The Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has announced 25 motion pictures that will be preserved as cultural, artistic and/or historical treasures. Spanning the period 1911-1995, the films named to the 2009 National Film Registry of the Library of Congress range from the sci-fi classic “The Incredible Shrinking Man” and Bette Davis’ Oscar-winning performance in “Jezebel” to the Muppets’ movie debut and Michael Jackson’s iconic video “Thriller.” This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 525.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the registry that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant to be preserved for all time. These films are not selected as the “best” American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring importance to American culture.

“Established by Congress in 1989, the National Film Registry spotlights the importance of protecting America’s matchless film heritage and cinematic creativity,” said Billington. “By preserving the nation’s films, we safeguard a significant element of our cultural patrimony and history.”

Other selections to this year’s registry include Al Pacino’s “Dog Day Afternoon,” the World War II drama “Mrs. Miniver,” the swashbuckling adventure “The Mark of Zorro” and the popular spaghetti Western “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Among the lesser-known films named to the registry are “The Jungle,” a hybrid documentary/dramatization made by a group of young African-American gang members; “A Study in Reds,” directed by amateur filmmaker Miriam Bennett; and Martin Brest’s student film “Hot Dogs for Gauguin.”

Annual selections to the registry are finalized by the Librarian after his review of hundreds of titles nominated by the public and extensive discussions with members of the National Film Preservation Board, as well as the Library’s motion-picture staff. The Librarian urges the public to make nominations for next year’s registry at the Film Board’s website (www.loc.gov/film/).

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library’s massive motion-picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion-picture studios and independent filmmakers. The Packard Campus is a state-of-the-art facility that acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings.

2009 National Film Registry

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Director Sidney Lumet balances suspense, violence and humor in Frank Pierson’s Oscar-winning adaptation of a true-life bank robbery turned media circus. Al Pacino is the engaging Sonny, a smart yet self-destructive Brooklyn tough guy whose plan to rob the local bank to pay for his lover’s sex change goes awry. Lumet artfully conducts his talented cast through machinations that twist and turn from the political to the personal, and inevitably lead to a downward spiral played out before an audience of millions.

The Exiles (1961)

Released nearly 48 years ago, “The Exiles” remains one of the few non-stereotypical films that honestly depict Native Americans. With the perspective of a true outsider, filmmaker Kent MacKenzie captures the raw essence of a group of 20-something Native Americans who left reservation life in the 1950s to live among the decayed Victorian mansions of Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill district. MacKenzie’s day-in-the-life narrative pieces together interviews that allow the people in his film to tell their own stories without ascribing artificial sentimentality.

Heroes All (1920)

The Red Cross Bureau of Pictures produced more than 100 films, including “Heroes All,” from 1917-1921, which are invaluable historical and visual records of the era with footage from World War I and its aftermath. “Heroes All” examines returning wounded WWI veterans and their treatment at Walter Reed Hospital, along with visits to iconic Washington, D.C., landmarks. Several Red Cross cinematographers achieved notable film careers, including Ernest Schoedsack and A. Farciot Edouart.

Hot Dogs for Gauguin (1972)

This hilarious New York University student film (with a cast including Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman in her film debut) was written and directed by Martin Brest who later went on to direct “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Scent of a Woman” and “Meet Joe Black.” In the film, DeVito plays a down-on-his-luck photographer determined to capture visual magic and fame. He concocts an intricate plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty and sets his camera to record the exact moment of its destruction.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

This sci-fi classic about a man who starts to shrink after being exposed to a strange cloud while on vacation is notable for its intelligent script and imaginative special effects. Jack Arnold’s sparse direction and Richard Matheson’s poignant script allow the tension to build naturally in a world where a house cat and common spider become the ultimate threat to existence and leave an indelible mark on the audience’s consciousness.

Jezebel (1938)

Bette Davis won her second Academy Award for this William Wyler-directed classic. Cast to perfection as a tempestuous southern belle, Davis’ head-strong heroine must eventually learn self-sacrifice in order to save the man she loves. Despite its melodramatic underpinnings, the film endures because of Davis’ flawless performance and for its examination of both the American South and women’s societal roles. The movie co-stars Henry Fonda and Fay Bainter, who also won an Oscar for her work.

The Jungle (1967)

With the guidance of Temple University social worker Harold Haskins, a group of African-American teenage boys in Philadelphia made this hybrid documentary/dramatization of their lives in the 12th and Oxford Street gang. Shot in an original and natural style, this 22-minute film was recognized with festival awards, but was never theatrically released. In 1968, Churchill Films distributed the film in 16mm for the educational market. The production led several of the gang members to earn high school and college degrees.

The Lead Shoes (1949)

“The Lead Shoes” is a dreamlike trance showing the unconscious acts of a disturbed mind through a distorted lens and other abstract visual techniques (such as reverse and stop motion). “Narrative succumbs to the comic devices of inconsequence and illogic,” said writer and independent filmmaker Sidney Peterson of his film. Peterson is considered the father of San Francisco avant-garde cinema.

Little Nemo (1911)

This classic work, a mix of live action and animation, was adapted from Winsor McCay’s famed 1905 comic strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland.” Its fluidity, graphics and story-telling was light years beyond other films made during that time. A seminal figure in both animation and comic art, McCay profoundly influenced many generations of future animators, including Walt Disney.

Mabel’s Blunder (1914)

Mabel Normand, who wrote, directed and starred in “Mabel’s Blunder,” was the most successful of the early silent screen comediennes. The film tells the tale of a young woman who is secretly engaged to the boss’ son. When a new employee catches the young man’s eye, a jealous Mabel dresses up as a chauffeur to spy on them, which leads to a series of mistaken identities. The film showcases Normand’s spontaneous and intuitive playfulness and her ability to be both romantically appealing and boisterously funny.

The Mark of Zorro (1940)

Under Rouben Mamoulian’s inventive direction, Tyrone Power plays Don Diego, son of a 19th-century Los Angeles governor who has been unseated by a mercenary despot and his sadistic captain, portrayed by Basil Rathbone. Convincingly foppish by day, Don Diego conceals his heroic alter-ego to avenge his father and the terrorized citizenry, carving his signature “Z” with his trusty sword as he goes. Mamoulian cleverly cuts in and out of scenes to heighten the drama and action as the film crescendos to a thrilling duel between Rathbone and Power.

Mrs. Miniver (1942)

This remarkably touching wartime melodrama pictorializes the classic British stiff upper lip and the courage of a middle-class English family (headed by Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon) amid the chaos of air raids and family loss. The film’s iconic tribute to the sacrifices on the home front, as movingly directed by William Wyler, did much to rally America’s support for its British allies. “Mrs. Miniver” won six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress.

The Muppet Movie (1979)

Muppet creators Jim Henson and Frank Oz immersed their characters into a well-crafted combination of musical comedy and fantasy adventure. Kermit the Frog leads TV series regulars Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Ralph and Animal on a road trip to Hollywood where they encounter numerous characters played by such actors as Steve Martin, Mel Brooks and Charles Durning.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Disdained as “Spaghetti Westerns” when they first appeared in American movie theaters, the best of these films, such as “Once Upon a Time in the West,” are now recognized as among the greatest achievements of the Western movie genre. Director Sergio Leone’s operatic visual homage to the American Western legend is a chilling tale of vengeance set against the backdrop of the coming of the railroad. Ennio Morricone’s magnificent score (especially the elegiac “Jill’s Theme”) is likewise recognized for its brilliance.

Pillow Talk (1959 )

The first film to co-star Doris Day and Rock Hudson, “Pillow Talk” remains one of the screen’s most definitive, influential and timeless romantic comedies. Sweet and sophisticated, it is a time capsule of 1950s America. Two single New Yorkers develop an anonymous, antagonistic relationship by sharing a telephone “party line.” Both romance and complications ensue when they finally meet in person. The film is a perfect showcase for its two charismatic stars, especially the effervescent Day who demonstrates why she was both America’s Sweetheart and one of cinema’s finest comediennes.

Precious Images (1986)

Chuck Workman’s legendary compilation film to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Directors Guild of America is also a dazzling celebration of the first near-century of American cinema. The pioneer of rapid-fire film history montages, “Precious Images” contains in the space of seven short minutes nearly 500 clips from classic films spanning the years 1903-1985. It became the most influential and widely shown short film in history. Workman is known for creating the montages shown during the annual Academy Awards broadcast.

Quasi at the Quackadero (1975)

“Quasi at the Quackadero” has earned the term “unique.” Once described as a “mixture of 1930s Van Beuren cartoons and 1960s R. Crumb comics with a dash of Sam Flax,” and a descendent of the “Depression-era funny animal cartoon,” Sally Cruikshank’s wildly imaginative tale of odd creatures visiting a psychedelic amusement park careens creatively from strange to truly wacky scenes. It became a favorite of the Midnight Movie circuit in the 1970s. Cruikshank later created animation sequences for “Sesame Street,” the 1986 film “Ruthless People” and the “Cartoon Land” sequence in the 1983 film “Twilight Zone: The Movie.”

The Red Book (1994)

Renowned experimental filmmaker and theater/installation artist Janie Geiser’s work is

known for its ambiguity, explorations of memory and emotional states and exceptional design. She describes “The Red Book” as “an elliptical, pictographic animated film that uses flat, painted figures and collage elements in both two and three dimensional settings to explore the realms of memory, language and identity from the point of view of a woman amnesiac.”

The Revenge of Pancho Villa (1930-36)

This extraordinary compilation film was made by the Padilla family in El Paso, Texas, from dozens of fact-based and fictional films about Pancho Villa. The films were stitched together with original bilingual title cards and dramatic reenactments of Villa’s assassination were added to the revised print. “The Revenge of Pancho Villa” provides stirring evidence of a vital Mexican-American film presence during the 1910-30s.

Scratch and Crow (1995)

Helen Hill’s student film was made at the California Institute of the Arts. Consistent with the short films she made from age 11 until her death at 36, this animated short work is filled with vivid color and a light sense of humor. It is also a poetic and spiritual homage to animals and the human soul.

Stark Love (1927)

A maverick production in both design and concept, “Stark Love” is a beautifully photographed mix of lyrical anthropology and action melodrama from director Karl Brown. “Man is absolute ruler. Woman is working slave.” Such are the rigid attitudes framing this tale of a country boy’s beliefs about chivalry that lead him to try to escape a brutal father with the girl he loves. “Stark Love,” cast exclusively with amateur actors and filmed entirely in the Great Smoky Mountains, is an illuminating portrayal of the Appalachian people.

The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)

William Wellman’s gritty portrayal of the realities of war was based on the newspaper columns of war correspondent Ernie Pyle, played with understated realism by Burgess Meredith. In the film, Pyle follows a small group of ordinary infantrymen from North Africa into Italy, and his observations reflect the full gamut of human emotion that war invokes while trying to make sense of the inhuman randomness of war’s destruction.

A Study in Reds (1932)

This polished amateur film by Miriam Bennett spoofs women’s clubs and the Soviet menace in the 1930s. While listening to a tedious lecture on the Soviet threat, Wisconsin Dells’ Tuesday Club members fall asleep and find themselves laboring in an all-women collective in Russia under the unflinching eye of the Soviet special police.

Thriller (1983)

The most famous music video of all time, “Thriller” caused such a buzz that it was also released theatrically in 35mm. As a follow-up to his smash 1982 album and single, Michael Jackson revolutionized the music industry with this lavish and expensive production. Acclaimed filmmaker John Landis (“Animal House” and “Blues Brothers”) directed and co-wrote the video.

Under Western Stars (1938)

“Under Western Stars” turned Roy Rogers into a movie star. In the film, Rogers plays a populist cowboy/congressman elected to champion for small ranchers’ water rights during the Dust Bowl. He and his golden palomino Trigger appeared in nearly 100 films and a long-running television series. Known as “King of the Cowboys,” the popular Rogers had an enormous impact on American audiences. Rogers was perceived as the almost perfect embodiment of what a cowboy should be in appearance, values, good manners and chivalrous behavior.

Dutch Legend: St. Nicholas and American Santa Claus


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Elisabeth Paling Funk will give a free lecture, entitled “From the Old World to the New: St. Nicholas in Dutch Legend and Celebration and the Birth of the American Santa Claus,” at the Historic Elmendorph Inn, North Broadway in Red Hook on Wednesday, December 16, at 7:30 pm; refreshments will be served after the lecture. The event is sponsored by the Egbert Benson Historical Society of Red Hook.

Elisabeth Paling Funk PhD attended the University of Amsterdam, received her BA in English, cum laude, from Manhattanville College and an MA and PhD from Fordham University. She is an independent scholar, editor, and translator.Her articles on Dutch-American and early American Literature have been published in the U.S. and the Netherlands. She is preparing her dissertation, “Washington Irving and His Dutch-American Heritage . . . ” for publication as a book. Dr. Funk is a former trustee of the New Netherland Institute.

Photo: Sinterklaas in the Netherlands in 2007.

Books: Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville


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Cultural historian and journalist David Freeland has published his latest book,Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan’s Lost Places of Leisure, a rediscovery of the historic remnants of New York City’s leisure culture, including bier gartens in the Bowery, music publishers on Tin Pan Alley, jazz clubs in Harlem, and other locations throughout the city that remain partially intact, but obscured by the city’s development.

From the lights that never go out on Broadway to its 24-hour subway system, New York City isn’t called “the city that never sleeps” for nothing. Both native New Yorkers and tourists have played hard in Gotham for centuries, lindy hopping in 1930s Harlem, voguing in 1980s Chelsea, and refueling at all-night diners and bars. The island is packed with places of leisure and entertainment, but Manhattan’s infamously fast pace of change means that many of these beautifully constructed and incredibly ornate buildings have disappeared, and with them a rich and ribald history.

David Freeland serves as a guide to uncover the skeletons of New York’s lost monuments to its nightlife. With an eye for architectural detail, Freeland opens doors, climbs onto rooftops, and gazes down alleyways to reveal several of the remaining hidden gems of Manhattan’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century entertainment industry.

From the lights that never go out on Broadway to its 24-hour subway system, New York City isn’t called “the city that never sleeps” for nothing. Both native New Yorkers and tourists have played hard in Gotham for centuries, lindy hopping in 1930s Harlem, voguing in 1980s Chelsea, and refueling at all-night diners and bars. The slim island at the mouth of the Hudson River is packed with places of leisure and entertainment, but Manhattan’s infamously fast pace of change means that many of these beautifully constructed and incredibly ornate buildings have disappeared, and with them a rich and ribald history.

Yet with David Freeland as a guide, it’s possible to uncover skeletons of New York’s lost monuments to its nightlife. With a keen eye for architectural detail, Freeland opens doors, climbs onto rooftops, and gazes down alleyways to reveal several of the remaining hidden gems of Manhattan’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century entertainment industry.

From the Atlantic Garden German beer hall in present-day Chinatown to the city’s first motion picture studio—Union Square’s American Mutoscope and Biograph Company—to the Lincoln Theater in Harlem, Freeland situates each building within its historical and social context, bringing to life an old New York that took its diversions seriously.

Freeland reminds us that the buildings that serve as architectural guideposts to yesteryear’s recreations cannot be re-created—once destroyed they are gone forever. With condominiums and big box stores spreading over city blocks like wildfires, more and more of the Big Apple’s legendary houses of mirth are being lost.

Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Annex Opens Today


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Starting today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s New York Annex will open its doors for a preview; the Annex will open officially December 2nd. Daily News Music Critic Jim Farber had an interesting piece this past weekend that included an online sneak preview of the exhibits and some details about the new museum.

Occupying 25,000 square feet at 76 Mercer St. in SoHo, the Annex takes up one-fourth as much space as the Ohio-based museum, though the new outlet charges four dollars more for entry: $26, to Cleveland’s $22… Upon arriving, visitors receive high-end headsets, designed by Sennheiser, which blast songs keyed to wherever you stand. Position yourself in front of a Bob Gruen photo of Freddie Mercury, and a Queen song pours forth. Stand by Bruce Springsteen’s 1957 Chevy, and you hear car songs by the Boss.

Six distinct galleries make up the $9 million structure. They’re divided into categories, like “Roots & Influences,” which traces sounds that connect — say, Billie Holiday to Amy Winehouse. Another more loosely defined gallery calls itself “Moments to Movements” and features things like Madonna’s Gaultier bustier. Naturally, there’s a significant “Guitar Hero” section, complete with Jimi Hendrix’s fading, handwritten lyrics to “Purple Haze” and Angus Young’s crushed- velvet schoolboy suit. A “Poets” section contains some of the Annex’s rarest artifacts, including a never-before-heard 1961 recording of Bob Dylan
playing a private show in the Village.

To suit its setting, the Annex devotes major space to New York rock. Besides the CBGB installation, it boasts wigs sported by Debbie Harry and turntables used by Grandmaster Flash. A handbill from the Fillmore East advertises a show any classic-rock fan would kill to have seen: Traffic, Fairport Convention and Mott the Hoople playing the East Village venue in June 1970.

Highlighting the New York section is a 26-foot scale model of Manhattan. It’s lit up in 24 places that mark key locations in rock history, ranging from the site of the Mudd Club to the St. Marks Place building pictured on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti.” Touchscreens tell the history of each site.

Special exhibits will rotate every six months. This first will be about the British Punk group The Clash.

If you sign up at rockannex.com you’ll have an opportunity to win tickets to a private preview night on December 1st.

A Week of New York Disasters


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This past week marks the anniversaries of quite a series of transportation disasters in New York History. Three of them have reached the media: the 1893 sinking of the Rachel in Lake George; the 1945 crash of a B-25 Mitchell bomber into the Empire State Building; and the crash of American Airlines Flight 1 into New York City’s Jamaica Bay in 1962.

The Schenectady Gazette has the story of the Rachel, which sank on Lake George killing ten (coincidently, the week also marks the anniversary of another Lake George sinking, that of the John Jay on July 30, 1856). On the night of August 3, 1893 the steamer Rachel was chartered by twenty nine guests of the Fourteen Mile Island Hotel to take them to a dance at the Hundred Island House.

The usual captain fell ill and went home early leaving the boat in the hands of a less experienced pilot. Under little or no moon light as the pilot steered unknowingly out of the channel and struck an old dock south of the hotel tearing a large hole in the side of the boat below the water line. Some of the passengers were caught on the shade deck and died quickly as the boat listed and almost immediately sank in 18 feet of water. “The shrieking, struggling passengers battled for life in the darkness,” one newspaper reported. With only her smokestack left above water, a number of men from shore had rowed boats from the two nearby hotels to the scene to rescue the survivors. A young man named Benedict, an excellent swimmer, dove for his sister Bertha but couldn’t find her. Nineteen-year-old Frank C. Mitchell, of Burlington, drowned while trying to save his mother who also drowned. Eight other women also drowned.

The 1962 American Airlines Flight 1 into Jamaica Bay was featured on last night episode of “Mad Men.” The series follows the lives of early 1960s Madison Avenue ad executives. If you haven’t seen it, you should, it’s an interesting portrayal of 1950s / 1960s consumerism – a time when people still smoked on TV. The storyline involves the ad guys dropping the small New York based regional airline Mohawk Airlines in an attempt to lure American Airlines in the aftermath of the crash. Mohawk had it’s own aviation disaster in 1969 when its Flight 411, a twin prop-jet commuter plane (a Fairchild-Hiller 227, a.k.a. Fokker F-27) flying from La Guardia Airport to Glens Falls in Warren County crashes at Lake George killing all 14 onboard.

The New York Times “City Room” has blogged the Flight 1 story extensively:

The real-life crash, which took place only five years after Pan Am became the first carrier to fly the 707, claimed the largest number of lives of any commercial aviation accident in the United States at that time [95]. (In the worst-ever plane crash on American soil, an American Airlines DC-10 crashed shortly after takeoff at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on May 25, 1979, killing 273.)

The third New York disaster in the media this week comes from National Public Radio (NPR) which reported last week on the crash of a B-25 Mitchell bomber into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building (it swerved to just miss the Chrysler Building). The plane had been trying to make LaGuardia Airport in a very heavy fog. According to the blog History’s Mysteries:

Upon impact, the plane’s jet fuel exploded, filling the interior of the building with flames all the way down to the 75th floor and sending flames out of the hole the plane had ripped open in the building’s side. One engine from the plane went straight through the building and landed in a penthouse apartment across the street. Other plane parts ended up embedded in and on top of nearby buildings. The other engine snapped an elevator cable while at least one woman was riding in the elevator car. The emergency auto brake saved the woman from crashing to the bottom, but the engine fell down the shaft and landed on top of it. Quick-thinking rescuers pulled the woman from the elevator, saving her life.

NPR’s report (they also featured the Empire State building in their “Present at The Creation” series) includes audio of the actual crash and interviews with some of the survivors.

What a week – I’ve blogged before about disasters in the Adirondacks here.

Historic Central Park Concert Numbers Questioned


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The historical memory of recent Central Park concerts has been called into question in a recent New York Times article. Apparently the great concerts of central park weren’t so great after all, at least in terms of attendence numbers.

Here is an official history of attendance at great public gatherings in Central Park: James Taylor played in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow in the summer of 1979, and officials announced that 250,000 people came. A year later, Elton John performed on the Great Lawn, and the authorities said he drew 300,000 people. Then Simon and Garfunkel performed in September 1981, and city officials and organizers reported that 400,000 people had packed into the park. Ten years later, it was announced that Paul Simon drew 600,000. The biggest concert of all, it seems, was by Garth Brooks, on Aug. 7, 1997, at the North Meadow, with a reported attendance of 750,000 people.

This month’s Bon Jovi concert was actually counted and seems to have put serious doubt in these numbers.

Bon Jovi played on the Great Lawn, and the city’s official head count came to 48,538 people — a number tallied by parks workers with clickers at the entryways to the lawn. This total includes only the people admitted to the 13-acre oval that makes up the Great Lawn, and not any of those gathered in the walkways and swaths of ground to the east and west of the lawn.

Still, the Bon Jovi crowd was a fraction of the colossal throngs that are part of the city’s collective mythic memory. If fewer than 50,000 people were able to fill the oval, how could a half million more people get anywhere near the Paul Simon concert held in the same space?

Apparently, they didn’t. Former city parks administrator Doug Blonsky explained the previous numbers like this: “You would get in a room with the producer, with a police official, and a person from parks, and someone would say, ‘What does it look like to you?’ The producer would say, ‘I need it to be higher than the last one.’ That’s the kind of science that went into it.”

The record corrected?

Treasure Trove of Vinyl Heads to Syracuse


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The New York Times is reporting that some quarter-of-a-million 78 records (one of the worlds largest collections of 78s) from the New York City vintage gramophone record shop Records Revisited will be headed to Syracuse University’s Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive:

Records Revisited was packed floor-to-ceiling with discs of a vintage and variety that drew a steady stream of record buffs to 34 West 33rd Street. The shop, more like an archive than a store, held approximately 60 tons of swing, big band jazz and other styles on vinyl, forming one of the largest collections of 78s in the world.

The shop has been closed since Mr. Savada’s death in February. Last Thursday, his son, Elias Savada, was poring over a cardboard box, one of 1,300 being filled with records and put on waiting trucks. The collection will be sent to Syracuse University’s Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive, which will now have the second-largest collection of 78s in the United States, after the Library of Congress, university officials said…

The Syracuse University archivists couldn’t be more pleased with the obscure records arriving in numbered boxes. Not only is there a huge swing collection, but also recordings of country, blues, gospel, polka, folk and Broadway tunes. Suzanne Thorin, the university’s dean of libraries, said the truckloads of Mr. Savada’s records — at least, the tiny percentage sampled so far — has revealed fascinating auditory treasures, including Carl Sandburg reading his own poetry while accompanying himself on the guitar, and Hazel Scott, the pianist and singer. There are also many rare recordings preserved only on V-Disc records produced for American military personnel overseas in the 1940s.