Jann Wenner, editor and publisher, Rolling Stone
When Rolling Stone decided to move our headquarters from San Francisco, we settled on 745 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of the Plaza, with a wraparound terrace overlooking Central Park. We were the first new thing to move into New York in years. Everyone was fleeing. Corporate headquarters were moving to Connecticut and Westchester. So we had a big party at the MoMA sculpture garden, and Mayor Beame gave us the key to the city. President Ford came by because Jack Ford was working for us. Jackie Onassis couldn’t have been more gracious in terms of having dinner parties for me and my wife, introducing us to people like Mike Nichols and Pete Hamill. The city was smaller then, and we all felt part of this generational renewal of spirit. Saturday Night Live was just getting started, and we all hung out together, operating almost in tandem. Norman Mailer had moved back to New York. We had Andy Warhol do a big portrait of Bella Abzug for the cover of our “Welcome to New York” issue, and a few months later got Tom Wolfe starting to imagine Bonfire of the Vanities. It was an era of parties, and a great time for drugs and alcohol. Elaine’s was thriving. We felt more than welcomed. New York loves ambitious people—eats them up.
Wynton Marsalis, musician
I lived in Harlem. There was a transit strike, so it was a long walk to Juilliard. I would walk alone. I didn’t really know anybody, and I was very young. I was trying to figure out what I was doing, and how to make enough money to do what I was doing.
Naomi Campbell, model
At 16 years old, I was summoned by Anna Wintour to work for American Vogue and was put on the British Airways Concorde. As we were leaving the airport I told the driver, “I want to go on the Graffiti Train.” I had seen The Warriors. All I’d ever seen of New York was the movies.
Christy Turlington and I were roommates in a loft on Centre Street. I remember the boat houses, the dances, watching the House of Extravaganza in clubs or on the West Side Highway, near where I used to shoot. And I especially loved the people beating drums in Central Park.
Albert Hammond Jr., musician
Getting a job at Kim’s Video was harder than joining a band. It was ridiculous: You had to know someone. But I had just moved from L.A., trying to get away from my friends who were slow and didn’t want to do anything but get fucked up. I finally met this guy name Aurelio from the band Calla, and one day he called and said, “Hey, there’s a position for you, do you want it?” I was like, “I’ve dropped off tons of résumés, now I can just get the job?”
It was only a month after living here that I met Julian Casablancas. His father had a modeling agency called Elite, and I walked in one day after recognizing his name on the door. We quickly moved into an apartment on 18th Street. We each had a bathroom, which was the reason why we got it (he’s a mess, I’m neat). When I met Julian, I told him I played guitar. He said, “That’s funny, we’re looking for a guitar player.” So I tried out, but what I didn’t know is that he had already decided I would be in the band.
We were really ambitious. It’s all Julian and I spoke about every night. We set a goal of playing shows within a year. At first, we didn’t go out anywhere cool—just Rudy’s, which was near the studio and had free hot dogs and $5 pitchers. But slowly we’d go to bars like Don Hill’s and Bar 13 to promote, handing out flyers with stuff from weird seventies soft-porn movies like Emmanuelle. They started to recognize us—“Oh, there’s the guys from the Strokes hanging out”—and as a group the five of us were a pretty striking image. We were really cocky. Not in a bad way, we just believed in ourselves and so we were always balls to the wall.
Tommy Tune, director and choreographer
I was 17 years old and got on the elevator at the Algonquin and there was the famous actress Anna May Wong. I went into my room starstruck. Then I lifted the window shade to look out and there was a brick wall. It was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen. In Texas, you have sky. Here, a brick wall!
Audra McDonald, actress
I had just turned 18, and I was getting ready to attend Juilliard. I came here with $300 and was living at the Narragansett, a residential hotel on 93rd and Broadway. Now, 93rd and Broadway in 1988 was a very interesting place to be. There were certain hours at the Narragansett that you just didn’t ride the elevator, because you wanted to live. That whole Friends thing with the naked guy across the way? We had one of those right across from us who would watch us and masturbate. A lot of the people in that building were drug addicts, but they took care of the Juilliard students, too. They were like, No, no, no, don’t go to that bodega. No, no, no, I’ll go get it.