Hairspray — by which we mean the Broadway musical, which was inspired the Divine movie of the same name and in turn inspired the John Travolta movie of the same name — opened five years ago last night, and it's still going strong. (Stunt casting helps, sure — hello, Lance Bass! — but selling 101 percent of capacity, as it did last week, ain't bad.) A month before it opened, Susan Dominus previewed the show and essentially predicted a smash. "Everybody thought it was going to be the New York Times that would make it a hit," recalls Richard Kornberg, the veteran theater publicist who reps the show. "But when the New York Magazine put out this piece, that is the one article that put it through the top and sold Hairspray." To mark the anniversary, here's "Hairspray It On," from the July 22, 2002, issue of New York.
Hairspray It On [NYM]
If it feels like the city is falling apart around you, it may not just be your paranoia talking. Early yesterday afternoon a section of midtown sidewalk collapsed under two construction workers jackhammering it, sending them on a ten-foot fall into the hole underneath and leaving both at Bellevue Hospital in stable condition. With exploding steam pipes and "structurally deficient" bridges, what else can go wrong? Christopher Bonanos considered that question in this week's New York. Our advice: Be ready for blackout, and watch out for falling bricks.
The Old Town [NYM]
Two Hurt in Sidewalk Collapse [Newsday]
The lull of midsummer is already over, and new growths sprout everywhere. A young chef gives his first restaurant a go, a veteran gets his own place for the first time, and an established star gets a fresh start. We have restaurant openings, new and better lemonades, and even a baked squash blossom. Summer is starting to tire, but the food stays sharp.
Jay McCarroll, Project Runway's first-season winner and a major character in Jennifer Senior's "The Near-Fame Experience," the cover story in this week's New York, is not, it appears, happy with how he was portrayed in the piece, particularly with Senior's characterization of him as "still homeless in New York." Where did she get such an idea? Well, probably from this direct quote:
"I haven't been living anywhere for two years," he says. "I sleep at other people's houses. I sleep here [his sewing-machine- and fabric-filled studio] if I'm drunk."
And how do we know he's not happy about this? He's posted to YouTube at least six videos mocking the characterization, largely filled with him wandering lower Manhattan while repeatedly howling, "I'm homeless, I'm homeless," and "Will design for food." One version — we kid you not — is set to Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Women," which makes no sense contextually but at least blocks out the howling. It's the best one.
UPDATE: McCarroll heeds our advice, maybe? He's removed all the videos except the Crystal Waters version. Be thankful.
Jay McCarroll Homeless Crystal Waters Remix [YouTube via Radar]
The Near-Fame Experience [NYM]
So let’s say you somehow make it on to Top Chef or Project Runway, elbowing past the thousands of other rivals seeking to fertilize the egg of an upcoming reality-TV-show season. And let’s say you even win the contest, getting crowned Top Chef or No. 1 designer: Shouldn’t that be enough to launch a career? You would think it would be, but as Jennifer Senior’s article from this week’s issue reveals, it often isn’t — a fact we hope our own Top Chef non-winners, like our friends Joey and Lia, will remember as they return to the kitchens they knew before fame came calling.
The Near-Fame Experience [NYM]
Related: Joey, Latest ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner, on Why Rocco Is a Douche Bag‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner Lia on What Went Wrong
Between dodging trucks and potholes, risking robberies, working endless hours for slave wages in the rain and cold, and having to buy their own bikes and food, the city’s delivery workers have one of the rawest deals in all of New York City. But thanks to suits filed against Saigon Grill, Flor de Mayo, and several other restaurants around town, solidarity and an able use of the American legal system might turn things around. The takeaway quote from this week's piece by noted reporter and author Jennifer Gonnerman? “If we win this case, every restaurant is going to change.” Of course, there are no guarantees in any labor battle. Read on for the New York take.
The Deliverymen’s Uprising [NYM]
Related: Pols Come Out to Support Saigon Grill Workers; Delivery Service Still Suspended [Daily Intel]
It’s August, cheap-eats time, when you should be gobbling down raw artichokes, Cuban sandwiches, tapas, and pasta. It’s time to chill out, in other words. And that’s the idea behind this week’s food coverage.
When Stephen Rodrick profiled former senator Fred Thompson, also the incumbent New York County district attorney on Law & Order and an all-but- declared presidential candidate in real life, Rodrick took a look at Thompson's Senate papers, which the then-lapsed politician donated to the University of Tennessee in 2005. Among them was a good deal of his senatorial correspondence, both letters received and those sent. And there were some good ones. After the jump, highlights from a few of our favorites.
In a nutshell: In an effort to score political points by claiming his nemesis, Joe Bruno, was inappropriately using state resources (aircraft, cars, troopers) to travel to political events, Eliot Spitzer, or at least people working for Eliot Spitzer, inappropriately used state resources (the state police) to carry out their oppo research. A.G. Andrew Cuomo released a report yesterday saying so, and saying, incidentally, that Bruno hadn't actually done anything wrong. Spitzer indefinitely suspended one aide, transferred another out of the governor's office, and denied any knowledge of what they were up to; Republicans are skeptical he was really so oblivious. So much for being the White Knight, eh?
In last week's New York, Steve Fishman profiled the governor and examined his (many) feuds with other state officials, most notably Bruno. There's lots of fun foreshadowing.
The annual Cheap Eats issue arrives this week and represents, as usual, a massive compendium of low-end gastronomic wisdom. The Underground Gourmet round up some of the city’s very best cheap eats in the main section, but Adam Platt also weighs in on what passes for cheap in the city’s high-end places, some top chefs give their own picks, and three of the city’s greenmarket specialists vie to outdo each other not just in locavorism but also in “cheapavorism.” Add to that laser-focused profiles on burgers, barbecue, and Korean fried chicken, and you have a Cheap Eats supplement to put all others to shame.
For studios, the ideal trailer is one that reminds you of other movies you've seen and already laughed at. This was driven home to Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone, when they saw the initial trailer that Paramount cut together for Hot Rod, their upcoming comedy about a hapless wannabe stunt man.
Summer's end is already in sight: The All-Star Game is in the books, and another Fourth of July has passed without America being challenged by either the British or savage conquerors from another planet. All that remains are the most basic elements of summer eating: barbecue, ice cream, and fresh vegetables. And that happy trinity constitutes this week’s food section. Adam Platt finally finds barbecue happiness at Hill Country, so much so that the loquacious critic was reduced to declaring the ribs “really, really good.” Also on the subject of barbecue, Rob and Robin announce the debut of three more places, from a New Hampshire Yankee, a former boy-band star, and two ex–Blue Smoke cooks. The Robs also give the world their definitive list of the city’s top four ice-cream places (the best one rhymes with “Tom”). Finally, there's a conspicuously healthy recipe for zucchini with mint and scallions via the Slow Food haven Franny’s, in (where else?) Park Slope.
Thirty years ago tonight, the lights went out in New York City. Unlike the placid blackout of 2003, the 1977 blackout plunged a weary, wary city into inky mayhem. Fires burned in Bushwick. Looters tore into Crown Heights. A significant chunk of Broadway was ablaze. Damages went into the hundreds of millions. And no one got shot. In a special issue on the blackout published on August 1, 1977, New York's Thomas Plate wrote about what the cops did and didn't do that dark night. " [I]t is still somewhat reassuring to know that the NYPD's behavior during the blackout was far more thought out than Con Ed's." Considering what happened in Queens last summer, that is reassuring indeed.
Why The Cops Didn't Shoot [NYM (pdf)]
Though the Yankees eventually won the 1977 World Series, the title was not assured that summer. The team, one of the most racially mixed in franchise history, had the flash and character of the city. Reggie Jackson joined the Yankees that year, only to clash with manager Billy Martin and several teammates who regarded his ego as outsize and overbearing. But it was also when Jackson became "Mister October" and helped the Yankees beat the Dodgers four games to two. In a season preview published in New York in April 1977, Peter Bodo wrote: "[The Yankees] are in a number of ways the ball club of the future, given the increasing freedom demanded by the players, their increasing preoccupation with money, the increasingly frantic shuffling of talent by owners who need to make a winner to make a budget." Sounds like an accurate prediction to us. Except for the budget part.
Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio [NYM (pdf)]
The Summer of Sam was also the summer of a hotly contested Democratic mayoral primary. Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, and Bella Abzug were just a few of the politicians vying for the city crown amid all the chaos, and in a September 1977 issue of New York, Doug Ireland was disgusted with the whole process. "Surely this is the oddest Democratic primary in recent history. Seldom have the voters in our town had such a hopeless welter of nonissues thrown at them in a mayoral campaign," he wrote. "[I]n a city still reeling from a swelter summer of blackouts, looting, criminally high unemployment, and Son of Sam, most candidates are as afraid of the voters as the voters are of the muggers in the streets." Take a look at the whole article for a flashback to city politics, seventies style.
Democratic Dogfight: A Hopeless Welter of Nonissues [NYM (pdf)]
Earlier:Summer of Sam Revisited: ‘New York’ on the Search for Sam
Thirty years ago this summer was arguably the lowest point in New York's late-seventies bad years. The Bronx, as Howard Cosell informed the nation, was burning; July 13 brought an epic blackout; there was a heated Democratic primary for the mayoral race; Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin dramatically feuded en route to the Yanks' World Series win; and, mostly notably, a serial killer calling himself Son of Sam was terrorizing the city, with police seemingly unable to stop him. ESPN started its eight-episode The Bronx Is Burningminiseries about that season last night, the Daily News is running recollections of the year, and we thought we'd join in the fun with some classic New York features from that long, troubled summer. In our first installment, here's Robert Daley's August 22, 1977, cover story, "The Search for 'Sam': Why It Took So Long."The Search for 'Sam': Why It Took So Long [NYM (pdf)]