Comments: Week of January 31, 2011

1. The “Greatest New York Ever” issue (January 17–24) was designed to thoughtfully provoke, and it did. “I got so absorbed in this discussion that at one point I gave my computer screen the finger over one panelist’s opinion,” declared an commenter about the roundtable to determine the greatest musical ever, getting in the spirit of things. Theater geeks being who they are, the discussion of the discussion was sharply opinionated. While many offered specific verdicts—“Caroline, or Change was terrible. Hands down the worst Broadway musical I’ve ever seen”; Porgy and Bess stands alone … as the greatest work ever achieved for the musical stage”—others had diagnostic takes on the panelists themselves (Nora Ephron, Frank Rich, Jonathan Tunick, George C. Wolfe, and Jesse Green). “I find it interesting that panelists were so unsuspicious of sentimentality: their own, and the sort found in so many musicals,” wrote one. “Where was the young person in this discussion? Everyone swapping opinions seems to be born in 1800!” noted another. “How about some real credit to Rent or Next to Normal? (Pulitzer, anyone?) And to completely skip over Floyd Collins and The Light in the Piazza is just a shame. Zero mention of Ragtime or Spring Awakening or The Lion King, which all broke considerable ground. Yes, the Golden Age musicals laid the groundwork, but let’s pay some attention to the musicals that have built up and up and up from where it all began!”

2. Several commenters on the “Greatest Building Ever” roundtable (Grand Central Terminal was the conclusion) ganged up on one panelist, architect Bernard Tschumi, who designed the blue-tinted condo tower on the Lower East Side. “Tschumi is such a phony. Can’t believe the panel had to stroke his ego and mention his Blue Building. What an eyesore. One of the ugliest buildings in NYC, and that’s saying a lot,” griped one. His aesthetic opposite on the panel, context-minded Robert A.M. Stern, was lauded as being “just so right about everything in so little words” by one commenter. Another praised Stern’s concept that buildings should be “good citizens,” using it to draw a larger conclusion about civic life: “When buildings present confrontation and an assault on the neighborhood (the new Cooper Union building, the New Museum, etc.), this only encourages individuals to take on a similar stance. Architecture should encourage harmony, not conflict.” Of course, not everyone agrees on how the city, or its citizens, should behave. “I love the Blue Building,” wrote one. “It has personality and edge!”

Photo: Allan Tannenbaum/Polaris

3. Deborah Genovese was surprised to see herself in a photo that ran, righ, illustrating the greatest nightclub doorman. Yes, it was Studio 54’s Marc Benecke, and the picture, if she remembers correctly, happened to be of the night he actually, for once, let her in. “I remember walking in, and the dance floor was tremendously crowded,” she says. She even managed to make it up to the D.J. booth. Today Genovese lives in New Rochelle, but at the time her life was clubs like the Loft in Manhattan and Pastels in Brooklyn. “And there was always a trip to the diner at the end of the night, at 5 or 6 a.m.” As for the guy in the photo with his arms around her? “I don’t remember his name,” she said. “Back then, everyone looked like John Travolta.”

The Greatest New York Art

Photo: © Estate of George Paul Thek/Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York

Jerry Saltz’s piece on the Greatest Artwork Ever (The Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum of Art) inspired many counter-nominees, both on the website as well as on Saltz’s Facebook page. “This is my favorite conversation that has been generated by JS’s writing so far. NYC imagined, revealed, unsealed, dreamt, perceived, painted,” summed up one commenter. Among the suggestions:

• “Paul Thek cityscapes painted on his East Village rooftop, he related colors/composition to Monet (but he spelled it mon-ey!).” (1)

Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

• “Thomas Struth’s photographs of Soho!” (2)

• “Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. He is also the artist who best showcased what New York is.” (3)

• “The Hotel Chelsea, as a whole.”

• “Though I’m tempted by Mondrian, I’m voting James Van Der Zee’s photographs.”

Photo: Robert Hashimoto/AFP/Getty Images

• “Warhol’s Ethel Scull 36 Times, while not his greatest, always seemed quintessential NYC to me. I feel like I’m there at that time, in the sixties.”

• “Radiator BuildingNight, New York,1927, by Georgia O’Keeffe.”

• “The Statue of Liberty. Granted it was not supposed to be about New York and was a gift from France. But we ‘grew into it.’ ”

Comments: Week of January 31, 2011