On a bright December Sunday, as the tour bus lurches in midtown traffic, Patti, the guide, as perky as an American Idol contestant, calls out, “Does anyone remember the nickname of the priest Samantha met at this church?” A busload of women who favor French manicures and knockoff Burberry scarves shout back in unison: “Friar Fuck!” as the Church of the Transfiguration passes on the right.
The Sex and the City bus tour is operated by On Location Tours (and not affiliated with HBO, Sarah Jessica Parker, or the unfortunate family in the West Village brownstone that doubled as Carrie Bradshaw’s house and that is stop No. 3 on the tour). It’s been running since 2001, but it’s never been more popular than since the show ended. “I think people came running because they thought the tour might soon be over,” said Georgette Blau, On Location’s founder. “Also, they’re depressed about the end of the show. This bus is like group therapy.”
But the women on the tour—and it’s nearly all women, save for a gay couple and a few compliant husbands—are hardly mournful; rather, the mood is part glee club, part Star Trek convention. As the bus crawls downtown, Patti points out various locations, all of which are made instantly more interesting once she’s tied them to the show. The Plaza, for example, is “where Big and Natasha had their engagement party”; Meet restaurant “is where, in the fifth season, Carrie waited for that blind date who never showed.” The group murmurs with recognition.
The West Village brownstone that served as Carrie’s home is the tour’s undisputed climax, like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. “Please don’t ring the doorbell,” Patti says as the passengers disembark. The tour group pools in a hushed crowd across the street from the house. They wait patiently, in pairs, to mount the building’s stairs, where they sit and smile while Patti snaps their photos. Walking back, Jocelyn, a thirtyish lawyer from Ottawa, says, “It looked bigger on TV.”
On the bus, Claire and Charlene, two young women from Scotland, huddle together in matching fur-trimmed parkas. When asked if they’re sad the show’s over, Claire says, “It’s not totally over. Back home, Samantha’s in an advert for Tetley tea. And, of course, Carrie’s with the Gap.” And, sure enough, a little while later, a city bus pulls alongside the tour bus—it looks just like the one in the Sex and the City opening, except the Carrie Bradshaw billboard’s been replaced by a Gap ad with Sarah Jessica Parker. Inside the tour bus, though, it’s like the show never ended. In fact, for some passengers, it hasn’t ended: A group from Austria has yet to see the finale, because it hasn’t aired there yet. “Don’t worry, we won’t spoil it,” announces Patti to the Austrians. “We won’t even mention it. We’ll pretend it never happened.”