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At the Grolier Club

One of the advantages of living in the city is the opportunity to temporarily live out of your league. A perch at the poshest cocktail lounge brings an hour of the good life at perhaps $25 per drink.

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Posted in Books, Grade "A" Fancy, New York

A night at the movies

The movie business was big in 1929. So big the Loew's Theatre chain built five new 'Wonder Theatres' in the NYC area, temples to entertainment of a scale and befitting the industry's success.

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Posted in Grade "A" Fancy, New York, USA

At the Boom Boom Room


The 1990s-looking lobby of the Standard Hotel gives little indication of the exquisite golden den on the 18th floor, which has some of the most spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline.

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Posted in Bars, New York, Sheila Burgel, USA

From our friends in New York: A step up in advertising

In their final posting, our New York correspondents Jon Hammer and Karen McBurnie celebrate an overlooked aspect of the adman's art.

Sometimes the most humble doorway offers an opportunity for time travel. Walking crosstown between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in New York City’s Diamond District we did a double-take when we spotted these classic examples of an advertising form from the past. Reading up the stairs is a tenant directory in grab-ya primary colors, stark sans serif type font and no-nonsense brevity. Of course we live in an age where every square inch of available space can and will be used for hawking some sort of commercial enterprise. The surprise is that this type of signage, once ubiquitous midtown, has all but died out except in these blocks of 46th and 47th Streets.

While the workaday well-trodden stairs are picturesque, it’s encouraging to find fresh examples of step ads making a comeback around town. (Nyaaah, we do like some new stuff.) Most prominent is at Lincoln Center.At Josie Robertson Plaza, the point-of-entry fronting Columbus Avenue, the zippy LED-light steps are programmed to welcome visitors in several languages, and elegantly trumpet the events of the day.
 
Next we noticed that Bloomingdale’s, a 1930s art deco department store hidden under ‘70s glitz and fashion hubbub, has tech-ed up the joint. A stairway to the mezzanine contains illuminated messages urging you to take advantage of telephone charging facilities -- a useful service and a shrewd way to keep potential customers on premises. 
 
Step ads call to mind the classic Burma Shave billboard advertising of the early 20th century when the brushless shaving cream company entertained automobile travelers with serial billboards featuring roadside poetry like this:
 
He Played
A Sax
Had no B.O.
But his whiskers scratched
So she let him go.
Burma-Shave
 
Nothing so clever today, but still we are cheered to see a current example in the subway caves, a reminder of scuzzy, scary old NYC.

Read more of Jon and Karen's tales of New York at their Grade "A" Fancy site, and don’t forget to pick up the map they did with us Truly Greenwich Village.
Above: Bloomingdales; below: Lincoln Center

Posted in Advertising, Grade "A" Fancy, New York

From our friends in New York: Christmas in Fool's Paradise

This is the season for tradition. Whether it is unwrapping our favorite ornaments or having the same screaming fight with the relatives we had last year, there is comfort in the many little rituals that make up the holiday. We think the best traditions are the ones you create. A thrifted 1960s felt reindeer named Twiglana, singing along with Yak Shaving Day from Ren & Stimpy’s Crock O’ Christmas, or that cookie recipe Mom culled from The Pocket Cook Book  paperback; it wouldn’t be Christmas at our house without them. Likewise, spending time with our friends is at least as important at this time of year as catching up with family.  

 Our Christmas Eve is spent in Manhattan and includes a Japanese meal, a stroll through the avenues strikingly hushed of traffic and din yet buoyant with tourists and die-hard New Yorkers in festive spirits, and topped with a nightcap at a ritzy hotel bar that is decked out in eye-popping holiday tinsel.

But our favourite celebration of all is the annual radio Christmas party hosted by the one and only Rex Doane on his Fool’s Paradise program. That means schlepping out to Jersey City, NJ to the mighty WFMU studios. WFMU is listener-sponsored freeform radio at its finest. From the deejays to the support staff, the station is a labour of love for all involved. In Rex’s case, his devotion is focused on presenting the kookiest bop, slop and schlock, the oddest examples of rock'n’roll he can find, as long as it has been pressed on vinyl and spins at 45rpm. We like to say he’s the Keeper of the American Novelty Songbook, and that means we will be treated to a very extraordinary brand of Christmas music.      

Besides the crazy tunes, there are gifts to give and holiday treats to eat. (Both are fascinating for the listener at home). Another highlight is something we like to call Radio Bartender, in which your editors of Grade “A” Fancy mix up a new original cocktail, live on air, to honor the season. A Fool’s Paradise cocktail, as a matter of policy, requires no special-order syrups, no eye of newt-infused spirits, no eyedroppers or custom gadgets; all of this stuff is available at your grocer’s, and from the local spirits emporium. This year’s concoction is called O Tavern Bound.  It’s a comforting seasonal potion, a little spicy, a little fruity, and deeply boozy. Here's to us all! Drink up every one.  

WFMU is available on your radio dial at 91.1 fm in New York, at 90.1 fm in the Hudson Valley. If you are not in the tri-state area you can listen in real time via the World Wide Web, or sample an archived show any time, any season.  

Season's ho-ho, Jon & Karen

Posted in New York

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