March 31, 2014

The Original "Cliffhanger" Is 100 Years Old

My favorite NYC history blog, The Bowery Boys, had a great story this weekend on the 100th anniversary of the "cliffhanger". The term comes from the famous silent films series THE PERILS OF PAULINE, the first of which debuted 100 years ago this month. 

Even more fascinating is that the cliffs that Pauline hung off, which is where the term comes from, are the Palisades in NJ (pictured here). New Jersey and New York City is where the film industry began and thrived for a couple decades before migrating towards better weather (and cheaper real estate for growing studios) to the West Coast.

Also somewhat notable is exactly where Pauline's adventures took place. Before Gov. Christie made it famous for a traffic jam, Ft. Lee was the site of filming for the first of these serialized adventures in which a young girl with an inheritance is lured towards danger by a man seeking her money. Below is the original film in this series, available on YouTube.  

March 27, 2014

A Cinematic Clip Tour Of Dirty Old New York

Over at The EV Grieve, they've posted the fifth in a series of cinematic clip tours of New York from back in its less glamorous period. These were created by cinephile Jonathan Hertzberg, who is obsessed with the dirty old NYC of the late 60s, 1970s and 1980s. His latest 25 minute tour de grit is put together with a number of notable films (TAKING OF PELHAM 123, SUPERMAN, TAXI DRIVER) and some lesser known films, some of which even I couldn't guess (what is Barbra Streisand doing with a bunch of thugs cruising down the East River?!).

Some of the clips are classics, others curiosities, but the real interest is often the background or the location itself. There's one remarkable shot of 1970s Times Square that shows not only the old HoJo's (one of my favorite spots) but also a still-operating Horn & Hardart automat. And there is a great sequence of shots around the 8:00 minute mark of Jessica Lange and King Kong at the old World Trade Center, ending with Kong dead on the wide beach that used to abut the site made from the excavation of the twin towers and later developed into Battery Park City and the World Financial Center.

Make sure you stay 'til the end for an Oscar-like tribute to actors associated with NYC who are no longer with us.
Dirty Old New York aka Fun City, Part V from Jonathan Hertzberg on Vimeo.

March 24, 2014

New Doc Delves Into Mystery of Photographer Vivian Maier

Since first hearing about her in 2010, I've been fascinated with the mystery of now legendary urban photographer Vivan Maier. She was a mid-century professional nanny, living in NYC and then Chicago, who took nearly 100,000 photos that were all stashed away in a storage locker and never seen by anyone. The locker was auctioned off in 2007 and the man who bought it, John Maloof, started posting the pictures online (the one here is from her New York days), showing the world a remarkable body of work that drew comparisons to contemporary artists like Evans, Arbus, Weegee and even Cindy Sherman. 

Now Maloof, along with producer Charlie Siskel (Gene's nephew!), has made a documentary which looks at the curious story of the woman behind these remarkable photos. The movie, profiled in yesterday's TIMES, comes out this Friday that IFC Center and I can't wait to see it. The trailer is great, hinting at the revelations about her extremely private life from the children she cared for. 

March 21, 2014

RuPaul and John Waters Crack Wise and Talk Show Biz

When RuPaul is not busy encouraging and judging America's up and coming drag queens, he can be found driving celebrities around L.A. in his car and chatting with him.  "RuPaul Drives" is the latest in the mobile celebrity talkshow format that started with Jerry Seinfeld's web series. What makes this new show special is her guest, filmmaker John Waters. Waters consistently cracks Ru up and literally leaves her laughing with a NY POST headline that's a personal favorite of his. 

The best part of this though was a story which I had never heard before, about how John Waters got interested in "the biz". The answer? Howdy Doody. As an impressionable 10-year-old, he got to sit in the Peanut Gallery at a taping of the classic kids show at Rockefeller Center in the 1950s. He was fascinated by how fake the whole thing was and got instantly hooked on show biz. Who would have guess Howdy Doody inspired the genius behind PINK FLAMINGOES and FEMALE TROUBLE?

March 14, 2014

A New Roller Coaster For Coney On A Famous Film Site

Construction began this week on a brand new $10M roller coaster on the boardwalk in Coney Island. The Thunderbolt is the name of this all steel ride part of the new Luna Park which features inversions, loops and twists making it the first coaster to flip patrons at the seaside park since 1910. Built by the famed Italian firm Zamperla, the ride will rise 115 feet and then plunge cars at speeds of 80mph through the twists and turns of this new thriller.  

What's notable about the ride, though, is also its location. It's on the site of a kinder, gentler wooden coaster that was also called the Thunderbolt. That ride dated from Coney's early midcentury heyday and was shutdown in the 1970s but remained standing until Mayor Giuliani illegally knocked it down in the middle of the night. That Thunderbolt was famously featured in Woody Allen's classic ANNIE HALL as the childhood home of Alvy Singer, who family fictionally lived in the odd house that jammed under the corner of the ride. 

I was always fascinated by that house on my trips to Coney when I first arrived in NYC. The TIMES article says it was destroyed by fire but just the interior--from the outside it did look like a house someone could live in. Surely, once the ride shut down for the evening, you could get some shuteye but I imagine hanging out there during the day would have been close to the famous scene in Allen's film.  

March 6, 2014

Randy Rainbow Does John Travolta In New Video

The amazing Randy Rainbow has joined the pile-on re; John Travolta's infamous gaffe during Sunday's Oscars, but with inspried results. He has taken Idinia Menzel's nom de Oscar "Adele Dazeem" and smartly matched it to the song "La Vie Boheme" from RENT (in which she famously got her start) to create a musical mishmash of mispronounced celebrity names. It's like a musical version of the SLATE Travoltifier that went super-viral on Monday, giving that news site its most viewed story ever (nearly 4 million hits). Randy is one of my favorite online comedians and with this one, including a hilariously slowed down version of Travolta's clip, he has knocked it out of the park.

March 4, 2014

The Oscar Pizza Guy Gets His Tip

The biggest question post-Oscar, besides what Matthew McConaughey or John Travolta were thinking, was what happened to all that money Ellen collected for the pizza guy? 

Well, after a flurry of social media concern, the answer came yesterday during Ellen's post-Oscar show. The lucky guy Edgar Martirosyan sat down for a chat and Ellen presented him, not just with the $600 she collected from folks like Brad Pitt and Harvey Weinstein but also an additional $400 she threw in herself for a cool 1K. In addition to that, Ellen ordered countless boxes of pizza for her audience, which was surely another boon to his family-owned Big Mama's and Papa Pizza in Hollywood. 

I was curious about the outcome of this and couldn't find much on the interwebs. But leave it to MTV News who knows there audience (pizza!!!) to report the story. The interview with Martirosyan is pretty cute too as he reveals that Julia Roberts was his biggest movie crush and he got to hand her a slice. Some people were critical of the pizza bit taking up too much time on a ceremony that is always overlong, but I thought it was fun and (as Ellen mentions) quite practical as all those actresses were hungry, having starved themselves for weeks to fit into their dresses.