New year, new adventures

Ok! So the holidays are over. Hopefully, so is the stress of finding the perfect gift for each one you love (and even for those you don’t love!). There’s also the seasonal depression (keep all those bright lights on), the money concerns and so on. So how about a good movie? I saw an absorbing adult one. Unfortunately, (and as usual) Bayonne’s Frank Theater is not showing the film I have in mind – perhaps because it doesn’t have any car chases, no shoot ‘em ups or special effects. Do I sound sarcastic? Perhaps, but it annoys me to have to travel to see the kind of movies that are worth seeing.
For “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” I went to the Rye Ridge Cinema in Rye Brook, N.Y. Since I was visiting my wide-awake family in that area, it worked out easily for me. “Pippa Lee” is based on a book by Rebecca Miller, who also wrote and directed the film (playwright Arthur Miller’s daughter – must be in the genes!). The story is a multi-layered one. Pippa Lee, the young wife of a much older publisher, reflects on the various women she’s been before her current perfect-spouse personality. The tale is an off-kilter one, showing that the “perfect life” can hide the many dramatic, decadent and desperate lives that came before. Nothing goes as expected and that’s what held my interest. I couldn’t predict the highly satisfactory twists and surprises.
The big lineup of stars play their parts brilliantly, and that includes Robin Wright Penn, Alan Arkin, Julianne Moore, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder – whew! An unexpected surprise was Blake Lively, who you might know from TV’s “Gossip Girl.” She clearly holds her own along with the seasoned stars.
If you can find “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” and if you have 93 minutes to spare, I think you’ll find it well-worth viewing.
You know the old joke: how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Answer: Practice, practice! Well, my practicing – piano that is – didn’t have anything to do with my getting to Carnegie Hall (I wish!). No, my Dears, I was simply part of the happy audience on a cool Friday evening where the music was hot. The New York Pops Orchestra was vigorously and playfully celebrating the centennial of the songwriter, Johnny Mercer.
If you don’t know who Johnny Mercer is, it’s almost impossible to go a day without hearing one of his 1,500 songs. How about “Moon River,” “Blues in the Night,” “Autumn Leaves,” and on and on. At the Carnegie Hall celebration, the singing guests included Ann Hampton Callaway, a pop-blues wailer. A highlight for me came when Michael Feinstein made a surprise appearance, singing “Something’s Gotta’ Give.” The singer/pianist, a small man, took over the huge Carnegie Hall stage. He owned it and I was delighted at his unexcpected and unannounced appearance.
The evening’s show was titled “Too Marvelous For Words: Celebrating Johnny Mercer,” and what a celebration! The show’s cuteness factor was provided by Camp Broadway Kids, a 100-voice children’s chorus ranging in age 10 to 17. In bright, colorful costumes, they sang and danced in a Radio City Music Hall style (Rockettes, watch and – here they come!). It was hard for me to sit still. I felt like running on stage to join their routines. (Yes, I still think I can dance!). Thanks to the famous Benny Goodman concert in 1938, Carnegie Hall opened up to jazz in addition to being a bastion of musical property. Right on!
Have you discovered the World Financial Center yet? It is much more than the world headquarters for many prestigious international corporations. My favorite haunt is the dramatic glass-enclosed Winter Garden. I try to get there once a week. Just let me know if you’d like to join me.
Only one year after 9/11, it was able to reopen. An impressive reconstruction effort (and I watched it each week) replaced 60,000 square feet at tri-color Italian marble, 2,000 glass panes and, get this, 16 43-foot tall Washington palm trees – yes, palm trees inside the Winter Garden. Lucky me, I’ve been to many free music and dance performances, exhibitions and festivals there.
The Arts + Events Program is a large, free public arts program, the largest on the East Coast. There’s an outdoor water front esplanade offering spectacular views of the Hudson River – including the front of the Statue of Liberty (we, in Jersey, see the back!). There’s also access to dozens of parks and public gardens beautifully tended to. And here’s even more. I counted 26 shops and services including my daughter, Jodie’s favorite, Ann Taylor, my daughter-in-law’s favorite, Banana Republic, and my favorite, the Gap. Also there are 20 restaurants and cafes. I have three favorites: Columbus Bakery, Southwest N.Y. Salad Bar and Av Mandarin.
How does one get to the Winter Garden from Bayonne? I can only tell you how I get there. No. 10 bus from Bayonne to the Path, off at the WTC, and then a short walk (good exercise), to a different world filled with youth and energy. It’s worth the trip. The actual address is 220 Vesey Street, Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. For more specifics: Oh yes, all events taking place in the Winter Garden are free, no tickets required.
Boo hoo! It’s hard for me to believe that the dazzling, glittery Tavern on the Green is no more. The landmark restaurant filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors on Dec. 31. As a young married, it was “our place” to celebrate the big events in our lives by going to its glassed-in spectacularly decorated Crystal Room for a premier dining experience. In the summer from May through September, the fantasy-like, exquisite gardens became New York’s only outdoor nightclub.
On “Bank Night,” we would swing to the tunes of a live band – and no cover charge! At the Tavern on the Green, we would go to any of its six spectacular dining rooms. The Chestnut Room featured cabaret night, a musical showcase. Oh yes – the Tavern even had a store with an assortment of clothes, handbags (I purchased one – don’t know where it is now), chocolate gift sets – you name it.
The legendary, very charismatic, canny Warner Leroy filled the restaurant with sui generis collection: silver candelabras, gilded copper weathervanes, a baby grand piano (whose ivories were once tickled by Eddy Duchin), a three-foot-tall carved monkey, murals, exterior topiaries, and much more beautiful pieces of art. The Tavern’s boss created a romantic setting. Le Roy is said to have spent “10 million in renovations in 1976.
Fast forward to today, and The Tavern on the Green, along with so many others, has hit the tough times. Some 400 employees face an uncertain future. Where can they get a job in this economy? Outrageous fantasy is out, beige is in. So-o, it stands repeating – boo hoo!
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