Great Clubs You Wish You’d Been To Part One: Xenon NYC

Douglas Trumbull designed the space ship that featured in the main area, Studio 54 acolytes derogatorily referred to it as ‘Xerox’ and it was constructed in what was an old porn theatre, but when Xenon opened on a Wednesday in June 1978, it was filled by the consegnetti of the era including Peter Frampton, Tony Curtis, Paul Simon, Mariel Hemingway, Bob Evans, Liv Ullman, Polly Bergen, Tony Roberts, Ahmet Ertegun and Bob McAdoo.  It likely would have featured more celebrities at its opening if the owners hadn’t tipped off the press and had photographers waiting outside the door for their arrival.

Mariel Hemmingway on Opening Night June 1978 – Photo Stolen From Web

Located at 123rd West 43rd Street in Midtown, it was named for the word ‘Stranger’ in Greek, and was opened by Swiss / Italian restaurateur Peppo Vanini and concert promoter Howard Stein who had met at Studio 54 and realised that disco would be lucrative hustle for a further year or two at least.

Howard Stein Circa Late 1970sPhoto Stolen From Web

With silver walls, it’s mothership and a giant ‘X’ floating above the dance floor, the club also featured a mezzanine with “… seven ‘playpen’ areas, featuring electronic games and huge couches for lounging and watching the dancers and the various visual effects that descend from the ceiling, including a neon shooting gallery, three gigantic pinball machines and several Maypoles” as noted in a contemporary New York Times article.

Inside The ClubPhotos Stolen From Web

While its patrons popped ‘ludes or sniffed poppers and coke, tunes like Dancing in Outer Space by Atmosfear, Free Man by South Shore or I Don’t Want To Lose It by Bambu inflamed their senses. Future 1980s club hero Jellybean Benitez (who went on to be the main DJ for famed 1980s venue The Funhouse, was Madonna’s boyfriend and produced her break-out single Holiday), did his DJ apprenticeship here under the tutelage of Tony Smith.

Madonna & JellybeanPhoto Stolen From Web

Tony SmithPhoto Stolen From Web

According to famed night club photographer Bill Berstein, “They had these moving sets, backdrops that would [change] during the night,” he says. “Every half an hour, 45 minutes, you would look up and see a different room.” The club generally catered for a more upwardly mobile, straighter and whiter crowd than Studio 54, without being as white and working class as Bay Ridge’s 2001 Disco, made famous by 1977’s Saturday Night Fever.

BouncersPhotos Stolen From Web

Satisfied PatronPhotos Stolen From Web

Elton John, Andy Warhol, Jerry Hall, Unknown & Ahmet Ertgun Circa 1978 – Photo Stolen From Web

Divine and Grace JonesPhotos Stolen From Web

Various Good TimesPhotos Stolen From Web

Current Day Façade Circa 2015 – Screenshot By Author

During its time as a night club, it was featured in the surprisingly good 1981 Sylvester Stallone movie Nighthawks…

And in much the same way that Italian movies of the late 1970s and early 1980s tried to rip off all films emanating from Hollywood, they also tried to rip off New York nightclubs, creating their own version of Xenon in the early 1980s with demonstrably poor results.

 

When disco finally died an ignoble death in 1984, sadly so did Xenon. Howard Stein passed away in October 2007 at the age of 62, while Vanini died in 2012 after complications of Parkinsons disease. John F. Kennedy Jr., who wa a frequent visitor to Xenon in the early 1980s was noted in Jerry Oppenhemer’s book RFK Jr, as being “…truly saddened when he heard [Vanini], his ‘disco daddy’ had passed…

As undoubtedly many others were too. Were you there? Any recollections would be most welcome.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Great Homes You Wish You’d Visited Part Two: 625 Palisades Beach Road, Santa Monica, CA

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Right on Pacific Highway One facing the beach is a Mediterranean inspired home originally built in 1926 for Louis B Mayer. Mayer was the famous chief of MGM studios at the time and not only engaged MGM studio carpenters and electricians to build the building, but also conjured up the idea for the academy awards in the dining room whilst drinking there with some pals.

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Rear of 625 Palisades Road – Photo stolen from web

Built in only 6 weeks due to the use of floodlights and round the clock work schedules, the property was used by Mayer to entertain Hollywood types, including hosting Judy Garland’s birthday party there in 1939.

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Mickey Rooney Being Thown Off The Diving Board At Judy Garlands’ 1939 Birthday Party – Photo stolen from web

Following the initiation of divorce proceedings in 1944, Louis B decided to move out and the home was eventually sold to actor Peter Lawford, a member of Frank Sinatra’s ‘rat pack’ and a former MGM contract actor. Lawford was married to John F Kennedy’s sister Patricia, and JFK would frequently visit the house…Usually for the purposes of banging various women there. Most notably Marilyn Monroe (to whom Lawford introduced J.F.K to), but also a wide variety of models, starlets and hookers his resourceful brother in law organised for his visits.

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Marilyn Monroe – Photos stolen from web

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Lawford & Kennedy (Likely) Planning An Orgy – Photo stolen from web

Howard Hughes, a staunch anti Kennedy advocate, reportedly engaged a private eye to listen in and watch the house in order to catch the Kennedy brothers in flagrante delicto. The investigator dutifully picked up the sensual sounds of Marilyn Monroe, recalling in an interview 1992, “I would have kept it quiet all my life. But all of a sudden, I’m looking at FBI files and CIA files with quotes from my investigators telling them about the work they did on my behalf. It’s stupid to sit here and deny that these things are true. Yes, we did have [Lawford’s house] wired. Yes, I did hear a tape of Jack Kennedy fucking Monroe. But I don’t want to get into the moans and groans of their relationship. They were having a sexual relationship — period.”

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R.F.K, Marilyn & J.F.K. / Marilyn & J.F.K. – Photos stolen from web

Monroe didn’t limit herself to only one brother whilst on the premises either. She also apparently did Robert Kennedy within the home’s walls as well. The property also hosted other friends and acquaintances of Lawford such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr.,  Judy Garland, Janet Leigh, Tony Curtis and Dean Martin.

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Lawford, Sinatra, Marilyn and Patricia Kennedy – Photo stolen from web

Lawford and Patricia divorced in 1966 and the property was subsequently leased. Abby Mann (who wrote Judgement at Nuremburg and created Kojak) lived in the property in the late 1960s, and in March 1974 John Lennon rented it, having decided to produce Harry Nilsson’s next album in Los Angeles. Nilsson apparently begged Lennon to produce this album during their ‘lost weekend’ outings and Lennon thinking the sessions would be shambolic, thought it prudent to house all the musicians under one roof for the duration of the recording to ensure they got to sessions on time.

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Harry Nilsson In The Studio / Lennon, May Pang & Nilsson – Photos stolen from web

For Nilsson and his album band (which included Keith Moon, Ringo Starr and Klaus Voorman), excess was the rule and they spent most of their time getting fucked up on brandy and cocaine. A letter penned by Lennon during these sessions to Phil Spector shows the level they were at. Lennon realising that as the producer he had to be responsible, and that the musicians (in this case Nilsson and Moon) weren’t.

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Letter From Lennon To Phil Spector Detailing The Destruction Of A Recrding Console By Urination – Photo stolen from web

Paul and Linda McCartney on a working holiday in California, took a taxi to Burbank Studios where they were recording and upon arrival exclaimed, “Fuck Me! Anyone left alive?” Three days later, Lennon invited the McCartneys to Palisades Beach Road and they jammed on a number of songs.

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Ringo & Paul McCartney Jamming March 1974 – Photos stolen from web

During this afternoon, several photos were taken of Paul and John which would sadly become their last ever taken together and the sessions themselves have added poignancy due to the fact that Nilsson destroyed his vocal cords whilst attempting to balance falsetto and poor lifestyle choices.

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John Lennon & Paul McCartney At 625 Palisades Road – Photo stolen from web

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Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney & John Lennon At 625 Palisades Road – Photo stolen from web

Most accounts state that Lennon took the master bedroom, noting that “…this is where they did it” in reference to J.F.K and Monroe as he did. Moon and Nilsson took other bedrooms, whilst Ringo made use of a converted library as a place to sleep.

A year later the property was sold, and in 1978 sold again, to its final owner who still holds onto it, undoubtedly aware of the providence and delighting in its historical occupants.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Dr Dre – The Day The Niggaz Took Over

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“There wasn’t no formula to doing that album. We just went in the studio, and whatever came out that day if it was the bomb, it went on the album”.

  • Dre talking about The Chronic on Yo MTV Raps Circa 1993

 

By far my favourite Dr Dre track, The Day The Niggaz Took Over, is indeed one of my favourite tunes of all time. I have conservatively listened to it well over two thousand times since its release in 1992, and like a dark version of Roy Ayers’ Everyone Loves The Sunshine, it just gets better and better with every spin.

Released in the wake of the 1992 LA Riots, overt venom and antagonism come to the fore. Kicking off with dialogue taken from Matthew McDaniel’s Birth of a Nation 4*29*1992, which documented the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict, it segues into what sounds like a high pitch pad synth sample from Assault on Precinct 13, an ascending bass loop and exhortations to “break ‘em off some”.

Love The Police

Love the Police. Photo Stolen From Web.

The main beat is sampled from Clarence Reid’s Living Together Is Keeping Us Apart (perhaps even as a joke by Dre), and the entire track employs a call and response motif. Whether it be Snoop’s hook of “I got my finger on the trigger, some niggaz wonder why, but livin’ in the city, it’s do or die”, or lines from Daz such as “Niggas start to loot and police start to shoot” or “And break the white man off something lovely, I don’t love them, so they can’t love me”. It has a beautiful symmetry about it where every line is balanced out by another and every note is equalised by a corresponding beat or two note scratch. Other samples are similarly used as symmetrical punctuation, like the one taken from Boogie Down Productions Love’s Gonna Get Cha (Material Love) which states “Got myself an Uzi and my brother a .9” to end the latter half of a hook.

Clarence Reid Album Cover BDP Material Love

Clarence Reid and BDP Source Material. Photos Stolen From Web.

There is a notable Rasta element to some of the track which seems to have been a vibe that Dre liked in the late 80s and very early 90s. It’s prominently featured on sections of 1991’s Efil4Zaggin, such as the proto G-Funk Alwayz Into Something and also on parts of D.O.C’s 1989 album No one Can Do It Better. In particular the latter’s opening track Ain’t Funky Enough where Dre apparently encouraged D.O.C to rap in a faux Rastafarian style… Something D.O.C. was against at the time, but reportedly did ‘cause he was drunk and wished to appease Dre.

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The D.O.C. Circa 1989. Photo Stolen From Web

On The Day The Niggaz Took Over, the doctor has evidently instructed Daz to fill this role and he adds a faux patois delivery to lines like, “They wonder where me bailing and don’t really understand. The reason why they take me life and me on hand. Me not out for peace and me not Rodney King. Me gun goes click, me gun goes bang…”

L.A Riot Graffitti Circa 1992. Photo Stolen From Web

The track was recorded at the now defunct Sound of Los Angles Studio (SOLAR) located at 1635 Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood which was located just off Hollywood Boulevard and only a few blocks from where the Academy Awards are held. Still operating as a studio, Solar Records never really got over the loss of Dre to Interscope prior to the release of The Chronic and it has been operated as a non-label affiliated studio since the early 1990s.

Solar Studios Exterior

SOLAR Studios. Screenshot by author.

Most material documenting Dre’s production techniques site the fact that he punches his lyrics. Never rapping verses, he would always get one line at a time right and go from there until the entire track was completed. Accordingly his diction is perfect and his delivery forceful yet deliberate which suits the subject material to a tee.

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Dre Recording The Chronic. Photos Stolen From Web

Never released as a single, it was subsequently used to soundtrack a prison riot in Oliver Stone’s 1994 love letter to tabloid media culture, Natural Born Killers and whilst many may – quite reasonably – argue with me, this is in my opinion, the best thing Dre ever made.

Therefore, I was surprised there was no video for it and I have assembled a shitty one of my own to compensate. In keeping with the raw, early 90s riot vibe, it’s terribly low quality footage and you can literally see almost every pixel in each frame. I have used material documenting the riots and footage of the rappers created at a time as close as possible to when the album was made. As always, this is done out of love and not profit, so please enjoy as the free fan-made material it is intended as.

At the time of writing there have recently been organised shootings of police officers committed by African Americans with an anti police agenda. Whether they were carried out in retaliation of too many ‘accidential’ black deaths at the hands of police, or as part of some as yet undefined pan-African revolution is not currently known, however should Charles Manson’s prophecies of Helter Skelter actually occur, this tune may again soundtrack an uprising of sorts.

Posted by Horatio Cornblower

P.S. We allowed YouTube to ‘stablize’ this video. Ironically, it has made it roll around like a ship lost at sea. Apologies for this and it’ll be amended as soon as is possible.

P.P.S Above is now a moot point as the video was blocked within about 10 minutes of uploading it. YouTube just ain’t what it used to be. $$$ grabbin’ bastards.

Culture Snappin’ USA – Part 4 – Dirty Harry (1971): Filming Locations

Northern California is known for many things… Hippies, Zinfandel wines, as the birthplace of both the Beats and the Black Panthers, tremendous scenic beauty, devastating earthquakes and the Symbionese Liberation Army. For me however, it’s Clint Eastwood’s domain, and synonymous with both the man and his fictional characters.

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The character that is traditionally most associated with Eastwood is of course, Dirty Harry. Starting life as a script entitled Dead Right. It was initially to feature Frank Sinatra and be directed by Sidney Pollack, however the script was eventually acquired by Warner Brothers, filtered to Eastwood and his Malpaso production group, who in turn hired Don Siegel to direct it. The film came in on a relatively low budget and under schedule and benefitted from Eastwood’s desire to do most of his own stunts, most notably the jump from a railway trestle bridge onto a speeding school bus.

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Eastwood Doing His Own Stunts – Photo Stolen From Web

Detailing the desperate attempt to bring to justice a maniacal sniper (played Andy Robinson), who is black mailing city authorities by killing successive victims unless a huge ransom is paid, in a similar manner to Death Wish (1974) (see https://theeasternterraces.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/culture-snappin-usa-part-3-death-wish-1974-filming-locations), the film shows that a responsible lone individual is a more effective instrument of law and order than the apparatus of the state, and the toll that maintaining such a thin blue line rests upon those weary and foolish enough to maintain its imprint.

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City Hall – Lower Photo & Diptych By Author

By modern standards, Dirty Harry may seem somewhat tame, however at the time of its release it garnered significant notoriety due to the fact that the cop played by Eastwood, fought violence with violence and played by his own rules. In the eyes of a wider public who were fed up with increasing crime, this made him a hero. In the eyes of certain critics – notably New York Times’ Pauline Kael – this made him a fascist, and at the 1971 Academy Awards there were protests outside the auditorium by left wing elements holding signs proclaiming ’Dirty Harry Is A Rotten Pig’.

Eastwood, not one to hold back on his opinions, responded to Kael’s criticism in a contemporary interview by commenting, “I’d say she’s crazy.”

Don Siegel when asked about the level of violence in the film said, “I dimly remember that at the end of Hamlet there are five bodies lying around, so that’s balderdash. This constantly plainted ditty against violence – if people didn’t want it, they wouldn’t go to the movies.”

Dirty Harry was a major success. It quickly out grossed all of Eastwood’s previous films and ushered in an era of Vigilante flicks such as Walking Tall (1972) and Death Wish (1974). If critics were divided, audiences weren’t. They stood in line in huge numbers to see Eastwood kick some ass.

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Washington Square Park – Lower Photo & Diptych By Author

It was the fourth collaboration between Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood. In their first project Coogan’s Bluff (1968), the two skilfully relocated Eastwood’s man with no name to an urban setting. Dirty Harry is an elaboration of that idea and character. He now has a back story of a dead wife who was lost in an accident and years of police work have hardened him and made him reckless to both himself and his partners. Callahan is not the superhero that he became in the subsequent sequels, and the ambivalence of the character often comes to the fore. Therefore early on, he approaches a robbery with his gun drawn and not taking cover, whilst later he climbs aboard a cherry picker without thinking to grab a jumper from a roof.

Robbery Shootout

Harry Callahan With a Chip On His Shoulder – Screenshot Stolen From Web

Andy Robinson is perfect as the antagonist. Originally rejected by Siegel due to the fact he looked angelic and attractive, it was later realised that the killer would be far more frightening if indeed he was the antithesis of a screen villain and he was cast accordingly. The choice was a wise one and Robinson essayed one of the most memorable screen villains of all time.  From doing a huge flip on the football field, ad-libbing the line “my that’s a big one” in response to Callahan’s 44., showing a neon Jesus sign who’s boss or letting out a scream that would put Fay Wray to shame, he is the incontestably the best screen crazy ever committed to celluloid. So much so, he apparently put himself out of work for about a decade or so, as people could not imagine him as anything else or were too frightened to work with him. He didn’t re-appear on the silver screen much again (1973’s Charley Varrick not withstanding) until the 1980s when he was cast as a police chief in Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra (1986) – coincidentally featuring  Dirty Harry’s Rene Santoni  – or against type as the most normal person in Clive Barker’s Hell Raiser (1987).

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Scorpio Screaming For America – Photo stolen from web

Huge props must also be given to the composer Lalo Schifrin who was on a streak in the late 1960s to early 1970s. A classically trained conductor from South America with a passion for jazz, Schifrin provided a number of seminal scores for Hollywood golden era movies such as Enter The Dragon (1973), Bullit (1968) and Cool Hand Luke (1967), whilst also finding time to provide the distinctive theme music for the Mission Impossible television series (1966). In Dirty Harry, Lalo showed the world the power of a hi-hat breakdown and conducted some of the best kick drum sounds ever recorded to wax.

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Lalo Schifrin – Photo stolen from web

Dirty Harry was filmed on location in San Francisco, with the only studio based scene being the opening bank robbery sequence which was shot on the Universal back lot. Siegel reportedly complained that the location shooting put enormous strain on him. One problem being that night sequence filming was usually limited to a few hours due to resident complaints that all the filming activity was keeping them awake.

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Don Siegel & Clint Eastwood On Set – Photo Stolen From Web

I visited these locations in early 2015, and as much possible, attempted to view them at a similar time of day to when they were filmed. Due to time constraints and my own fears however I visited Mt Davidson around 4pm in the afternoon rather than at night-time, as I had no wish to be solicited by Alice or his modern day contemporaries.

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The Cross – Photo By Author

Surprisingly, in our current CNN terrorist contrived environment, no one seemed to give a shit about what I was doing. I stood at the Marina around 12.30am filming the boats near a construction crew and no one asked me what I was up to.

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The Marina – Photo By Author

Similarly, I filmed the entrance to the Fort Mason Tunnel (which is now blocked off) in front of a Safeway – itself briefly featured in 1968’s Bullit – around 1am and no one seemed to care.

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The Tunnel – Photo By Author

At the other side of said tunnel, near the now defunct hamburger stand, my only competition for the space was a drop bear squirrel (which frankly scared the shit out of me when it fell from the top of the tunnel exit to my feet) and what I can now only assume was a drug dealer who sat in black Lexus with all his lights off, but engine quietly running at about 1:30am.

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Tunnel Exit & Hamburger Stand – Photos by Author

Interestingly, the marina and the tunnel are super close. It is demonstrative of Scorpio’s meanness that he asked Harry to go from the Marina, to Forest Hills Station and then back to Aquatic Park. The Marina, tunnel and hamburger stand are within extremely close proximity, and whilst Forest Hills Station and Mt Davidson are very close, they are nowhere near these locations

Speaking of which, special thanks must be given to the kind ticket master at Forest Hills Station. I walked in and said I was there only for Dirty Harry nostalgia and not a BART ticket, and he was awesome enough to let me though the gates, film what I needed and then let me out again. He even looked slightly perturbed when a homeless guy started accosting people (including me) near the turnstiles.

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Forest Hill Station – Photos By Author

The Alley that was the location for Hot Mary and her boyfriend, was only occupied by a Chinese Chef at 11pm when I filmed it.

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Hot Mary Alley – Photos by Author

Conversely the location at the corner of Turk and Polk Street where Harry convinces a jumper to come down, was absolutely loaded with crazy homeless people around 2am. I literally had to wait for the all clear before leaping out of my rented Mustang and taking the footage as quickly as possible while a basehead looking guy (reminiscent of Flava Flav’s lean years) repeatedly circled the block screaming ‘What time is it’ at the top of his lungs.

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Jumper Building – Photo By Author

Columbus Avenue is cool whatever time of day and North Beach in general was my favourite part of San Francisco. City Hall was no problem and the China Town / Downtown area where you can locate both the Hilton Hotel (where the opening death was filmed) and the building on 555 California Street (the vantage point from where Scorpio shoots this first victim) are easy enough to find.

Scorpio 555 Opening Shot

Scorpio’s View From 555 Building – Screenshot Stolen From Web

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Building Where Scorpio First Shoots From – Photo By Author

The thing is though, unlike the other locations, if it weren’t for the film, you wouldn’t want to go there. 555 and The Hilton are either downtown business city until 5pm, or absolute fucking freak show central after 8pm. Either way, I had to give them a pass.  I did visit the Hall of Justice featured briefly in the film, however as this was at approximately 4:45pm, I found myself unable to stop and was soon bundled onto a freeway that lead me out to Oakland. If you choose to visit, I suggest you do it between 11am and 3pm.

The results of my explorations my be seen in another shakily filmed clip below:

 

San Francisco, is a beautiful city for the most part, and two of my best times within its boundaries were sitting at the apex of the hill at Kearny Street (one street over from Romolo Place where Scorpio limps up after being busted by Harry at Roaring 20s). The view from here is fantastic, no one ever bothers you even late at night, and you have a great view of San Francisco, the Trans America Pyramid and its surrounds.

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My Favourite Place in San Francisco – Photo By Author

I’ll close this post in the same way I closed my Death Wish one… With some selected panels from the Mad Magazine satire of this movie published around 1971 or 1972. Again, I have to note that the writers and publishers of Mad Magazine were on totally on point in the 1960s, 1970s and up to the mid 1980s. One of the greatest streaks of modern publishing in this author’s opinion. To think that they were churning out stuff like this before video, DVD and digital downloads and just using studio stills or their memory to turn out hilarious parodies like this month after month. My proverbial hat is forever tipped in their direction.

Mad 1

Dirty Larry – Copyright E.C. Publications 1971

Mad 2

Dirty Larry – Copyright E.C. Publications 1971

Mad 3

Dirty Larry – Copyright E.C. Publications 1971

Mad 4

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Culture Snappin’ USA – Part 3 – Death Wish (1974): Filming Locations

“We were driving to Kennedy airport in 1973 to shoot the last scene of The Stone Killer, the third film we made together, when Charlie asked me what we should do next. I told him I had this script about a man whose wife and daughter are mugged and then the man goes out and shoots muggers. I mentioned that I’d had it for five years but no one seemed interested. Charlie said, ‘I’d like to do it.’ I said, ‘What, you mean you want to do this movie?’ And Charlie replied, ‘No, I’d like to shoot muggers”.

Michael Winner – Director of Death Wish

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Michael Winner’s 1974 film ‘Death Wish’ rarely sits upon any film guide’s top ten and yet it is one of the more referenced and controversial films of its era. Providing the same kind of view of the big apple that the Dirty Harry films had of San Francisco, the film shows muggers, hoods and rapists lurking around every corner and the thin blue line too powerless or apathetic to make any difference.

Enter one lone individual with a loaded gun and a sense of frontier justice and a franchise is born.

Following on from both the amazing Dirty Harry (1971) and the frankly pretty shit, Walking Tall (1973), Death Wish helped usher in a wave of vigilante films and was based upon Brian Garfield’s identically titled 1972 novel. Garfield reportedly having left a party on the upper west side of Manhattan (coincidently where Bronson’s character lives in the film), came back to find his car window broken and his coat stolen. Thinking to himself how he would’ve killed the perpetrator if he had caught him in the act, Garfield conjured the idea of a twisted avenger, an accountant no less, taking revenge on any scumbag that crosses his path in the wake of his wife’s murder.

Like the protagonist of First Blood by David Morrell, which was later turned into the first Rambo movie, this character was damaged and becomes increasingly more so though out the course of the story. The film’s main character Paul Kersey however, like the cinematic version of John Rambo, was seen as a hero at the time of the film’s release with his psychopathic actions ignored or downplayed. Echoes of the psychosis may be seen in Bronson’s stony faced performance, but whether by Winner’s design or Bronson’s lack of ability, they remain only that.

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Michael Winner & Charles Bronson On Set. Ronald Grant Archive

The book was purchased by a film production duo, who after commissioning several drafts, on sold it to the Italian movie magnate Dino de Laurentiis, who hired Michael Winner, who in turn cast Charles Bronson with whom he had previously worked. Filmed on location in New York City in January 1974, Bronson, as Vincent Carnaby memorably describes in his contemporary review, “…roams the night time streets of New York, which… are so filled with vandals, would-be muggers, rapists and the like that Charlie never goes home without scoring. On streets, in parks, on subway platforms, in subway cars. It’s like shooting ducks in a bird sanctuary”.

In the face of such criticism, producer de Laurentiis stated, “Violence is not typical of New York alone. All big cities are jungles. New York is a symbol of all the metropolitan areas of our planet”.

Certainly, along with the previously noted The Warriors (1979), Taxi Driver (1976), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Coogans Bluff (1968) and The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 (1974), this was a film that perversely made me want to visit New York City. An urban nightmare on the edge of insanity, an asphalt playground where anything went, New York seemed a million miles away from where I grew up watching it from the comfort of a VCR. Thankfully though, it was not like that when I visited and I was able to walk in Paul Kersey’s footsteps without fear of having to clock a mugger with a sock full of pennies.

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Charles Bronson And His Sock Full o’ Pennies. Screenshot by Author

As it was filmed in winter, many of the places I visited looked much the same 41 years later. The night before searching the locations, I watched a copy of the film from my base at the St James Hotel, itself featured in a number of films, notably Maniac (1980), Big (1987) and Cruising (1980).

St James Hotel

St James Hotel. Diptych by author

Over the course of the next afternoon/evening, I managed to find the D’ Agostino market featured prominently in the film, Kersey’s uptown apartment, the stone steps he walks down to shoot his first mugger (coincidently also used in The Warriors) and the midtown café where he lures two heist men to their doom. The café, although shuttered, still has the same neon sign it had in 1974, but midtown itself no longer has the scary vibe shown in Taxi Driver or Maniac. The closest thing I saw to crime was when some guy tried to sell me weed on the street.

Death Wish Credits

72nd Street Station. Diptych by author

Death Wish Apt Building1

Kerseys Building/ Sidewalk. Diptych by author

Death Wish Apt Building2

Kersey’s Building / Sidewalk. Diptych by author

Death Wish Service Entrance

Apartment Service Entrance. Diptych by author

Death Wish Steps

Riverside Park Steps. Diptych by author

Death Wish Bus Stop

Where Kersey Gets Off The Bus. Diptych by author

Death Wish_Subway

8th Avenue Subway. Diptych by author

The results of this exploration may be seen in another shakily filmed clip below. In my own defence, it was freezing when I shot this footage and every removal of my gloves almost resulted in frostbite.

 

Almost a decade later Winner resurrected Paul Kersey for the incredibly scuzzy Death Wish II (1982) and the so bad, it’s downright awesome, Death Wish III (1985). Indeed Death Wish III has to be seen to be believed. Its cardboard characters are so caricatured as to almost be rendered as a live action cartoon.

Speaking of which, the 1974 Mad Magazine satire of Death Wish is pretty funny and I’ll close out this post with some selected panels. New York based William Gaines & Co. were on a streak between 1965 and 1985 that no other publication has ever matched.

Mad Panels 1

Death Wishers – Copyright E.C. Publications 1974

Mad Panels 2

Death Wishers – Copyright E.C. Publications 1974

 

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Culture Snappin’ USA – Part 2 – The Warriors (1979): Filming Locations

Eastern Terraces_ The Warriors Logo

As previously posted in February, I took an opportunity to visit the United States earlier this year and whilst there indulged myself in tracking down the locations of some of my favourite twentieth century cultural moments in an attempt to match the present with the past. (See: https://theeasternterraces.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/culture-snappin-usa-part-one/)

One film above all others had long incited me to visit New York City… Walter Hill’s 1979 gang opus ‘The Warriors’.

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Wonderwheel and Bridge. Diptychs by author.

Having first seen it at the tender age of ten and some sixty times since, its power to entertain, thrill and delight me has certainly not diminished over the years. Scripted by Hill from Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel of the same name, the film elected to discard much of the social commentary and depressing reality of the original story to instead distil it down to the more photogenic tale of one gang crossing turfs in a bid to “make it back” home after being unfairly blamed for a rival gang leaders death.

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Conclave. Diptychs by author.

People have tipped their hats to it more times than anyone could likely remember in the thirty-five years since its release. From being extensively sampled in any number of electronic and hip hop tunes (such as Schoolly D’s Run or PWEI’s Can UDig It?), referenced (NWA’s 100 Miles & Running) or just plain ripped off in a slew of early 80s gang movies that tried to copy its flavour (such as 1990: The Bronx Warriors), the film has gone on to become enshrined in a certain segment of the world’s memory. Certainly, having been released at the beginning of what was expected to be a big gang film cycle in 1979, The Warriors has gone on to vastly outlive its progeny which included Boulevard Nights, The Wanders, Walk Proud and Defiance.

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Conclave Cops and 96th Street Station. Diptychs by author.

Walter Hill, like all great directors who have made a magnum opus, kind of shot his wad on this one. And after creating it, he sadly never did anything to equal it. In much the same way that Orson Welles struggled to follow Citizen Kane or Francis Ford Coppola dropped nothing but turkey’s after Apocalypse Now. Sure, he subsequently created some good flicks such as the prototype buddy comedy 48 Hours or the Vietnam War parable Southern Comfort, but this remains the high water mark from which his career receded rather than developed. Which is a shame, because earlier efforts such as the Charles Bronson vehicle Street Fighter and 1978’s The Driver, featuring somnambulist / actor Ryan O Neal showed great promise and were influential in their own right too. The inspiration of the latter being most obviously seen in Nicholas Winding Refen’s 2011 virtual homage Drive.

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Baseball Furies Chase. Diptychs by author.

The Warriors continually walks an interesting line between surrealism and reality. The Koch era big apple is portrayed as some kind of neon lit playground and the beautiful – if eerie – blinking lights of cityscape contrasted with the litter strewn streets and subway platforms. Similarly the use of real locations (primarily Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Coney Island), is juxtaposed with Sam Peckinpah style slow motion and fast cuts which creates a heightened tone which feels unique to the film.

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Baseball Furies Chase. Diptychs by author.

Upon its release, it was met with a mixed critical response and some violent incidents in the theatres in which it was shown. A shooting at a drive-in, brawls between actual gangs during showings and a fatal stabbing were just some of the stories reported. Whether the film itself was an incitement to violence, or more likely, actual gang members realised they were sitting across from their enemies in the aisles and chose to throw down, it nonetheless caused citizens groups to stage protests and ultimately forced distributor Paramount Pictures to pay for cinema security and tone down their advertising campaign.

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Baseball Furies Chase and Cyclone. Diptychs by author.

Having promised myself after my first viewing all those years ago, that one day I would soldier those same streets and see that Wonder Wheel close up, it was a happy (albeit incredibly cold) day when I finally managed to give it a shot. The results are in the shakily filmed video below.

P.S. Special thanks must be given to the Scouting New York blog (http://www.scoutingny.com/) which helped me to find many of these locations and which is an excellent blog in its own right.

P.P.S. I certainly did not sign up to display advertisements on youtube. The powers that be likely notice the use of third party music or clips and spam accounts accordingly.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Grand Central Terminal Oyster Bar

LOGO

Lower Level, Grand Central Terminal, 89 E 42nd St., Lower Level, Grand Central Terminal, 89 E 42nd St., New York, New York, 10017, USA

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Looking down the main area (Click on Pictures for Larger View). Photo by author.

Situated within the bowels of the Grand Central Railway Terminal opened in 1913, The Oyster Bar simultaneously started business as the more pedestrian named Grand Central Terminal Restaurant and has been in near continuous operation ever since.

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Looking at the counter bar. Photo by author.

Originally designed by architect Raphael Gustavino, The Oyster Bar has served clam chowders and oysters to various passengers and local business people for decades. Apparently influenced by the French in both its Beuax Arts styling and the food served within its space, it comes as little surprise that The Oyster Bar received weekly imports of produce from Paris up to the mid 1990s until the costs were considered too prohibitive.

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The Grand Central Terminal Restaurant Space Circa 1913. Photo stolen from the web.

According to Henry Chancellor’s fantastic book, ‘James Bond and his World’, this was Ian Fleming’s self described favourite restaurant in America and he would visit every time he was in New York. His preference was apparently oyster soup mixed with cream, paprika and Worcestershire sauce with a bottle of Miller’s High Life beer to wash it down.

Miller High Life Ad

Miller High Life Beer Ad. Photo Stolen From the Web.

The space was predominantly owned and operated in the late 20th century by a restaurateur named Jerome Brody who also controlled at various times other New York culinary institutions such as the Four Seasons and the Rainbow Room.

Jermoe Brody (Slinging Hash)

Jerome Brody (In white coat slinging hash). Photo stolen from the web.

Famed for turning the Rainbow Room from a shell of its former self into a hangout for the famous faces of the mid 1960s and 1970s, and the Four Seasons (located within the modernist marvel Seagram Building) into the penultimate theme restaurant of its day, Mr Brody was astute operator who generally got other people to front the money for the space and renovations whilst he provided the acumen and ability to give their buildings cache and foot traffic.

This phoenix like ability to transform dead institutions into culinary gold was likely on the mind of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority when they asked him to take over The Oyster Bar in 1974 for having fallen into disrepair and been shuttered at the time of his appointment, the space was in desperate need of a steady hand.

Mr Brody improved the food, creating daily varieties of oysters, adding a larger number of modern dishes to the menu and fashioned a seafood focussed wine list any sommelier would be proud of. The result spoke for itself and The Oyster Bar again became a destination that any serious food lover would wish to visit.

According to a magazine article in Australian Business Insider, the produce is sourced from a fish market in The Bronx early every morning which surprises the shit out of me, as I – thanks to my 1980s cultural upbringing – only associate the Bronx with hip hop and urban decay. A further selection is provided by the Atwood Lobster Company which is based out of Maine, and the famed oysters themselves are shipped from Connecticut.

I went there just before 9.30pm on a Friday evening, sat at the end of the counter and was informed that the food service was about to finish. Having repeatedly heard that New York was the city that never sleeps, I was a little surprised to find an institution like this stops serving food after 9.30pm on a Friday. Particularly in such a central location that could keep providing customers well after that time. Nonetheless, I asked the guy behind the counter to give me an assortment of a ten oysters that he himself would recommend and ordered an IPA.

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Counter setting with a neighbour’s detritus plainly visible. Photo by author.

They had a variety of condiments, including the aforementioned Ian Fleming favourite of crackers, traditional salt and pepper, classic Tabasco sauce and its more modern variant Cholula.

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The condiments on offer. The reality is plain is best. Photo by author.

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I shucked these fuckers in about two minutes. Photo by author.

Gotta say, they were some good oysters (the Belon in particular) and I wish I had requested double when I had still had the chance to actually order them.

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Menu obviously subject to change. Photo by author.

Bill with tip was around $50 for ten oysters and a beer and although pricy was one of the best (if most basic) meals I had while in the U.S.A. If I lived in the area, I would be there regularly, surveying the internationalist interior of the Met Life (previously Pan Am building) and chowing down on some of the best the sea has to offer.

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Paying with my crisp folded tourist dollars. Photo by author.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

LINKS:

http://www.oysterbarny.com/

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/record/archives/vol21/vol21_iss25/record2125.17.html

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/oyster-bar-at-grand-central-station-2012-3