Modern American rock music would have been a whole lot different without the rundown dive mecca CBGB’s, a beat-up former flophouse bar that made stars out of young musicians and helped shape the musical edge of downtown Manhattan. Owner Hilly Kristal may have initially envisioned a place for ‘Country Blue Grass and Blues’, but the music spawned by this little hole in the wall would define the contours of American punk and new wave.
The Ramones, Blondie, the Talking Heads and hundreds of others bands would never have been the same without this dank little club with the most notorious bathroom stalls in New York. Tune in to hear a tale of the club’s rather inauspicious start and find out why, even as a venerated music icon, it was forced to close its doors.
This year is the 125th anniversary of one of the worst storms to ever wreck havoc upon New York City, the now-legendary mix of wind and snow called the Great Blizzard of 1888. Its memory was again conjured up a few months ago as people struggled to compare Hurricane Sandy with some devastating event in New York’s past. And indeed, the Blizzard and Sandy have several disturbing similarities. But the battering snow-hurricane of 1888, with freezing temperatures and drifts three stories high, was made worse by the condition of New York’s transportation and communication systems, all unprepared for 36 hours of continual snow and wind. The storm struck in the early hours of Monday, and so thousands were attempting to make their way to work. It would be the worst commute in New York City history! Fallen telephone and telegraph poles became a hidden threat under the quickly accumulating drifts. Elevated trains were frozen in place, their passengers unable to get out for hours. Many died simply trying to make their way back home on foot, including Roscoe Conkling, a power broker of New York’s Republican Party.
But there were moments of amusement too. Saloons thrived, and actors trudged through to the snow in time for their performances, and for P.T. Barnum, the show must always go on!
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has a surprising history of bucolic green pastures and rancid oil patches. Before the 19th century this corner of Brooklyn was owned by only a few families with farms (and slaves tending them). But with the future borough of Brooklyn expanding at a great rate, Greenpoint (or Green Point, as they used to call it) could no longer remain private. Industries like ship-building and petroleum completely changed the character of Greenpoint’s waterfront, while its unique, alphabetically-named grid of streets held an extraordinary collection of townhouses. By the late 19th century, Polish immigrants would move on the major avenues, developing a ‘Little Poland’ that still characterizes the neighborhood. But big changes are coming to Greenpoint thanks to new housing developments. How will these new arrivals fare next to the notoriously toxic Newtown Creek, a body of water heavily abused by industry?
ALSO: The world that young Patricia Mae Andrzejewski may have experienced in her childhood days before becoming a major rock star.
Art. Vandalism. Blight. Freedom. Crime. Creativity. Graffiti has divided New Yorkers since it first appeared on walls, signs and lampposts in the late 1960s. Its ascent paralleled the city’s sunken financial fortunes, allowing simple markings to evolve into elaborate pieces of art. The only problem? The best examples were on the sides of subway cars which the city promptly attempted to eradicate, their attempts thwarted by clever, creative artists and a downtown culture that was slowly embracing graffiti as New York City’s defining art form. This is a history of the battle between graffiti and City Hall. And a look at the aftermath which spawned today’s tough city laws and a warehouse space in Queens called 5Pointz, where graffiti masterpieces thrive in abundance today.
Come fly with us through a history of New York City’s largest airport, once known as Idlewild (for a former golf course) and called John F. Kennedy International Airport since 1964. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia wanted a new and improved facility to relieve the pressure from that other Queens airport (you know, the one with his name on it), but a greater challenge faced developers of the Jamaica Bay project — the coming of the jet age and the growth of commercial travel. The solution for Idlewild was truly unique — a series of vastly different and striking-looking terminals assigned to individual airlines. This arrangement certainly had its critics, but it has provided New York with some of the most inventive architecture found within its borders.
From stained glass to zodiac sculptures, from the out-of-this-world dramatics of the Pan Am WorldPort to the strangely lifting concrete masterpiece by Eero Saarinen, we take you on a tour of the original ’60s terminals and the airport’s peculiar history. With guest appearances by Robert Moses, Martin Scorsese, the Beatles and a pretty awesome dog named Brandy.
The famous faces on the walls of Sardi’s Restaurant represent the entertainment elite of the 20th Century, and all of them made this place on West 44th Street their unofficial home. Known for its caricatures and its Broadway opening-night traditions, Sardi’s fed the stars of the golden age and became a hotspot for producers, directors and writers — and, of course, those struggling to get their attention. When Vincent Sardi opened his first restaurant in 1921, Prohibition had begun, and the midtown Broadway tradition was barely a couple decades old. By the time the current place threw open its doors (thanks to the Shuberts) in 1927, Broadway’s stages were red hot, and Sardi found himself at the center of New York City show business world. We have nuggets from the old days — starring John Barrymore, Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Channing and a cast of thousands — and the scoop on those famous (and often unflattering) framed caricatures. So sidle up to the Little Bar, order yourself a stiff drink and eavesdrop in on this tale of Broadway’s longest dinner party.
Extra! Extra! Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst vs. the newsboys! Pandemonium in the streets! One hot summer in July 1899, thousands of corner newsboys went on strike against the New York Journal and the New York World. Throngs filled the streets of downtown Manhattan for two weeks and prevented the two largest papers in the country from getting distributed.
In this episode, we look at the development of the sensationalist New York press — the birth of yellow journalism — from its very earliest days, and how sensationalism’s two famous purveyors were held at ransom by the poorest, scrappiest residents of the city. The conflict put a light to the child labor crisis and became a dramatic example of the need for reform.
Crazy Arborn, Kid Blink, Racetrack Higgins and Barney Peanuts invite you to the listen in to this tale of their finest moment, straight from the street corners of Gilded Age New York.