Invite for July 2004 Party
is: The Milford Plaza
(extra points for singing either
"And in the center of it all, is the Milford Plaza," or
"The Milford Plaza is the Lullaby of Old Broadway")
An excellent 80s commercial,
trying to convince us that chambermaids are happy cleaning filthy hotel
rooms. We know what's on that bedspread. The reckless abandon in
hotel rooms is shared by all; 590,000 towels are pilfered each year from
the Holiday Inn chain. The Milford Plaza was/is not a very posh place,
but it sure seemed fancy in that ad. The "Lullaby of Broadway"
- this was sort of the dawn of a new age in commercials - using existing
songs and changing around the words. Think "I've been using Murphy's
Oil Soap on this wood floor of mine, now the dirt is finished, but the
finish is fine." Or "I'm gonna wash that gray right out of my
hair" (a ditty from the musical "South Pacific"). The art
of the jingle is long gone - now all we get are "Who" songs
in car commercials.
"Lullaby of Broadway"
was written in 1935 by Harry Warren and Al Dubin - an impressive songwriting
duo that no one has ever heard of. Admit it. Harry Warren was born Salvatore
Anthony Guaragna in Brooklyn. He quit high school at 16 to play drums
in a traveling circus. He was the director of ASCAP (American Society
of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) from 1929-1932. Al Dubin was from
Philadelphia, by way of Switzerland and Russia. In 1932 the two wrote
the score for "42nd Street" - including the hits "We're
in the Money," "42nd Street," and "I Only Have Eyes
"Lullaby of Broadway"
won the second ever Academy Award for best song - it was from the movie
"Gold Diggers of 1935." The first Academy Award was for the
song "The Continental" from "The Gay Divorcee." Some
other Academy Award highlight songs include "Shaft" by Isaac
Hayes "Shaft" (1971), "Arthur's Theme"
by Christopher Cross "Arthur" (1981) and "Lose Yourself"
by Eminem "8 Mile" (2002). Blimey!
Broadway. The longest
city street in the world, stretching 150 miles from Bowling Green to Albany.
Bowling Green is the oldest existing public park in NYC. It was a parade
ground and cattle market in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The land
was laid out in 1733 as an area for lawn bowling, and was rented to three
local residents for one peppercorn a year. Yummy.
In 1770 the British
erected a 4,000 pound statue of King George III, which was so hated that
in 1773 the city passed an anti-graffiti and anti-desecration law to counter
the vandalism against it. The statue was destroyed by excited mobs after
the Declaration of Independence was read to Washington's troops on
July 9, 1776. The statue was beheaded and the remainder was chopped up
and shipped to a Connecticut foundry to be melted down and turned into
an estimated 42,000 bullets. Parts of the statue can be seen at the NY
Independence Day is
celebrated July 4, and commemorates the signing of the Declaration of
Independence, which freed us cool Americats from those evil tea-drinking
Brits. Even someone from Ohio knows that. But then why was the statue
torn down on July 9? What's going on? Y'see, the Declaration was not actually
signed on July 4. Here's the gist of it:
On June 7, 1776, a
resolution was brought forth by a fellow named Richard Henry Lee saying
that the colonies should be independent, and have no political connections
to the British Crown. This "Lee Resolution" was well received
and a few days later, a committee was appointed to draft a statement presenting
this case for independence - this would become the Declaration of Independence.
The "Committee of Five" consisted of John Adams, Roger Sherman,
Benjamin Franklin, Robert R. Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson. (Jefferson
is said to be the first "Big Cheese" - the term was coined in
1801 after a cheese maker delivered a 1,235 pound wheel of cheese to him.)
Jefferson more or
less wrote the document, and Adams and Franklin made some changes. Franklin
was sick with gout, so he wasn't as involved as he would've liked. One
of the most significant omissions from the final draft of the Declaration
was Jefferson's lengthy condemnation of King George's involvement
in the slave trade, describing it as "a cruel war against human nature."
It has been said that what distressed the patriots most was a 1775 proclamation
that offered freedom to slaves who joined the British cause. What is ever
so interesting is that Jefferson owned 200 slaves.
When the document
was presented to the Continental Congress a few weeks later, the delegates
objected to its inclusion, and it was removed. The only remaining reference
to the original paragraph on slavery is: "He has excited domestic
Insurrections among us," included in a list of 27 grievances against
the king. (Read
On July 2, the Lee
Resolution was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies (New York did not vote).
Congress made some alterations and on July 4, the Declaration was formally
accepted. John Dunlap, official printer to the Congress, made copies and
on the morning of the July 5, they were dispatched - there are 24 known
copies of what is referred to as "the Dunlap broadside."
On July 9, the action
of Congress was officially approved by New York. On July 19, Congress
ordered the production of an engrossed (officially inscribed) copy of
the Declaration of Independence, which attending members of the Continental
Congress began to sign on August 2, 1776. The first signature was by the
one and only, drum roll please John Hancock, the President of the
Congress. His signature was big and bold, and centered below the text.
The other delegates' signatures were arranged according to the geographic
location of the states they represented; New Hampshire, the northernmost
state, began, and Georgia, the southernmost, finished. Eventually 56 delegates
signed, the last in 1781 by Thomas McKean. And so it goes, the misconception
that the Declaration was signed on July 4.
I've never read the
Declaration of Independence. Have you? Read
Check out some live
copies of the Declaration of Independence now through July 31, 2004 and
August 24 through September 3, 2004 at The New York Public Library's Humanities
and Social Sciences Library. Free.