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Invite for July 2004 Party

Password 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 for You."

"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 Historical Society.

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 this draft.)

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 Š 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 it here.

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.

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