School's almost out and it's time to think of your hot time summer in the city plans. Does reminiscing about childhood summers evoke memories of splashing in fire hydrants, sunning on tar covered roofs, and listening to the gentle coo of lice infested pigeons? Well, good. Does it also involve diligently reading the weekly TV circular and creating an entire summer schedule of TV viewing? Mine too! What better way for the fiercely independent NYC kid to display the "I can fend for myself attitude" than by excessive TV viewing? None better.
Television. Bless its ever-loving soul. Let us take a moment of Internet silence to honor Tony Randall, who passed away on May 17. While Tony Randall (born Leonard Rosenberg) was originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, "The Odd Couple" truly embodied NYC. It began as a Neil Simon play, performed at Broadway's Plymouth Theater in 1965, starring Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney (from Mount Vernon, NY) as Felix. Jack Klugman took over the role of Oscar, which he played until the show ended in 1967. Neil Simon's inspiration for the play was his divorced brother, who was living with a divorced friend to save money for alimony. The 1968 movie featured Walter Matthau as Oscar and Jack Lemmon as Felix. Walter Matthau was born on the Lower East Side to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He began playing bit parts at a Yiddish theater when he was 11, and was paid 50 cents for each appearance. He went to Seward Park High School, and for a time was a boxing coach for policemen. ABC-TV actually wanted Mickey Rooney to play Oscar. Rooney is from Brooklyn and his real name is Joe Yule Jr.
Tony Randall starred opposite Marilyn Monroe in the 1960 movie "Let's Make Love," which aired on Monday, September 16, 1968 on the Channel 7 (New York's local ABC affiliate) 4:30 movie. The 4:30 movie ran from 1968 to 1981, when it was replaced with "The People's Court" and the "5 o'clock news." The first film shown was "Strangers When We meet" with Kirk Douglas and Kim Novak. One Wednesday a month, the 4:30 movie was replaced with the child-friendly ABC Afterschool Special the best thing ever! - with titles like "My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel" - 1973, "It Must Be Love (Cause I Feel So Dumb)" 1975, "Where Do Teenagers Come From?" 1980, "Can A Guy Say No?" 1986, "The Day My Kid Went Punk" 1987, and so on. The Channel 7 4:30 movie had theme weeks like "Monster Week," "Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe Week," and "Planet of the Apes Week." NYC's WPIX-TV had "Chiller Theater" and WOR-TV had "Fright Night." In the summer of 1977 (the ole Summer of Sam), WABC-TV reporter Joan Lunden interrupted a 4:30 movie with the news that Elvis had left the living. Soon after, they dedicated a weeklong festival to Elvis Aaron Presley. Elvis Aaron had a twin bother, Jessie Garon, who was stillborn. On Thanksgiving 1981, Channel 7 showed its last 4:30 Movie - "The Plymouth Adventure" with Spencer Tracy, Gene Tierney (from Brooklyn) and Dawn Addams. An end of an era. Listen to the theme from the 4:30 movie.
But what about the beginning of the era? Where do TVs come from? Well, little Timmy, they come from Queens. From the Flushing, Queens 1939 World's Fair.
Television made its formal U.S. debut at the World's Fair in New York City on Sunday April 30, 1939 with an RCA telecast of President Franklin D. Roosevelt opening the fair. In May of 1939, the first broadcast of a sporting event was made a baseball game between Princeton and Columbia. At the end of 1941, there were three television stations broadcasting to about 5000 homes. NYC became the center of network news operations. By 1948, two thirds of the TV sets in the U.S. were owned by people in the metropolitan area, which dictated the ethnic (Jewish) flavor of much of the programming. NYC remained the center of television production until the mid-50s. Most early TV shows were live. Broadcasts from other cities weren't feasible because they didn't fit into the schedule planned for the Eastern time zone. In 1951 CBS brought the filmed "I Love Lucy" and Hollywood studios saw the benefit in filming shows for television. (Lucy and her son Desi, Jr. appeared on the very first cover of TV Guide in 1953). Hollywood gradually displaced NYC as the center for television and by 1965, only 10 of the 96 network evening programs were produced in NYC.
RCA, which owned NBC, sold four types of television receivers in 1939, ranging from $200 to $600 (approximately $2000 to $6000 in today's dollars), that were sold in Macy's, Bloomingdale's and Wanamaker's department stores. Other manufacturers that exhibited their television receivers at the 1939 World's Fair included DuMont, Westinghouse Electric, and General Electric.
In 1935 a group of NYC businessmen decided to create an international exposition to lift the city and the country out of the Great Depression. Four years later, the 1939-40 World's Fair came to be. It took place in Flushing Meadows, Queens, formerly known as the "Corona Dumps" because it had been used for decades as a refuse dump by the Brooklyn Ash Removal Company. The highest point was a 100 foot high summit of ash called "Mount Corona," which F. Scott Fitzgerald referred as "valley of ashes" in "The Great Gatsby." The fair opened on the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington at Federal Hall. Admission in 1939 was 75¢ for adults, 25¢ for children in 1940 it went down to 50¢ for adults. There were 1500 exhibitors, about 50,000 employees, and approximately 2000 police officers. The fair attracted over 45 million visitors and generated roughly $48 million, but the corporation unfortunately lost 20 million on the venture.
Among the products introduced at the fair were fluorescent lighting, color film, 3D film, nylon and nylon stockings, air conditioners, computers, dishwashers, jet engines, Xerox copiers, microwaves, Lucite, Plexiglas, Nintendo (nah, just wanted to see if you were paying attention), nylon toothbrushes, and the "magic mineral" asbestos.
The "Theme Center" consisted of two landmark monumental buildings called the Trylon and Perisphere. It has been widely recognized that the design of Disneyland and Disney World's Epcot Center bear striking resemblances to these buildings. The Perisphere housed the futuristic structure, "Democracity" - wouldn't that be nice right now? a diorama of the city of the future. (Check out the calendar and classifieds section of http://www,nycmagicgarden.com for information on Kerry Campaign fundraising.) The most popular exhibit was the Futurama exhibit at the General Motors pavilion, which was a massive, 36,000 square-foot scale model of America in 1960. General Motors defined the future as automobile-centered, with urban design remade to accommodate their commercial products. GM was pretty damn smart.
Once the World's Fair was gone, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park became the home of the first United Nations, from 1946 to 1950. The U.N. would have remained in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park if not for the donation by the Rockefeller family of 17 acres of land in Manhattan (purchased for over $8.5 million) along First Avenue by the East River. The city contributed $5 million toward clearing that land of slaughterhouses, cattle pens, and tenements. The international team of architects to design the U.N. was led by Wallace K. Harrison, the same man who designed the Trylon and Perisphere for the World's Fair. Among the most significant events that took place during the years that the United Nations met at Flushing Meadows were the establishment of UNICEF - the international children's relief fund (think Halloween boxes filled with pennies), Indian independence, the beginning of the Korean conflict, the adoption of the International Declaration of Human Rights (spearheaded by Eleanor Roosevelt), the admission of 59 member nations to the UN, and the creation of the State of Israel on Nov. 29, 1947.
Flushing Meadows Corona Park is 1,255 acres, and is the second largest park in NYC - the first is Pelham Bay Park in The Bronx. The park's 84-acre, manmade, freshwater Meadow Lake is New York City's largest lake. The oldest park in NYC is Bowling Green Park built in 1733. There are more than 28,000 acres of parkland in NYC, not including the state and national parks. And there are more than 1700 parks and playgrounds in NYC. Hooray for parks!!!!
Which brings us to this months voluntary Be Nice Campaign, which supports a different cause/charity/fund. On Monday, you will have the opportunity, if you so desire, to contribute to the City Parks Foundation (CPF). CPF is the only independent, nonprofit organization to offer park programs throughout the five boroughs of New York City. CPF works in over 700 parks citywide - particularly those in low income or underserved neighborhoods - presenting a broad range of free arts, sports and education programs and helping citizens to support their parks on a local level. CPF's programs and community-building initiatives reach more than 600,000 New Yorkers each year. By creating arts, sports and educational programs in public parks, and by encouraging community involvement in them, City Parks Foundation revitalizes parks and the neighborhoods that surround them.
One of CPF's signature
programs is Central Park SummerStage, this summer presenting its 19th
season of free performances of American and world music, dance and spoken
word. At Monday's MAGIC GARDEN, every donation of $2 or more will give
you a chance to win two VIP tickets to see Rufus Wainwright, Guster and
Ben Folds play at SummerStage on EITHER Tuesday, July 13th or Wednesday,
July 14th (shows start at 6pm), as well as other prizes. For more information
about City Parks Foundation or to get involved, visit www.cityparksfoundation.org.