Liberty Island, May 2007. I’d been planning a trip to New York for years. Letting my OCD tendencies run amok, my girlfriend and I put in a crazy amount of research, poring over maps of Manhattan, endlessly comparing hotels, tracking down famous movie sites and reading ourselves into a TripAdvisor frenzy. Happily all the planning was worth it! The best decision we made was to buy The New York Pass, a pocket-sized booklet that gave discounts on all the top attractions. Crucially, it also allowed us to skip the queues and get on with the business of seeing the city. And so getting the boat over to Liberty Island proved to be a breeze! Just one flash of the pass and we were on our way, quickly leaving the chaotic crowd-infested Battery Park behind us.
Madison Square Garden, May 2007. Our base for the week was the cheap and cheerful Chelsea Star Hotel on West 30th Street, a laid-back joint that pitched itself somewhere between a hostel and a motel. The location was brilliant, just a stone’s throw from Madison Square Garden, which we ended up walking past at least four times a day as we went back and forth on our adventures. One morning we took its excellent All Access tour (team locker rooms, VIP suites, Club Bar), while on the way home I managed to grab this fortuitous shot. The line of NYPD cars pulled up out of nowhere, a gaggle of cops spilling out onto the pavement. Straining to earwig as we walked past, they were animatedly debating about the previous night’s baseball game and a couple of them… I shit you not… were actually eating donuts!
Broadway Theatre, 53rd Street, May 2007. I’ve never been a big fan of musicals. I once fell asleep during Chicago, barely tolerated Moulin Rouge! and absolutely despised Cry-Baby; so much in fact that I felt personally insulted by the whole affair. Nevertheless, I’ve always felt there’s a time and place for everything and was determined to catch some kind of Broadway show during our trip. Desperate to see something I wouldn’t hate, I was instantly drawn to The Color Purple, an adaptation of the Oscar-winning Steven Spielberg film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. Indeed Winfrey herself was on board as a producer when it began its Broadway run in 2005. Paying a whopping $238 for two choice seats in the orchestra, I’m happy to say they were worth every cent! Highly engaging with its profoundly moving story; there were towering performances, engaging set designs and memorable songs. Running until 2008, it even enjoyed an acclaimed revival in December 2015.
AMC Empire Cinema, May 2007. It’s impossible to compile a highlight reel of that first NYC trip without mentioning the engagement. It was a magical evening of fine dining at Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse, followed by the popping of a certain question atop The Empire State Building. This shot was taken the following day during an afternoon visit to the cinema.
Crosby Street Hotel, October 2012. When I returned to NYC some five and a half years later, it had come as something of a surprise. “What are you doing this weekend?” my boss asked me as I sat typing up the day’s celebrity news items. “Nothing special, why?” Five days later I found myself on a flight to The Big Apple. Although a bit under the weather with a cold, Jake Gyllenhaal was a pleasure during our brief but enlightening chat. It helped that I’d really enjoyed the movie he was promoting, a gritty crime thriller called End of Watch. We discussed the challenges he had bonding with costar Michael Peña, the steep learning curve of riding with real-life L.A. cops and the joys of hitting the dance floor with the lovely Anna Kendrick.
I’ve also written a whole bunch of Top 5s from around The USA.
For more on my interview with Jake Gyllenhaal, take a look at the short story End of Watch.