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Tuesday, October 02, 2007
92YQ: Judith Thurman, New Yorker

The New York Times called author Judith Thurman’s Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette “a burnished, historically opulent, elegant, distinguished work.” She also won the National Book Award for a biography of Isak Dinesen. Thurman’s latest book is Cleopatra’s Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire, a collection that spans 20 years at The New Yorker. You can meet the accomplished writer when she comes to the Y to kick off this season’s intimate Critics & Brunch series on October 28. First, she gets cozy with a few questions on her life in New York.

How many years, apartments and what neighborhoods have you lived in NYC?
I’m a native. Born at Lenox Hill Hospital. So: Growing up: Jackson Heights; Kew Gardens Hills (not to be confused with the much tonier Kew Gardens); Forest Hills; (all in Queens); then, post college: the Bowery; West 92nd St (with a relative); West 10th Street (bathtub in kitchen); West 84th St (worst crack block in the city), Water Street, (above a bar—no one else lived there in 1969); Sullivan St; Westbeth—artists’ housing, mercifully subsidized, on Bethune Street; Warren Street (in Tribeca, my first “adult” home, a loft bought in late 1979); East 10th Street (a studio on the block of divorcees); East 84th Street, in an old pushcart stable, and now, in a brownstone one block further west. My maternal grandparents immigrated to Yorkville in the late 1880s, and my mother grew up and went to school two blocks from my house.

What’s your best (or worst) NYC taxi story?
Worst: The Pashtun fanatic with the weird smile who picked me up on September 14th or 15th, 2001—whenever cars and taxis could circulate again—and confided that Osama bin Laden was misunderstood. But there was also a completely drugged out maniac, on meth, I presume, who locked me in the cab for a terrifying ride around the Village spewing paranoia, before letting me out where he had picked me up. He didn’t charge me, however. The best cab ride: the driver who picked me up uptown and drove me to Tribeca, and when I discovered I didn’t have my wallet, shrugged and said, “It happens to all of us. This one’s on me.”

What era, day or event in New York ‘s history would you like to relive?
I know it’s heretical, but I really loved the 1977 blackout. I wouldn’t want others to have to relive it, however. I love the silence and the camaraderie of blackouts, though, I do confess. I would have liked to have climbed a tree with my grandfather to watch the Lindbergh parade (though Lindbergh was later such a menace to democracy.) I would have loved to see Manhattan when it was still mostly rural. Or visit Edgar Allen Poe in his cottage in the Bronx.

What’s your New York motto?
Don’t forget recycling day.

Describe that low, low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
It wasn’t New York, it was America: the day after Bush was reelected.

Who do you consider to be the greatest New Yorker of all time?
Does Jane Jacobs qualify? She stopped the destruction of Lower Manhattan.

What was your best dining experience in NYC?
In recent times? Ichimura. But you leave New York when you walk through the door--you’re in Japan. Historically? The first meal I ever had, as a student, in a “real” restaurant. It was called La Cave d’ Henri IV, in the East 50s. I went with some girlfriends from college. I don’t think the food was very good—I certainly couldn’t have judged it—but I had never been any place so sophisticated. I ordered the sole amandine. The lady at the next table was wearing black! And afterwards, my friends and I, a little tipsy (the drinking age was eighteen, then) walked rapturously home through a driving summer rainstorm. But wait: there was also my first real date. We ate at Sloppy Louie’s, or Eddy’s, I can’t remember, in the Fulton Fish Market. There was sawdust on the floor. Very romantic. 

With a nod to Milton Glaser, how much do you really love New York?
Milton is a very good friend, and I would probably love it more if he had gotten some royalties for his logo, even though he never asked for them.

Of all the movies made about or highly associated with New York, what role would you have liked to be cast in?
Countess Olenska.

What happened the last time you went to L.A.?
I stayed in a hip but grungy motel in West Hollywood before moving to a Radisson—I needed wifi—and went to a show of architecture and fashion at MOCA that I was reviewing for the New Yorker. L.A. gets a bum rap from New Yorkers. Lots of people read books there, you know.

If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?

The End of The World is finally happening. What are you going to do with your last 24 hours in NYC?
Reread Flaubert’s The Sentimental Education. No, not really. I wouldn’t tell you, my son might read it. Isn’t that the good thing about apocalypses? Whatever you do, there are no consequences.

[Judith Thurman: 10/28/07]

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Monday, August 27, 2007
Doug Varone and Dancers: “Steeping” Into History

Boats Leaving (2006) Photo by Richard Termine

Doug Varone, choreographer of contemporary dance for the concert stage and opera, is the artistic director of Doug Varone and Dancers which was named this year’s Harkness Dance Center Company-in-Residence, the first at the 92nd Street Y in decades. As a company-in-residence, Varone and his dancers will be calling the Y their home, including being at the Y for company rehearsals, workshops, classes, studio showings, Fridays at Noon performances and the unique opportunity for teens in the Y’s Harkness Repertory Ensemble to work with this master choreographer.

Varone is the recipient of numerous honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for Sustained Achievement in Choreography and, most recently, a 2006 OBIE Award for his production of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice at Lincoln Center. He recently answered some questions from Harkness Dance Center staff for the Y blog.

Harkness Dance Center: How do you hope that this next year at the Y will help you creatively?
Doug Varone: At this particular point in the Company’s life (we are in our 21st year), it will be very satisfying to have a place that we can call home. We have been a bit nomadic in terms of rehearsing everywhere throughout the city and this remains frustrating, as the quest for studio space often overshadows the creative drive. Being able to create new work in one environment will be tremendously healthy for the dancers and our process.

HDC: What is appealing to you about being with us?
DV: I have a long history with the Y and have rehearsed here with the company (and before then even, as an independent choreographer). The energy in the building is remarkable and it fuels creativity. There is SO much going on so many different fronts, like a small city that educates and supports. It’s thrilling to walk the halls and feed off of that.

HDC: What will you be working on going into this season?
DV: I will be creating a new repertory work for my company set to the entirety of Daniel Variations scored by preeminent American composer, Steve Reich. I will take my inspiration directly from Reich’s composition, scored in four movements that alternate between the stories and words from the biblical book of Daniel, an Israelite and advisor to the King of Babylon (located in present day Iraq), and from Daniel Pearl, the American Jewish reporter, kidnapped and murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002. Although the work is steeped in a personal tragedy, there is a universal undertone of defiance in the score juxtaposing the written words of both universes: violence, cruelty, mercy, and compassion. I am hoping that the work ultimately will explore how mercy and compassion in the face of brutality can offer us hope as we struggle with continual and devastating human violence. I am hoping that the inspiration for the piece and the topic of the score will resonate culturally on political and religious levels and generate vigorous dialogue that will attract and engage new and diverse audiences.

HDC: How does Buttenwieser Hall affect your creative work?
DV: It is a beautiful HUGE space steeped in so much dance history.

HDC: This year at the Y we hope to have you work with teens and with seniors – any thoughts or fulfilling experiences you have to share about working with these populations?
DV: I love working with a broad spectrum of people and think that dance can truly be a connector in so many ways. On tour, we regularly work with young people in creative situations and I am always eager to work with seniors. I love hearing about their lives and encouraging movement from their own personal histories. There’s such an amazing wealth of information to glean from smart, passionate adults.

HDC: Anything else?
DV: It will be so wonderful to be part of the Y. I feel as if the work that I explore and create is very much in keeping with the humanistic ideals that the Y represents.

Stay tuned to for year-round information about this exciting new partnership with Doug Varone and the 92nd Street Y.

[All Dance Classes and Performances at the 92nd Street Y]

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Thursday, August 16, 2007
Meet Michael Kostow, the Architect for Makor’s New Home in Tribeca

How do you take Makor—until recently, housed in a four-story brownstone on a residential street on the Upper West Side—and create a street-level space for it in Tribeca, on a major thoroughfare (Hudson Street)? Well, you start by calling on architect Michael Kostow of Kostow Greenwood, which specializes in creating spaces for performing and visual arts organizations. The firm has designed or renovated such New York cultural landmarks as the Delacorte Theater, the Brooklyn Tabernacle and the International Center for Photography.

We recently spoke with Michael Kostow about the design for the new space.

200 Hudson Street, Tribeca

What did you want to achieve with your design for the 200 Hudson space?
Creating spaces—especially multi-purpose spaces—that look good and work well is one of our specialties. In architecture-speak, we call it integrating design and functionality. Here our goal was to bring the liveliness of the street inside and to create a comfortable, public, open kind of place that people can easily wander into. We also wanted the look and feel of the space to reflect the activities going on inside so that once people do venture in, all the different programs taking place in this one shared space—performances, films, talks, exhibits—fit and flow perfectly, energizing one another. 

What other multi-purpose spaces has Kostow Greenwood worked on?
We’ve done several, but one local example would be the Brooklyn Tabernacle, which involved converting three buildings into interrelated spaces that would house a school, dining hall, offices, meeting rooms and lobbies. We adapted one of those buildings—what had been the historic Loews Metropolitan Theater, a landmark vaudeville house that had fallen into disrepair and had been divided into small movie theaters before being abandoned—into a sanctuary for the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Now the facility seats over 3,600 and includes state-of-the-art theatrical lighting and broadcast capabilities. 

Another multi-purpose project we worked on in New York was the design of CNN’s New York Broadcast Center at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. We created recording and broadcast studios, a newsroom and office space, but we also had to make sure there was a route through the various spaces for public tours. For a project in Dallas, a film/video post-production house called Mad River Post, we converted a factory into a state-of-the-art facility with video editing and audio post-production suites as well as offices, a comfortable lounge and meeting areas.

How did you find a way to make 200 Hudson Street a space where many things could be happening simultaneously in close proximity to each other?
We knew we needed to create a screening room, a performance space for music and theater, a lecture hall and classroom space. The trick was to make the spaces flexible. We were able to do that by using modular walls, so that the areas can be divided into a combination of smaller and larger units. The space can also be opened up to allow for big events. 

What are the challenges and benefits of this sort of space?
The main challenge is that with all the activity on one level—not the case uptown—everything is closer together. So you need to keep traffic moving and contain the sound where it needs to be. The plus side is that the proximity of the various spaces makes it easier for people attending one event to be aware of is the other things going on, which channels energy from one area into another.

People who come to Makor like to hang out and meet friends. How do you design a performance and event space that’s also conducive to socializing?
We did a couple of things to provide space for socializing. We separated the café from the bar/music venue and made it a very open space that you can get to right from the entrance, even if you’re not attending an event. We also designed the space with wide hallways along with smaller nooks off the main thoroughfares. That gives visitors lots of areas where they can mingle and chat without “blocking traffic” for folks headed to events. We’re hoping that these people-friendly elements of the design help to make 200 Hudson a downtown destination.

You can take an online tour of Makor’s new location at

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Thursday, June 28, 2007
Y Music Talk: Kalichstein-Laredo- Robinson Trio

Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio at the 92nd Street Y in Fall 2006

The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio has performed the Beethoven Trio cycle many times, including at Lincoln Center—the first ever such cycle presentation there. The upcoming performance at the Y, however, will be their first in presenting it all in one day. For the September 30th Marathon, Shirley Ford of the Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts asked the musicians about this enormous undertaking.

Shirley Ford: I know you’ve played the complete Beethoven Trios many times and even recorded them in a two-volume set, but why the decision to perform them all in one day?

Sharon Robinson & Jaime Laredo: We really wanted to honor and thank our loyal fans as well as our many supporters at the 92nd Street Y for a 30-year partnership. We’ve always wondered what the whole cycle would be like in more or less chronological order. This day-long venture should be an amazing journey. We are probably meschuga to try it!

SF: What about the fatigue factor as the day progresses?

SR: Well, we plan on getting some fresh air between concerts, weather permitting, and I’m able to bring my big exercise ball for some stretching. There’s a plan for a light massage session between one or two of the concerts—rest, refresh and drink lots of water. Fortunately, we have a little time off before the undertaking, so a big rest the week before will help us all, too.

SF: Taking into consideration your separate and individual performance schedules all over the world, what about rehearsals?

JL: Since we’ve played the cycle throughout the States and in several countries over the last 30 years, it’s under our fingers—some of the trios are constant companions in our repertoire, others less so, but we’re always looking for (and finding) fresh ideas and great new insight into Beethoven’s language in our brush-up rehearsals and recording sessions.

SF: Other than the music itself, what is the most challenging aspect of the project?

SR & JL: Having the stamina to keep fresh and focused throughout the day and evening!

Shirley also asked Joseph Kalichstein to give us some insight into the music. Below are excerpts from his comments which will appear in their entirety in the concert programs, along with the program notes of Steven Ledbetter, who also provided the notes for the Trio’s CDs.


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Wednesday, May 09, 2007
92YQ: Judy Gold, Comedian

Judy Gold: “The Early Years”

Comedian Judy Gold’s Off-Broadway hit 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother is now a book and she returns to the Y this Sunday for a special Mother’s Day celebration of, what else, Jewish Mothers. Use the discount code GLD when ordering tickets online or by phone to receive 50% off—it’s like buying yourself a ticket and bringing mom for free! She’d be so proud.

Here’s a Q&A on one of Judy’s other great loves, New York.

How many years, apartments and what neighborhoods have you lived in NYC?
23 years, 4 apartments, all on the Upper West Side.

What’s your best (or worst) NYC taxi story?
One time I was in a cab and the driver got into an accident (his fault - shocking) and he asked me for the fare as I was getting out to get another cab.

What era, day or event in New York’s history would you like to relive?
The End of WWII when those two strangers are kissing in the middle of Times Square. I would have also loved to be here in the late 19th century and the 1940s.

What’s your New York motto?
Don’t visit if you don’t know how to walk down the street.

Describe that low, low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
That has never happened.

Who do you consider to be the greatest New Yorker of all time?
Fiorello LaGuardia

With a nod to Milton Glaser, how much do you really love New York?
You can’t even imagine.

Of all the movies made about or highly associated with New York, what role would you have liked to be cast in?
Holly Golightly - Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

What happened the last time you went to L.A.?
I came back to NYC.

If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
Yellow snow.

The End of The World is finally happening. What are you going to do with your last 24 hours in NYC?
Breakfast at Barney Greengrass, stroll through Central park, pizza at Sal & Carmines, a Broadway show and then dinner at Per Se.

[Judy Gold in Conversation with Kate Ryan on Jewish Mothers: A Mother’s Day Celebration: 5/13/07]

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Thursday, April 26, 2007
92YQ: Catie Lazarus, Comedian

imageHave Jewish comedians pushed the envelope to the point of hemorrhaging stigmata paper cuts? That’s what Emmy Award-winning actress and comedian Judy Gold, Shushan Channel and Daily Show writer Rob Kutner, popular NYC comedians Seth Herzog and Catie Lazarus will be discussing tonight at Makor. First, we run Catie through the ropes course to encourage more hand-wringing and burning.

How many years, apartments and what neighborhoods have you lived in NYC?
CATIE’S NYC CARTOGRAPHY: + Or - 12 places = 9 years + 6 hoods + 3 boroughs. I’ve lived in the West Village, Upper Jewest Side, Parkus Slopus, Billyburg and, obviously, Jamaica, Queens. For the past couple of years I’ve lived without a neighborhood. My home is one block north of the East Village, one block east of Irving Place, three blocks west of Stuyvesant and three blocks east of Union Square. I often stumble at parties, but I just wanted to be straight with you. I am hoodless.

What’s your best (or worst) NYC taxi story?
I asked a cab driver to shoot a scene with me about how ignorant Americans are about Arabs. Evidently, he had a lot of experience. He was not only game, but had ready answers to even my most inane questions like, “Are you related to Bin Laden?”

What era, day or event in New York’s history would you like to relive?
The thought of paying $25 a month in rent appeals, whatever era that was I would like to relive.

What’s your New York motto?
I am sans motto seeing as I’m not a manager of an Applebee’s.

Who do you consider to be the greatest New Yorker of all time?
Gandhi, oh wait he’s not from Nuevo York. All-time is impossible but there are consummate New Yorkers like Henry Stern, the eclectic former Parks Commissioner who bestowed interns to celeb politicians nicknames; Woody Allen, whose mother-in-law is his ex-wife and (biological) son is his brother-in-law; and Russell Simmons, whose latest book “Do You!” preaches about being soulful and yet has ads featuring his young daughters.

What was your best dining experience in NYC?
Last year, I had a joint birthday dinner with my brother at Dim Sum a Go Go in Chinatown. Friends and family came in from out of town and the owner Veronica Leung doted on us and made special dishes. Otherwise, I’ve had delicious food at the expected places—Aquavit, Nobu Next Door, Russian Tea Room (RIP) and Dunkin’ Donuts. When I left my doctoral studies to do comedy, I trained to be a waitress at Blue Ribbon Bakery. Only, I didn’t get hired. I was told that I was overqualified. Luckily, I have the skills to eat their food (and actually other people’s food too).

Of all the movies made about or highly associated with New York, what role would you have liked to be cast in?
I would have loved to play Annie Hall in Annie Hall (or the ex-wife who is name dropping friends at the New Yorker), Kay Corleone in the Godfather Part II, and even Andy Sachs in Devil Wears Prada. While not movies, I would have loved to play Valerie Harper’s character Rhoda, Meadow in the Sopranos or Lisa in the Muppets.

What happened the last time you went to L.A.?
In addition to sitting in the same spot on the 110 for 1 hour, 37 minutes and 42 seconds, I attended a glittery party at a palatial house, a.k.a at a “phat pad.” My escort told me the owner’s name and when I did not recognize it, she said, “Duh, his dad is the voice of Garfield.”

If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
Just one? What if I stick to words that start with one letter? Times Square can cause sensory overload. There are too many tourists and it’s all lit up with advertisements so that you never know if it is 4pm or 4am. Maybe if tourists were allotted “visiting hours,” like on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the southside of the street when tourists can roam from 11am to 2pm. 

The End of The World is finally happening. What are you going to do with your last 24 hours in NYC?
Wow. I would wake up and read the headlines, movie reviews and obits. Not for any thoughtful reason but because I always do. I’d get brunch at City Bakery, even if it’s $12.50 a pound, I’d order two pounds. Otherwise, I’d probably wander around Central Park with some friends passing out food to homeless people, see a film or play, and then perform at Carnegie Hall. (If the end of the world is happening, I think the security guard would oblige me my 15 minutes...) Oh, and I would DEFINITELY call 411 a lot and make as many international calls, preferably while roaming, as possible.

[Jewish Comedians Pushing the Envelope: Is There An Envelope Left? 4/26/07]

Coming soon: Judy Gold in Conversation with Kate Ryan on Jewish Mothers: A Mother’s Day Celebration

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007
92YQ: Mike Colameco, Chef

Mike ColamecoMike Colameco spent the better part of the ‘80s in the trenches of the New York City restaurant scene and he has the war stories to prove it:

  • ‘81: Line Cook, Four Seasons Restaurant, under Chef Seppi Rengli
  • ‘82-’83: Sous Chef, Maurice Restaurant, under Chef Christian Delouvrier and consulting Michelin 3-Star Chef Alain Senderens
  • ‘84: Restaurant Chef, Cellar in the Sky/Windows on The World with Chefs Eberhard Muehler and Herman Reiner
  • ‘85-’86: Exec., Sous Chef/Night Chef, Tavern on The Green with Chefs Stefan Kopf and Reto Demarmels
  • ‘86-’87: Executive Chef, The Ritz Carlton, Central Park South, NYC

These days he’s happy to run his own import business, host a cooking show on WNET-TV/Channel 13 and teach classes with the 92nd Street Y. Although originally from Philadelphia, he’s a real New York guy.

How many years, apartments and what neighborhoods have you lived in NYC?
On and off since 1982. I’ve had 8 addresses.

What’s your best (or worst) NYC taxi story?
I don’t take cabs much, prefer the subway. Used to bicycle around town when I was younger, once I ran into a cab that cut me off. We had words.

What era, day or event in New York’s history would you like to relive?
I think the last twenty five years have been just swell.

Describe that low, low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
I’ve left the city twice, both for financial/family reasons, and it was always sad. You miss it even before you’ve left… but I always knew I’d come back.

Who do you consider to be the greatest New Yorker of all time?
There have been so many giants either from here, or people who came and transformed the city and their craft. For homegrown greats, Fiorello La Guardia come to mind at the top of my list, as does Theodore Roosevelt, and of course Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, Jake La Motta, Studs Terkel, Bogart and Biggie Smalls.

What was your best dining experience in NYC?
Best of the Best: Per Se and Lespinasse when [Christian] Delouvrier was there, Ducasse.

With a nod to Milton Glaser, how much do you really love New York?
I owe this city my life. I arrived a kid from Philly and I am who I am thanks in great part to New York.

Of all the movies made about or highly associated with New York, what role would you have liked to be cast in?
William Powells part in My Man Godfrey

If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
The city needs to value, build, preserve, and maintain affordable housing for the lower and middle classes or what’s left of us anyway.

The End of The World is finally happening. What are you going to do with your last 24 hours in NYC?
Walk uptown from Trinity Church via our oldest road, Broadway. Then cut north and east through the park to visit the Met, try and snag a table at Per Se or Jean Georges and watch the curtain come down from that perch.

Tonight he teaches Two Healthy 30-Minute Meals: Chicken and Fish and on Tuesday, May 29 he moderates a talk with Gael Greene, Arthur Schwartz, Tim Zagat and Jacques Pepin to discuss “Is New York Dining Really Better Than Ever?” All of his classes can be found here.

Previously: 92YQ Interviews

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Y Music Talk: Alex Ross


Alex Ross, music critic at The New Yorker since 1996, hosts a brunch discussion here on 20th Century Music—specifically, the poetic roots in Debussy’s “Prelude to ‘The Afternoon of a Faun’” and Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet—this Sunday, April 1. To prep you for the morning roust and toast, composer Kirk Noreen from the 92nd Street Y Tisch Center for the Arts spoke with Ross about his first book, The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, and rock/pop acts like Radiohead and Björk among other things.

Kirk Noreen: There have been a number of technological advances in music in the last 10 years that have markedly changed how we acquire, write, produce, sell and distribute music.  Which technological advances could have the greatest positive impact on classical music in the future?

Alex Ross: Classical music is in a funny position with regard to technology because the majority of its repertory is anti-technological, depending on the natural resonance of instruments in a room. I think the music takes on extra allure when so much of our experience is electronically mediated; there’s almost a shock value in hearing pure, raw, unplugged sound. In the same way, the music has never really “worked” on recordings; something’s always lost, even on high-end stereo systems, never mind iPods. But the Internet and iTunes have apparently caused a minor surge in classical sales — there’s a debate on this, as you can read on my blog — for a couple of reasons. Veteran collectors can more easily find almost anything from the entire thousand-year range of the repertory online. And neophytes can more easily try things out and find what they like than in the record stores of yore. (Some never dared to venture through the forbidding doors of the Tower Records classical room.) The next technological advance that’s needed for classical music is higher-quality amplification for outdoor concerts and non-standard venues.

KN: What was the most striking concert you attended in the last year?

AR: Probably Steve Reich’s seventieth-birthday concert in October, in the main auditorium at Carnegie Hall. His 1976 masterpiece Music for 18 Musicians cast the same complex spell as ever, and it was thrilling to see Reich receiving the mass adulation he deserves. When Terry Riley first heard La Monte Young’s drone music, he compared it to the “sun coming up over the Ganges.” That’s what Reich’s music did for the dark-minded twentieth century.

KN: Do you ever poorly review concerts? Is there a place for critics to do this?

AR: I write my share of bad reviews, but I don’t relish it. When I go strongly negative, it’s usually in the direction of fat, juicy, obvious targets, such as ridiculously overpaid celebrity conductors and shock-chic European opera directors. Most of what I write veers positive, for the simple reason that we’re living in a golden age of classical composition and performance and there’s so much to be positive about. There is far more happening today in terms of new music and new-music ensembles than when I was starting out as a critic in the early nineties. Orchestras such as the LA Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony have revitalized that conservative end of the business. Young musicians are trying out new concert formats, venturing into different kinds of spaces, putting their work on the internet, becoming more a part of mainstream culture. The joy of the job is in finding the great ones early and celebrating them.

KN: You have a book coming out on 20th century music. Could you give us a preview of what it covers?

AR: It’s called The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, and it will be published in October 2007 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. It address a basic question: why, when paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock go for a hundred million dollars or more on the art market and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, is twentieth-century classical music still considered obscure and difficult? In fact, it’s better known than most people realize. Post-1900 music is all over Hollywood soundtracks, modern jazz, alternative rock. The minimalism of Steve Reich and Philip Glass has had a huge impact on rock, pop, and dance music from the Velvet Underground to Aphex Twin. What I want to do is to provide an intelligent introduction to this fabulous, labyrinthine world: not just the music itself, from Schoenberg and Stravinsky onward, but the entire cultural and social tumult around it: the Rite of Spring riot, the interaction of composers and jazz people in the twenties, the entanglement of composers in totalitarian regimes, the weird intersections of post-WWII avant-garde composers and Cold War politics, the origins of minimalism in the alternative philosophies of the West Coast. It’s not so much a history of twentieth-century music as a history of the twentieth century told through music.

KN: I’ve read you write about the group Radiohead in the same way as you write about classical music. Are there any groups in the rock/popular world that, in your opinion, reach the sophistication of classical music or for that matter Radiohead?

AR: For me, among current groups/singers, Radiohead and Björk are in a league of their own. I’m anticipating their forthcoming albums in the same way I look forward to the next pieces by leading composers like John Adams, Thomas Adès, Kaija Saariaho, and Osvaldo Golijov. I haven’t found anything in the last year or two that’s excited me as Kid A and Vespertine did, but, honestly I haven’t been working too hard at it. Once my book is done, I am going to check out these Arcadian Monkeys the kids are so excited about. Also, I understand there’s a lot of music out there on “MyTube” and “YouSpace.”

KN: If you could invite any composer or musician, dead or alive over to a dinner party, who would it be?

AR: I’m tempted to say Mozart or Mahler, but I’ll go with Alban Berg. He was a mightily great composer and also a gentle, compassionate, sympathetic man — not something you can say about most geniuses.

[Alex Ross on 20th Century Music: 4/1/07]

  • Note: Young Literary Salon (ages 35 and under) $10 tickets are available for this event.
  • Previous: Y Music Talks

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    Monday, March 19, 2007
    Y Music Talk: Zukerman ChamberPlayers

    Zukerman ChamberPlayers

    A prodigious talent recognized worldwide for his artistry, Pinchas Zukerman has been an inspiration to young musicians throughout his adult life. In a continuing effort to motivate future generations of musicians through education and outreach, the renowned artist has teamed up with four protégés to form the Zukerman ChamberPlayers. On March 25 they perform at the Y with pianist Benjamin Hochman featuring selections from Mozart and Dvořák. Subscriptions to their new series, Music from the House of Mendelssohn, are now available for purchase. The following is an excerpt from the pre-concert discussion between the Zukerman ChamberPlayers and moderator Richard Mannoia at their November 5, 2006 performance at the Y.

    Richard Mannoia: There was a reference to the Guarneri String Quartet and how they developed their group sound.  They have a very specific group style or sound, how does the Zukerman ChamberPlayers define their group sound?

    Pinchas Zuckerman: First of all, the sound of a string quartet is a very unique sound which is why we as an ensemble don’t play quartets. It takes an enormous amount of time to develop a particular sound a quartet has which comes largely from how the individual players handle particular details within a piece. But it’s really not that simple to explain. The Budapest String Quartet is still probably the grandfather of all quartets in this respect. I remember hearing them live and I can tell you that most amazing thing about the Budapest Quartet is the individuality of the players in the quartet. Each one of those player could play Paganini, Popper or any of the pieces in the virtuoso repertoire. Every one of them was a virtuoso in their own right. So it was a unique situation, where you know that each one of your colleagues can play anything. When this happens, that’s when the music begins to take on a unique quality. A Ravel quartet will be a completely different sound from a Beethoven quartet to a Debussy quartet. Each individual will mold himself to what they feel is right for the group because they know they can do it. That’s a very unique situation. But ultimately how you describe our sound, I don’t know. That’s up to everyone else on how to describe our sound. But how to describe anyone’s sound in words is very complicated to do.

    RM: There was some talk about dark or bright sounds in the group. Does that ever come up in your discussion as a group?

    PZ: All of the greats have their own sound. You can tell for instance that this person studied or that this person is an interesting person, etc. That’s what gives an individual his or her own individual sound. I think it also works that way with a group too. When I’m listening to the Guarneris, I hear all of the separate personalities coming together. So it’s a combination of all those personalities. The Zukerman ChamberPlayers we have five very strong personalities but we play very well together so I think we do have a sound. People have come up to me and have said, wow, I don’t think anyone else sounds you guys do. 

    RM: Has there ever been a time where you had to perform with someone else’s instrument and how did it affect your performance?

    Amanda Forsyth: My previous cello, the one I had previous to this one, a modern one, was stolen. So I played each concert with a different cello because I wasn’t comfortable on any of them. I eventually settled on a beautiful old Italian instrument. You definitely can’t just pick up a Stradivarius and sound beautiful. You have to work with and find the idiosyncrasies of the instrument. Then you have to choose the right bow that matches the instrument. In terms of actually playing an old instrument, one can change the actual tone of the instrument with your own playing. It comes from your pressure and how you warm the actual instrument. For instance, Jessica was playing on another instrument and now she is playing on a Stradivarius. You’ve found there to be a lot of differences, haven’t you?

    Jessica Linnebach: It’s quite different. I’ve just had it for a month, but already I’ve noticed some interesting things. For instance every so often I’ll play a note that will just ring. It takes a long to find the center or core, and I’ve found that the older the instrument, the harder it is to find those notes. 

    RM: Let’s talk about the program today, where you’ll be joined by F. Murray Abraham. 

    PZ: I’ve worked with F. Murray on a previous program so I just asked him if he would like to read some monologues on this program at the Y. He said that he would be delighted. 

    I like the idea that music can be described by a great actor. Obviously the text has to be fantastic which we know it is coming from Peter Schaffer. You have a combination that is so different from us as an ensemble, yet it is clearly related. I think the greatness of Mozart will come out in F. Murray’s soul, because he is a great actor. And then you hear the music which is self explanatory. The six quintets that Mozart wrote I think are the greatest music written for that combination. There is an enormous amount of discovery by all kinds of different people about the music. People still today are asking the question, “Wow, how did he do that?” Not just performers, but composers as well. 

    RM: We have a lot of kids out here, what was life like for Mozart when he was 10?

    PZ: All things considered, he had a pretty good life, a little too short for all of us. He traveled around Europe and did a lot of things that we’re not supposed to do as kids, he played pool and smoked cigarettes, we know this from his letters that he was a bit of a shaygetz - how do you say this in English? Unruly child? But that’s what you get with genius sometimes. 

    RM: And musically, what was happening with him at 10 or 12? 

    PZ: He was changing the world. He wrote 30 some pieces by the age of 10, of which maybe two aren’t so good. That’s pretty impressive.

    RM: Well, why do we play Mozart and not Salieri?

    PZ: If I could back in time, I would love to speak to Salieri, because I really think I could have helped him write better music. I think I’ve helped some decent composers make their pieces much better by telling them what they can do on the instrument. The thing with Salieri was that he found a formula for how to compose music and stuck with it. And the reason Salieri wrote the way he did, was that he didn’t know how to write something better. We call him secondary because there is Mozart to compare him with. Is it worth playing? Yes. Is Salieri interesting to listen to? Not really. But a truly great performer can make something interesting out of it because of their skill as a performer. 

    In music, a talented performer can take a mediocre piece and make it into something extraordinary out it. In the world of violinists, there was no one like JH, Jascha Heifetz. He could take an OK piece and make it sound like the greatest piece ever written. A performer of lesser ability would not be able to pull it off. At the end of the day, you have to know what you can do on the instrument, and use those skills to communicate to an audience the music that you play. But when it really comes down to it, you need three things to play music: you need a brain, and you have to have heart, and finally you need a desire that comes from deep down inside you.

  • Zukerman Chamber Players with Benjamin Hochman, piano: 3/25/07
  • Zukerman ChamberPlayers: Music from the House of Mendelssohn

  • Posted in The Arts Interviews at 4:40pm | Link to this item | Email this item to a friend. Email This to a Friend |

    Thursday, March 08, 2007
    Y Music Talk: The Nash Ensemble of London

    Nash Ensemble

    The Nash Ensemble of London, acclaimed for its adventurous programming and virtuoso performances, presents works from Mozart to the avant-garde, and is a major contributor towards the recognition and promotion of contemporary composers. Composer Kirk Noreen from the 92nd Street Y Tisch Center for the Arts spoke recently with the founder and artistic director of the Nash Ensemble, Amelia Freedman, about their upcoming March 21 performance at the Y.

    KN: The Nash Ensemble of London is one of the premier chamber ensembles performing today. The ensemble has had long commitment to performing works by contemporary composers, yet they also perform repertoire from the 18th and 19th centuries as well. Have you found this to be a successful formula for retaining existing audiences as well as attracting new ones?

    AF: The Nash has been in existence for over 40 years and I think that part of the success of the group certainly comes from the diversity of the repertoire we perform. There are groups out there than only play 19th century or only contemporary music. You can only play the Schubert Octet or L’histoire du soldat so many times as ensemble and still have a fresh perspective. We perform everything from Haydn to living composers. That range of repertoire really opens up endless possibilities for interesting programs which I think has something to do with the success and longevity of the Nash.

    KN: As director of the Ensemble Sospeso in New York, an ensemble that performs largely contemporary music, I know from experience that it can be tricky for both musicians and audiences to go from very contemporary works to 19th century works on the same program.  How do you address that issue in your programming since contemporary music is large part of who the Nash is?

    AF: Indeed, I think it is difficult for both audiences and musicians to go from Beethoven to let’s say Brian Ferneyhough on the same program. One just has to find the right connections with the pieces. Yet there are so many other ways in which a program can incorporate contemporary music. 

    KN: That leads me to my next question. The program the Nash Ensemble will be performing is comprised of an eclectic group of composers, Debussy, Ravel, Mendelssohn, Turnage and Mozart. Would you care to take a stab at explaining some of the programmatic connections on the concert?

    AF: When I program a concert, I often look for colors and contrasts. Certainly there is a great deal of color in the works of Debussy and Ravel. The piece by Ravel on the program, Introduction and Allegro, still today sounds exotic. The piece by Mark Anthony Turnage, Three Farewells, certainly contrasts these works in its musical language, yet is has a certain dreamlike quality to it that you can find in the Debussy.

    The Mendelssohn String Quartet No. 2 in A minor which ends the program, is one of the most beautiful works in all of the chamber music literature. Yet, I believe it shares with the Turnage a reflective quality. It might seem odd to compare the Mendelssohn with the Turnage, but I do think there is a connection there. 

    Certainly there are some practical concerns when touring with an ensemble, so we’ve tried to maximize the use of all players in this particular program with the minimum number of players.

    KN: Does the ensemble ever use a conductor?

    AF: For the most part the Nash does not use a conductor, however we do not have a “no conductor” policy. Occasionally when we perform works by contemporary composers or when the ensemble is augmented to perform pieces that require larger forces, we employ a conductor. For instance when we performed Strauss’ Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs) in a chamber version with soprano Felicity Lott, we worked with the conductor Bernard Haitink.

    KN: Could the Nash Ensemble be described as “British” in any sense?

    AF: Although most of the musicians in the Nash are British, it is an international group. Music is an international language so no matter where you are from, you can speak this language. That said, if there is anything particularly British about the Nash, I would say that the musicians have developed a facility for being able to play just about anything. Because there is not a particular style or period that the Nash performs exclusively, the musicians must be able to perform anything that comes their way. 

    KN: I’ve noticed the ensemble has performed and premiered numerous compositions by Mark-Anthony Turnage? Could you describe that relationship and why the ensemble has continued to work with him?

    AF: Part of the raison d’être of the Nash is to perform and commission works by living composers. There has always been a commitment to discover to younger British composers and commission them before they have established careers. That tradition started with composers such as Harrison Birtwistle in the 1970s and has continued with composers like Mark Anthony Turnage today. First and foremost Mark Anthony is an exciting composer to work with. His works are explosive and often incorporate elements of jazz, especially in their rhythms, yet they also have a reflective side to them as well. I think that it is combination of emotions in his music that has made us want to continue to work with him.

    KN: Finally, if the Nash Ensemble was a film director, who would it be?

    AF: I would have to say Alfred Hitchcock, but there are always surprises in what we do!

    [Nash Ensemble of London: 3/21/07]

    Posted in The Arts Interviews at 5:55pm | Link to this item | Email this item to a friend. Email This to a Friend |

    Thursday, March 01, 2007
    Laid-Off Dad: Nurturing Fatherhood

    Laid Off DadDr. Kyle Pruett, professor of clinical psychiatry and nursing and an authority on child development who specializes in studying fatherhood and its effects on children, comes to the Y on Monday night to discuss The Nurturing Father: A Dad’s Essential Role. To set the stage, we turned to metro area “daddy bloggers” to get their quick perspective on fatherhood and the highly esteemed Laid-Off Dad answers the call.

    What is the most stressful part of being a dad?
    LOD: Money is always a big issue, since I’ll probably have to pay my kids’ college tuitions with a large wheelbarrow of hundreds. But I’m the father of two young boys, and I think a lot about the example I want to set for them. Their model of manhood will depend greatly on my own, and I’m working hard to figure out just what that is.

    How do you balance work life and home life?
    LOD: I’m lucky to have a job that affords me lots of time at home with the kids. The trade-off is that I don’t get to price the newest Jaguar XJ8s during bonus time. But I’d rather be poor and present than rich and remote.

    How does your fathering style differ from your spouse? Is that an area of conflict?
    LOD: When I’m alone with the kids, I like to sit on the floor and play with them. We wrestle, we build stuff, we draw, we watch NASCAR and This Old House together. My wife prefers to stay out of the way and let them play on their own. I say she’s too aloof and disinclined to engage with the kids, while she says I’m over-involved in their natural explorations. We fight about it often, mainly because she’s so grievously wrong and everything.

    [The Nurturing Father: A Dad’s Essential Role: 3/5/07]

    Posted in Family Interviews at 1:23pm | Link to this item | Email this item to a friend. Email This to a Friend |

    Monday, February 12, 2007
    Interview with Makeup Artist/Cosmetics CEO Bobbi Brown

    Bobbi BrownBobbi Brown is one of the biggest names in cosmetics and when she’s not running her own company, she’s creating cover looks for magazines and makeup for fashion shows, appearing on television shows to dispense beauty advice, and making time for her husband and three sons. Did we mention she’s an author too? Her fourth book, Bobbi Brown Living Beauty, is set for release on February 15. Here’s your chance to meet her when she comes to the Steinhardt Building in early March for an intimate talk on Redefining Beauty. First, we provide a base foundation with a quick and light Q&A. 

    What are some beauty essentials for New York women on the go?
    I like double duty products like a rouge that you can use on your lips and cheeks or a shimmer brick you can use on your eyes and cheeks. I never leave home without my customized palette. It’s the ultimate beauty resource for women that are on the go. It contains all the products I use in one condensed palette which fits into any purse and is perfect for touch ups throughout the day as well.

    What are some beauty tips that will save women a future trip to the plastic surgeon?
    Moisturize and wear SPF! Moisturizing is the key to keeping your skin looking healthy and young- It’s never too early to start! Sun damage may not show up now but the damaging effects like wrinkles and sun spots will show up as you age.

    What’s the worst thing a woman can do to her face?
    Get too much botox and other radical fillers injected into their faces or too much plastic surgery. It doesn’t look natural, it just looks like you have had work done.

    What do you think of someone like New York Times “Critical Shopper” columnist Alex Kuczynski and her near-metamorphosis?
    It’s sad when women think they have to look like the young celebs of today to keep up with the unhealthy obsession of today but I admire her for writing the truth about this obsession and how women are only striving to look the same as one another. It’s all about being who you are and feeling good about yourself.

    What do you think are best/worst trends in the beauty industry right now?
    I love that there are more formulas and colors coming out that are natural and give women more choices (like foundation that make your skin look like real skin) but I hate all the over the top products that make women look over done and ridiculous. Some things don’t accentuate the good in people- they just make you look like your wearing too much makeup.

    What magazines/websites do you read regularly?
    I read them all (even the weekly’s I hate to say) – I like to stay in touch with the trends.

    You’ve worked with some of the most beautiful women in the world, from actresses to models—who would you say stood out for you?
    Susan Sarandon is one of the most beautiful women in the world not only on the outside but on the inside as well. She is such a strong, kind and passionate woman who I admire greatly. She has a real presence about her that you can feel when she walks into a room.

    [Redefining Beauty with Bobbi Brown: 3/7/07]

    Posted in Humanities Fitness Interviews at 5:16pm | Link to this item | Email this item to a friend. Email This to a Friend |

    Thursday, February 01, 2007
    Y Music Talk: Composer Jennifer Higdon

    Jennifer HigdonJennifer Higdon is one of the most prolific and successful American composers writing today. Her works have been recorded on over two dozen CDs. In 2004, the Atlanta Symphony released the Grammy-winning Higdon: Concerto for Orchestra/City Scape. Higdon enjoys more than 200 performances a year of her works. Her work Blue Cathedral is one of the most-performed orchestral works by a living composer (100 orchestras have performed the work since its 2000 premiere). She teaches composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Jennifer spoke recently with composer Kirk Noreen from the 92nd Street Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts about composing, the Dixie Chicks and the upcoming performance of her work String Poetic on Feb 14 by violinist Jennifer Koh.

    KN: You are one of the fortunate few composers who make their living as a composer. Congratulations, this is no easy task. I’m sure you have numerous commissions that will keep you busy for the foreseeable future, but if you could put everything on hold for an indefinite period of time and write your “dream piece,” what would it be?

    JH: This is an interesting question. I actually think the things I would choose to write on my own, such as a “dream piece,” might very well be the things I’m working on now. I have just finished a piano concerto for Lang Lang and that’s something that I had really wanted to do for awhile (since knowing him as a student at Curtis). It seems like kind of a miracle that I actually got asked to do it!

    The next 3 projects that I have I consider incredible projects that if I were choosing for myself out of all possibilities, I would choose these. One is a blue grass concerto for the group Time For Three. I know these guys well, love their playing, and identify with the sound, having grown up in East Tennessee where bluegrass is prominent. I’ve always wanted the chance to try to meld musical forms that hold great interest to me, Classical and Bluegrass. It’s an interesting challenge.

    I’m also writing a large work for Jennifer Koh (kind of a 2nd installment in commissions for her, yours being the first work), chorus and orchestra. This is also an unusual form. But working on the creation of a piece that involves both a soloist and a chorus, with orchestra backing these 2 up, is going to be just a HUGE load of fun. I’m really excited by the prospect of all the possible colors this combination presents.

    And finally, I’m writing a violin concerto for Hilary Hahn, and I’ve wanted to do that for more than half a dozen years, since knowing her as a student. So I’m inspired and enthralled by the possibilities of such an artist. I guess you can say that I’m now doing those very things which I would call my “dream pieces.” I like some variety in my composing time and these 3 projects are giving me the chance to explore different worlds while working with excellent artists.



    Posted in The Arts Interviews at 4:53pm | Link to this item | Email this item to a friend. Email This to a Friend |

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007
    92YQ: Wendy Spero

    Wendy SperoActress/comedian/writer Wendy Spero, author of Microthrills: True Stories from a Life of Small Highs, was supposed to perform last week at Makor with Annabelle Gurwitch and Beth Lapides in a night offering “Dispatches from the L.A. Literati” with three former New Yorkers. Unfortunately, Wendy had to cancel at the last minute due to “emergency gum surgery"—a bad break for someone who tries to make a living by talking. The show went on, as it always does, so for now you’ll just have to be entertained by her in the written form until the next time she makes it back here.

    How many years, apartments and what neighborhoods have you lived in NY/LA?
    NY: I grew up in a small one bedroom apartment with my mother on the Upper East Side, in Yorkville, and I was there until I left for college. After college I moved into a three-bedroom, six floor walk-up on 95th and Madison and lived there for many years with at least twenty different roommates - all vaguely sketchy - from Craig’s List. Eventually I moved to Park Slope near this fabulous pottery store that also sells finger puppets - The Clay Pot. There were a lot of babies in that neighborhood, and I’m fairly baby-obsessed, so that worked out well. And those babies were slightly more down-to-earth than than the babies on Madison. But Tasti-D-Lite hadn’t yet come to Brooklyn and that was a bummer.
    LA: I’ve been living in West Hollywood for two years now. 

    What’s your best (or worst) NYC taxi/LA freeway story?
    NY: A few months ago I went to NYC and left my suitcase in the trunk of a taxi. I had a mild meltdown, and called “311” - the lost and found department - and this woman was like, “I’m going to need you to take a deep breath, ma’am. Okay...I’m going to tranfer you...but I will stay with you. I WILL stay with you. We will find your bag.” She treated it like a “911” call. She contacted the taxi company and the cab drove back with my bag the next day.
    LA: I once accidentally went on a freeway. (I recently learned how to drive and would never ever dare purposely go on a freeway). It was a very “Clueless” moment, and my instinct was to get out of the car and yell for help, but I remained relatively calm and luckily it was very backed up, and I got off at the next exit.

    What era, day or event in NY/LA’s history would you like to re-live?
    NY: I’d like to relive Halloween in the 80’s as a child in New York City. I lived in a high-rise apartment building, and I got to trick or treat by riding up and down the elevator - all while wearing socks. I never had to wear a puffy jacket over my costume or ruin a look with a clunky pair of snow boots.
    LA: I think there was a day last year when it rained. No mudslides or anything, just your basic rain. It was cozy. I’d like more rain.

    Describe that low, low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NY/LA for good.
    NY: I was working as an assistant for this executive-y guy in an office as a day job. One day I spilled French dressing on his message pad. Then I got eyeshadow glitter all over his budget reports for the fifth time. I knew I wasn’t capable of working in an office anymore and had to change my life and learn how to drive and move to LA, where there seemed to be more acting gigs. 
    LA: I just got to LA. Well, two years ago, but it feels like a few months. I haven’t had to leave yet, but when I do, perhaps, leave for good, I’m not sure it would be a low moment.

    What was your best dining experience in NY/LA?
    NY: For my (I think it was 10th) birthday I went to a restaurant called Woods with my grandparents. And they befriended a tall woman with a protruding jaw who was seated nearby. She said she was a singer. She eventually joined our table and sang “happy birthday” to me. After we left, a waiter came running after us, asking what it was like to talk to Carly Simon. We didn’t know who that was, but it was exhilarating to know that I had had contact with an actual famous person. My second best dining experience was when I was like, five, and I went to the Tavern on The Green with my grandfather and had eggs benedict. I remember being very uncomfortable in my tights - they were falling down in rolly bunches towards my ankle. But it was the fanciest place I’d ever seen, and someone there gave me a maroon balloon towards the end of the evening.
    LA: All sushi places are orgasmic.

    With a nod to Milton Glaser/Randy Newman, how much do you really love NY/LA?
    NY: I love New York more than words in a Q&A could ever express.
    LA: Not that much. A little. I love it a little.

    What happened the last time you went to LA/NY?
    LA: I took a door off of a Mercedes on Melrose.
    NY: I got a 103 fever ON the plane there. I spent a week in my mother’s very cluttered apartment without internet and I couldn’t watch TV because my mother’s set is below the rim of the bed, so you have to be sitting perfectly upright to view anything. Then I got pink eye at JFK on the way back.

    If you could change one thing about NY/LA, what would it be?
    NY: I would make it a thirty minute train ride from LA.
    LA: I’d demand people walk on the streets, so I could properly people-watch.

    The End of The World is finally happening. What are you going to do with your last 24 hours in NY/LA?
    NY: Get stoned, go to Dylan’s candy bar, and then rummage through the stuffed animals at FAO Shwartz.
    LA: Sit on the trolly at The Grove mall and marvel at the fountain while eating a super ripe peach from the farmer’s market. In February.

    Related: Improv Night with Jacqueline Kabat, New Faces in Comedy, a/k/a Tommy Chong, Mortified, Jackie Mason, Comedy Improvisation, Jewish Comedians Pushing the Envelope: Jonathan Ames and Catie Lazarus, Judy Gold and more Arts & Entertainment talks

    Posted in The Arts Interviews at 3:54pm | Link to this item | Email this item to a friend. Email This to a Friend |

    Friday, January 26, 2007
    92YQ: Alex Kuczynski

    Alex KuczynskiNew York Times “Critical Shopper” columnist Alex Kuczynski has lived in New York long enough to experience “extra room” dreams—a phenomenon Adam Gopnik mentioned here Tuesday night. She has also experienced Botox as a former “cosmetic surgery addict,” and writes about it in detail in her book Beauty Junkies. Today, she refuses to even use nail polish. She’ll be here Monday night with a diverse panel to discuss Why Smart Women Still Care About Their Looks. But first, she takes on the 92YQ.

    How many years, apartments and in what neighborhoods have you lived in NYC?
    In college, from 1986 to 1990, Barnard and Columbia dorms, and two sublet apartments. Then Red Hook, Brooklyn. My boyfriend would meet me at the subway stop and walk me home to the occasional lullaby of automatic weapons fire. Prince Street for about a minute. Then Gramercy Park, in a studio apartment with a Murphy bed that folded out of the wall. During the entire time I lived there, I had this recurring dream: I would open the door to my closet and it was actually an enormous extra new room! Then I would wake up and be bitterly, bitterly disappointed. Then I moved to the Upper East Side, 81st and Lexington. The woman who had lived in it before me died in bed there, but that didn’t bother me. She must have had good karma. Then I moved to a new apartment with my husband. So, in 20 years, seven apartments.

    What’s your best (or worst) NYC taxi story?
    A very young, and obviously new, driver was at the wheel of the taxi. He was a lousy driver and he had no idea where he was going. I said, Buddy, you are way too young and way too inexperienced to be driving this taxi. Stop the car. He did. He thought I was going to get out. I went to the driver’s side and told him to move over and let me drive. To my amazement, he did! I drove myself home, with him next to me on the front seat, looking utterly bewildered. When I got out, I gave him a big tip. And my doorman was plenty surprised.

    What’s your New York motto?
    Seize the day. Because when you’re dead, you’re dead for a r-e-a-l-l-y long time.

    Describe that low, low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
    I’ve never had that moment! Should I have had that moment?

    Who do you consider to be the greatest New Yorker of all time?
    David Dinkins, because he married me and my husband in our apartment. And then, when my sister accidentally signed her name on the marriage certificate where it read, “Bride,” instead of the line that read “Witness,” he very kindly ran around our apartment trying to find White-Out.

    What was your best dining experience in NYC?
    Discovering Greek yogurt with honey and nuts at Likitsakos Greek Market on Lexington Avenue and 80th Street. Discovering the delicious salad at Café Boulud: frisee, bacon and a warm egg right in the middle. Discovering the Grand Marnier prawns at Shun Lee West. Discovering La Creme Cremaillere pistachio ice cream, and then discovering that it’s made in New York out of the famous La Cremaillere restaurant in Bedford. Getting a house account at 21. Even though I never use it, I have it, and that makes me feel very grown up. My most nerve-wracking dining experience was at E.A.T. and I sat down right next to Jerry Seinfeld, and then realized who I was sitting next to, and then I felt terribly awkward, because I didn’t want him to think I was some sort of stalker who had intentionally chosen that seat so I could sit next to him. So, if you’re reading this, Jerry Seinfeld: I didn’t mean to sit next to you! I had no idea that was you! In any event, the whole thing was so upsetting I couldn’t even eat my soup.

    Of all the movies made about or highly associated with New York, what role would you have liked to be cast in?
    If Roy Scheider had had a girlfriend in Marathon Man, I would have liked to play that role. (Roy Scheider, of course, being New York’s greatest iconic leading man—you know, slightly worried, slightly intellectual but really physically fit. Remember the scene of him doing the push-ups off the side of the bed in his boxer shorts in his Paris hotel room???) Unfortunately, he didn’t.

    What happened the last time you went to L.A.?
    I signed copies of my book at a bookstore in Beverly Hills. The publicist arranged to have cookies with the book’s cover image imprinted on the front. She told me they would be “keepsake” cookies for the audience. I asked her why they would be “keepsake” cookies. She said, “Because no one in L.A. actually EATS cookies.”

    If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
    The fact that it’s so far from Ketchum, Idaho, my other favorite place.

    [Why Smart Women Still Care About Their Looks: 01/29/07]

    Posted in Humanities Interviews at 12:12pm | Link to this item | Email this item to a friend. Email This to a Friend |

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