A New Year with Old Traditions


Happy 2013! Photo by: asterix611

One of the things I like about living on the West Coast is watching the ball drop in Times Square at 9 P.M. on television. For me, that’s when the new year begins, and it’s still early in the evening.  But joining the crowd at the Crossroads of the World, suffering in the cold without a restroom in sight, is on many people’s bucket list.

This past New Year’s Eve an estimated one million folks donned their warmest jackets and most comfortable shoes with a heavy pair of socks, fashion be damned, to come together to watch the illuminated Waterford crystal ball make its descent.  At the last minute, they made their voices heard:  sixty, forty, twenty, ten, nine, eight….

The gathering at what is now called One Times Square first took place in 1904. When the new headquarters of The New York Times was built, Alfred Ochs, the newspaper’s owner, threw a New Year’s Eve celebration there sparing no expense.  Over 200,000 noisy, cheering revelers attended an all-day street festival that culminated in a fireworks display set off from the Times Tower. It was a much different ceremony than the ones that had been held at Trinity Church in lower Manhattan for years before.

When the city banned the fireworks display a few years later, Ochs kept the party going.  He arranged to have an iron and wood ball illuminated with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs lowered from the tower flagpole precisely at midnight to welcome 1908. And a tradition was born.

Seven different versions of the ball have been used, including transforming it into an apple with a green stem as part of the “I l Love New York” marketing campaign in the eighties.

This year the triangles comprising the crystal ball, which can display more than millions of colors and patterns, were imprinted with designs denoting peace, friendship, love, courage, joy, and light. In addition to the hale and hearty (and presumably youthful) on site, another billion people around the world partook in the ritual via satellite technology.  We all apparently want the same thing.

Could this be our year?

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


The Rockettes: Kicking Up Their Heels

Photo by: pennstatelive

Photo by: pennstatelive

When I was a young girl I wanted to be a Rockette.  I wasn’t taking tap dance lessons for nothing.  Little did I know that the dancers, proficient in ballet and jazz, as well, were skilled athletes who practiced six hours a day six days a week.

My dreams were embedded in my family’s trips to New York to visit my grandparents.  These usually occurred over winter and spring breaks, when school was closed for the holidays and my father took time off from his business.  As a special treat we went to Radio City Music Hall to see a movie and watch the Christmas Spectacular.

The only movie I remember seeing there is The World of Henry Orient starring Peter Sellers.  I watched it again recently, and it is a delightful coming of age story of two fourteen-year old girls on their adventures following a concert pianist around the city.  I can understand why it has stayed with me all these years.

But the Rockettes.  Oh, my.  They were always mesmerizing: the precision of the kick line; the beauty of the performers; and, the dazzling stage settings.

This year is the 85th anniversary of the Rockettes in New York City.  Inspired by an English dance act called the Tiller Girls, Russell Markert, a choreographer, formed the Missouri Rockets in St. Louis, before relocating the troupe to Manhattan’s Roxy Theater in 1927, and hence calling them the Roxyettes.  With practice, practice, practice, they became headliners at the Music Hall in 1933.

The women from across the United States were required to be 5’3” to 5’6” inches tall.   Today they stand 5’6” to 5’10.5”.  That’s progress, but then as now, the shortest dancers among the thirty-six on stage at any one time were at the ends of the line creating the illusion that they were all the same height.

As always the program this season brings happiness and cheer to the audience.  The dancers appear as reindeer, candy canes, and wooden soldiers in The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, a favorite for decades.  And if that’s not enough, Santa Claus shows up, in 3-D, no less, to take the audience on a magical mystery tour through Manhattan.

The show ends with “Living Nativity,” a routine, which close to twenty minutes long, has always been way too long in my opinion, but the dancers mix it up with live camels, sheep, and donkeys, much to everyone’s delight.

Kick up your heels with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall through December 30th and create joyful memories this holiday season.

My prayers go to the children of Newtown, Connecticut, whose dreams will never materialize, the adults who tried to protect them, and their families who loved them.  May happier memories help mend their broken hearts.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


75 Years Ago on Seventh Avenue

Open-Faced Reuben.   Photo by: bryce_edwards "No one goes back home bragging they had a nice chopped salade." -- The Stage Deli

Open-Faced Reuben. Photo by: bryce_edwards “No one goes back home bragging they had a nice chopped salad.” — The Stage Deli

In 1937 a Russian immigrant opened the Stage Deli on Seventh Avenue just two blocks from Carnegie Hall.   Over the years Broadway celebrities and theater-attending tourists patronized the premises, consuming mounds of hot pastrami and chopped liver, buckets of Matzah ball soup, and plates of kreplach and knishes.  When I was a girl, my family drove from Cleveland to Brooklyn on school breaks to visit my grandparents, making the Stage Deli our first stop in Manhattan.

The restaurant was always crowded; the waiters, middle-aged bald guys, always brusque.  Studying the menu intensely, but ordering the corned beef on rye, I’d wonder about the well known and renown who were honored with sandwiches named after them.  I knew who some of them were, entertainers like Milton Berle, Danny Kaye, Ethel Merman, probably from television, but not much else about them.  Yankee greats Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Roger Maris were venerated, too.

As times changed, new names were added to the selection. The Alex Rodriguez Triple Decker was made of turkey, chopped liver, lettuce, tomato and onions, while the Derek Jeter came with roast beef, turkey, and muenster cheese

Instead of an Ed Koch, the Rudy Giuliani Hero consisted of corned beef and pastrami and topped with muenster, swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing.

But even with Sid’s Caesar Salad going for $15.95 (add chicken or steak for another three bucks) or a Conan O’Brien priced at $22.95, it wasn’t enough to keep the Stage’s doors open.  Citing a downturn in business and rising rent, the current owner closed the restaurant at the end of November.

Five years ago the restaurant put out a poster saying, “ We are all so happy about our 70th anniversary, a waiter almost smiled.”  No one is smiling today.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


The Empire State Building: You Light Up My Life

What a sight at night. Photo by: Photo Gallery

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!  Think green, like leprechauns and shamrocks or green beer and t-shirts, many of which reference drinking too much Irish stout or other alcoholic beverages.

Consider the Chicago River.  It turns green, really bright green, Emerald Isle green.

And the Empire State Building.  The top floors glow green to commemorate the holiday.

Since 1964 when floodlights were added to the iconic skyscraper, appropriate colors emanate from the structure throughout the year in honor of special people, places, organizations, and events.

When the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, the building went blue.  Blue was also used to call attention to the 20th anniversary of the Blue Man Group and to mourn the passing of Ol’ Blue Eyes, when Frank Sinatra died.

For World AIDS Day the tower turns red.

For the U.S Open in Flushing Meadows, it shines yellow, as bright as a new tennis ball.

It’s red, white, and blue for the Fourth of July, and red, white, and pink for Valentine’s Day.  Tribute is paid to Thanksgiving in red, orange, and yellow, a reminder of the fall season just past.

To celebrate gay pride, the building radiates a veritable rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and lilac.

The lights are turned off to respect Earth Hour, organized by the World Wildlife Fund.  The tower went dark for fifteen minutes when actress Fay Wray died.

Building policy dictates against lighting for religious figures, which created a fuss when it denied honoring the newly created Cardinal Timothy Dolan.  Only Easter, Eid Al Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, Hanukah, and Christmas are observed with illumination.

To take part in this custom, submit an application to the Empire State Building Company selection committee, although approval is not guaranteed.  It’s considered a privilege, not an entitlement.

Alternatively, go to the Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Center for a great view unobstructed by other skyscrapers.  The sight is worth seeing from New Jersey, too.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


For anyone who likes their Guinness with chocolate, check out this recipe: