Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Schmap New York Guide

A photo of my 2007 Times Square walk for the Brooklyn Center appears on the completely reformatted and overhauled real-time Schmap New York City Guide.

It shows the tour outside the Ambassador Theatre, 219 West 49th Street, where I talked about the various show places along the block. As with all my tours, the walk documented by Betty Blade.

It had long been my wish to do a Times Square walk for the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment. After finally getting the okay, I begun to rehearse, going over and over the congested streets, checking notes, editing my history, trying to trim everything to a two-hour format.

The walk started on West 47th at the Actors Temple, Congregation Ezrath Israel, where Rabbi/Cantor Jill Hausman kindly consented to give us a tour of the historic synagogue. Stain glass and plagues paid homage to the show biz greats who had worshiped there: the Ritz Brothers, Sophie Tucker, Joe E. Lewis, Smith & Dale, Jack Benny and so many others. It was an excellent introduction to a Times Square walk.

Timing on a new walk is always a bit problematic. A tour can never be totally worked out until afterwards. Than you can trim, hone and fine tune it for the next time. Still everything went smoothly until finally reaching the Cross Roads of the World where the crowded streets became hard to navigate. Trying to find a place to stand while giving a bit of history. Trying to talk over the noise of streets. Always trying to hide any difficulties from the tour-goers.

As with earlier walks, I had worked out several alternatives and started to improvise as we made our way to the corner of 43 rd Street and the end of the tour. However at the very heart of Times Square a stage had been set-up and a band started to play. Making a detour down 43rd Street, I ended with the Paramount, Lyceum and Olympia Theatres. It had gone almost an hour overtime. Still everyone enjoyed the walk and those you had to leave a bit early left with positive comments. Twice afterwards I ran into people who had been on the tour. They told me how much they enjoyed it. Apparently no one saw the tour guide sweat.

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