Trish Bongard Godfrey

How to Get Kissed in NYC!

02 April 2012
Trish Bongard Godfrey

Last month, we headed off to New York City for a few days over the school break. The weather was fantastic, and it’s always a city perfect for walkers (and shoppers). We stayed at The Alex Hotel, which has 2-bedroom suites with kitchenettes (good for traveling with teens) at pretty reasonable prices. We reserved through about a month before. The beds were very comfy; the rooms were tight, but had big windows and a great location.

While we were there, we were invited for drinks by a gentleman whose stunning 7,000-square-foot multi-storied co-op apartment was a museum!

The apartment, in the historically designated The Ritz Tower at Park Avenue and 57th Street, was a little pied-à-terre owned and decorated by William Randolph Hearst to share with his mistress, actress Marion Davies, from about 1928-1938.

I don’t see places like this every day! The spectacular living room is about 75 feet long and 35 feet wide, with 35-foot ceilings and overlooks Park Avenue and 57th Street through antique lead and stained glass windows. The owner, a very interesting and successful entrepreneur, is a collector of many objects of art, sculptures, and antiques. I can’t even begin to describe the eclectic pieces he had assembled.

But the ceiling is what was most stunning of all. Hearst had purchased the hand-painted ceiling mural from a palace in Venice and had it transported and installed to cover the entire length of the living room. When the current owner purchased the apartment, he hired a restoration artist who spent 18 months on scaffolding meticulously restoring the art. I didn’t get to see it, but the owner described the opulent master bathroom, which overlooks 57th Street. Hearst had his mistress’s lair entirely finished with black onyx. It is now about 80 years old, but they have retained the original tiles. I gather it is suitably appointed for the mistress of Mr. Hearst. Granite shmanite! Ca-ching!

How Young Guys Get Kissed in New York

We were in NYC for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is a culturally all-inclusive event restricted only by one’s ability to stand in dense crowds for long hours on hard pavement; wear green, drink beer from 11 a.m., and clap for various troops of girls with high pony-tails dancing and marching forward at the same time. The most important accessory was a small hand-held signs saying “Kiss me! I’m Irish!” (I am assured this works almost well as Venetian ceiling murals and black onyx.)

Touristy Tip

I have twice purchased the New York Pass while visiting the city with restless teens who want to see things – but quickly. It gives you access to a bunch of touristy sites, and saves money. We bought the three-day passes, and recovered our costs by visiting the Empire State Building, the Bodies Exhibit, and various museums, and taking a harbour tour out to the Statue of Liberty. The theatre discounts they offered weren’t so helpful. It was cheaper and much, much faster to get rush seats for the Broadway productions of Spiderman and Jesus Christ Superstar (with the Stratford Festival cast) down at the South Street Seaport TKTS sales office, near Pier 17.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

New Twin Towers

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center is very tasteful and moving. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but it was well worth a visit. I can’t do it justice in words, but suffice to say that the Memorial is fitting in its dignity and design.

They are also constructing new towers around the site of the Twin Towers. The logistics and challenge of construction in the downtown core is enormous. We watched a huge truck carrying the largest I-beam I have ever seen maneuvering into a very tight spot. I couldn’t imagine this process being repeated hundreds of times.