Skip

Diamonds, Daisies, Snowflakes... New York!
August 23, 2013 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Movin' On Up: A skewed history of New York City as depicted by the opening themes of 1970s TV shows
posted by scody (45 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I HEART NEW YORK!
posted by Artw at 1:00 PM on August 23, 2013


That was a fun read. :)
posted by zarq at 1:10 PM on August 23, 2013


It often blows my mind how NYC went from an incredibly crime-infested city (Times Square was downright scary) to the most gentrified place on the planet in such a short amount of time.
posted by Melismata at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2013


Brooklyn was represented in the 1970s by Welcome Back Kotter. Set in a fictional high school, it is New Utrecht High School that's used in the opening. While other sitcoms used a Manhattan establishing shot, Kotter prefers a beat-up sign that announces Brooklyn as the 4th largest city in America. With its painted trains and lines of laundry, this might be the grittiest depiction of New York in a sitcom, even as its high school students (the Sweathogs) were incredibly unrealistic.
Not just Brooklyn, but Bensonhurst, my adoptive home and the neighborhood I've been clawing my way out of for the last decade or so. Save for the graffiti and clotheslines, it still looks like that today. The under-the-train shots were more than likely filmed on 86th street, which is where we buy our groceries. The opening fades out around 86th and 23rd. It is still as crowded on Saturdays and Sundays and the video, fortunately for everyone reading, does not convey the hideous summertime smell of that block.
posted by griphus at 1:17 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sesame street and Ghostbusters were both incredibly formative of my image of New York. That and Eddie Murphy movies.
posted by Artw at 1:17 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep.

My Junior High School graduation was held at New Utrecht High School. The school from Welcome Back Kotter.

No idea how they picked that place but everyone was pretty psyched.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:18 PM on August 23, 2013


Sometimes I look at the date of things now and its got a 2 in front and a bunch of 1s and 2s and 3s and 4s and I'm like: wtf how is this possible how is it not 1987 still.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:18 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ad hominem: " No idea how they picked that place but everyone was pretty psyched."

Gabe Kaplan was an alumnus.
posted by zarq at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


...to the most gentrified place on the planet in such a short amount of time.

Not yet, but we're working really hard on it, apparently.

Considering that Bushwick is officially No Longer Terrifying To White People, I'm now waiting for Canarsie apartments to be offered up by real estate agents as "East Bushwick" in the way they offered up Bushwick as "East Williamsburg" -- nowhere near actual East Williamsburg -- in the mid-2000s.
posted by griphus at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2013


zarq, you're from Gravesend?
posted by griphus at 1:22 PM on August 23, 2013


Oh, heh. I just realized you might have meant you had no idea why your Jr. High picked New Utrecht for graduation. :) In which case, nevermind. LOL
posted by zarq at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2013


Gabe Kaplan was an alumnus.

I meant for my graduation :)
posted by Ad hominem at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where'd you go to Jr. High, Ad Hom? I went to 228 and our graduation was at Dewey.
posted by griphus at 1:24 PM on August 23, 2013


IS 223
posted by Ad hominem at 1:26 PM on August 23, 2013


griphus: "zarq, you're from Gravesend?"

I am. I lived here as a little kid.

It's a tiny block between King's Highway and Avenue S. At one end of the block is the El, McDonald Avenue. At the other end is the public school I went to, PS 215.
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on August 23, 2013


Ad hominem: " I meant for my graduation :)"

I gotta work on my reading comprehension. :D :D
posted by zarq at 1:28 PM on August 23, 2013


I figured Zarq was from Brooklyn too.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:28 PM on August 23, 2013


Sesame street and Ghostbusters were both incredibly formative of my image of New York. That and Eddie Murphy movies.

Me too, plus the opening credits to SNL, as well as almost* every sitcom on this list. In fact, the first notes of the Taxi theme song unexpectedly triggered such a painful, Proustian pang of nostalgia/mortality/memory/longing that I actually had to close my browser and catch my breath. I grew up in Wyoming and Colorado in the '70s and '80s, and had never been to New York... but my mental aspirational images of MAKING IT IN THE BIG CITY SOMEDAY were all largely populated by the streets and bridges and storefronts from these shows. So for me, seeing them doesn't generate actual memories of New York (which formed later, after college) as much as memories of feeling both attached to and trapped in what felt to me like the most un-New York location in the country, and yearning to become an adult and live in what was really only this mediated, dreamlike version of gritty-but-awesome New York.

*Needles and Pins? Barefoot in the Park?? 13 Queens Boulevard???
posted by scody at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


I am. I lived here as a little kid.

That is crazy, I lived three blocks away on Van Sicklen for a few years recently. I'm almost entirely sure we've had this conversation before as well.

When I was a kid, I used to walk down McDonald Ave from Ave. M to Ave S. to go to Jr. High.

I lived one block short of getting a bus pass.
posted by griphus at 1:31 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Needs to be compared and contrasted with the depictions of New York in blaxploitation pulp cinema of the same period.

But Black Dynamite, I sell drugs... to the community!
posted by Naberius at 1:32 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I lived here on the top floor. It was two rooms I think.

The little building next used to be a garage, with a house in the back. One day we came home an a guy was standing on top of the garage pissing out into the street so my mom decided to move right then and there. We moved to Dahil Road.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:35 PM on August 23, 2013


What scody said is exactly true for me as well -- as long as you also include the cold open dialogue sequences of Kate & Allie where they just walked around on location and talked. That was such a formative part of what I defined as "city glamour" I'm sometimes still surprised that I didn't somehow end up a divorced woman with kids renting a house with another divorced woman and her kids.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I take walks at night now, and I've been walking by the streets and houses I grew up in (we moved around Bensonhurst a lot) and it is pretty amazing how easy it is to find one stoop in dozens when you have some sort of association with it, even if you haven't seen in it (literally) decades.

I'd go by house after house thinking "maybe that one, maybe that one" and then everything sort of aligns and BAM the exact color of the brick and the way the paint is cracked and how the numbers are painted on the door and you know for a fact that is where you lived.
posted by griphus at 1:38 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


griphus: "That is crazy, I lived three blocks away on Van Sicklen for a few years recently.

Whoa! Insane! My old stomping grounds.

I wonder how much the area has changed since I was a kid. I wonder if it's cleaner than I remember. Or if the train still throws showers of sparks onto McDonald Ave.

So as a kid I went to nursery school at Ahi Ezer Yeshiva. My parents pulled me out when it was time for kindergarten, and sent me to the more conveniently located and secular PS 215. Just looked up their website, and learned that it actually goes girls-only once kids hit the elementary school grades. I had no idea.

I'm almost entirely sure we've had this conversation before as well.

*nod* I think we have? I don't remember if it was over email, im or here, though. I didn't remember that you lived so close to where I grew up!
posted by zarq at 1:58 PM on August 23, 2013


It really true, I've now lived in Manhattan for over 15 years, but every time I go back every stoop and storefront brings back some memories of being 10 years old. Hard to get enthusiastic about somebody's house warming or some cool new brunch place when I am constantly reminded of the pasasage of time, my lost youth and mortality. I don't really want to drink mimosas in the same place I bought x-men comics as a kid.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:03 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if it's cleaner than I remember.

Ha ha ha ha oh man it is filthy. The intersection between Ave. P and McDonald Ave, I have never seen so much birdshit in one location. Not very many sparks though; I think they fixed whatever was doing that by shutting down the Kings Hwy stop every weekend for recorded history.
posted by griphus at 2:04 PM on August 23, 2013


I don't really want to drink mimosas in the same place I bought x-men comics as a kid.

Yeah. all the movie theaters and comic shops I grew up around closed down, save one. I still remember where all of them are.
posted by griphus at 2:05 PM on August 23, 2013


Considering that Bushwick is officially No Longer Terrifying To White People

White people living in Clinton Hill on purpose was my super whoa dude moment.
posted by elizardbits at 2:14 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I took the G from Smith and 9th, past Hoyt-Schermerhorn every weekday to go to high school off Fulton St. It was always empty through Hoyt, which is when lots of black, Hispanic, island, etc. people got on. So this happened every day for four years.

After I graduated, I didn't need the G anymore. Maybe six? seven? years ago when I had to take the G train somewhere for the first time in forever, it got to Hoyt-Schermerhorn and my jaw dropped.

I had never seen a demographic shift like that before, and double-especially-never with the fact that it was all young white people now. Like, I've seen immigrant communities change ethnicity from Italian to Russian to Chinese to whatever dozens of times, but I'd never seen that happen before.
posted by griphus at 2:28 PM on August 23, 2013


The G train is like a thing now.

I know someone who isn't even from New York who has a squiggly line tattoo meant to resemble the G line on the map.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:42 PM on August 23, 2013


Hahahaha omg the G. I like to freak people out by telling them about when it wasn't just a short train and went all the way through Queens. And I am not old-school at all. (And live in SF now.)
posted by dame at 3:02 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


There was an article over at AV Club last year that explained how the footage used in the TAXI credits was a small clip that was looped over and over. This just blew my mind as I had never noticed after all those years of watching it.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 3:05 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


it was all young white people now.

It's not. I lived in that area for years and yea it's got a lot of white people but also the projects are close to there, and the Christian Arabs are still around, and definitely were six or seven years ago.

And there's always well off minorities wherever people think the all white places are.

I get your point about the shift though and how shocking those can be, esp as you have been here so long.
posted by sweetkid at 3:16 PM on August 23, 2013


the footage used in the TAXI credits was a small clip that was looped over and over

!
posted by Sys Rq at 3:30 PM on August 23, 2013


Needs to be compared and contrasted with the depictions of New York in blaxploitation pulp cinema of the same period.

But Black Dynamite, I sell drugs... to the community!


Alas, most Blaxploitation films were set in Los Angeles, with the exception of Shaft (Greenwich Village) and Super Fly (Harlem) and Across 110th Street (Harlem) and Aaron Love Angela (Spanish Harlem) and Black Caesar (Harlem) and The Cool World (Harlem) and Coonskin (Harlem) and Cotton Comes to Harlen (Harlem) and Hell Up in Harlem (Harlem) ...

Um, Black Dynamite was set in Los Angeles.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:42 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Have I told this story before? My cousin is Judd Hirsch. When I went to my grandmother's funeral in Queens when I was a boy, he was there too, and we all rode in to Manhattan in a cab together. As we crossed the Queensboro Bridge, I started to whistle the theme to Taxi.

The cab fell silent. Nobody said anything about it, and never have, thank goodness.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:44 PM on August 23, 2013 [17 favorites]


This is very cool. I grew up in Louisiana, and have only been to the city twice, but it's always fascinated me. Because I never had to deal with the reality of it, I can miss the old, scary New York that some of these bring back to life.
posted by wintermind at 5:37 PM on August 23, 2013


Let us not forget the old Dave Letterman opening.
posted by dr_dank at 6:22 PM on August 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ha, that's cool dr_dank
posted by sweetkid at 6:27 PM on August 23, 2013


I really enjoyed this nostalgia trip. The mention of Kate & Allie sent me to YouTube to watch clips, of which there are many. It's interesting - we watched that show regularly, but I can't really remember much about it specifically, no plots or characters, just that it was kind of nice. What's different for me now is that I think it was sort of a big 'crazy alternative household! How different our families are now!' show at the time. It now seems really unremarkable to see a couple of women running a household. That's not to say it's super common on TV sitcoms, but I can recall that this had a certain kind of unconventional punch that it just doesn't seem to carry in review. It's kind of hard to see the cold opens now as anything but flirtatious banter, instead of the quirky best-friend vibe I think they were meant to have, at least on first read.
posted by Miko at 7:53 PM on August 23, 2013


What a rabbit hole I just went down, the Barney Miller theme in that clip was weak sauce. Turns out there were 4 *different* themes over the years. The third one (linked here) is the definitive IMO.

Oh yeah . . New York.
posted by jeremias at 8:09 PM on August 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sesame street and Ghostbusters were both incredibly formative of my image of New York.

My Irish friend, when she first visited me in New York, was in a constant state of flip-out over omigod it's just the way they show it on TV/movies/etc.. Sesame Street was indeed one such show she mentioned - although my favorite bit was when we went to visit the Queens Science Center, and she looked out the window as we were riding the subway back and suddenly gasped "Sweet God, it's just like on Archie Bunker!" And the next thing I knew she was standing up in the seat and leaning out the subway window and trying to take a picture of Flushing.

My cousin is Judd Hirsch.

....If this is for real, and you are still in touch with him, can you let him know that I was a huge Taxi fan and there was an episode where Alex Reiger became a stage manager, and that was the very first time I learned that a stage manager was actually a thing, and then I grew up and actually became a damn good one for a good long time, and so I owe him thanks? Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 PM on August 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some of these comments are kinda freaking me out - because my grandparents spent their entire adult lives until retirement living in an apartment at the intersection of MacDonald Ave and Avenue O. And I spent a pivotal part of my childhood living in a different building across the street from them, in the 1960's. Apparently, that neighborhood is some sort of metafilter spawning ground. And has been since long before metafiter existed.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:40 PM on August 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Let us not forget the old Dave Letterman opening .

This is weird to me, I sort of assumed this was still the way it opens. I used to watch it every night in the 80’s but haven’t hardly seen it for maybe 20 years. Every once in a while I’ll flip by it and I’m completely shocked that David Letterman is old. How the hell did that happen?
posted by bongo_x at 9:41 AM on August 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish I were close enough to Judd to pass long your message. My intereactions with him mostly came from him sending me signed photos of himself as a Hanukkah gift. My mother sometimes sent samples of my theater writing to him, which he generally ignored or was not flattering about. When my play Minstrel Show opened in New York to a rave review in the New Yorker, Judd was in another play somewhere, and my director made a packet of the reviews and dropped it off at the theater for him, with an invitation to attend the show, which Judd passively declined by simply not showing up.

I read an interview with him a few years back where he admitted his tended to respond to people who ask him for help with their career with a cold shoulder, and to each their own. I have tried to use this as a negative example for how to have my own career, so I run a playwriting group in Omaha and try to create relationships with individuals and institutions that will create opportunities for local theater artists, with some success. Judd is a terrific actor and, from people he has worked with, I head his good to work with, and that's all I expect from him, and it makes him a hell of a lot better than a lot of theater people I have known. But I have given up hopes of having any actual relationship with him, although I did contact the artistic director of the Guthrie on his behalf to let them know he was potentially interested in working with them.

I'm guessing when Judd was ignoring me years ago, it never occurred to him that one day I might be friendly with the artistic director of America's largest regional theater. I plan to never make that mistake myself: never presume that a person asking for help now will not be in a position to help me later.

Still, Taxi was a brilliant show.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:43 AM on August 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


« Older Dreams are real   |   "Not five years ago, he... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post