New York City’s famed Village Halloween Parade is always thrilling and fun, but this year’s was especially joyful.
There was a special energy, sense of joy after the COVID hiatus in 2020 – with crowds returning to six and 10 deep at the barriers lining the parade route, from Spring Street to 16th Street on Sixth Avenue, many of the onlookers in costume.
Understandably, some of the marchers paid homage to COVID in their costumes, but most were throwbacks, nostalgic, playful and even innocent on this night of Devil May Care – the Wizard of Oz, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, and impersonating games –with uncharacteristically few political statements (except for the interruption of an actual religious protest denouncing sinners, sparking “boos” from the crowd). On the other hand, many of the displays paid homage to protecting the climate and environment.
To be sure, there were lots of Satan, the Devil and Malificent but despite the requisite scary monsters, vampires (flash mob dancing to “Thriller”), and ghouls and such, there was a sense of childhood innocence.
That’s because the 2021 theme (“in two parts”) was “Let’s Play” and “All Together Now” – and was manifested in many of the major displays, especially the giant puppets for which the Village Halloween Parade is known.
One huge group of puppets took the form of cartoon characters. And even the skeleton puppets which traditionally lead the parade seemed to have a smile on their skull.
There was even an entire circus, complete with tight rope walker.
Jeanne Fleming, Artistic and Producing Director, challenged participants to “come up with a costume idea that engages the audience and your fellow marchers–so we can PLAY together once again! Think Wheel of Fortune, a Kissing Booth, Play Ball! A Deck of Cards!”
“Don’t be the ONLY GAME in Town–Join with your friends and play on!” she said. “Make up your own interactive or visually enticing game! And then, join us on our Special THEME section of the Parade!”
Indeed, there was a marching Deck of Cards, Hula Hoops, a board game float, and a Slinky Lady.
Among the highlights: Grand Marshal Randy Rainbow performing a song for the Spectrum 1 NY1 television broadcast.
It is one of the best nights for New Yorkers to show their creativity, imagination, artistry and humor. It’s the night when you can be anything you want to be, when the lines between what’s real and what’s not are obliterated – even more so than on other nights of the year.
Here are photo highlights of the Village Halloween Parade 2021:
Celebrating its 48th Anniversary, New York’s Village Halloween Parade is:
The nation’s largest public Halloween celebration
Named as The Greatest Event on Earth by Festivals International for October 31
Attended by over 2 million people, seen by over 1 million on TV
The nation’s only major night Parade
Seen LIVE on NY 1 Television
Listed as one of the 100 Things to do Before You Die
Recipient of the Municipal Arts Society of New York’s Award for making a major contribution to the cultural life of New York City
Recipient of a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in recognition of Longtime Artistic Achievement
Recipient of the Mayor’s Tourism Grant in recognition of the Parade’s major impact on the economic life of New York City and grants from the Manhattan Borough President’s Tourism Initiative
Picked by Events International as The Greatest Event on Earth on October 31, and ranked 3rd by Citysearch as the best event in New York City
Ranked by Biz Bash as one of the top 10 events in NYC
An event which has a positive impact on New York economic life, bringing hundreds of thousands of tourists and an estimated $90 million in tourism dollars into the city, providing Greenwich Village businesses and restaurants their best night of the year.
An event which has a tremendously positive impact on how people who live in or come to visit New York see and feel about this community. The excitement and goodwill that it generates is lasting.
In effect, by turning a large and complex city into a small town for just one night, the Parade has been a pioneer in the critical movement toward the resurrection and rejuvenation of the City.
Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
One of my earliest memories of New York theater is of seeing the D’oyly Carte production of “The Mikado,” one of Gilbert & Sullivan’s most iconic works. So I am jarred when the curtain rises on a very different production –a first scene which I don’t recall, in which composer Arthur Sullivan, librettist William S. Gilbert and producer Richard D’Oyly Carte himself appear, reflect on the new exhibit of Japanese art at Knightsbridge, and Gilbert imagines a new opera set in Japan. When the curtain rises on the fictional town of Titipu, instead of elaborate Japanese kimonos, the Gentlemen of Japan look a lot like Englishmen with odd hats and outfits, and so do the ladies when they appeared in their modified flowing dresses.
I soon appreciate the bold innovation including the new opening scene and characters, and costumes that make clear these are Victorian Englishmen pretending to be Japanese – as the new character of Gilbert says “They dress like us,” except with bright colors. The device, to address the sensibilities of a modern audience, puts the focus of Mikado properly where it should be: a satire on human nature. And in revising the work in this way, a new generation can be delighted by the magnificent music and ingenious lyrics. If anything makes us laugh, especially at ourselves, that is a gift.
Indeed, Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operas – basically inventing today’s musical theater form – are on par with Shakespeare and similarly deserve to be tweaked and reinterpreted, just as “Much Ado About Nothing” was at this year’s Public Theater production, and performed generation after generation.
This production, was first introduced in 2016 as a response to an outcry from New York’s Asian-American community in 2015 over the political incorrectness and insensitivity of the original, regularly performed with Caucasian actors in yellowish makeup and taped-back eyelids. There is no danger of that: this cast is multi-racial.
“NYGASP listened for a simple reason – it was the right thing to do. One year later we created an imaginative new production which all communities, audiences and artists could embrace,” the program notes. The show opened to sold-out crowds and critical acclaim in December 2016; this is its second New York City run. Run to see it before the season concludes, January 5.
The new opening scene and costuming make sure there is no confusion that the Mikado represents Englishmen satirizing Victorian society and politics, capitalizing on British fascination with all things Japanese in the 1880s, to defuse the pointed references that might have gotten Gilbert & Sullivan, who were under censorship of Lord Chamberlain, into trouble. And frankly, the depiction of The Mikado (who doesn’t even appear for the first 2 ½ hours of the three-hour show) as a cruel but ridiculous tyrant is reminiscent of how the Red Queen is depicted in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865). If anything, that character is more relevant today than in 2015 or even 1885.
Of course British audiences of 1885
could have cared less about “political correctness.” The object of Gilbert
& Sullivan’s satire was British society and human nature and the human
condition, and they created their fictional Titipu, Japan, to make their satire
We take advantage of seeing the December 30 afternoon “Grandparents” performance, geared to families, which features a before-show talk introducing the plot and music and an after-show backstage tour in the company with the players.
During the talk, by the Conductor and Musical Director Albert Bergeret, who founded the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players 45 years ago, I learn that my comparison of “Mikado” for Gilbert & Sullivan to “Madame Butterfly” by Puccini is not entirely unfounded. While the music that Sullivan composed runs the gamut of British musical styles (ballad, madrigal, march), he incorporates the Japanese five-note scale and an actual Japanese folk song, Miya-sama (though for this production, new English lyrics are substituted for the Japanese) – music which Puccini also expropriates in “Madame Butterfly.”
“We took out what’s incomprehensible or inappropriate,” Bergeret says, who adds that Sullivan was a brilliant, classically trained musician who was well versed in all genres of music and composers from around the world. In “Mikado” Sullivan demonstrates his virtuosity in writing in many different forms.
Just as Gilbert incorporated contemporaneous digs, so too does this Ko-Ko, a common tailor taken from the county jail (for flirting) and elevated to Lord High Executioner, update his “List” of those who shan’t be missed, to be as current has yesterday’s tweet, changing it each performance, surprising even the rest of the cast.
Ko-Ko, brilliantly played by David Macaluso, includes “the wealthy narcisscist, he never will be missed” on his list and manages to spell out T-R-U-M-P in the subheads of the long, long list as the scroll unfurls.
The premise of “The Mikado,” is a
society under the thumb of an all-powerful sadistic but ridiculous ruler who
makes ridiculous but cruel laws on a whim: flirting as a capital offense, then
demanding to know why no executions have been carried out.
The Mikado, played by David Wannen,
exclaims, “My object all sublime/I shall achieve in time/ to let the punishment
fit the crime.. And make each prisoner pent/Unwillingly
represent/A source of innocent merriment.”
The Mikado’s updated
list of who to punish and how, includes the instagrammer “made to endure a
dungeon cell without not one cellular bar” and “political pundits, who must
sail for weeks on a boat full of leaks on a sea of alternative facts.” (That
gets tremendous laughs.)
They do manage to slip in a few names, carefully spreading their barbs more or less equally: but one placement in particular is rich – Pooh-Bah, marvelously played by Matthew Wages, signs the execution order with all his official positions, but adds to the list signing of those supposedly witnessed Nanki-Poo’s execution Attorney General William Barr and the chair of the Judiciary Committee (balance).
The Mikado then looks to execute Ko-Ko (the Lord High Executioner), Pooh-Bah (the “Lord High Everything”) and Pitti-Sing (one of the “three little maids from school” and Ko-Ko’s wards, played by Amy Maude Helfer) for carrying out the Mikado’s orders to execute somebody but unwittingly executing the heir to the throne. The Mikado appreciates the effort (he only wishes he could have witnessed the execution) but insists they still should be executed for, well, killing the heir and looks for the entertainment value in their lingering death.
The Mikado justifies killing the three because, after all, this is an unfair world where the virtuous suffer and the undeserving succeed. This leads to the song that probably best sums up the moral of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado,” in which the three condemned sing, “See how the Fates their gifts allot/For A is happy, B is not/Yet B is worthy, I dare say/Of more prosperity than A…If I were Fortune which I’m not/B should enjoy A’s happy lot/And A should die in miserie/That is, assuming I am B.”
In the end The Mikado is less a jab at all-powerful monarchal misrule, than a comic contemplation of what human beings do when in that situation. Their focus is on human nature and the human condition. In Mikado, we see self-preservation – even by Yum-Yum who is willing to marry Nanki-Poo who loves her so much he is willing to be executed after just a month, until she realizes that as the wife of an executed man, she would be buried alive.
This production makes another change at the end, stopping the show for a return to the Gilbert & Sullivan characters trying to figure out an ending that would not rely on a magical or fantastical device like the “magic lozenge” they used in their 1877 opera “The Sorcerer” and almost breaks up their collaboration. (Gilbert finally gets to use the device in “The Mountebanks,” written with Alfred Cellier in 1892). Instead, Gilbert comes up with an argument that actually makes sense given the circumstance: Any order by the Mikado must be carried out, so having given the order, it must have been carried out (not much more absurd than “He was too stupid to know withholding military aid to a vulnerable ally in exchange for political favor was illegal”).
Another part that young
people might assume was added as a nod to “Me Too” to make relevant, is Katisha
espousing on ‘beauty’ –her face might not be much (and doesn’t cruelty hold
some allure?), but she has a shoulder blade, a right elbow, and a heel that
admirers come miles to see.
“The Mikado,” the ninth of 14 collaborations between Gilbert & Sullivan, was immensely popular when it opened on March 14 1885 in London, running for 672 performances, the second longest run for any musical theater production. By the end of 1885, some 150 companies in Europe and America were performing the operetta. It even was widely performed in Japan (apparently they took no offense).
There were decades when a
production of Mikado could be seen somewhere in the English speaking world any
day of the year. Performed for the last 135 years, some of its word inventions
have entered the lexicon, such as “the grand Poo-Bah” and “Let the punishment
fit the crime.”
The new Prologue, written by NYGASP Director and Choreographer David Auxier-Loyola (who also plays W.S. Gilbert and Pish-Tush), appears actually a distillation of the actual background (or rather the mythology) to Gilbert & Sullivan creating “The Mikado,” especially their references to avoiding a similar plot solution of a magic lozenge. Apparently, the Knightsbridge exhibition of Japanese art came after Mikado opened, though British fascination in Japan had built up from the 1860s and 1870s, after Japan opened to Western trade in 1854. (The 1999 film “Topsy Turvy” is a marvelous film depicting their lives around this time.)
Gilbert & Sullivan actually invented musical theater. At the time Gilbert & Sullivan were writing, there were opera, light opera and music hall theatricals, but nothing like a musical show with story – music that had both class and pop – with real story lines, music advanced the story, Bergeret tells us. This is where musical theater started,. Watching “Mikado” you see a straight line to Rogers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim.
that are being presented this season are family friendly, but some have special
events attached. We had the marvelous experience of attending a “Grandparents”
performance which featured a before-show talk introducing the show (especially
to children), and a most marvelous after-show backstage tour with cast members.
(David Auxler, who plays the Gilbert character said they only had five
rehearsals) and so enjoyed going backstage with David Macaluso (Ko-Ko), who
showed us the various props including his giant executioner’s ax.
This not-to-be-missed production of the iconic comic opera is fabulous, featuring original choreography and direction by NYGASP Associate Stage Director David Auxier, who also authored the show’s prologue and plays Gilbert and Pish-Tush, and Assistant Direction by Broadway performer/director Kelvin Moon Loh.
The show’s sensational cast includes: dynamic bass David Wannen as The Mikado; clever patter man and comic David Macaluso as Sullivan and Ko-Ko; blustering Matthew Wages as Richard D’Oyly Carte and the pompous Pooh-Bah; creative David Auxier as author Gilbert and town leader Pish-Tush; charming tenor John Charles McLaughlin as romantic hero Nanki-Poo; formidable Caitlin Burke as lovelorn and overbearing Katisha; beautiful soprano Sarah Caldwell Smith as self-aware Yum Yum; Rebecca Hargrove as maiden sister Peep-Bo, and mellifluous mezzo Amy Maude Helfer as adventurous Pitti-Sing.
The production showcases
magnificent scenery designed by Anshuman Bhatia, costumes by Quinto Ott and
lighting by Benjamin Weill. The
Mikado is produced by
NYGASP Executive Director David Wannen.
Since its founding in 1974, the New
York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) has presented more than 2,000
performances of the Gilbert & Sullivan masterpieces throughout the United
States, Canada and England, captivating audiences of all ages.
NYGASP has been hailed as “the leading custodian of the G&S classics” by New York Magazine and has created its own special niche in the cultural mosaic of New York City and the nation. According to the Company’s Founder/Artistic Director/General Manager Albert Bergeret, NYGASP’s mission is “giving vitality to the living legacy of Gilbert & Sullivan.”
“Everyone loves The Mikado and our new production, with its celebrated premise of imagination, keeps the revered story alive and colorful,” he says. “I’m delighted to once more be involved in elevating the humor and musical values of this evolving and very theatrical production, while alternating on the conductor’s podium with my colleague, Joseph Rubin, as part of NYGASP’s commitment to the future development of the Company”.
“The Mikado” is the showpiece of NYGASP’s 45th season, presenting eight family friendly performances after Christmas, Dec. 27 through Jan. 5, 2020 at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. An encore Family Overture presentation will take place at 12:45 pm before the Jan. 4 Saturday matinee at 2 pm which features a musical introduction and plot summary made entertaining for the whole family (free to all ticket holders).
Tickets are $95/orchestra, $50/balcony; $25/rear balcony; special discounts: 50% off for children 12 and under accompanied by an adult, 10% off for seniors 65 and older;order by phone: 212-772-4448, order pnline: www.nygasp.org, or purchase in person at the box office (Monday-Friday, noon-7pm).
The next NYGASP production is Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Gondoliers,” April 18-19, 2020.
The Kaye Playhouse, 68th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.
entertainer Ben Vereen, honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Gold
Coast Arts Center, Long Island, at the opening of its 9th Annual
Gold Coast International Film Festival, Nov. 4, 2019, brings a spiritual message to the arts which
explains why he has been such a strong advocate for arts education, mentor and
“If you would ask, ‘Why
is life so important to you?’ I would say, ‘In the beginning God created.’ It’s
not ‘in the beginning God manufactured’. We are living, walking, talking art pieces
of the One who created us. Our job is not just performing arts, but one aspect
of life itself. Life is an art piece for everybody to see. We’re supposed to
care for each other, love each other, show the wonders of creation – this
building, these seats – didn’t just come here, they came from thought. A thought
and we bring forth that which is manifested.
“Arts have saved people
throughout the centuries. Art has calmed people from war. Art is here to
embrace our lives. We are healed through the arts.”
Vereen tells the
audience which included the young people from Uniondale High School who
performed in their nationally acclaimed choir, Rhythm of the Knight, “Go play
in hospitals. When someone would come to do art, music, singing, the vibration
in building is higher. It’s important we support – we call it the arts- what it
really is is ‘Let’s support life,’” he said to applause.
“The arts. Change the name
to life – arts of life, the teaching part of life, the engineering part of life
is all art.
If we give our children
arts from the beginning, they will be better at school.”
And what do you tell a young
person about pursuing a career in arts? Dilla asked. “Know thyself, study you,
who you are, you are that art you would bring forth. Be conscious of who you
are. It’s okay to take baby steps, eventually you will get you there. Don’t
take rejection as a ‘no’ to your life – your life isn’t over, just a
steppingstone to your higher self. Keep stepping up.
“We need you. Your form
of art may not be on stage, it may be going to government. Your art might not
be an interviewer like Frank Dilella, it might be to head a country and make
the world a better place for everybody. Know thyself and to thine own self be
offered insights into his life in a conversation with Frank DiLella, Emmy Award
winning host of On Stage on Spectrum News NY1.
was honored for his epic performances that have been woven into the fabric of
the nation’s artistic legacy – first coming to worldwide attention as Chicken
George in the ground-breaking television series, Roots for which he won an Emmy nomination in 1977. He won a Tony
Award as well as the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in A Musical in 1973 for Pippin; and starred in Jesus Christ Superstar, Fosse, Hair, Jelly’s
Last Jam, Chicago, I’m Not Rappaport and Wicked; and films including Sweet
Charity and All that Jazz.
recent projects include the TV series Bull
and Magnum PI, FOX’s Star, produced by Lee Daniels, Sneaky Pete with Bryan Cranston, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Time Out of Mind with Richard Gere, and Top Five with Chris Rock. He is
currently working on his new Broadway musical, Reflections, written by Joe Calarco, to be directed by Tony nominee
Josh Bergasse with music by Stephen Schwartz.
is heralded for promoting the talents and careers of young people – through
education and access to the arts – wherever he gives concerts he holds master
classes and in past concerts has provided the opportunity for a talented
newcomer to make their debut on stage with him – and for his humanitarian work
for which he has received numerous awards including Israel’s Cultural and
Humanitarian Award, three NAACP Image Awards, Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian
Award and a Victory Award.
2016, he signed with Americans for the Arts, the largest advocacy group of Arts
in America and has spoken before Congress defending funding for the National
endowment for the Arts.
Vereen spoke of his career and his calling in a conversation with Frank
about how he got started in show business, a boy of modest means from Brooklyn,
he said, “This career chose me.
“This career was handed
to me. In my community in Brooklyn going to the High School of Performing Arts was
like being a prodigal son. It is hard to say when I chose this, because it
chose me. I would never have left Brooklyn except for performing arts school –
–known as the Fame School.
Apparently he got into
trouble, because he was placed in a so-called “three-digit school”.
“I was placed in class with Mr. Hill, the director of theater.
I was with guys named Killer, Shank Diablo. Mr. Hill said he wanted me to do King and I. I went to the Brooklyn
Academy of Music – they had an all-African American company – 100 musicians – and
did King and I. That was it – that
was the bug.
Vereen attended the High
School of Performing Arts from the age of 14 – where he studied dancing with
stellar choreographers Martha Graham, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.
He was 18 years old when he made his New York
stage debut off-off-Broadway in The Prodigal Son at the
Greenwich Mews Theater. The following year he was in Las Vegas performing in
Bob Fosse’s production of Sweet Charity.
He describes the
audition for Sweet Charity.”Every
dancer was on stage to audition – Bob Fosse was the coolest, he moved so
smooth. He did the combination, smoked cigarettes, the ashes wouldn’t fall. He made
the cut of dancers. Then it was time to sing. I had never seen a Broadway show.”
He had nothing prepared but mimicked another and got the part anyway, going on
to tour with the production from 1967-68.
He made his Broadway
debut in original production of Hair. “It was a groundbreaking show, it made
A real breakthrough was
meeting Sammy Davis Jr. He reflected how important an influence Sammy Davis Jr.
was to him. “Sammy was the first African American that I watched on tv. My
father loved tv. One night Sammy was on the Ed Sullivan show.
Sammy saw Vereen at an
audition. “I had attitude – Sammy Davis Jr saw it. He invited me to have dinner
and hired me for Golden Boy. That’s
where it began. I followed him, wanted to be like him, dress like him, the
coolest cat. He loved everybody. People don’t give Sammy enough credit – he
wasn’t just a song and dance man, but a great humanitarian. He died penniless
because gave all his money to everybody.”
Davis took him on tour
of Golden Boy to London when he was
25. That’s when he discovered he was adopted by James and
Pauline Vereen, when he applied for a passport.
went on to be cast opposite Sammy Davis Jr. in the film version of Sweet
Charity, and then as Davis’ understudy in Golden Boy in England.
life changed – and nearly ended – on one fateful day in 1992 when he had three
accidents the same day that put him in an ICU for 42 days when doctors thought
he might never walk again.
don’t remember being hit
by a car. The interesting thing about the spirit which inhabits this body, it
decides to take a break, ‘but I’ll be back’. All I remember – Pamela [Cooper, his
manager] told me this – I was driving and hit a tree, which damaged an artery
in my brain. I was walking home, got a stroke, and was hit by an SUV.
Amazingly, it was somebody I knew – David Foster, who I had met in Canada, a
famous songwriter who wrote for Whitney Huston, Celine Dion, who had said, “We
should get together.’ He could have left
me and I wouldn’t be sitting here today but he stayed; he called 911, cradled
me, waited for paramedics. They flew me to the hospital ICU. They told me I had
a broken my left leg, suffered a stroke on right side, took out my spleen, I
had an apparatus attached to my head, and a trach. The last thing I remember
was getting into my car.”
“[In my mind I am
thinking] what happened, why am I here? I can’t talk. All these things are going
through your mind – this can’t be happening, I have show on Saturday.
“They told me it will be
at least three years if you’ll ever walk again. At that point, I had just met a
wonderful woman, Rev. Doctor Johnnie Coleman in Chicago [known as the “First
Lady of the New Thought Christian Community] who taught metaphysics and would say, ‘Whenever you have something negative coming
at you, learn this mantra, Cancel. That’s only man’s perception. Cancel.”
Meanwhile, he reflected, people crowded the hospital lobby praying for him. “There were letters, boxes of letters come in. Looking at boxes, thinking were bills, but they were from you [the fans].”
“[The doctors were
saying] ‘We think you should think about another occupation.’ So when they sent
in an occupational therapist, I thought they were to get me a new occupation
instead of teaching me fine motor skills. Cancel, Cancel – I couldn’t talk.
“I said to myself if I
can’t walk again, Lord, whatever you want me to do I’ll do… I had to show up – I
couldn’t just lay there and ask God to heal me. I got to show up.”
“The thing about prayer,
how it works – the doctor instinctively knew where to cut- spirit is always
working in our favor. Steven Hawkins became my hero – if you can do that with Steven
Hawkins, here I am.”
At the rehabilitation
center in Kessler, NJ, he recalls, “There was a young man who had been shot
named Michael Jackson, an orderly called Juice because he delivered the juice
but his real name was Glen Miller, a therapist named Jerry Lewis.
“You don’t have the
luxury of a negative thought. But I did what no one thought I could do, get
back on Broadway.”
He was told there would
be a part for him in Jelly’s Last Jam
if he could be ready.
The therapists from
Kessler went to show, and said, “We can do this, and a few months later, I walked
on stage in Jelly’s Last Jam.
“Hear what that story is
really about: the inner spirit is stronger than our physical human
understanding of who we are. The idea, called surrender, take me as I am, I
what he considers the highlight of his career, he reflects back to Roots.
“I heard about a show, Roots. Every African American in the
world wanted to be a part of that. I go back to the same agent who said Pippin
won’t make it and told him ABC was brave enough to put on show, Roots and I wanted
to be a part. ‘Be real,’ he said. ‘They’re looking for actors. You’re song and
dance man. So I went to Chicago –I was introducing Sister Sledge – then went to
Savannah,Georgia. I did a character Bert Williams – African Americans in show
business had to wear blackface and Williams made it art form. I did a tribute
to him. [Roots’ producer] Stan Margulies knocked on my door and said he loved
the show. ‘We’re shooting Roots for ABC, I want you to be my Chicken George.’ I
fired my agent and off to Hollywood I went.”
In being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Gold Coast Arts Center, Ben Vereen is in good company. Previous honorees and special guests of the Gold Coast International Film Festival include film industry VIPs Francis Ford Coppola, Hugh Grant, Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Baz Luhrmann, Brian Dennehy, Paul Sorvino, Ed Burns, Bruce Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Lou Diamond Phillips, Morgan Spurlock, Eli Wallach, Gabriel Byrne, Jacques Pepin, Bill Plympton, Phil Donahue, Phylicia Rashaad, Joan Allen, Jay McInerney and Michael Cuesta, as well as composer Morton Gould, artists James Rosenquist, Oleg Cassini, Edwina SandysandBob Gruen, comedian Susie Essman, Broadway stars Kelli O’Hara, Melissa Errico andSavion Glover, and 4-time Oscar winner for production and costume design Catherine Martin.
The 9th annual Gold Coast International Film
Festival taking place From November 4-13, 2019, presents more than 80
feature-length and short films in venues throughout North Hempstead, Long
Island and an opportunity to
This year’s highlights
include The Two Popes, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan
Pryce; which will be the Festival’s Closing Night Spotlight Film. Other films
of note this year include Marriage Story, starring Scarlett Johansson and
Adam Driver, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, the winner of the Best Screenplay at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and Clemency, starring Alfre Woodard, which won the Grand Jury Prize at
the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
The Festival will also be screening By the Grace of God, the
Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2019
Berlin International Film Festival.
“Films are a unique
art form, bringing together drama, dance, music, art in 90 minutes. It’s one of
the most accessible and affordable art forms. You come together with 200
others, smile, laugh, cry, think, learn, and sometimes be moved to action. How
often do you get to hear from artists and creators how and why they made the
film?” reflected Caroline Sorokoff, the festival director.
Among the narrative
films that will provoke thought and action, “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste”
from executive producer Anthony Bourdain, co-sponsored by Island Harvest, the
first film in a new Gold Coast series spotlighting social issues of concern to
The Gold Coast Arts
Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting the
arts through education, exhibition, performance, and outreach. Located on
the North Shore of Long Island, it has brought the arts to tens of thousands of
people from toddlers, tweens, teens to totterers throughout the region for 25
years. Among the Center’s offerings are its School for the Arts, which
holds year-round classes in visual and performing arts for students of all ages
and abilities; a free public art gallery; concerts and lectures; film
screenings and discussions; the annual Gold Coast International Film Festival;
and initiatives that focus on senior citizens and underserved communities.
These initiatives include artist residencies, after-school programs, school
assemblies, teacher-training workshops, and parent-child workshops. The Gold
Coast Arts Center is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the
Performing Arts Partners in Education program, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. More information can
be found at www.goldcoastarts.org.
For information about
upcoming films in the Festival’s year-round film screening program plus the
latest news on the 2019 Festival visit www.goldcoastfilmfestival.org 516-829-2570.
Laurie spent years staying away from New Orleans, Louisiana, with the excuse that she didn’t enjoy jazz enough to go there. Recently, though, we found ourselves in the Mississippi River delta city to attend a family destination wedding. After five days in New Orleans (affectionately known by its acronym — NOLA), we can now say that this is one of the most exciting and interesting cities we’ve visited. It is certainly a destination to return to, perhaps at Mardi Gras time!
We stayed in the old, quaint French Quarter at The W New Orleans (316 Chartres St., (504) 581-1200, https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/msywh-w-new-orleans-french-quarter/) — a Marriott property with rooms that surround a serene, outdoor garden, fountain, and pool. The modern style of our hotel room contrasted with our balcony view of the colorful, historic buildings built during the city’s French and Spanish periods, with distinctive French Quarter pastel colors and balconies decorated with rod-iron scrollwork.
travelling to New Orleans, it was recommended to us to forego a rental car as
long as we planned to stay primarily in or around the French Quarter and the
other New Orleans neighborhoods. We found that Ubers, Lyfts, and taxis were
never more than 5 minutes away, and usually inexpensive – and then we didn’t
have to deal with the nightmare of parking.
around the city, we recommend using the red, double-decker bus marked, “24-hour
Hop-on Hop-off City Bus Tour.” This bus
follows a loop around New Orleans, going through the colorful neighborhoods.
With a day pass, passengers may stay on the bus the entire time and learn about
the NOLA neighborhoods from the bus guides, and get off and back on at various
stops along the route to spend more time exploring. (https://www.hop-on-hop-off-bus.com/new-orleans-bus-tours)
abound in the French Quarter with guides retelling stories about events,
pirates, voodoo queens, and hauntings. Our private walk around the historic
Quarter was fun and interesting: we stopped to read the plaques describing the
French and Spanish history, visited little boutiques and galleries, checked out
themed bars and restaurants, checked out a few unique museums, and strolled
through the beautifully groomed parks.
For an historic
mode of transportation, NOLA offers an electric streetcar trolley system. The St.
Charles line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world.
All four of the NOLA lines either run along or intersect with Canal Street in
the area between the French Quarter and the Central Business District. A
standard, one-way fare on a streetcar is very reasonable at only $1.25 per
person. However, a word of warning: the
trolley system was not the quickest form of travel, and we had to wait at least
15 minutes before a trolley arrived to pick us up.
NOLA knows how to party — 24×7 — both inside and
outside the many bars and restaurants. We saw visitors out and about at all hours carrying
alcohol between bars and restaurants in the French Quarter. Live music abounds in venues, on
street corners, and in the parks, throughout the day and night. We noticed colorful beads from
past Mardi Gras celebrations layered like tinsel on the trees lining the city
streets. We listened to the sounds of the city as we enjoyed breakfast
and afternoon snack on the balcony of our French Quarter room.
Second Line brass bands marched down our street and through the French Quarter throughout the day and evening – one of the most popular traditions during a New Orleans wedding (we soon experienced this first hand) – a common occurrence and one of the many reasons New Orleans is one of the most popular venues for destination weddings.
For a wedding, the Second Line signifies the start
of a new beginning of life for the bride and groom. A Brass band
leads the bridal party and the guests from the ceremony to the reception
venue or it may take place at the reception itself. The first line is
usually a brass band and the ones being honored, the newlyweds. The newly
married couple leads the second line holding decorated umbrellas or
parasols. The guests who join in the celebration make up the second
line, forming a line behind the band and the newly married couple, as they all
dance and stroll through the streets to lively music waving handkerchiefs.
Soon enough, instead of watching a Second Line brass band from our balcony, we were parading in ourselves, as the newly married couple we came to New Orleans to celebrate led their wedding guests on a New Orleans musical journey around the artsy Bywater neighborhood near the French Quarter.
in the French Quarter is legendary for its barhopping and music. Only about a
mile from Bourbon Street and our hotel, we also found a real gem of bars,
restaurants, and local artists selling their art late at night on Frenchman
Street. We came back to this street often for the diverse live music and food,
as well as to purchase gifts for the family from the artists. We
enjoyed sharing small plates and meaty gumbo at the Three Muses Restaurant (517 Frenchmen St., (504) 252-4801), while listening to a jazz pianist playing some of our
favorite Scott Joplin Ragtime jazz songs.
We dropped in to the Spotted Cat, a small bar with a live band playing traditional Dixie jazz, then went across the street to Cafe Negril (606 Frenchmen St, (504) 229-4236), for drinks and to listen to our favorite Caribbean sounds being expertly played and sung by a large reggae and funk band. We came back another night for Cajun and American food at The Maison (508 Frenchman), where we listened to two different local jazz bands — the stage in the back of the restaurant had a band playing and people dancing when we first walked in but by the time we were into our dinner; a second band had set up and played from the small stage at the front of the restaurant.
Besides the music for which NOLA is known, the major
attraction is its food – NOLA has some of the most unique local foods in the
US, from traditional Louisiana Po-Boy sandwiches (usually roast beef or fried seafood,
often shrimp, crawfish, fish, oysters or crab), meat or shrimp gumbo
(like a thick soup), and beignets (donut pastry with powdered sugar). Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter is a popular open-air coffee shop
that serves only beignets along with non-alcoholic drinks (800 Decatur St, in
front of Jackson Square, 504-581-2914). Harbor Seafood & Oyster Bar offers
traditional seafood po-boy sandwiches, fried and boiled seafood, gumbo, raw
oysters, char-grilled oysters, blackened seafood (3203 Williams
Boulevard, (504) 443-6454). Cafe Degas is located a few blocks from the house
where Edgar Degas lived while in NOLA. The restaurant offers French bistro food
(mussels, in-season soft shell crab,frites, escargot, French onion soup) in a
setting where a large pecan tree grows through the dining room, giving the
feeling of an open-air patio (3127 Esplanade Ave., (504) 945-5635).
NOLA is more than alcohol and music and food – it is
a city with plenty of attractions for visitors of all ages. Go online or speak
with your hotel’s concierge for suggestions, and to make reservations on tours
and at restaurants. Also check with visitor centers around town for discounts
through “Day Passes.”
Our attraction recommendations are:
Take a walking or bus tour to the historic and purportedly haunted locations in the French Quarter and local cemeteries. We joined an evening bus tour to four city cemeteries to look for evidence of hauntings, while learning about NOLA history from our resident guide. Although we did not experience a “haunting,” we viewed a Christian cemetery from the gates to look at the iconic NOLA “houses” for the dead, and walked around a Jewish cemetery to see if we “felt” anything, while our guide explained how this lower-than sea level town interns their dead when they can’t be buried six feet down. We also walked around the Hurricane Katrina Memorial Park (5056 Canal St.): six blank, black mausoleums were designed for the unnamed and unclaimed victims. They border the paths representing a hurricane’s spiral path, and lead to a central, vertical rock which depicts the eye of the storm.
In the center of the French Quarter is a little museum which preserves New Orleans’ unique history and culture of the practice of Voodoo. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is open seven days a week and most holidays, from 10AM to 6PM. General Admission is $7.00/person; $5.50/Seniors, Military, College Students with ID; $4.50/High School Student; $3.50 Kids under 12. (724 Dumaine St., www.voodoomuseum.com, (504) 680-0128).
The National WWII Museum is a complex of buildings with immersive, interactive, multimedia displays to help you learn about the WWII campaigns. Visitors first start out by obtaining a “dog tag” (think “card key”) and you “board” a simile of a train to be assigned a digital WWII service person. You can then learn about the individual’s experiences, and collect digital WWII artifacts at stations posted throughout the museum campus. The Museum is open daily, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (closed Mardi Gras Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.) General admission is $28/adult, $24/Seniors (65+); $18/Military (w/ID), college student with ID), child (K-12). (945 Magazine St,, https://www.nationalww2museum.org
The Audubon Nature Institute has three facilities
which offer visitors special NOLA experiences:
The Aquarium of the Americas (https://audubonnatureinstitute.org/aquarium; open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am-5pm) is a two-story building located along the waterfront, and accessible by public transportation, including the trolley car lines. We love visiting aquariums across the country, as each one showcases local fish, mammals, and birds. This is true for the NOLA aquarium, where the main floor leads you through indigenous marine creatures from the Gulf of Mexico, as well as jellyfish and the Mayan reef. On the second floor, you can visit the Mississippi River Gallery and an albino alligator. Also check out the penguins, sea otters, sharks, and marine animals from the Amazon rainforest.
While walking around upstairs, take a break for some pizza at Papa John’s or a bowl of Haagen Dazs ice cream. Don’t forget to walk around the ice cream bar to check out the large collection of colorful parakeets. Look for the large, fanciful sculptures which are scattered around the Aquarium and are made from reclaimed plastics from the oceans and seas. Without having to fly to the Maya Riviera in Mexico, you can treat yourself and others to a snorkeling experience in the Maya Reef exhibit, as well as schedule an up-close visit with the penguins and the sweet sea otters
To save $3 per Aquarium admission, go to the Audobon web site: $25.95/Adult; $17.95/Child (2-12); $20.95/Senior (65+) (plus sales tax and $1 transaction fee per ticket). You need to book the marine encounters in advance of your visit, either online or contact the Aquarium directly.
We walked into the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium (open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 4:30pm), expecting to be in and out in an hour — three hours later, we walked out with amazing new experiences. This facility is a living museum, with many examples of live insects and a wonderful butterfly room with a koi pond. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by one of the facility’s entomologists, who walked with us and described each live insect in the long hallway cases and rooms. The entomologists rotate throughout the facility, always ready with a smile and a story to help you learn about the bugs.
The same entomologists take turns in the ‘Bug Appétit’ Kitchen, six days a week. They prepare many of their own recipes to allow visitors to sample food made with edible insect ingredients. On the day we visited, we sampled roasted whole crickets with barbeque and other flavorings, chocolate “chirp” cookies with organic cricket flour, and crackers coated with garlic spread, humus, and cheese spread — all contained ground, roasted crickets or mealworms. Surprisingly, these delicacies all tasted quite good and turned out to be the highlight of our visit. As Mack, the head of Bug Appétit noted, “This is the wave of the future.” In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been promoting the increased consumption of insect protein around the world since 2003 — farming of edible insects produce low greenhouse emissions, and offer a sustainable and inexpensive source of protein, vitamins, and amino acids essential for humans.
The Insectarium price includes an animated, 4-D movie about superstar bugs and their outstanding achievements. “Awards Night,” is fun for all ages, with celebrity voices by Jay Leno, Joan Rivers, and Brad Garrett. The “Flea Market” gift shop has unique items to take home: Laurie purchased amber earrings and keychains with baby scorpions and other bugs as gifts for herself and the family!
To save $3 per Insectarium admission, purchase online at the Audubon web site: $18.95/Adult; $13.95/Child (2-12); $15.95/Senior (65+) (plus sales tax, $1 transaction fee per ticket).The Audubon Zoo offers an animal-themed water splash park for all ages with three different splash zones and one area specifically for toddlers and younger kids. Grab an inner tube for a lazy ride along Gator Run, slide down a huge alligator water slide, run through spider monkey soakers and water-spitting snakes. Check the web site to confirm when the water park is open.
To save $3 per Zoo admission, purchase online at the Audubon web site: $18.95/Adult; $13.95/Child (2-12); $15.95/Senior (65+) (plus sales tax, $1 transaction fee).
If you plan to visit all three Audubon centers, the best value is to purchase the “Audubon Experience” ticket, which offers a savings of up to $30.90 per person: $44.95/Adult (plus sales tax); $34.95/Child (2-12) (plus sales tax); $37.95/Senior (65+) (plus sales tax).
The Music Box Village in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans was the location for the wedding which brought us to this part of the country (the bride, an artist who had done a couple of residencies in New Orleans, had a personal connection to the Music Box, and the groom had an American Roots band). The “Village” is a unique, outdoor, artist-created sculpture garden of life-sized, interactive musical houses. Each “house” is whimsically designed with different types of materials and equipment. The overarching purpose is to allow visitors of all ages to explore many different ways to make sounds and music. It is a magical, enchanted garden that turns anyone into a kid absolutely enthralled with making music. Check the Village’s web site for events while you are in town, so you, too, can experience this magical outdoor venue. (4557 N Rampart St., https://musicboxvillage.com)
New Orleans turned 300 during 2019.
Here are more highlights of a visit to New Orleans:
New Orleans & Company, the visitor bureau, has an excellent website to help plan your visit, including sample itineraries: 2020 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130,800-672-6124, www.neworleans.com.
The results are in: Darkest Hour, a new film starring Gary Oldham as Winston Churchill, is the winner of Best Narrative Film at the 7th Annual Gold Coast International Film Festival. Best Documentary award was a tie: Underfire: The Untold Story of PFC Tony Vaccaro, the World War II soldier turned war photographer, who attended the sell-out screening, and the Long Island premiere of Dare to Be Different, about WLIR 92.7, the influential Long Island radio station on the cutting edge of music in the 1980s.
In all, the festival, now in its 7th year, screened more than 80 films from 12 countries – 36 of them Long Island premieres – with Q&As with dozens of visiting artists including directors, producers, and grandchildren of famous film subjects: Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, the artist Edwina Sandys; Frank Sinatra’s granddaughter, AJ Lambert who attended the 60th anniversary screening of the movie musical Pal Joey, and David Ben-Gurion’s grandson, Alon Ben-Gurion, after the screening of an extraordinary documentary based on six-hours of recently uncovered candid conversations with Israel’s founding father.
A record 15 of the screenings were sell-outs; the film-festival drew 4500 audience goers of all ages and backgrounds, from all over Long Island and the metro area – 175 different zipcodes.
“People think film festivals are elitist – but that’s not what we’re about,” said Festival Director Caroline Sorokoff. The festival featured “Free Film Friday,” with presentations of the movie classic “Sergeant York,” starring Gary Cooper; family short films at the Great Neck Library, and film shorts at the Port Washington Library (with a Q&A with Israeli filmmaker Yaniv Segalovich, director of An Average Story, Letiferet, who joined Alexandra Gil, curator of the Gold Coast International Film Festival’s short films; the film won an audience award).
“Hundreds of people took advantage.” And this year, veterans could come to any screening for free, thanks to a grand from GEICO.
The Gold Coast International Film Festival is distinguished by the fascinating events that are organized with the screenings – Q&As with producers, directors, actors, experts and people associated with the films.
Indeed, a highlight of the festival was the Long Island premiere (two weeks before general release) of Darkest Hour, featuring Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman’s brilliant performance as Winston Churchill and the terrifying early days of his appointment as Prime Minister as Hitler’s forces were taking over Europe and threatening an invasion of the British Isles. It was Britain’s darkest hour. And like the movie “Lincoln”, and “Thirteen Days” about John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which shows the backstory of a key “moment” in pivotal history, we learn of how he had to overcome intense opposition from political rivals, and the diabolical choice he faced: negotiate with Hitler to save British lives at a terrible cost or rally the nation and fight on against incredible odds. Gary Oldman brilliantly portrays the first dark days of Churchill as Prime Minister. Directed by Joe Wright, the screening at the Soundview Cinemas in Port Washington, featured a Q&A with Churchill’s granddaughter, the artist Edwina Sandys, a young child during this time, who spoke nostalgically and lovingly of her grandfather and grandmother, Clementine.
Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro is the remarkable story of WWII infantryman and legendary photographer Tony Vaccaro, who created one of the most comprehensive, haunting and intimate photographic records of the war using a smuggled $47 camera while developing the negatives in his helmet at night. Tony Vaccaro, himself, along with Director Max Lewkowicz and Producer Valerie Thomas participated in a post-screening Q&A session, followed by the opening reception of Tony Vaccaro’s acclaimed, wartime and celebrity photography at the Gold Coast Arts Center Gallery in Great Neck (on view through February).
The Long Island Premiere of Dare to Be Different had three sold-out screenings, and featured a Q&A with Director Ellen Goldfarb and Executive Producer and former WLIR Program Director Denis McNamara, plus a host of other special guests, including artists and DJs featured in the film. It was an event that could only happen on Long Island, where WLIR brought new wave music to America. WLIR helped launch the careers of U2, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Blondie, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, The Clash, and The Cure, among others. Special guests attending the premiere include Larry “The Duck” Dunn, Michael “Eppy” Epstein, Max Leinwand, Steve North, Carol Silva, Donna Donna and “Malibu Sue” McCann.
Ben-Gurion: Epilogue, a stunning documentary compiled from six hours of never-before-seen footage, of newly discovered conversations with Israel’s founding father presents a rare and fortuitous piece of cinematic archeology – it’s as if film was found of candid conversation with George Washington. Watching, you realize you are seeing a work of undeniable historical significance with prophetic implications for Israel’s future. Presented in Partnership with American Friends of Soroka Medical Center to a standing-room-only audience at the Bowtie Cinema in Great Neck, the screening featured an extraordinary Q&A with Ben-Gurion’s grandson, Alon, who spoke personally of time spent with his grandfather.
An extraordinary documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, was the first of a new “Science on Screen” series funded by a hard-to-win grant to the Gold Coast Arts Center to better communicate science to a general audience. The documentary finally credits the dazzlingly-beautiful actress as a brilliant inventor responsible for the innovation that made possible secure WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS communications (her intent was to make the Navy’s torpedoes more effective in order to win World War II, but the Navy put the patent away in a drawer until it was rediscovered by another inventor devising military weapons). The Long Island premiere, featured a Q&A (sponsored by Edelman financial Services, LLC) with Director Alexandra Dean, Fleming Meeks, the Forbes journalist who scored amazing interviews with the reclusive actor late in life, and Dr. Christine Metz of the Feinstein Institute and was moderated by Diane Masciale of WNET.
Straight/Curve: Redefining Body Image, Long Island Premiere at the Gold Coast International Film Festival of the documentary examining the industries and obstacles responsible for the body image crisis and showcasing the dynamic leaders fighting for more diversity of size, race and age, featured a Q&A with Director Jenny McQuaile and Producer Yael Melamede and a panel of distinguished experts from Northwell Health: Dr. Gabriella Farkas, Dr. Bonny Patel and Nancy Farber, ND. The Q&A was sponsored by the Katz Institute for women’s Health at Northwell Health.
The 60th anniversary screening of Pal Joey, an Academy Award-winning musical gem, with famous classics by Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, and Kim Novak, featured a Q&A with AJ Lambert, Sinatra’s granddaughter (Nancy’s daughter) and Raj Tawney, a multi-media journalist/producer. Lambert spoke about her warm and loving grandfather.
Supergirl, the story of Naomi Kutin, an Orthodox Jewish pre-teen girl with an extraordinary talent – holding a world record in powerlifting, featured a Q&A with the film’s director, Jessie Auritt and “Supergirl” herself, Naomi Kutin and her family.
The delightful documentary Hummus! The Movie, was followed by “The Great Gold Coast Hummus Taste-Off” at Lola restaurant next door to the BowTie Theater in Great Neck Plaza.
The seventh anniversary of the not-for-profit Gold Coast International Film Festival featured over 80 films and dozens of filmmakers at screenings and events at North Shore venues, including Soundview Cinemas in Port Washington, the Bow Tie Cinemas in Great Neck, Port Washington, Manhasset and Roslyn, and the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck.
Films presented this year showcased major Hollywood actors, include Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Arquette, Burt Reynolds, Isabelle Huppert, Rainn Wilson, Bill Nye, Rosemarie DeWitt, Imogen Poots, and Shahab Hosseini, star of the 2016 Oscar-winning film, The Salesman, which premiered at last year’s festival, featured in the East Coast premiere of the Iranian film Gholam this year.
This year’s festival included more than 40 premieres, including French movie-star Isabelle Huppert’s new film Souvenir; Burt Reynold’s new film Dog Years; Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story; Yellow Birds, starring Jennifer Aniston, Toni Collette, Alden Ehrenreich and Tye Sheridan, and the timely Bill Nye: Science Guy. Award-winning feature films from the world’s most prestigious festivals (Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Tribeca, Hamptons) were screened, along with dozens of excellent short films.
The festival featured films from 12 different countries – most that you cannot otherwise get to see – including 1945, from Hungary about a remote Hungarian town preparing for the wedding of the village magistrate’s son, when two Orthodox Jews arrive at the village train station with two coffin-shaped wooden crates, supposedly filled with soaps and perfumes. Is this a harbinger of the return of more Jews? Led by the boorish village magistrate, the townspeople fear that these strangers may be heirs of the village’s denounced and deported Jewish neighbors and have come to claim their family’s stolen property. Paranoia runs rampant, leading to tragic events and a potent, unexpected ending. “While there have been many films about the Holocaust, there are few about its immediate aftermath, when greed and material gain from the Jewish peoples’ demise was pervasive. Director Ferenc Török cleverly captures this often overlooked moment in history where one town’s actions become a metaphor for the moral decay of the whole country. Shot in elegant black and white with an eye for exquisite composition and a minimal evocative score, 1945 is a subtle and nuanced study in the collective guilt and enduring anti-Semitism of postwar Hungary,” wrote Jay Rosenblatt, San Francisco Jewish Film.
The Long Island premiere of The Insult, provided a rare look at modern-day Lebanon. The intelligent, rivetting and politically charged drama focuses on how a minor disagreement between a Christian Phalanges Party supporter and a Palestinian construction foreman sparks an unforgivable insult, which ignites a confrontation of national importance. Celebrity lawyers, TV news, and political leaders get involved in a trial that rips open raw memories of Lebanon’s violent past
Paris Opera, from France, provided a fascinating, candid behind-the-scenes view of a season at the Paris Opera, following the array of personnel – management, performers, costumers, cleaning crew – even choreographer Benjamin Millepied – who work night after night to bring breathtaking spectacle to this legendary setting.
The New York premiere of Back to Burgundy, from France, is a story of wine, family, family business, and more wine is set amid the gorgeous backdrop of Burgundy, and told with an assured mix of drama and humor. Jean, who had left his childhood home more than ten years ago, returns after his father’s death to reconcile the future of the business with his brother and sister.
This year, GCIFF again presented the work of talented young filmmakers in grades K-12 in its Young Filmmakers Program, presented in partnership with Hofstra University, a festival sponsor.
The festival finished on Wednesday November 15 with a Closing Awards Lunch at the cafe at Neiman Marcus Garden City (in Roosevelt Field). Neiman Marcus was a major sponsor of the film festival. The lunch also launched the Neiman Marcus ”Love to Give” Collection, where 10% of the proceeds from the sale of the ”Love to Give” items goes back to the Gold Coast Arts Center, based in Great Neck, Long Island, which organizes the annual Gold Coast International Film Festival.
For the past 110 years since Neiman Marcus’ founding, said Doris Wilshere, Vice President and General Manager, supporting the arts has been a priority. “It has been of particular interest to the founders. That’s why our partnership with the film festival is important to us. It’s the one budget we are encouraged to spend every $1 of, every year.”
In addition to Neiman Marcus Garden City, sponsors and partners of this year’s Gold Coast International Film Festival included: founding partners, the Town of North Hempstead and Douglas Elliman Real Estate; major partners, Hofstra University and the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency; GEICO; Deluxe Entertainment Services Group; AARP Long Island; A.L. Sarroff Fund; Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP; The Katz Institute for Women’s Health at Northwell Health; St. Mary’s Kids; Jet Blue; Biener Audi; LVR Rental; The Inn at Great Neck; The Andrew Hotel; WLIW21; Altice; New York Women in Film & Television; Anton Publications; Blank Slate Media; LI Pulse; Edelman Financial Services, LLC; and LOLA of Great Neck.
The Gold Coast International Film Festival is produced by the Gold Coast Arts Center, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts through education, exhibition, performance and outreach. Gold Coast Arts Center, 113 Middle Neck Road, Great Neck, NY 11021, 516-829-2570, www.goldcoastarts.org.
The 12th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island nestled between the tip of Manhattan and Brooklyn ended on a high note, Sunday, August 27.
People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s in flapper dresses and glad rags, bearing wicker picnic baskets, stream from the ferries from Manhattan and Brooklyn, onto the island with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. Mere minutes from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.
A celebration of the “hot jazz” and joie de vie of the Roaring ‘20s, the festive event never fails to inspire sheer carefree happiness. It offers the full complexion, tapestry and vibrancy of New York – people of all ages and stripes turn out and for this all-too-brief time, help turn back the clock.
Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenalla and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated, personally transcribed songbook of the 1920s and 30s.
The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dance floors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; the Gelber & Manning Band delight with their spirited music.
The event on Sunday, August 27, starts with Roddy Caravella and his wife Gretchen Fenston (who is also a milliner and costume designer in addition to being a ballroom dancer) giving a marvelous lesson in dancing The Peabody (which Caravella notes was created in 1915 by William Frank Peabody, a New York police lieutenant, who was a rather portly gent, who nonetheless loved a spirited, fast-paced dance; the innovation is in holding his partner on his right side to accommodate his girth. Caravella walks an enthusiastic group through the various movements: “The steps start and finish toe to toe,” (Caravella refers to gender-neutral “leaders” and “followers”), coming to the part of swirling the partner, “delicately flowering air” and the dipping motion.
The afternoon is interspersed with fun activities as well which you can join: Peabody Dance Contest to determine who is the Bee’s Knees; Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age; The High Court of Pie Contest.
The second stage features The Great Dubini and Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society.
You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; Antique Gramophones reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.
The only thing that bursts the illusion are the ubiquitous cell phones, but being captured in photos and videos streamed to Instagram seems as important to the happening as the music.
At the end, a rather sentimental Michael Arenella, showing his appreciation to his audience and fans, notes that when he originated the Jazz Age Lawn Party 12 years ago on Governors Island, it was just a small gathering of 50 friends and fans. The event has grown in popularity over the years “because of you,” who do so much to fulfill the look and feel of the 1920s and 30s. Some 20,000 fans come from all over during the course of the two weekends, in June and August.
Here are highlights of the Jazz Age Lawn Party in photos:
Can’t wait until next year’s Jazz Age Lawn Party? Michael Arenella also performs at The Clover Club, Flatiron Lounge and the Red Room. Visit www.DreamLandOrchestra.com.
By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
New Yorkers love to dress up – any excuse to don a costume will do, but in the case of the Jazz Age Lawn Party, now in its 12th year on Governors Island, it is a chance to push back the clock and create your own community, a Gatsby-esque Brigadoon of sorts. It is the best of New York and brings out the best of New Yorkers. The music and atmosphere brings out pure joy.
For an entire afternoon on Saturday and Sunday of the weekend of June 10 and 11, and again on August 26 and 27, you are transported – quite literally by ferry – to the 1920s era of hot jazz. People of all ages, dressed to the nine’s as flappers and gents, bearing wicker picnic baskets, stream onto the island, with its forts and structures from the Civil War and World War II. A stone’s throw from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and yet a world and an era away.
Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra create this literal dream, with his meticulously recreated music of the 1920s.
There is impeccable faithful reproduction – even the cocktails are Speakeasy worthy and if you didn’t have appropriate attire, you could rent or buy vintage, take a tintype photo or a photo sitting on a blue moon with a vintage camera. Little boys are there with their caps and suspenders, little girls with hair bows. Interlude music is provided on vinyl recordings over antique gramophones.
At one point, Michael Arenella, who throughout the afternoon gives these wonderful asides about the music, says his trombone “is so old I have to use a string to keep the slide on- that’s how authentic we are, folks.”
The only thing marring the illusion are the ubiquitous cell phones.
Conductor, composer, musician and crooner Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed, one-of-a-kind songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure by his Dreamland Orchestra, playing the Hot Jazz of the 1920s.
The entertainment abounds on two stages (and two dance floors): The Dreamland Follies evoke Ziegfeld-esque grand dance routines; Roddy Caravella and the Canarsie Wobblers is a fun-loving dance troupe that conjures the rebellious and exuberant spirit of Roaring ‘20s; Queen Esther pays tribute to jazz royalty of yore and Peter Mintun takes the moniker of “world’s greatest piano man”; Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society have come from Philadelphia, presents wry, spry, and certifiably Hot Jazz and the Gelber & Manning Band, feuding vaudevillian lovebirds quarrel, coo and make beautiful music together.
There are fun activities as well which you can join: Charleston Dance Contest to determine who is the Bee’s Knees; Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade, wearing vintage swimming outfits of the age (for entry email: [email protected]), The High Court of Pie Contest (categories include “Mom’s Best” “Best Savory ”, “Most Original” and “Hobo’s Choice”; for entry email: [email protected]).
The afternoon starts off with dance lessons in the hottest dance steps of the time, like the Charleston. You can immortalize the day in your own Vintage Portraits-You Ought To Be In Pictures, perched on a Paper Moons or in tintypes using the same techniques and chemicals (a mixture of gunpowder and ether) as were used more than a century ago; the ultimate family-friendly event also features Kidland carnival games and prizes for junior Gents and Flapperettes. There’s also a 1920s MotorCar Exhibition, where you can get up close and personal with flivvers and Tin Lizzies, and Antique Gramophones that reanimate original recordings from the 1920s.
And what would a Prohibition-era, speakeasy event be without booze? VieVité, Côtes de Provence Rosé is the official wine sponsor of the Jazz Age Lawn Party. In addition, refreshing summer cocktails feature Lejay, the official liqueur sponsor which created crème de cassis in 1841, and Bootlegger 21 NY Distilleries, crafted in Roscoe, NY, which is this year’s the official gin and vodka of Jazz Age Lawn Party,. Libations available also include ice cold beer, lemonade and soft drinks. (Take note: you can’t bring in your own alcoholic beverages.)
New for 2017, Dreamland Gourmet Picnic Totes, featuring freshly prepared, custom ordered lunches that you receive when you enter, complete with a chilled bottle of VieVité Rosé, and other treats! (included in all “Bee’s Knees and “Bonnie & Clyde” ticket packages).
People also took advantage of the Gourmet Picnic Market’s fancy picnicking fare, treats and snacks including ice cream, cotton candy, hot popped corn; the Dreamland General Store, offering picnic blankets, parasols, hand fans and assorted sundries; vintage clothing vendors and artisans who create a veritable village of timeless treasures.
The 43rd Annual Village Halloween Parade, the largest Halloween event in the world, got underway with extraordinary precision, as all the skeletons, ghouls and monsters – some 50,000 in all – got into order for the march up New York’s 6th Avenue to the rhythm of a host of bands.
The theme this year invited participants to “Sink into Reverie —that liminal space in which one creates.”
“One thinks of Halloween as a chance to fantasize, but more than anything Halloween lets us realize, allowing us to play ourselves, leaving the remainder of the year for sleepwalking…. In these moments of reverie, our eyes are fresh, a child’s eyes. Our thoughts unfettered by habit, ideas and inspirations swirl in. So this year we celebrate Reverie, inviting one and all to recreate their waking dreams.”
Indeed, this is one day a year when New Yorkers, en masse, release their inner exhibitionist, their inner Action Hero. It’s Body English, when your entire being is a placard to transmit your message. For some, it is a way of releasing inner rage, anxiety, and confront demons. For others, it is a way to convey spiritual blessings, cheer.
This year had its Willy Wonkas, the Egyptian Pharoahs (one carried a “10 Commandments for the 21st Century that included “gender equality” and “no more wars”), Action Heroes and Cartoon characters, spirits from myth and folklore, and a good smattering of political characters and commentary, with candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (more mocking him than her), Anonymous, and against the NRA.
Tens of thousands of people lined the route, which extended a mile from Spring Street up to 16th Street, delighting all as the bigger-than-life skeleton puppets poked into the crowd and stilt walkers and costumed characters engaged.
Creativity is on full view, a mischievous spirit in the air – this is New York City’s Carnival and Mummers wrapped into one.
It is amazingly artful, marvelous to behold – indeed, producer Jeanne Fleming, who took over the planning for the parade after its 8th year when the crowd reached 100,000, saw the Village Halloween Parade as an art installation.
And the scenics! with the lights of the Freedom Tower downtown, the church at Greenwich with its giant spider crawling down the side and the tower lighted, and the Empire State, lit in crackling light show for the occasion uptown, and the buildings lining 6th Avenue like canyon walls – creating a fantastical atmosphere in which the walking creatures and monsters feel most at home.
“New York’s Village Halloween Parade is committed to the cultural and imaginative life of New York City and to the advancement of large-scale participatory events in the belief that such events, when artistically inspired, can play a major role in the resurrection and rejuvenation of the City’s spirit, economy and the life of its people,” is the mission statement. “Fleeting as it may seem, the Annual Village Halloween Parade provides a subconsciously experienced time structure that lends a sense of durability, continuity and community to New York City life.”
Indeed, it is a collective giggle, a communal hug against the forces beyond control, and while you are in the spirit of it, you forget everything beyond.
Walking around Manhattan, with the oddest sights (half the time, you don’t know if people are wearing costumes), just adds to the special thrill of Halloween in New York City.
From humble beginnings in 1974 when Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee started a walk from house to house for his children and friends, the Village Halloween Parade, now headed by Artist and Producer Jeanne Fleming, has become an iconic event of New York City, with some 60,000 participants and tens of thousands of onlookers.
The Village Halloween Parade, the only major night parade in the country, is the largest public Halloween celebration in the world. It has been named as “The Greatest Event on Earth” for October 31 by Festivals International, and has been listed as one of the “100 Things to Do Before You Die.”
The ghouls and ghosts in the parade certainly would agree.
Washington Irving’s macabre tale, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is the inspiration for Horseman’s Hollow, a spectacularly produced interactive Halloween haunted attraction at the colonial-era Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
It is one of a series of Historic Hudson Valley’s Halloween season spectacular events taking place over an unprecedented 32 nights. They are the largest Halloween events in the tri-state area and are expected to draw more than 150,000 visitors to Sleepy Hollow Country. They take place in several Historic Hudson Valley venues, each one an important attraction.
Washington Irving’s macabre tale The Legend of Sleepy Hollow inspires Horseman’s Hollow, an interactive haunted attraction taking place over 14 nights at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, an estate that dates back to colonial times. But for Halloween, it is stocked with professional actors and state-of-the-art special effects and lighting. Take note: Horseman’s Hollow has a high fear factor, which is why it is so popular with teenagers. (Recommended for ages 10 and up.)
Irving’s ‘Legend,’ recommended for ages 10 and up, brings the master storyteller Jonathan Kruk into the historic, candlelit interior of Sleepy Hollow’s circa-1685 Old Dutch Church, where for 14 afternoons and evenings he offers a dramatic re-telling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow accompanied by live organ music.
The Legend Behind the ‘Legend’ is a daytime experience at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside homestead in Tarrytown, N.Y., that highlights the author of the famous story.
And continuing for a record 32 selected evenings through Nov. 13, The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze® is the Hudson Valley’s biggest all-ages Halloween extravaganza. A small team of artists comes together to carve more than 7,000 jacks, many fused together in elaborate constructions such as life-size dinosaurs and eight-foot-tall working jack-o’lanterns-in-the-box, all lit up throughout the wooded walkways, orchards, and gardens of historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Headless Horseman Rides Again
Philipsburg Manor, is but a few miles up the road from Washington Irving’s homestead at Sunnyside and, legend has it, is the setting for his classic story. The village, which was once known as North Tarrytown, actually changed its name to Sleepy Hollow in 1996.
But here at the 350-year old Philipsburg Manor, one of the Historic Hudson Valley historic sites, you can easily imagine the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as Irving saw it in his mind.
Now in its 7th year, Horseman’s Hollow, which welcomed more than 30,000 visitors last year, is a haunted experience in the heart of Sleepy Hollow that takes the tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to its darkest extremes. Historic Philipsburg Manor transforms into a terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane, all serving the Headless Horseman himself.
For 14 nights, historic Philipsburg Manor transforms into a terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane, all serving the Headless Horseman himself.
The 300-year old manor house, barn and gristmill of the Philipses, a family of Anglo-Dutch merchants who owned the 50,000 acre- estate, become the sets and the backdrop for the really, really ghoulish hauntings by colonial spirits.
Haunted house professional Lance Hallowell is back this year to lead a crew of award-winning makeup and costume designers and a 45-member-strong cast of experienced actors to create an immersive, interactive, pleasantly terrifying experience, with state-of-the-spooky-art special effects.
Custom built set pieces and period-correct costumes help orient the experience in Philipsburg Manor’s traditional time period of the mid-1700s.
What is best about Horseman’s Hollow is the sheer number (and talent) of the live spirits – they are very considerate, too – they seem to know just how much to terrify you (though really squeamish and young children should not come). I have found that if the ghouls sense you are easily frightened (like me), they tend to take down a notch their scare factor (I basically announce that I am easily frightened as I enter one of the venues).
But the professional actors and state-of-the-art special effects, contributes to a high fear factor (it’s recommended for ages 10 and up and is not for the squeamish and you need to take heed of the warning: This event is NOT suitable for adults who are claustrophobic, have heart or respiratory conditions, are prone to seizures, or have other chronic health conditions.)
As we start our experience, walking up a dirt path that rings the pond, a faceless colonial escorts us for a time, then goes into the trees to surprise a group of teenagers who are following behind. With each step through the woods, you leave the modern world behind and suspend disbelief.
Timed tickets mean that it isn’t overcrowded (safety in numbers?) – but as we walk through (guided by helpful spirits with lanterns who lead us to the next haunted house), we hear the screams of a pack of teenage girls in the distant dark. It adds to the atmosphere.
Look carefully in the deepest, darkest shadow, and there is the Headless Horseman himself, astride his steed, standing quietly as if taking in the scene or simply delighting in the terror of recognition as the clueless passerby realizes who is lurking in the dark.
Horseman’s Hollow dates are Oct. 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27-31. Online tickets are $20 ($25 on Saturdays). Fast Track, for a $15 per ticket upgrade, lets visitors skip the line in their timeslot. Historic Hudson Valley members receive a$5 per ticket discount.
Philipsburg Manor is at 381 North Broadway (Route 9) in Sleepy Hollow. (There is a parking field.)
Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze
The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze, which drew more than 130,000 visitors last year, features more than 7,000 illuminated, individually hand-carved jack o’ lanterns. Elaborate single-pumpkin carvings and huge multi-jack o’lantern constructions are professionally lit throughout the landscape of Van Cortlandt Manor in various themed areas.
Favorite installations such as Jurassic Park and the giant spider web are joined this year by new creations including a plus-sized Pumpkin Planetarium, a Pumpkin Zee Bridge, and a brand-new herd of pint-sized dinosaursall made of jack o’lanterns.
Creative Director Michael Natiello leads a small team of Historic Hudson Valley staff and local artists who carve. In addition, more than 2,000 volunteers help scoop and light the pumpkins. You can watch Blaze artists carving on site during the event.
Café Blazé, by Geordane’s of Irvington, offers culinary treats including soup, veggie chili, muffins, pumpkin cookies, and cider. The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze Shop has a full bounty of Blaze-specific merchandise including hats, notepads, games, T-shirts, magnets, caps, mugs, and jewelry.
New music this year created by professional musician, radio personality, and Halloween fanatic Richard Christy will augment the visitor experience. The new tracks as well as music from Christy’s Blaze: The Soundtrack Volume I & II play throughout the event.(Soundtrack Volume II is available as a CD at the event and both volumes are available as digital downloads and streams from iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.)
Blaze dates are Sept. 30, Oct. 1-2, 7-10, 13-16, 19-31, Nov. 3-6, 10-13. Online tickets are $20 for adults ($25 on Saturdays), $16 for children 3-17 ($20 on Saturdays), and free for children under 3 and Historic Hudson Valley members.
Van Cortlandt Manor is at 525South Riverside Avenue, just off Route 9 in Croton-on-Hudson (A parking field is on site).
Master storyteller Jonathan Krukoffers a dramatic re-telling of Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, featuring the Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, and Katrina Van Tassel. Flavored with live spooky organ music by Jim Keyes, Kruk’s storytelling takes place in the historic, candlelit setting of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow. The circa-1685 stone church is across the street from Philipsburg Manor, where visitors will park. Performances last about 45 minutes.
Irving’s ‘Legend’ dates are Oct. 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27-31. Seating is very limited and there are three performances each evening. Online tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for children under 18. Historic Hudson Valley members receive a $5 per ticket discount.
Legend Behind the ‘Legend’
Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving, celebrates its connection to Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, at this family friendly daytime event. The Legend Behind the ‘Legend includes tours of Irving’s home – a colorful blend of architectural styles – which showcase numerous objects from HHV’s collection related to Irving’s famous story. Visitors can also enjoy a shadow puppet performance of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and experience one of Irving’s spooky tales on a walk through the woods. Sunnyside is on West Sunnyside Lane, off Route 9 in Tarrytown.
Legend Behind the ‘Legend’ dates areOct. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 29-30. Online tickets are $16for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for children 3-17, and free for those under 3 and Historic Hudson Valley members.
All events are held rain or shine. Proceeds support Historic Hudson Valley, the Tarrytown-based private, non-profit educational organization that owns and operates the historic sitesthat host these events.
Because of the popularity of these events, it is essential to purchase tickets in advance.
Buy tickets online at www.hudsonvalley.org or by calling 914-366-6900 ($2 per ticket surcharge for phone orders and for tickets purchased onsite, if available).
Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Talk about Hot Jazz! The heat and humidity could not dampen the celebratory spirit for the final weekend of the 11th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island, where the weather was hot but the jazz was hotter. People still turned out in their vintage 1920s outfits, re-creating the Gatsby-era.
Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra sets the mood with music Arenella has transcribed from original recordings of the era. Arenella re-creates the role of a Big Band leader, taking on the inflection and look, and telling anecdotes about the music and the musicians as if it were now, when this music was all the rage and radio was a new (and dangerous) cultural phenomenon. Within moments, you are transported back to the romance and joie de vive of that time, leaving behind for these precious hours the hubbub of modern times (except for the constancy of cameras, smart phones and selfies).
The entertainment throughout the day is topnotch: Gregory Moore andThe Dreamland Follies, evoking the Ziegfield Follies, puts on stunning and sophisticated dance routines; Roddy Caravella & The Canarsie Wobblers consistently wow with fanciful costumes and choreography;
The Minsky Sisters, a 1920s-inspired sisters tap act in the tradition of classic vaudevillian family acts; Queen Esther, an award-winning vocalist with a four-octave range who is also a songwriter, actor, and recording artist performing regularly in NYC, who sets her own standard of Jazz Great while paying tribute to jazz royalty of yore with her jazz quintet The Hot Five; Peter Mintun, “world’s greatest piano man” and Molly Ryan, known for her silvery voice and lush, elegant vocal style; plus musical interludes on vintage 78 records from the 1920s played on a 1905 antique phonograph.
There are special attractions, as well, starting with lessons in Charleston or the Peabody by Roddy Caravella and his wife; dance competition (in Charleston or Peabody); a “High Court of Pie” contest;
Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade; Kidland carnival games and prizes for junior gents and Flapperettes; 1920s Motorcar Exhibition (get up close and personal with flivvers, Tin Lizzies and “Buttercup,” Gatsby’s very own 1925 Rolls-Royce “Twenty”); Vintage Portraits (immortalize yourself while perched upon a Paper Moon); and boutonnieres and mini floral arrangements bestowed upon guests from BloomThat, a flower start-up.
The bi-annual daytime affair also features an array of Golden-Age inspired cocktails created by mixtress Julie Reiner (Clover Club, Leyenda, Flatiron Lounge) featuring the festival’s signature spirit, St-Germain, including: The St-Germain Cocktail:an invigorating aperitif of St-Germain, sparkling wine, and sparking mineral water with a lemon twist; Strike Up The Band: a refreshing Collins-style recipe blending summer strawberries with gin, St-Germain and fresh citrus; and the Flappers Delight: St-Germain elderflower meets Juniper and mint in this tall summer fizz, and exclusively in “ The Gatsby’s Garden” VIP section: Americano de Robert: St-Germain, Campari, Dry Vermouth, lime, soda & orange peel, served up.
Ferry is Magic Carpet to Bygone Era
The enchantment begins as you board the ferry from South Street or from Brooklyn for the short ride to Governors Island. You think you have stepped back to the 1920s – crowds of giddy people are dressed in flapper dresses and linen suits, caps and suspenders cram the ferry. And dancing shoes. And you realize this isn’t just any ride in the park.
We are back in the Jazz Age, and the setting is perfect, a vast lawn set off by an arbor of trees, surrounded by buildings and forts that date back to the Civil War and World War II when Governors Island was used as a base and military prison (I even happened on Civil War re-enactors), now repurposed for arts and cultural programs.
People come and set out sprawling picnics – some with elaborate fixings like candelabras and crystal wine glasses.
The atmosphere is infectious. Fellows seem more civilized. Gals seem more sassy. And the good feeling just percolates to the beat from Michael Arenella’s Dreamland Orchestra, as this fantastical community defying time forms.
The unquestioned star of the day long festival is Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra, one of the world’s great Jazz Age dance bands, specializing in the Hot-Jazz of the 1920s. “Conductor, composer, musician and singer Michael Arenella presents a personally transcribed songbook for your listening and dancing pleasure.” (Michael Arenalla also can be heard Wednesday nights at the Clover Club, Smith Street in Brooklyn and at the Red Room, the last Thursday of the month, 85 E 4th St, NYC, and at the Clover Club, see www.dreamlandorchestra.com).
It isn’t hard to believe you have returned to the Jazz Age because of the authenticity and attention to detail. Arenella “transcribes by hand their entire repertoire from period recordings. Their delivery, as well as their instruments, attire, and equipment — are faithfully accurate. Arenella’s strong yet vulnerable baritone lacks pretense or sarcasm. He treasures each lyric, and has faith in the songs he sings. Even the most optimistic Tin Pan Alley tune has a disarming quality in his hands.”
Even the 1928 Graflex, used to take period photos, is an original.
Now in its 11th year, the Jazz Age Lawn Party has built a history of its own. It started in 2005 as a small gathering of about 50 friends and fans of Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra and their version of prohibition-era music and fun. Not too many years after, it was drawing thousands of fans who revel in the music and zeitgeist of the 1920s and 1930s and has become what is arguably the world’s largest outdoor musical celebration of the Jazz Age, but is undoubtedly one of the highlights in a crammed calendar of summer happenings in New York City.