The notion of a New York Walk of Fame first crossed my mind when I was putting together the slideshow on film director/producer/studio mogul/cinema visionary Alice Guy-Blache... I suggested she deserved a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And she does. Although she didn't really work in Hollywood.
She could have one in New Jersey, but where? And anyway, they have a Hall of Fame (and they haven't even put her in yet!).
For crying out loud! Why doesn't New York have a Walk of Fame??
If any city deserves one, New York does. The Big Apple is replete with famous people, living and dead, and renowned in such a wide array of areas.
Yes, there are film stars, and the Tribeca Film Festival and New York Film Festival underscore that. Alice Guy-Blache, essentially the mother of the modern film industry, may have built her studio in New Jersey, but she began her Solax film company in Flushing, New York. Her "star" should be here, too.
Then of course there's the TV industry, now thriving again in New York, despite the loss of the beloved Law & Order (I contend that New Yorkers needed that show, to be reassured that the legal system worked). I heard Sam Waterston at the Vineyard Theater discussing the sheer amount of actors Law & Order employed over its decades-long run -- that alone earns Dick Wolfe a spot.
Speaking of theater -- the number of theater greats that have tread the boards here (hey, why isn't there a Museum of Broadway?! Never mind... different rant) most certainly deserve stars -- especially when their theaters are being renamed for corporations. The Astor Place Riot in 1849, over who was the better Shakespearean actor, evinces this town's passion for theater, which is undissipated to this day, if not expressed in quite the same way.
The gorgeously refurbished New-York Historical Society reminded me of scores of others who resided here and helped shape New York's destiny -- Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton to name just two.
Fashion greats walk the catwalk, why not commemorate them on the sidewalk?
A friend was telling me recently that she walks by Humphrey Bogart's house almost every day. But it's up on 103rd street, so she may be one of the few who actually sees it, or even knows it's there.
Walking the Walk
The obvious place to put the Walk of Fame is on 5th Avenue. Although, that elegantly straight swathe stretching down the center of the island may not be long enough to accommodate all the renowned denizens of the city. But there's always Broadway when 5th Ave. is full.
On 5th, it would intersect with Library Walk, which creeps quietly along 41st street on an eastern trajectory from the NY Public Library lions, with its brass plaques of quotes from famous writers, not all from New York though.
"I want everybody to be smart," Garson Kanin had written, "as smart as they can be. A world of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in."
Star to Apple
Obviously, it should not be an actual star. It should be an apple. Just where NYC got its nickname, The Big Apple, is hotly debated -- the jazz world, the racetrack, Depression-era apple carts -- but that makes it all the more appropriate. It's genesis as the city's moniker is diverse.
Not only do its dubious origins embrace a brace of worlds, the apple's symbology serves that function too -- everything from forbidden fruit and original sin to representative of a garden of earthly delights and comprehensive nourishment (an apple a day keeps the doctor away... Dr. Ruth could get an apple). Ruth Reichl, author of Comfort me with Apples, must have a star.
What about Boston, Chicago, San Francisco?
Why shouldn't all big cities have a Walk of Fame? They can certainly accommodate them with their own famous denizens.
In light of recent history, a tea bag would not work for Boston -- anyway, they didn't put tea in bags at the time of the Boston Tea Party. But a bean would work.
San Francisco could be a gold nugget... for the 1849 California Gold Rush that transformed the dusty town into a bustling city.
Chicago is tougher. Its nicknames: Chi-town, Chicagoland, Second City -- a big 2 doesn't seem positive -- don't really work emblematically. A gust of wind for The Windy City is possible, if a little esoteric. But it's a possibility.
Back to the Apple
Giants of industry, Frederick Olmstead for Central Park, architects such as Stanford White, Bill Cunningham for his fashion contributions for the better part of a century... although his apple may have to be in the bike lane. Dare I suggest an Al Hirshfeld apple around 9th Street (for Nina), or should he be near the theater district?
Uh oh. I can see arguments like these causing a tangle of infighting over minutiae, for the same reasons getting a new structure up at the 9/11 site took over a decade. Or the stalemate that led to still not having public restrooms in a town that so desperately needs them.
I was starting to talk myself out of the idea.
No. No! New York deserves a Walk of Fame. It's good idea, a necessary idea.
Our history lives and breathes all around us; we're a town of pedestrians, let the history, too, support us beneath our feet.
Gerit Quealy writes on Style & Substance at NBC's StyleGoesStrong.com.
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