New York recap
Friday, May 20th, 2005
New York was exhausting. I had breakfast at the soon-to-be-shuttered HoJo on 44th street, where Gene Hackman once worked as maitre’d and Lili Tomlin waitressed. When I asked about the closing next month, Hackman’s successor at the cash register said the owners were making a mistake giving up on the restaurant. “If someone can’t make the business here, they can’t make it anywhere in the world.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly the problem:
The restaurant and the land it sits on, a prime site on the northwest corner of 46th Street and Broadway, was recently sold for “more than $100 million” by longtime owner Kenneth Rubinstein to Jeff Sutton’s Wharton Acquisitions. Sutton plans to flatten the four-story edifice and replace it with a gleaming new retail outlet.
The Howard Johnson’s was built in 1955 and is the oldest, continually operated business facing directly on Times Square. Its squat dimensions once fit in nicely with the low-scale, slightly down-at-heel architecture that for a long time characterized the area. But the real estate revival of the late 1990s saw it dwarfed by glass towers and glossy stores like Toys ‘R’ Us and the Virgin Megastore. Increasingly, the venerable old institution looked like an anachronism.
My favorite line from the two conferences I attended came from Doc Searles. “The demand side supplies itself.” Which is to say that, increasingly, people solve their own problems and build their technology without recourse to the mass-market corporate Rube Goldberg machine. This can be t-shirt peddlers, musicians, authors, software entrepreneurs…
I got a real charge out of Thom Pain (based on nothing), directed by my Beatles-bootleg buddy Hal Brooks. Someone else in the front row, who had been fidgetting briefly with business cards, got the “I hate the way you breath” speech. Full in the face, I got:
What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? That’s easy. You’d be brave and true and reckless. You would love life and people with wild and new abandon’What if you only had forty years? What would you do? If you’ re like me, and, no offense, but you probably are, you wouldn’t do anything. It’s sad isn’t it?
Good questions, which I hope I’m answering well.