MINETTA LANE (Secret beach!)
Ssshhh! Can you hear it? Some people think on a quiet day you can still hear the elite of New York frolicking in the city’s best-kept secret: an underground white sand beach! The beach was the brainchild of Andrew Carnegie, who hated to leave New York but loved to take a tropical vacation. Carnegie made his millions in steel and gave most of it away, but the one indulgence in luxury he allowed himself was the nine-acre white sand beach and underground “virtual ocean,” which was the equivalent of six Olympic-sized swimming pools, with four wave machines custom-built in Tokyo, Japan. It was a rather diplomatic gesture to join hands with Japan to make Carnegie’s secret hide-away a reality. Rumor has it that at least one acre of white sand and almost half of the now motionless ocean are still here under Minetta Lane [gesture to any portion of the ground]. The last time it was accessed was in 1941 when the wave machines and 175,000 candlepower “sun” were taken out and turned into weapons in our war against Japan, ironically.
BLEECKER AND MacDOUGAL (Southwest corner)
Everyone knows that this is the corner Thomas Edison sat on when discouraged from his failed attempts at illuminating the light bulb in his Bleecker Street lab, but what you probably don’t know is this: The man who Edison would share his frustrations with…the man who owned and worked at this very cafe [gesture to any nearby cafe] was a man the country would later come to recognize as its President. This used to be called the Lincoln Cafe, named after its owner… an honest man, with a love of European coffee, named Abe. Today the cafe is owned By Jerry Seinfeld and CC DeVille of the rock band Poison, and as a reminder of the cafe’s heritage, Jerry and CC have lit the cafe’s entire interior with incandescent single-filament bulbs…the very bulb that Edison finally triumphed over innumerable obstacles to bring to Bleecker Street… [dramatic pause] …and the world.
WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK
Who knows where we’re standing? [Let someone give the obvious answer.] Well, did you know that before it was a park, Washington Square was the place where our country’s forefathers would meet and mingle dressed as women? One of the most secret societies in America met here monthly at midnight for three years right around the turn of the century. In what was considered a bawdy way to blow off steam, pretty corsets and flowery talk were donned as the evening’s attire and the men giggled and preened and socialized. And, some would say, even retired to the rowhouses you see behind you [gesture to West Third] to share a spot of tea or brandy and tips on making themselves appear to be the fairest maidens of the Village. You’ll never find it in a history book, but the story is that one night a police officer who was new on the beat didn’t know enough to look the other way. During one of these little “tea parties” the officer took it upon himself to ask the pretty ladies, who were actually Presidents, mayors, Congressmen, and the like, what they thought they were doing socializing at a late hour of such ill repute. One of the [make finger quotes] “gals” by the name of Georgette W. took a fancy to the policeman, and the rest is history. The secret was in danger of getting out and the land was quickly re-christened a park. Out went “Ladies’ Night” and in came more manly chess tables and benches for drinking. As years passed, the past was put to sleep. [Make a joke about the next woman who passes by possibly being the Mayor.]
IN FRONT OF UNIVERSITY BOOKSTORE
Who has seen the movie “Big”? What about “Jaws” and “Say Anything”? Are you sure you still don’t recognize this bookstore? [Usually some star-struck tourist will volunteer an answer, eager to believe a Hollywood myth. When they do, agree with whatever they suggest and make up an anecdote. EXAMPLE: “That’s right, it was the loft where Tom Hanks lived as the man-boy turned millionaire toy-mogul. Funny thing is, during the filming people actually started to believe that Hanks lived here…blah, blah, blah, etc. etc.” If nobody recognizes it, proceed as follows:] Of course you don’t recognize it! Hollywood never shows this storefront when they shoot on this street. The reason? One of the oldest curses in Tinseltown! Rumor has it that in the late fifties, MGM was shooting a movie here with Bogart and Bacall. It was a movie that starred Bacall as a chanteuse who performed here at the bookstore, which at that time was a club called “Kellington’s.” Well, on the first day of shooting Mr. Bogart was in a cranky mood and suggested they shoot his scene in the club first so that he might get some sleep during the rest of the afternoon. The crew obliged. However, when they re-lit the scene they forgot one thing… to ground the electrical lights and signs used in the scene. Bogart’s lighting stand-in, who was a dead ringer for Bogey, reported to the set for test lighting. When he stepped onto his (Bogey’s) mark, he was electrocuted. Everyone immediately thought Humphrey Bogart was dead! Rumors spread across the country! When everyone found out that it was just the double, nobody really cared. It was even kind of funny, and you can feel fine about laughing today, because back then, furloughed convicts that resembled stars were usually the lighting stand-ins… and there were no tears to be shed over a dead felon. Hollywood was so embarrassed at the oversight and ensuing rumors that Samuel Goldwyn vowed to never show the storefront in film “As long as Hollywood lived.”