Monday, 26 September 2011

Musical Inspirations and Beauty 'Saloons'

I know I've spent a lot of time in New York City of late but for those of you who visit every now and then or have never been there is a lot on offer that's a little different to what you would normally expect.  New York like London is home to many theatres and productions .. the choice is varied and almost limitless!  It stands to reason then that there are talented actors, singers and dancers who aren't always in regular work.  From this talent pool there are many who work in bars, not necessarily as bar attendants but as performers in their own right - playing piano, singing and creating shows of infinite variety.  I attended one such show last night in a bar at 343 West 46th Street, in the heart of the theatre district "Don't tell Mama Piano Bar and Cabaret".  There is a regular slot in one of the rooms out the back called "Hole-o-matic" which features Michael Holland (currently doing the orchestration and vocal arrangements for the upcoming Broadway revival of Godspell) and Karen Mack. They perform medleys of well known songs chosen at random by members of the audience from a roladex on each table at the start of the evening. I couldn't put it better myself so I extracted a review written by Darron Cardosa which reads as follows ... 

"... expect lush vocals and comic mayhem in what is always a spontaneous and one-of-a-kind musical experience. The show is an all request evening so each week the performance is completely original. The two sing medleys (or "mash-ups" for you Glee fans) of songs from the 70's and 80's and each one is creatively arranged by Holland. Some of the songs are solos, some are duets, for some he plays the piano for others the guitar...but all of the songs are great. Holland and Mack explain that neither one of them ever knows the complete lyrics to any one song so their only choice is to do bits and pieces of a lot of songs."

There is no cover charge and the only stipulation is that you buy a minimum of 2 drinks per person ... and I should warn you that the cocktails are quite lethal!!! When the show was over we moved into the main restaurant/bar to hear some more music and grab a bite to eat. Such a fun night and thoroughly recommended if you like that sort of thing!

The Beauty Bar
Another great idea which will probably catch on everywhere if it hasn't already is the "Beauty Bar"  situated at 231 E14th Street and at other locations around the US .. quite literally a Bar which was originally a Beauty Salon 40 years ago! A lot of the original features are still visually intact (although of course not in use) and you can even have a martini and a manicure for $10!  Whatever next??!!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

It all happens in New York!!

Sunrise after the storm
The New York US Open experience is now over for another year .. and what fun it was!!  The flip flops made an appearance on the practice courts just so they could prove they were there!  
With Hurricane Irene making such an impact just prior to it all starting we imagined we would be delayed and out there longer than we expected, (which we were) but nature is a strange thing and by Sunday evening you would hardly know anything had happened in that part of the country aside from a few twigs and leaves scattered around the place.
We had fabulous weather for the first few days, hot and humid (which always makes it feel hotter than it is) and we battled with hot studio lights, shiny faces and unruly hair! (The Sally Hersberger range of hair products was a great find .. works amazingly well on curly flyaway hair .. I'm even using it on myself now!) Then it all changed and rained incessantly for two days which we knew then would definitely set us back at least an extra day. Our make-up and green room under the studio was wet where the water had seeped through overnight and I spent some time mopping up and making it useable for when the presenters arrived. (Luckily I had kept my kit off the floor!) The cover on the overhang at the end of the studio had filled with water too and started leaking into the back of the set so it was eventually removed and we were without it for the second day of rain which then brought about another set of problems .. wet chairs, presenters getting spray on their jackets etc etc  ... oh the joys of location shooting!  
Guest presenter Boris Becker 
It had stopped raining when it was finally replaced and they got the air conditioning sorted out and mostly it was problem free after that. The weather remained warm and sunny with just the threat of an occasional shower or two but generally things went ahead as planned for each day. The on-site catering was pretty good and we had a great choice of food every day. 
We also had great guests, great tennis and long hours but it was a wonderful experience. I had to use the subway system when it was raining because it was nigh on impossible to get a cab .. a 10 minute power walk, 5 stops on the 6 train downtown and able to get the bus to the grounds which took on average around 25 minutes on a good day.

I did manage to get a bit of shopping done too .. the stores stay open late on a Thursday and Friday and some stay open all the time. Duane Reide which is a large pharmacy chain selling everything from make up to food stay open 24 hours!  There's one on almost every few blocks!   And despite my gruelling schedule I still managed to get to a friend's birthday celebrations at a new restaurant in the West Village, Fatty Cue which is South East Asian barbeque cuisine, although I was late and missed the food! Another little find was a bar in the neighbourhood where I was staying, Brandy's Piano Bar on 83rd street. It features live music every night until 3am.  You are encouraged to request songs and sing along although it is not karaoke! Every so often a jar gets passed around so the piano player can get paid!  A great way to end an evening!

I also managed to squeeze in a visit to a FNO event at Saks Fifth Avenue with some NY friends after work last Thursday.  The store was buzzing with people, in fact the whole city was packed with fashionistas with it being New York Fashion week!  Everyone eager to collect as many samples and photos with designers and models as they could. There were DJ's on every floor pumping out club music at high volume.  It was all a bit much for me after a long day so my friend's 16 year old daughter and I bailed and got a cab home .. however, I did manage to score a few samples for myself!
I have visited New York many times but this time I really felt like I was living there .. buildings and surroundings became very familiar and I feel more in touch with the city than ever before .. and I still love it!!  I don't think I will ever tire of it. I am back there next week for a well needed few days off but New York is never a holiday .. it's a vibrant place with lots to do, a city that never sleeps.  I guess Irene was a bit of a blessing in disguise for me .. two days of being indoors with nothing to do but relax before the onslaught of over two weeks of twelve hour days without a break .. I have returned home absolutely shattered but extremely grateful for the opportunity I have just had.

Friday, 2 September 2011

I Love New York!

Lexington Ave
I have always loved New York even before I ever saw it for real! I remember as a child seeing a picture of the Empire State building and deciding there and then that I would go one day! Countless visits later and here I am actually working here! Ok it's only for a couple of weeks but I'm having the experience and loving it. Maybe it's not for everyone but I am a city girl and I love the buzz ..  for me NYC has an energy like no other place I know.
Hurricane Irene came and went without too much of an impact on the city itself so I finally managed to get out of the apartment on Sunday afternoon and head down with the crew to check out our studio location in Queens. Apart from no public transport and most of the shops being closed you would have been unaware that there had been a storm if you didn't know better. It was slightly eerie as there was hardly any traffic on the roads and I had the quickest cab ride back into Manhattan ever. By evening the skies were clearing to reveal a beautiful sunset and by Monday morning a crystal clear day dawned with a sunrise to match! The city pretty much returned to normal very quickly.

Work has been good .. a lot of teething problems on the first day but as each day comes and goes it gets better.  We struggled with the lighting and heat in the studio on the first day meaning lots of blotting and powdering of faces but now the air-con is sorted (well as best it can be in a semi outdoor studio!) and it's a lot better! Heat and humidity have played havoc with the curly hair of one of our presenters but we've tamed that now with a great product I found by Sally Hershberger .. Hyper Hydration .. 'rehab for stressed out locks'.  At only $12.50 for 150ml it seems like a bargain to me!!   I'll let you know more about it as we go along and see how it performs over the next few days!

Our bus (which takes us to and from Flushing Meadows) dropped us back in midtown on Lexington and instead of getting a cab straight 'home' tonight I decided to walk the 40 blocks uptown while it was still light and warm.  I stopped into Bloomingdales and had a wander around the bag department .. did a little price comparison and a lot of drooling then the myriad of make up brands appeared before me!!  It really is make up heaven there!!  I was quite restrained and only allowed myself to buy some Kiehl's travel sized products .. Creme de Corps (my fave body moisturiser) and the Superbly Smoothing Argan Shampoo and Conditioner (also in 75ml sizes) .. they have obviously listened to their customer's suggestions!  So nice to have all your toiletries in containers under 100ml - perfect for your carry on luggage!!
When I came out of the store it was already dark, so I headed up Third Avenue, past groups of people and couples sitting in little restaurants, cyclists, yellow cabs beeping their horns and the odd enraged driver shouting obscenities at the workmen digging up the road blocking a lane and imagined that this would be what it would be like if I actually lived here .. not so different from London really!  For now I think I will just continue to visit and experience the best New York has to offer .. that way I hope I never get tired of it.