The Bowery Boys: New York City History
New York City history is America's history. It's the hometown of the world, and most people know the city's familiar landmarks, buildings and streets. Why not look a little closer and have fun while doing it?

Rudolph Valentino was an star from the early years of Hollywood, but his elegant, randy years in New York City should not be forgotten.  They helped make him a premier dancer and a glamorous actor. And on August 23, 1926, this is where the silent film icon died.

 

Valentino arrived in Ellis Island in 1913, one of millions of Italians heading to America to begin a new life.  In his case, he was escaping a restless life in Italy and a set of mounting debts! But he quickly distinguished himself in New York thanks to his job as a taxi dancer at the glamorous club Maxim's, where he mingled with wealthy society women.

 

He headed to Hollywood and became a huge film star in 1921, thanks to the film The Sheik, which set his reputation as the connsumate Latin Lover.  Throughout his career, he returned to New York to make features (in particular, those as his Astoria movie studio), and he once even judged a very curious beauty pageant here.  

 

In 1926, he headed here not only to promote a sequel to The Sheik, but to display his masculinity after a scathing article blamed him for the effeminacy of the American male!

 

Sadly, however, he tragically and suddenly (and, some would say, mysteriously) died at a Midtown hospital.  People were so shocked by his demise that the funeral chapel (in the area of today's Lincoln Center) was mobbed for almost a week, its windows smashed and the streets paralyzed by mourners -- or where those people paid by the film studio?

 

ALSO: We are proud to introduce to you -- POLA!

Direct download: 170_The_Life_and_Death_of_Rudolph_Valentino.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:19pm EDT

One World Trade Center was declared last year the tallest building in America, but it's a very different structure from the other skyscrapers who have once held that title. In New York, owning the tallest building has often been like possessing a valuable trophy, a symbol of commercial and social superiority. In a city driven by commerce, size matters.

In this special show, I give you a rundown of the history of being tall in New York City, short profiles of the 12 structures (11 skyscrapers and one church!) that have held this title.  In several cases, these weren't just the tallest buildings in the city; they were the tallest in the world.  

Skyscrapers were not always well received.  New York's tallest building in 1899 was derisively referred to as a "horned monster."  Lower Manhattan became defined by this particular kind of structure, creating a canyon of claustrophobic, darkened streets.  But a new destination for these sorts of spectacular towers beckoned in the 1920s -- 42nd Street.

You'll be familiar with a great number of these -- the Woolworth, the Chrysler, the Empire State.  But in the early days of skyscrapers, an odd assortment of buildings took the crown as New York's tallest, from the vanity project of a newspaper publisher to a turtle-like tower made for a sewing machine company.

At stake in the race for the tallest is dominance in the New York City skyline.  With brand new towers popping up now all over the five boroughs, should be worried that they'll overshadow the classics? Or should the skyline always be in a constant state of flux?

ALSO: New York's very first tall buildings and the ominous purpose they were used for during the Revolutionary War!

PICTURES, SOURCES and RECOMMENDED READING will be available at boweryboyspodcast.com

CORRECTION: Ack, I keep saying Crystal Palace Exposition when it's actually Crystal Palace Exhibition! I mean, they basically mean the same thing, almost, right?

 

THIS EPISODE OF THE BOWERY BOYS IS SPONSORED BY AUDIBLE,  the premier provider of digital audiobooks. Get a FREE audiobook download and 30 day free trial atwww.audibletrial.com/boweryboys. Over 150,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player Audible titles play on iPhone, Kindle, Android and more than 500 devices for listening anytime, anywhere.

 

Direct download: 169_The_Tallest_Building_In_New_York.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:19pm EDT