Another have-to-or-you’ll-be-punished place to visit in Appledom is the Empire State Building. But if you go up to its viewing platform you can’t see the building itself because you’re in it. Much better, my friend David Cocks advised, to go up to floor 65 in the nearby Rockefeller Centre, drink a cocktail and, if you want to burn some serious cash, eat. This we did, both ordering a seafood salad, which sounded kind of sufficient until it arrived, crouching barely there at the bottom of a dish brought to us by a waitress from Sydney. That grizzle aside, the view from the bar was spectacular and so was the Mama Rose cocktail. Not only was the ESB staring us in the face but on the other side we could see Central Park laid out like a dark green mat surrounded by spikes and spires of buildings.
The evening brought a much anticipated symphony concert in Carnegie Hall. I wrote a review for the J-Wire website and I’ve attached it – if you like that sort of thing.
The Radio City Music Hall turned out to be one of the most attractive places we’ve visited so far. As we were rushing past on a headlong, unspecified shopping expedition, we noticed that a tour was about start, so we lined up with the peloton and in we went. This art deco masterpiece holds 6000 people and, because of its balloon-like design, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. It was built in 1932 and immediately became the biggest live theatre in the world. It still ranks in the top three. Like Carnegie Hall it has had all the greats perform there, went broke and closed in the 1960s, was saved from demolition by popular uproar, was then totally restored and is now an untouchable heritage listed building owned by the city.
What makes the Radio City Music Hall so special is its original art deco style – either faithfully restored or carefully preserved. The stage is one of the biggest in the world and worked by a powerful hydraulic system that can lift, lower, and rotate almost anything on earth. The building was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone and he interior by Donald Deskey. Everything about it is huge. You could almost fly a plane around the foyer while beneath it, in the patron’s lounge, you’ll find a giant female aluminium nude, deco columns in black glass and special carpet with a triangular pattern that is designed to encourage people to whisper rather than shout. The men’s lounge (you wouldn’t dare call it a bathroom) is also an art deco masterpiece; so much so that I felt I’d peed on a priceless work of art when I used it. Maybe I had, and I’ve now ruined a rare art deco urinal.
In one of the many casual lounge areas a glass case held a big open book where famous visitors had signed their names. In the lower right hand corner there was the signature of Liberace, finished off with a little ink drawing of a piano – in case we forgot what he played.After a short historical film we were joined by a real live Rockette. Radio City Music Hall is the home of this famous dance troupe, known for their leaping about in ultra-precision. I thought an old bird would arrive by wheelchair and cackle about how she used to be a showgirl in 1935. But no. In walked a 22-year-old dancer, all white teeth and long limbs, done up in a high kick outfit. After a predictably perfect spiel she recognised me and begged to have our picture taken to hang in her dressing room. Aw, okay, I said. I took a copy just in case she uses it for publicity without my permission.
Away from entertainment for the common man, we went off to the ballet at Lincoln Centre in the evening. Michelle, who knows more about it than I do, gave it a yes and invited the cast back for the next round. She made the point that the Australian ballet ranks well against the New York hoppers. We were treated to two short ballets and one major work: Symphony in C using music by George Bizet. Without scenery or story the dancing was exposed and it came off very well. The orchestra was supportive rather than assertive with an oboe solo in the second movement that was nothing short of enchanting.