Berry Tramel

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New York travelblog: Jumping turnstiles & watching Jersey Boys

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 30, 2014 at 10:40 am •  Published: January 30, 2014
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It’s full confession time. I am a fugitive from New York City justice. I’m on the lam. I’m in the wind.

I jumped a Manhattan subway turnstile.

Coming back from Midtown on Wednesday, my Metro Card wouldn’t work. The Metro Card is your pass on the subway and/or bus. We bought a week’s pass, for $31. And had no trouble until Wednesday afternoon.

Perhaps my card got crumpled in my pocket, sitting through a Broadway show. I don’t know. But at the subway station at 7th Avenue and 53rd Street, it wouldn’t let me pass. The Dish got through fine. And there I was, separated from her. I tried, oh, 25 times, over three or four different turnstiles.

I guess I could have found a subway booth to see if they could exchange cards. Or tell me what I was doing wrong. But I had things to write.

So I jumped the turnstile. It was rather easy to do it. I handled it rather nimbly for an old man.

No one came after me. No Lenny Briscoe to grab me by the collar. So I was good. Hopped onto the E train to take us over to the 6 train at Lexington Avenue.

Which was good. Apprehension by peace officers would have spoiled what was an awfully good day.

HERE ARE MY REGARDS TO BROADWAY

I’ve been to New York only three times, not counting afternoon jaunts before NCAA Tournament ballgames that night in New Jersey, and I’ve seen two Broadway shows. That’s not the proper ratio.

A Broadway show is the best thing about visiting New York. Better than the Empire State Building. Better than Times Square. Better than walking the Brooklyn Bridge (though I actually haven’t walked it; that fear of falling thing trumps all).

Maybe I can make it to the Statue of Liberty and let you know how it compares.

But either way, Broadway is fantastic. I saw Les Mise’rables in 1999 and Wednesday I saw Jersey Boys.

I love the theater. Been to the Civic Center Music Hall many times for all kinds of shows. Beauty & the Beast. The Lion King. The Music Man. Can’t remember what all. Even been to Tulsa to see Phantom of the Opera.

But nothing’s like seeing a Broadway show on Broadway.

The shows themselves don’t seem any higher quality than what you see from the tours that come to OKC and Tulsa. Maybe they are, but I can’t tell.

It’s just that there’s a certain feel when you’re on Broadway. The theaters are spectacular in function.

For instance, we entered the August Wilson Theater to see Jersey Boys probably 30 minutes before the doors opened, so we waited in a tiny atrium. Finally, the doors opened, and we went into the lobby, which included a concession stand (wine and candy, mostly) and a memorabilia stand. All in vintage décor.

Then we walked up a stairway, entered the theater and walked down to our seats. We were on Row H in the orchestra section. Excellent seats. On the far stage right, but still with a full view.

As the show was ending, with  the performers taking a bow, they opened exit doors not 10 feet from my seat. Those doors opened into an exit atrium, whose outer doors were opened. Onto 52nd Street.

The entire show, I was sitting maybe 30 feet from a bustling New York City sidewalk.

That’s what’s cool about these theaters. They are opulent and grand inside. But they’re woven into the fabric of the city. They’re like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field; nestled into streets and neighborhoods.

Just a totally cool experience.

A friend of mine, Chris Norris of Chris’ University Spirit Shop in Stillwater, texted me Wednesday night. His sister is actress Kimberly Guerrero. Chris messaged me to “Hope you are having time in NYC. Enjoy. Never been there. My sister was on broadway and I didn’t go … not smart.”

Nope. Not smart at all. Anyone who gets a chance to go to a Broadway show, go.

TICKET SAVINGS

What’s the opposite of ticket scalping? That’s what Broadway does.

At the corner of Broadway and 47th Street, the theaters have a ticket outlet, selling at a discount for that same day. Some are 50 percent off, some 40 percent. They’re trying to fill seats.

We got 50 percent discount on Jersey Boys. We paid $77 each for seats that would have been $153 each. Unless there’s an exact show you just have to see, the ticket outlet is the way to go. We bought tickets at 12:15 p.m., grabbed a sidewalk hot dog, the Dish got a coffee at a Starbucks and we were in the theater at 1 p.m. for a 2 p.m. show.

The theaters have matinees usually on Wednesday and Saturday, and most are closed on Sundays and Mondays. So that’s seven performances a week.

NEW YORK STYLE EATING

We had a Manhattan eating day. Like I said, lunch from a hot dog vendor, followed by dinner of a takeout pizza.

The hot dog was disappointing. Just wasn’t as good as what I’ve had in the past. Maybe the fact that we ate it outside in 20-degree weather had something to do with it. The Dish said it wasn’t hot. I said maybe it was hot until it hit the atmosphere and cooled off immediately.

The gyros we had on the street the day before was much better. I’m still hoping to get some roasted peanuts before I leave.

For dinner, I ordered a takeout pizza from some joint down the street from our hotel. I worked until a little after tipoff of the Thunder-Heat game, then we watched the first half. I retrieved the pizza at halftime and we had New York thin crust with pepperoni, black olive and mushroom, while watching the Thunder take apart the Miamis. Fun night.

The pizza place was Delizia’s, on the corner of 92nd Street and First Avenue. I prefer Chicago-style deep dish, but this was good. We ate it all.

NEW FRIENDS

New York can be a cold experience, even when the temperatures aren’t freezing. I’ve been on New York subways dozens of times and can’t ever remember having conversations with strangers.

But it happened Wednesday, and it also happened at the theater.

Waiting for the doors to open in the August Wilson Theater atrium, we asked a lady to shoot our picture. She did, and we got to talking. She and her husband live out on Long Island and had driven into the city for the day. Very nice people.

Then as we were about to board the subway home, a woman asked me for directions. I guess I’m starting to look a little New Yorkish, if people are asking me for subway advice. Perhaps I look like a guy who just jumped the turnstile. Probably not too many tourists do that.

Anyway, I told her which stop to get off, and she sat down by the Dish and was very friendly. Lives in Philadelphia, here with her husband who is on business, she, too, had just come from Jersey Boys. Has a son who’s a professor at the University of Colorado.

Nice experience.

JERSEY BOYS

Here’s what I wrote for the Thursday Oklahoman about our Broadway day.

NEW YORK — The NFL and Broadway, as different as any two American institutions could be, have gone into business together.

Thirteen city blocks of Manhattan’s most famous patch of road have renamed. Super Boulevard began hosting a football festival Wednesday night, with toboggan rides, musical entertainment, the Vince Lombardi Trophy, an NFL shop with players scheduled to sign autographs throughout the day and an illuminated statue spelling out “XLVIII” in giant letters.

More convergence: the Packers’ Randall Cobb appeared in a cameo role of the Broadway show “Rock of Ages” on Tuesday night, the Lions’ Joique Bell was scheduled to do the same Wednesday night and the retired Ahman Green in the Saturday matinee.

But I don’t want to watch a bunch of thespians play football, so why would I want to watch football players sing and dance?

So I went to the real thing. My wife and I caught the matinee performance of “Jersey Boys” in the August Wilson Theater on Wednesday afternoon. We bought half-price tickets at the Broadway clearing house around noon and were in our seats by 1:30 for the 2 p.m. show.

And it was fabulous. The story and music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons was entertaining from start to finish. In the same way that some athletes’ records jump out at you under close study (Al Simmons, Elgin Baylor), you don’t realize the great songs you’ve heard all your life but never knew came from the same group.

And it even had a football reference. Character Tommy DeVito tells us early that “Jersey is a joke state … where you have to drive to a landfill next to a dump next to a turnpike to cheer for a team that’s from New York anyway.”

Sounds like just the kind of New York/New Jersey rivalry playing out over the Super Bowl.

But while you can temporarily rename Broadway, you can’t change its magic.

Live theater is great. And the shows that come to Oklahoma City and Tulsa are just as quality as what you see on Broadway. But you’re not on Broadway.

In the same way that you can see the Yankees play in Arlington or Notre Dame play in Norman or Kansas basketball play in Stillwater, it’s not the same as being in Yankee Stadium or Notre Dame Stadium or Allen Fieldhouse.

Seeing Broadway on Broadway is a total New York experience.

The Jersey game is going to have to be great to trump “Jersey Boys.”

More on the Jersey Boys. The DeVito character opens the shows by telling the audience that “we put Jersey on the map.” Hmm, you’d have thought the Super Bowl did that, the way Jersey has gone all out to negate the New York gravitational pull.

But for all I know, he’s right. You know me. I’m no music connoisseur.

But I like the old stuff. From the ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s. And then Jersey Boys started hitting us with all these memorable songs that you never knew were sung by Frankie Valli and written by Bob Gaudio.

“Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Dawn (Go Away),” “Rag Doll,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” and “December 1963 (Oh What a Night).”

Valli and Gaudio were part of the Four Seasons, who also had hits with “Let’s Hang On,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Our Day Will Come” and “My Eyes Adored You.” Plus a bunch of others.

All those songs are in Jersey Boys. You talk about baby boomers’ wheelhouse.

GOODBYE, UPPER EAST SIDE

We’re checking out of the Courtyard on Thursday morning, headed to the media hotel, the New York Sheraton.

The Courtyard has been good, despite slow internet. New York hotel rooms can be dicey.

The first we stayed in, the Paramount in 1999, cost $350 a night. And I swear, the room was 10×15. No desk. The television was mounted on the wall. No drawers. Two beds.

It was fabulously located, on 46th Street just off Broadway, but man, you couldn’t turn around in there. We stopped by the Paramount just for old time’s sake on Wednesday. I was glad we weren’t staying there.

The Courtyard room is a little bigger than that. We got a good rate early in Super Bowl week, $188 a night, though it jacks up a bunch for the weekend because of the ballgame.

We enjoyed walking around the Upper East Side. It’s a different kind of living than you find in Midtown. More families. More seniors.

Still, it’s different. People toss their trash, in bags, out on the streets at night. No other place to put it. It’s eventually picked up.

And schools, right in the middle of everything else. We were nearby an elementary school and a middle school. Doesn’t seem like any place to raise kids.

Urban visits are great. Urban living is not for me.

 


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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