I was born in New York City. I’ve lived and worked in New York City all my life. I’ve been a major success in New York City, I’ve been a colossal failure in New York City (sometimes in the same twenty four hour period). I’ve starred on Broadway in New York City, I’ve sat on a stoop for hours trying to decide if I should spend my last buck and a quarter on a coffee and buttered roll or a pack of cigarettes in New York City (the cigarettes won – that was a long time ago when a pack of cigarettes didn’t require taking out a second mortgage). I love New York City.
I wrote a novel set in the dark, dirty days of early eighties New York City (think the late seventies, but without the charm), Good Luck, Mr. Gorsky. Writing it, I immersed myself in that world – which has virtually disappeared. You can still find pockets of old New York – Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop, Katz's, the wooden escalator at Macy’s – that take you back to the classic New York City of Sweet Smell of Success and Guys and Dolls but you have to be pretty scrupulous to hunt them out in the midst of – yes, you know the lament, sing along with me – all the bank ATMs, chain drug stores, and those stupid European-style pedestrian parks with the silly little lawn furniture in the middle of Times Square.
Complaining about how much our city has changed, how it’s lost a lot of “character”, is something we New Yorkers take great pride in. We are, after all, the world champs of kvetching.
(Insert plug here for Jeremiah Moss's wonderful, funny, sad website Vanishing New York, a constantly updated chronicle of the slow motion slasher film The Gentrification That Ate My City.)
BUT just to piss people off, and to promote my novel (which really is quite terrific), I now present an occasional rant on things NOT to miss about old NYC:
#7: COLONY RECORDS
Yes, yes Colony was an incredibly valuable resource for sheet music, and a Times Square institution for over sixty years. I bought sheet music there all the time - and I can't sing or play a musical instrument. And yes, whatever replaced it on the corner of 49th and Broadway has contributed to the soul-crushing mall-ification of our city (I forget off hand what's there now, I'm guessing: a Starbucks? An ATM? A Shake Shack?) but, admit it, as a record store Colony was a total rip-off! I could list you twenty record stores that are now ATMs that are more deserving of your nostalgia than Colony.
I once saw a beat-up copy of Ringo Starr’s Ringo The Fourth album on sale at Colony for $140. Keep in mind that this was in the nineties, so that's like $280 in today's money. There was a little sticker on it that said “rare”. Because some poor tourist sucker might actually shell out $140 for a record you could find in a thrift shop for fifty cents. That’s just evil. Think about the injustice of this! They had to know damn well this was a worthless piece of merchandise - I mean that literally. I just took a moment to type "Ringo The Fourth for sale" into Google. It took me immediately to some online site that found me 147 different websites where I could buy this crappy album for as little as 97 cents. It's not "rare"! It's only "rare" in the sense that no one wants it in their record collection.
Except maybe for some gullible Beatles completionist from Nebraska or Idaho who was wandering around Times Square in the nineties, wearing a straw hat and carrying a cheap suitcase, gaping at all the big buildings, then wandered into the World's Most Famous Record Store with his entire life's savings - $140 -in his pocket and, in a moment of colossal stupidity, he hands over his entire life's savings to the cigar chomping wise-guy behind the counter. "Here's your incredibly rare copy of Ringo The Fourth kid, have a nice day!"
That's what they were hoping for. I'm not saying it happened. For all I know
that copy of Ringo The Fourth went unsold in their bins for years until the store closed in 2012. Then they threw it in the garbage. So maybe they never got the chance to screw some hapless rube from Idaho out of his life's savings. But they wanted to.
So when they closed I thought: you know what? Serves them right!
Dave Konig is a 3 time Emmy winning comedian and the author of the novel
Good Luck, Mr. Gorsky available on Amazon.