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Copyright 2019 by Joyce Huntington.  All Rights Reserved. 
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Rules of Civility

It's a funny thing about settings. Most writers take on one location at a time in their stories.  I know that because I've been busy tracking literary locations. Amor Towles, however, is different. In Rules of Civility, he created vignettes that touch on a few locations at a time.  And his little habit of doing that forced me to deal with Rules of Civility in a different way.  I've followed his lead and created some real-life vignettes - in the forms of walks, or strolls that will lead literary travelers on some unusual exploration of New York City. 

Upper

east side

The Carlyle

Explorer's Club 

Central Park Zoo

Upper

west side

The Beresford

The Inspiration

Essex House

tripping by

neighborhood

Lower

east side 

Fanelli's

Brooklyn Bridge

downtown

Trinity Church

Meatpacking District

aTLAS VS. THE pIETA

 

460 Madison Avenue

  New York, NY 10022  

 

In Rules of Civility:

“Could there have been a more contrary statue to place across from one of the largest cathedral in America?  Atlas, who attempted to overthrow the gods on Olympus and was thus condemned to shoulder the celestial spheres for all eternity — the personification of hubris and brute endurance.  While back in the shadows of St. Patricks’s as the statue’s physical and spiritual antithesis, the Pieta — in which our Savior, having already sacrificed himself to God’s’ will, is represented broken, emaciated, laid out on Mary’s lap.”  Page 297

In Real Life:

In Rules of Civility, Amor Towles lingered for a moment on the Atlas in Rockefeller Center and it's the antithesis, as he called it, the Pieta in St. Patricks Cathedral. I decided I needed to linger a bit over those two as well. I couldn’t wait to see the thing.  

I arrived at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to compare the words to what was there in real life. I spotted the Atlas as I walked toward the front of St. Patrick’s.  He was still doing his duty – holding up the world.  The Atlas arrived on that spot in 1937 after being sculpted by Lee Lawrie for Rockefeller Plaza.  When the statue first arrived people protested it, saying it looked like the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, who was in power at the time.  It obviously survived the outcry.

I found the Pieta back in the shadows just as described.  It is located in the Lady Chapel in rear of  the St. Patrick’s and it seemed to draw quite a crowd. It’s a replica of the Pieta sculpted by Michelangelo which resides inside the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  This one was sculpted by William Ordway Patridge in 1906 and then donated to the church in 1915, so it was there before the big guy arrived across the street.  I uncovered an interesting note about these two sculptures.  The man who built Atlas, Lawrie, was for a time an assistant to Patridge.  Patridge probably never knew their works would duel each over across Fifth Avenue, since he died seven years before Atlas arrived on the block.

 

The beresford

211 Central Park Wes 

New York, ny  10024

In Rules of Civility:  

 

“Two eleven Central Park West! The Beresford.  Twenty-two stories of terraced apartments.”  Page 21

 

In Real Life:

In Rules of Civility, the Beresford is quite an impressive address.  It turns out it is in real life too. The Beresford is lined up on Central Park West with all the fabulously dignified living situations, like the San Remo and the Dakota.  It’s so massive I had to walk deep into Central Park to get a good picture of it. It’s where Tinker Grey lived and once you see it you’ll understand why Katey Kontent and Eve Ross were so impressed when he told them his address. Don’t forget to check out out the doorman when you pop by. The Beresford was opened in 1929. It gets its name from a hotel which was located on the spot where it was built.

The

inspiration

central park west

new york, nY

 

In Rules of Civility:

“We turned onto Central Park West, and having passed the doormen of the Dakota and the San Remo, we came to a stop at Seventy-ninth Street in front of the Museum of Natural History.  From there I could see the canopy of the Beresford where Pete was opening the back door of a cab.”

 

In Real Life:

It’s while Katey Kontent is passing these buildings in Rules of Civility, that she has an inspiration that catapults her into her career.  It’s a nice walk to pass the Dakota, where much later than 1938, a rock legend named John Lennon would be gunned down, and then the San Remo and finally the Natural History Museum. Katey mentions Teddy Roosevelt, being reared on his horse out front.  You can see he’s still there, still ready to ride into battle on his bronze horse.

MUSEUM OF 

MODERN ART

11 WEST 53RD Street 

New York, NY  10019

 

 

In Rules of Civility:

 

“On the night of October 4th, 1966, Val and I both in late middle age, attended the opening of Many Are Called at the Museum of Modern Art—the first exhibit of the portraits taken by Walker Evans in the late 1930’s on the New York City subways with a hidden camera.” Page 1

In Real Life:

It’s crazy talk. Imagine my surprise when I discovered A) Walker Evans is a real person and he’s even a famous photographer. B) He did have a series of photographs entitled Many Are Called.  And C) The photographs really did go on exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1966. The novel, Rules of Civility, begins with a stroll through the exhibit. Now, the trick I thought would be to find the photographs. I discovered they’re owned by the Museum of Modern Art and at times Many Are Called go on display. I managed to catch a Walker Evan exhibit – not Many Are Called – unfortunately, but a Walker Evans exhibit just the same, when I dragged my book club to New York City. If you’re lucky your timing may be just right and you can do the same.

 

sT. bARTHOLOMEW 

325 Park Avenue

New York, New York   10022

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“Once a visiting relative took me to “21,” and there, at a superior table, surrounded by four men, none of them Mr. Arbuck, yet all of them interchangeable with him, was Miss Golightly, idly, publicly combing her hair; and her expression, an unrealized yawn, put by example, a dampener on the excitement I felt over dinner at so swanky a place.”  Page 14

 

In Real Life:

 

It’s a funny passage. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote describes how Fred is feeling a little cheated at his swanky dinner – when he spotted Holiday Golightly almost yawning at one of the coolest tables in the restaurant. Capote knew a lot about New York’s social scene. And I’m it’s great he mentioned 21 Club because it gave me a reason to dine out at one of New York’s most iconic restaurants.

 

The restaurant opened on 52nd Street on New Year’s Eve, 1929, after a few years of being a speakeasy in a few locations around town. When prohibition ended it was on the hot list of the Cafe Society set. And it seems its popularity never waned – in the 1950’s it was the place to go among the Jet Set, the crowd Truman Capote ran with. And today it's still attracting all the biggest names. In fact, 21 is so proud celebrities of all kinds dine there, it keeps a list of who’s been served there lately.

So – I made reservations there one year for my book club. We weren’t actually reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s – we were reading another book – and the author of that book also stage a scene at 21. It was a “two bird” situation for me. I told the reservationist we were a book club – from California – and we were celebrating the book Rules of Civility – and since the characters dined there we wanted to dine there too.  She was in love with the concept – I could tell. When we arrived – the host announced – The book club is here!  And we could hear mutterings to that effect around the restaurant. Our evening carried on with the same tone – like we were celebrities. The reception we got was warm and wonderful, the service was great – and for a moment I glanced around the room wondering which table was the one that bored Holly and dampened the narrator’s time at 21.

 

TRINITY CHURCH

74 Trinity Place

New York,  NY  10006   

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“On the way home I noticed a cab-driver crowd gathered in front of P. J. Clark’s saloon, apparently attracted there by a happy group of whisky-eyed Australian army officers baritoning, “Waltzing Matilda.”  As they sang they took turns spin-dancing a girl over the cobbles under the El, and the girl, Miss Golightly, to be sure, floated round in their arms light as a scarf.”  Page 15

 

In Real Life:

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Fred spotted some Australian army officers spinning Holiday Golightly around to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. I didn’t see that when I arrived at P.J. Clarke’s. However, I did encounter a “cab-driver crowd” of my own. It was a nice group of drag queens and they took my cab. I looked up but I didn’t see the Third Avenue El, the elevated line that ran through the P.J. Clarke’s neighborhood in 1944 – the year in which Capote set the novel. I figured out the El was dismantled in 1955. It’s interesting to note – when Capote wrote the novel in 1958 – he actually wrote the El back into existence making the novel historically correct – where the El is concerned.

 

P.J. Clarke’s has been around forever. By all accounts, it’s the kind of place where everyday, work-a-day people intersect with singers, musicians, actors, politicians, and celebrities of all kinds. I love this line, written by James MacGuire, in 1991 in City Journal. “In good times, New Yorkers come to take the cosmopolitan side of the city for granted, to grow nonchalant about luxury and glitz. But there is another New York, too, and a place like Clarke’s is the crossroads where the two sometimes meet.”

 

When I walked inside, I found what looked like a place where a lot of fun has been had over the years. The bartenders are nice and chatty. I actually got one of them interested in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He wanted proof Truman Capote mentioned P.J. Clarke’s in the novel so I showed him the exact passage. The dining room was hopping. And the cheeseburger the restaurant serves has been described as the “Cadillac of hamburgers,” by Nat King Cole, no less.

 

NEW YORK CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY 

476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018

 917-275-6975

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“Late one afternoon, while waiting for a Fifth Avenue bus, I noticed a taxi stop across the street to let out a girl who ran up the steps of the Forty-second Street public library. She was through the doors before I recognized her, which was pardonable, for Holly and libraries were not an easy association to make. I let curiosity guide me between the lions, debating on the way whether I should admit following her or pretend coincidence. In the end, I did neither but concealed myself some tables away from her in the general reading room, where she sat behind her dark glasses and a fortress of literature she’d gathered at the desk. She sped from one book to the next, intermittently lingering on a page, always with a frown, as if it were printed upside down.” Page i90

 

In Real Life:

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Fred followed Holly Golightly into the New York City Library. I love a library too, so I swung by. It was dark – I had run out of daylight for my little adventure – and I made a dash up the stone steps pretending to be Holly Golightly. It’s a big pile of marble. I felt I was entering Mount Olympus. I wasn’t at all surprised then – when I looked it up and found the library – which opened in 1911 – was, at the time, the largest marble structure in the country. It’s quite a story. In 1886, a guy named Samuel Tilden died and left his money to create a library for New York City.  The city had two libraries which weren’t particularly useful to everyday New Yorkers. So John Bigalow – who was in charge of the trust came up with a plan to combine all of New York’s library efforts into one. The big stone building went up on 5th Avenue and it opened in 1911 – packed with books that lined seventy-five miles of shelves.

Anyway – back to me. On the night I ran up those steps – I got to the front door and the library was just closing.  Of course – I needed to get into the main reading room to see where Holly sat amidst a pile of books –  but a guard blocked my way.  A few years later – I was back in New York and on the way to a play. I realized the library was a few blocks away so I took the long way to the theater and ran up the steps again. I marched into the main reading room and unlike Truman Capote’s narrator – I did not conceal myself – I just started snapping away at the tables where Holly might have been sitting. I was cut short – the librarian walked over and informed me that picture taking was not allowed in the library.  I smiled and apologized,  slunk away and dashed upstairs to take pictures of a phone booth another one of my characters in a different book used at the library.

 

 

 

brooklyn bridge

New York, New york  10038

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“Frequently when he was out of town (I’d developed hostile attitudes toward him, and seldom used his name) we spent entire evenings together during which we exchanged less than a hundred words; once, we walked all the way to Chinatown, ate a chow-mein supper, bought some paper lanterns and stole a box of joss sticks, then crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, and on the bridge, as we watched seaward – moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline, she said: ‘Years from now, years and years, one of those ships will bring me back, me and my nine Brazilian brats.'”   Page 80

 

 

In Real Life:

 

Holiday Golightly and Fred moseyed across the Brooklyn Bridge in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And they’re not the only characters in literature – or movies, for that matter – to make the trek. Everyone seems to do it. When I looked it up – I found it particularly fascinating that a woman played a gigantic role in building it. The story of Emily Warren Roebling is so interesting David McCullough marveled over it in a book called The Great Bridge. Her father-in-law and chief engineer on the project, John Augustus Roebling, died while building the bridge. That left his son Washington Roebling in charge. However, he got what is nowadays called the bends from going down into the caissons on the bridge. He became bedridden so Emily spent eleven years acting as the chief engineer on the project while he gave input from his bed.

 

 

I visited locations for Breakfast at Tiffany’s over a span of a few years when I was in and out of New York City. And for some reason, the Brooklyn Bridge fell off the list on visit after visit. Finally – one April afternoon I convinced the crowd I was with to walk the bridge with me. Somehow – in my mind – don’t know how it got there – I was imagining us dodging traffic or something to get across. It never occurred to me pedestrians have their own walkway. And it’s above the traffic. It’s was a spectacular walk – and crowded. I looked seaward for the ships Holly and – and a guy she called Fred – may have spotted which would bring her back with “nine Brazilian Brats.” I saw a few. And I scanned the crowd at the young people trying to find a modern-day Holly and Fred. I think though – they were probably one of a kind.

chinatown

nEW yORK, nY

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“Frequently when he was out of town (I’d developed hostile attitudes toward him, and seldom used his name) we spent entire evenings together during which we exchanged less than a hundred words; once, we walked all the way to Chinatown, ate a chow-mein supper, bought some paper lanterns and stole a box of joss sticks, then moseyed across the Brooklyn Bridge, and on the bridge, as we watched seaward – moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline, she said: ‘Years from now, years and years, one of those ships will bring me back, me and my nine Brazilian brats.'”   Page 80

In Real Life:

I clocked it. It’s about a five miles – the walk Holiday Golightly and Fred took in Breakfast at Tiffany’s from the Upper East Side brownstone to Chinatown. It would take a couple of hours, but I can’t think of a better way to see New York City. I didn’t walk it though. I took the subway right to Chinatown and found it bustling. It all started with one man, Ah Ken. In 1858 – records show – he arrived in New York and started selling cigars around city hall. It’s said he ran a rooming house for the Chinese who were immigrating to America and he used the money from that to open a cigar shop. A new Chinese neighborhood in America would grow up around that store and it’s all still there today.

I walked through Chinatown and found it’s not much different from the Chinatown in San Francisco which I’m most familiar with. I could see it would be a good place to shop for a few things you might need to bring a little flair to a party – like the lanterns and joss sticks Holly and Fred picked up.

BERGDORF GOODMAN

754 5th Avenue,

New York,  NY  10019  

212-753-7300

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“‘Not at all.  I figured Bergdorf was trying to collect.”  Page 24

In Real Life:

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, we discover Holly Golightly shopped at Bergdorf Goodman only because she was afraid they were coming after her for the bill she hadn’t paid. In fact – it was no surprise to me she hadn’t paid her bill – what with the prices there. It’s a store Herman Bergdorf started in 1899 when he opened a tailor shop in downtown Manhattan. He hired a guy named Edwin Goodman as an apprentice. Goodman worked hard and bought into the business in 1901 and then bought out Goodman out five years later when they made the first of a few moves that would take them closer to Uptown. The first put them on 32nd street. In 1914, Goodman moved to where Rockefeller Center is today. He introduced ready-to-wear – which really put the store on the fashion map. Finally – he built the Beaux-Arts style store at its current location near Central Park.

At the time Holly was shopping there, the store had already moved to its current location on 5th Avenue but it was only located on one side of the street. Now – the men’s store is across the street. The store remains a high quality, one of a kind, department store just the way it’s been since it started selling clothing.

I walked in about a hundred and twenty years after Bergdorf opened his tailor shop. I have to say – since the first time I checked it out – every time I go to New York – I peek in. I don’t know if I’m looking for something I can afford  – or if I want to feel like Holiday Golightly for a moment – or if I just enjoy the aesthetic a guy laid out so many decades ago that still exists. It’s a feeling – Bergdorf Goodman – that’s different from any other store in America.​

The

PLAZA

768 5th Avenue  

New York, NY

  212-935-453

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“Onward: across the park and out into Fifth Avenue: stampeding against the noon-day traffic, taxis, buses that screechingly swerved.  Past the Duke mansion, the Frick Museum, art the Pierre and the Plaza.”  Page 83

 

In Real Life:

 

It’s no surprise Truman Capote used the Plaza Hotel in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to track Fred’s wild jaunt on a horse through Central Park. It’s very well known – probably more well known than the Duke, the Frick, and the Pierre. It’s one of the most recognizable landmarks – when it comes to hotels in New York City – and probably even the world. It opened in 1907, the first guests moved in – the fabulously wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Gwyne Vanderbilt – and ever since it’s been a magnet for the rich and famous. When Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s he was neither rich nor famous. He was renting a room in Brooklyn. So, maybe tossing the Plaza onto the landscape of his novel was aspirational. Years later – when Capote was rich and famous – after the runaway success of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and, of course, In Cold Blood, he threw a huge party at the Plaza and invited people he considered “A” list guests.  In fact, Deborah Davis wrote a book about it. It’s called, Party of the Century,  The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and his Black and White Ball.

 

So, back to the hotel – it went from hand to hand over the years since it opened.  Among the owners – Conrad Hilton, who bought it in 1943, Donald Trump – who bought it from Westin Hotels in 1988 and it is poised to change hands again – American venture capitalist Shahal Khan put a group together to buy the hotel.

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s – nothing happens at the Plaza – a horse just gallops by it. But – I’ve tracked a few books in New York City and all but one them take me to the Plaza Hotel. So – I’ve had lunch at the Todd English Food Hall – I’ve stared shamelessly into the Palm Court where Rod Stewart was having lunch, I’ve chatted with the bellmen who star in one of the reads – searched for Suite 1801 featured in yet another and generally taken a lot of pictures of it. It seems to me, no matter who owns the hotel, it just keeps marching on to its own fabulous beat, grounding that corner of Central Park and giving it purpose. And no matter what I’m there for – Truman Capote and his galloping heroine always come to mind.

the pierre

2 East 61st

New York, NY  10065  

212-838-8000

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“Onward: across the park and out into Fifth Avenue: stampeding against the noon-day raffia, taxis, buses that screechingly swerved.  Past the Duke mansion, the Frick Museum, art the Pierre and the Plaza.”  Page 83

 

In Real Life:

 

Truman Capote used the Pierre Hotel as a marker to tell everyone where, exactly, the wild horse was taking Fred, the narrator of the tale, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Now. Fred galloped by it, trapped on a horse, in quite the rush – but I thought I would stop and examine it. The Pierre is beautiful. And that was the plan Charles Pierre Casalasco had when he closed his very successful restaurant in New York City, which catered to the rich and famous and – with the help of investors – set his sights on running a hotel. The Pierre opened its doors in 1930. Bad timing. It just couldn’t survive the Great Depression and it went bankrupt in just three years. Then in 1938, J. Paul Getty – the oil guy – bought the hotel. It regained its footing. It’s cafe – The Cafe Pierre – gave the hotel a boost by attracting everyone who was anyone in the New York City social scene.

 

Let’s pause right here for a minute.  That’s about the time Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s – but also around the time the narrator is looking back to – in the novel – 1943. So, it’s no surprise Capote dropped the name – just like that – in his novel because he was a man ab out town in Manhatten – and he probably hung out at the hotel.

 

Enter me – sixty-something years later.  The hotel has changed hands a couple of times but now it’s a Taj Hotel and it still attracts its big-name guests from around the world. I loitered in the lobby and found it reminiscent of the Carlye Hotel – dignified and serene. Then weirdly – many months later when I was writing this post I discovered the two hotels are connected – by one man Robert Dowling, who managed the Carlye also managed the Pierre for a time starting in 1960.  It says it right here in his obituary.  Anyway – I paused in the Rotunda which has new life as a dining experience. I zipped through the old Pierre Cafe which now calls itself Perrine and has a new Indian chef who seems to be turning the right heads. And then – since nothing really happened there in the novel – I ran out of things to do but promised myself I would come back one day to enjoy the Rotunda or Perrine.

 

Oh – one more thing. I don’t do movies but Audry Hepburn lived at the Pierre while she was making Breakfast at Tiffany’s.​

frick Museum

1 East 70th Street

New York, ny  10021

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“Onward: across the park and out into Fifth Avenue: stampeding against the noon-day traffic, taxis, buses that screechingly swerved.  Past the Duke mansion, the Frick Museum, the Pierre and the Plaza.”  Page 83

 

In Real Life:

Truman Capote threw out the name – the Frick Museum in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, offhandedly. He situated it between the Duke mansion and the Pierre Hotel as one of the places our horrified narrator passed as he was speeding through Manhatten on a horse he couldn’t control.  It’s actually called the Frick Collection and I think it’s worth more than an offhanded glance. It’s the home of Henry Clay Frick. He came from humble beginnings in Pennsylvania, had a talent for numbers and he identified a particular ingredient that would be crucial to producing steel in Ameria. It’s called coke. Now – I get that – I’ve figured out that cardboard is essential in America right now because everyone is getting everything delivered – mostly by Amazon. I haven’t done anything about my thought on that  – but Frick acted on his hunch and before long he was a millionaire and working with Andrew Carnegie in the steel industry. Frick played a huge role in crushing the steelworkers union during the very ugly Homestead strike. And there’s speculation he wanted to get away from Pittsburgh after that – so he moved to New York City with his family. He was in his 50’s and he built a home with the idea that he would turn it into a place where people could come and enjoy art. He moved in, shopped for art – and sadly died within five years – in 1919. His wife lived in the house until her death and it was after that the house became a museum.

Now – I went to the collection with two friends on a very chilly day – like almost vortex weather. It was such a cozy way to look at art – maybe it was because it was cold out and we were grateful to get out of the cold – but probably because walking through the collection is seeing it the way someone wanted it to look in their home – for them to enjoy. I mean – I don’t generally hang out in homes like that but it’s still cool. Frick’s house is decked out with the work of the old masters, like Rembrandt and Titian, but also sculptures and bronzes and beautiful furniture. I found myself marveling that a guy who dealt with steelworkers in such a brutal way – turned around a left all the things he loved and collected to everyone. I also felt grateful to Capote for the beautiful afternoon I had at the Frick.

I would definitely watch this video before you go.

duke mansion

1 East 78th Street

 New York, Ny

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“Nursemaids rushed to rescue their charges from our awesome approach; men, bums and others, yelled: “Pull in the reins!” and “Whoa, boy, whoa!” and “Jump!” It was only later that I remembered these voices; at the time I was simply conscious of Holly, the cowboy-sound of her racing behind me, never quite catching up, and over and over calling encouragements. Onward: across the park and out into Fifth Avenue: stampeding against the noon-day traffic, taxis, buses that screechingly swerved.  Past the Duke mansion, the Frick Museum, the Pierre and the Plaza.”  Page 136

In Real Life:

Truman Capote zipped our narrator – whom Holiday Golightly called Fred – right past the Duke Mansion in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He was stuck on a runaway horse. We can assume the Duke Mansion was a good landmark that would allow people to know where Fred was headed on that horse. I hadn’t heard of it but I liked what I found. A guy named James Buchanan Duke who was from North Carolina – think tobacco – but also Duke Power company and yes, Duke University – built it. The Duke’s moved in in 1912 with their daughter, Doris. They shared their time between another Duke mansion in North Carolina and this one – on 5th Avenue. At the time the events in the story Breakfast at Tiffany’s took place, 1944, the Duke Mansion was is still a private residence. In 1952, however, the family sold it to the New York University Institue of Art.

 

So – when Truman Capote wrote the novel, a few years after that – NYU already owned the mansion.

I strolled by the mansion on a fall morning. I captured shots from across the street and right up close. I tried the door but it was too early for anyone to be around.  It’s was a fun stop – a little morsel of knowledge I picked up about New York City thanks to Truman Capote.

Incidentally, there is another Duke mansion which is across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and that’s just too far up – and away from the path, Fred’s runaway horse was traveling.​

rockefeller

 center

 45 Rockefeller Plaza

New York, NY 10111

 
 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“The top branches were crushed against the ceiling, the lower ones spread wall-to-wall; altogether it was not unlike the yuletide giant we see in Rockefeller Plaza.  Page 56

 

In Real Life:

 

Well, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see the giant tree Holly Golightly jammed into her apartment in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. However – I got some mileage out of this passage by checking out the other tree Truman Capote mentioned – the tree in Rockefeller Plaza. The whole Rockefeller tree thing started in 1931 – when construction workers who were building the center put up a tree and decorated it. The new “tradition” skipped a year in 1932, but when Rockefeller Center opened in 1933 the tradition picked back up again and it’s been going on ever since.

 

And since Capote threw it out there – I thought the whole Rockefeller Plaza thing was worth looking into. John D. Rockefeller built Rockefeller Center – during the depression years. It literally kept thousands of people employed for the duration of the depression. It’s a massive commercial complex of nineteen buildings but the centerpiece of it all is 30 Rockefeller Center – or 30 Rock – and it’s home to NBC News, the mothership of the company I've worked for most of my career.  The plaza below the building is always a fun stroll.   Now – on the top of that building is the very famous Rainbow Room. The room is only open for private events – but Bar Sixty Five on the 65th – see what they did there – seems to be getting some good reviews since it opened a few years ago.

Central Park zoo

830 5th Avenue

  New York, NY 10065  

212-439-6500

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“Afterward, avoiding the zoo (Holly said she couldn’t see anything in a cage), we giggled, ran, sang along the paths toward the old wooden boathouse, now gone. ” i85

In Real Life:

 

In the novel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly and the narrator, whom she calls Fred, avoided the Central Park Zoo. However – for me, if a writer wrote about it – I’m going. Even if a character never even entered the place, I feel compelled to go, just to check it out. I started online and learned Holly may have had good reason to avoid the zoo. It might actually have been a sad experience to look at the animals at the time Truman Capote, and by extension, Holly and Fred ran around Central Park. At that time the animals were still in cages– not in the modern zoo habitats we’re used to now.

 

Central Park Zoo got started quite by accident when New Yorkers started giving animals to the park. The first was a black bear cub which arrived in 1859. Then came a near flock of white swans. A long line of animals followed and six years later New York state lawmakers passed a bill to turn the menagerie into a zoo. Enter Robert Moses. He's the guy who built pools across New York City - I still want to swim in one.  Anyway - in 1934 – he redesigned the whole thing and it became a real zoo – however, the animals were still in cages. Then in 1988, another remodel – the cages were thrown out – and the zoo created habitats for the animals to allow them to roam – at least to the edge of the habitat. That’s the zoo I went to see.

 

I walked to the zoo on a chilly fall morning thinking of my own history with zoos. I distinctly remember NOT liking Audubon zoo in New Orleans when I went to on field trips while I was growing up in Louisiana. It was a bummer. I remember it being hot and the animals looking miserable. I looked it up. It’s had a remodel too. So I could relate to Holly. I arrived at Central Park Zoo very early. I like to get out at dawn to take pictures and it turned out I was just too early for the zoo – it wasn’t open yet. So I skulked around the edges – and spotted vendors getting ready for a busy day. From what I could see – if the story were set in the modern day – Holly and Fred might not have passed up the opportunity to see the zoo. However, I guess it all worked out the way it should have - Holly and Fred avoided the zoo – and as it turned out – for a different reason - so did I.