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9/11/11: a tribute to The Big Apple

September 9, 2011

Logo a-gogo: designed by graphic artist Milton Glaser in 1977, this image sold the dream that is New York City throughout the 1980s and beyond (although commissioned for New York State)

This is for the main part, of course, a blog that celebrates retro culture, but this Sunday is the tenth anniversary of a relatively recent date in history – a day on which the world changed, arguably forever: 9/11.

Five years ago this month, I had the pleasure of visiting New York City. Like so many of my generation, perhaps, I’d somewhat idolised the place as the ultimate metropolis, the ultimate destination in many ways. I’m a child of the ’80s and so grew up with New York as it was represented in films like Ghostbusters (1984), Crocodile Dundee (1987) and Coming To America (1988), TV series like Kojak (1973-78) and Cagney And Lacey (1981-88) and was publicised so widely and unavoidably by the ‘I NY’ logo above. It was the bright, brilliant beacon of Reagan’s America that so colourfully and seductively led the world.

And what did I think of it? Well, it’s a monster of a metropolis that’s very money-driven, for sure, but also a fascinating, soulful and contradictory place, like every other major city you could visit in the world. What it is unquestionably, though, just as it always has been and always will be, is The Big Apple. And through the following images, quotes and, yes, clips featuring moments from flicks, music and song, I’d like to celebrate the one, the only New York City…

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Light fantastic: the magnificent image detailing the shards of sunlight casting through the windows of Manhattan’s Grand Central Station (or, more correctly, Grand Central Terminal) – the station , in fact, owes its continued existence to the preservation efforts of Jackie Onassis 

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“On November 1st, 1959, the population of New York City was 8,042,783. If you laid all these people end to end, figuring an average height of five feet six and a half inches, they would reach from Times Square to the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan.” ~ C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), The Apartment (1960)

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Above: the sensational start to 1961′s 10-time Oscar-winning cinematic adaptation of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s musical West Side Story, set on Manhattan’s Upper West Side

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“There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless” ~ Simone De Beauvoir

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Art deco dream: the Chrysler Building at night – erected in 1930 at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, this soaring testament to extravagant elegance was the city’s tallest building for only 11 years when it was overtaken by the Empire State Building

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“A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times: it is a beautiful catastrophe” ~ Le Corbusier

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Above: Billy Joel’s paean to the Big Apple, which appeared on his 1976 album Turnstiles and was written following his return to the city after having lived for three years in Los Angeles

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“If you live in New York, even if you’re Catholic, you’re Jewish” ~ Lenny Bruce

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Embracing the moment: US Navy photo journalist Victor Jorgenson’s ‘Kissing The War Goodbye’, which captured the now iconic moment of celebration between a nurse (Edith Shain) and a so far unidentified sailor in Times Square on VJ Day, August 14 1945

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“I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light” ~ Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) on the difference between Los Angeles and New York in Annie Hall (1977)

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Above: UK based popster Gerard Kenny’s hit New York New York (So Good They Named It Twice) from 1978, which playfully contrasts the city’s myth against its reality of the time

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“New York remains what it has always been: a city of ebb and flow, a city of constant shifts of population and economics, a city of virtually no rest. It is harsh, dirty, and dangerous, it is whimsical and fanciful, it is beautiful and soaring – it is not one or another of these things but all of them, all at once, and to fail to accept this paradox is to deny the reality of city existence.” ~ Paul Goldberger

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Green giant: to this day, the Empire State Building is New York City’s tallest at 381 metres tall – however, between 1972 and 2001, the World Trade Center’s North Tower eclipsed it at top spot 

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“Vehement silhouettes of Manhattan – that vertical city with unimaginable diamonds” ~ Le Corbusier

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Above: Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard go walk about in Midtown Manhattan in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961) and ponder why anybody would consider leaving the place

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“No matter how many times I visit this great city, I’m always struck by the same thing: a yellow taxi cab” ~ Scott Adams

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Village voice: the pop culture phenomenon that is the cover to Bob Dylan’s 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – it shows Dylan and then girlfriend Suze Rotolo taking a winter’s stroll through Greenwich Village, specifically at the corner of Jones Street and West 4th Street  

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“When it’s 32 degrees in New York, it’s 78 in Los Angeles. When it’s 102 degrees in New York, it’s 78 in Los Angeles. There are about two million interesting people in New York — and 78 in Los Angeles.”  ~ Neil Simon

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Above: a moment from the unforgettable climax to Ghostbusters (1984), ostensibly set atop 55 Central Park West – it’s all a mocked-up set, of course, but comes across damned atmospheric

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“[New York City is] skyscraper national park” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

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Far-ch out: Washington Square Park (including Washington Square Arch), looking north towards Midtown Manhattan – the enduring centre of the arty, bohemian Greenwich Village

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“A ‘New York minute’ is the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn” ~ Johnny Carson

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Above: Eagles member Don Henley’s timeless New York Minute, from his 1989 album The End Of Innocence – like other iconic songs about the city, it received great airplay following 9/11

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