Disaster at Lincoln Triangle

by Sedgwick Clark

As if record and video companies didn’t have enough problems, Barnes & Noble announced on Monday (8/30) that in January, after 15 years, it would close its four-story superstore across the street from Manhattan’s Lincoln Center. The stated reason: high rents. (Surprise!) B&N will try to find a more reasonably rentable location on the Upper Westside.  

Fellow geezers still wedded to retail shopping for CDs will have no alternative than to go downtown to J&R, a store I get to only when I’m on jury duty. Living near Lincoln Center, I’ve never shopped anywhere else for DVDs. It’s the worst news for West Side book lovers since the demise of Coliseum Books, at 57th and Broadway, and the most heart-stopping event since the demise of Tower Records, across Broadway from B&N.

But, in all honesty, my household has no grounds to complain because I rarely go into B&N—I might be tempted to buy something! (I’ve got so many shrink-wrapped CDs and DVDs that it would be crazy to add to the pile.) And my wife bought a Kindle last month and can’t bear to turn the damn thing off.

A Hot Time at Lincoln Center Tonight

Continuing in its march to, uh, broaden its appeal, here’s the first paragraph from a recent Lincoln Center press release:

Starting this fall, there will be a new destination for some of the hottest DJ parties in New York, when Lincoln Center launches its new LCDJ series at the David Rubenstein Atrium.  On six consecutive weekends (October 2, 9, 15, 22, 29 and November 6), from 9 p.m. to midnight, cutting-edge DJ’s will present evenings of eclectic listening and dancing—with rhythms and beats from the heart of Brazil to indie clubs from across the East River—as the David Rubenstein Atrium is transformed into an [sic] modern lounge.  And the best part—admission is FREE!  There is no cover charge, and although drinks and refreshments will be available from ‘wichcraft, there is no minimum. 

Rafael Nadal’s Serious Side

During play-by-play on Tuesday night’s Open, talking about how Rafael Nadal is a serious guy, unlike Roger Federer who stays up late and goes to fancy bars, John McEnroe remarked, “Nadal’s a big classical-music fan: He’s seen Phantom of the Opera six times.”

Composer-friendly Pianism at Bargemusic

I haven’t been to a Bargemusic concert in several seasons, but MA.com editor Susan Elliott convinced me to take a breather from my MA Directory deadline to hear an attractive program by 32-year-old American pianist Steven Beck. A Juilliard grad, he’s a regular at Bargemusic and recently played all the Beethoven piano sonatas there.

Beck had planned to open with Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka but changed it to that composer’s Serenade in A. The 1925 work was written specifically to fit on to a pair of ten-inch 78s, with each of the Serenade’s four movements totaling approximately three minutes in length. I’ve never warmed to its dry neoclassism (Charles Rosen writes in the liner notes to his recording that it “is the most loveable, and the most original of Stravinsky’s works for piano”), and this poker-faced, rather soft-edged rendering didn’t change my mind. I’ll try again, starting with the Stravinsky and Rosen recordings.

More impressive was Schoenberg’s Suite for Piano, Op. 25. It’s the composer’s first completely 12-tone work, and Beck’s unfussy approach allowed the music to unfold naturally. Again I sensed a lack of characterization—three of the movements are dances, after all, and Schoenberg prided himself as being directly in the German tradition—but I bow to Susan, whom I discovered played the Suite when she was studying piano. She was mightily impressed!

Debussy’s Twelve Etudes filled the second half of the program, and here I felt Beck was the complete master, offering an ideal balance of color, wit, and virtuosity throughout.

P.S. The Fulton Ferry Landing, home of Bargemusic, has undergone an extraordinary transformation since my last visit. It was too close to concert time to look around, and the sun was setting, but I could see enough to know that a post-deadline visit is definitely called for.

It Was Howdy Doody Time

“Cowabunga,” Chief Thunderthud would rumble. It’s another boomer memory, vividly etched in the Peanut Gallery of our minds—far more indelible than the concerts we attended last week or the rubber-stamp movies Hollywood has been churning out for the last 30 years.

Edward Kean, the creator of the chief and his unforgettable greeting, died on August 13 at age 85. In fact, according to Say, Kids! What Time Is It?, Stephen Davis’s 1987 book about the Howdy Doody Show,  Kean wrote “almost every line spoken and every note sung” on the program, which ran from 1948 to 1956 and totaled over 2,000 episodes. It’s doubtful that anyone out in early television land knew Kean’s name (he was only a writer, after all), but what boomer doesn’t recall his inspired characters: Howdy Doody, Clarabell, Phineas T. Bluster and his flunky, Dilly Dally, Princess Summerfall Winterspring, and Flub-a-Dub? This is the first time I’ve ever seen the Princess’s name in print, and a poetic inspiration it was, too.

The Times got around to memorializing him last Thursday (8/26), and a huge chunk of my childhood was resurrected in my reading of Dennis Hevesi’s evocative obit. I, in my youth, figured that Buffalo Bob Smith was responsible for it all. Sounds like Davis’s book is another I won’t be able to put down. Maybe PK will have it on her Kindle.

Comments are closed.