"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Mar 27, 2014

Town Hall and Toffenetti's

You can’t NOT have an opinion about New York City like you can Pittsburgh.  I may not be able to afford to live or even play there anymore, but I’m grateful I was born in the Big Apple and exposed to so many things during my formative years, including a debut at The Town Hall, NYC, in 1962 at age 7.  Not as a violin virtuoso or future Rockette, but because I colored a clown and stayed pretty much inside the lines.

It was Christmastime but I carefully laid fuchsia and blue stripes throughout his costume, balancing the colors per my Libran nature. For my efforts I received a congratulatory letter, two meals at Toffenetti's restaurant on Broadway and 43rd (long gone), and The Jerry Lewis Book of Tricks and Magic inscribed, not by Jerry, but by a former dean of NYU, who also sent the letter.  Darn.

If Mom didn’t keep any of these scraps of memorabilia I’d have forgotten this event long ago, as Mom has; but if I show her the photos she’ll pretend she remembers, just like I hope someone might do for me.  This compilation brings back the days of Horn & Hardart Automats, and holding my parent’s hands in the bitter cold, waiting in line for the Christmas shows at Radio City Music Hall.

Department stores on 5th Avenue competed for spectacular window displays as they do now, but I prefer those in my memory.  Warm pretzels and chestnuts in the winter; frankfurters and Italian Ice in summer.  People still meet at the nearest Yellow Umbrella (Sabrett hot dog stands) for lunch.

The Town Hall on West 43rd was founded by Suffragists in the 1920s, and it still stands today.  Margaret Sanger, the founder of what became Planned Parenthood, was arrested on stage for advocating birth control in 1921, and if you look at their website you’ll find a whole slew of interesting people and performers who have graced their stage.  Isaac Stern held his New York debut at age 17; Billy Holiday had her first major solo show in 1948; even Eleanor Roosevelt showed up.   Pretty heady company for a seven year old.

My picture's not there, but Town Hall continues to have children’s programs which encourage borough kids to be creative.  I can't swear if this is where I picked up the artistic bug; it’s certainly where I caught my contest fever 'cause food went along with the prize, but does it matter? Kids need artistic inspiration and encouragement outside of computer programs.  Watching Night at the Museum (which I enjoyed) just isn't the same as attending a real one, where kids can learn it was a Jeff Koons Balloon Dog bouncing around in the background.

Gourd Easter Basket
I’ve said in the past that my adult life resembles a Bob Dylan song.  So while researching a few things for this piece, I was tickled to learn that I made my Town Hall debut a year before Dylan's in 1963.  Of course he was 13 years older than me and going places, but I’ll bet the event left no less of an impression on him.

Maybe it has something to do with the building. Thanks, Mom, for hanging on to all this.

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Original gourd art designs Copyright 2020 Andrea Jansen Designs. Please write for permission.



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