Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ziegfeld Museum

Last week we heard the news that the great Ziegfeld movie theater might be closing. It's been here since 1969, and it's one of the last remaining single-screen palaces in the city.

*UPDATE January 2016: Confirmed. The theater is closing to become a high-end corporate event space.

I like it because it's big, truly big, with those red velvet chairs you don't find anymore in this day of stadium seating.

I also like it because it's unusual.

The entire entryway, from the downstairs lobby up to the theater lobby, contains Reade's Ziegfeld Museum, made up mostly of statuary and a series of vitrines displaying artifacts from the old days of the Ziegfeld Follies.

A costume once belonging to "Ziegfeld diva" Lillian Lorraine is on display, accompanied by a sign that reads, in 1920s font, "These too were part of the Ziegfeld mystique."

In Scandals and Follies, author Lee Davis wrote that Florenz Ziegfeld "was insanely in love with Lillian Lorraine and would remain so, to one degree or another, for the rest of his life, despite her erratic, irresponsible, often senseless behavior."

Another display is dedicated to Marilyn Miller, who began in vaudeville in childhood, debuting as "Mademoiselle Sugarlump." After a stellar career on the Follies stage, she died from complications from nasal surgery and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.

Fun fact from Wikipedia: "A sculpture of Miller, in the title role of Sunny, can still be seen atop the former I. Miller Shoe Company Building" at 46th and Broadway in Times Square.

The museum also includes a very 1960s-looking bust of "Funny Girl" Fanny Brice, and a statue of an elephant.

Even the wood paneling on the walls comes with a story. "STORY OF THIS WOOD," reads the faded plaque screwed to the wall:

"Carbon 14-isotope dating shows this wood has been buried in a peat bog near Cambridge, England, since 2120 B.C." Thanks to rising sea levels and the pressures of 4,100 years, the wood has a rich, charcoal hue. "None has proven to be as large or well preserved as this one."

The same could be said for the Ziegfeld. It's large and well preserved, and it's old. It's got a story to tell--and it should be allowed to keep telling it.


Carmine said...

UNbelievable! . . . what's goin' on in this Town (as if I didn't know) . . . NYC History is vanishing by the day -- beyond sad!

Anonymous said...

I've been a fan of the Ziegfeld for a long, long time. I knew this day would be coming so I'm disappointed but unfortunately not surprised.

Anonymous said...

it'll make a great chipotle

James said...

The Ziegfeld is a compromise - a modern substitute for the real Ziegfeld Theatre which was torn down concurrently with Penn Station. Now it is a reminder of the late 60's modernist styling which believed in erasing traditional ornamentation and streamlining it with central AC and sealed tinted glass panels. I always wondered how long this Ziegfeld would last, given that, aside from the red carpet premiers still happening there, the theater was struggling to draw regular crowds. Where will the carpet go? Sadly, it is a generation being lost - not just edifices. Those who remember single-screen cinemas and their comfort and civility will vanish, replaced by those who watch movies on their phones and little glass picture frames. The sad thing is that we are all complicit in seeing to this change, where life is lived, mainly, at home in one's living room. We accept it. Another bullet to our collective New York-loving hearts.

Scout said...

The Ziegfeld is a beautiful movie house, but bemoaning the change in the way we watch films is rather pointless. Feature films have only been around for 102 years, and the great movie palaces (which doesn't include the later-built Ziegfeld) weren't built until about 20 years after that, so it's not a particularly long-lived tradition.

Anyway, technology will always change the way we enjoy our entertainment (the old-old guard thought movies were stupid and wastes of time, remember), and wishing that time would stop and everything with it is futile.

DrBOP said...

Hey, it's the Off-Topic Kid.....Jeremiah, take a look at these excellent maps of NYC tree species :


Keep on chooglin'.

Anonymous said...

Scout @2:38 totally doesn't understand what's happening. The issue is NOT wishing that time will stop. Because the transformation of NYC isn't due to the inevitable march of time or "progress". It's due to unadulterated greed. The destruction of what makes NYC interesting and bearable only brings the city down to the point where it's no longer enjoyable but merely tolerable.

Right now, NYC is nothing more than one large strip mall. Whether it's Gary, IN, Chicago, IL or - this place. There is NOTHING different or even remotely interesting about NYC anymore. Instead, it's safe, clean and very nonthreatening.

Anonymous said...

If they're saying they *might* close it, well then there's some hope.

For me the Ziegfeld is one of the few things in New York that keep me living here after 30 years but I'll tell you I've had it with all of this stuff disappearing! This town is getting boring as f*cking hell. At one time I would've never thought of leaving here, now I have more than enough reasons to leave and believe me that time is going to come sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

New York is now clean? Since when? I hadn't noticed. Where I live downtown it's still the same trash-strewn, smelly, dog-poop-ridden place it's always been, in spite of all the new construction and new transplants moving in.

Unknown said...

Sad. I worked there when close encounters opene. My job was to count & face $20 bills in the box office. Every show sold out.

Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com said...

It is an interesting perspective to realize that this was one of the places that was built to replace an older torn down place, and now it -itself - is outmoded.

On a lighter note, I'm smitten with the moniker "Mademoiselle Sugarlump" !

Scout said...

Anonymous 9:08, I agree with much of what you say; but I tihnk that NYC has been changing since the day teh Dutch set foot on the shores, and those changes have always been inspired by "greed" (or,if you prefer, the "pursuit of profit").

It's what New York has always been about, and will always be about.

It's nice to remember the things we miss - some of you whippersnappers have absolutely no idea of the things we older people miss about the city, believing as some of you do that 1995 was the Heyday of the City.

But one thing you learn (or don't) - nothing stops the Change of the City. There are some things that can be avoided (like Robert Moses' Cross-Manhattan Freeway), but change is gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

safe, clean and very nonthreatening sounds fine to me. Losing the original Ziegfeld movie palace was a tragedy. Losing this 1960's box not so much. What is more unfortunate is the loss of independent theaters and mom and pop entertainment venues, replaced by big business and large scale national chains which have homogenized the city. Making the city a safer place has benefited everyone. Movie viewing and attendance has changed, thanks to technology, Netflix, Ipads, etc etc.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:08: its more than greed. hypergentro is a result of explicit public policy, as created & implemented by our elected officials, and gleefully applauded by every land/condo/co-op owner (whether they'll admit it or not) who's seen a huge rise in their equity valuations and, often as not, cashed in on those rises by selling for a very handsome (some might say unearned) profit.

Lets stop pretending this is some outside force, or some 1% consipiracy; it is instead a very local phenomenae driven by the NYC Ownership class, aimed squarely (and successfully) at inflating property values; has been for over two decades, and is not going to stop.

Scout said...

Anonymous @3:18, I would venture to add that blaming property owners only, while admirably Marxist, is not throwing your net wide enough.

The bloated, overpaid city government bureaucracy, who seek more and more funding every year to cover massive and poorly-conceived projects (like the WTC Transit Hub) and their own enormous pay raises and 6-figure pensions - they are at the root of these problems. They hike property taxes to such exorbitant heights, reasonable rents on residential and commercial units can't meet the cost.

Until the city learns how to live within its means (which will never happen, as all humanity believes that everything needs to "grow" - cities, businesses, etc. - or die), these costs will continue to soar, and smaller property owners will sell out to conglomerates and retire.

Anonymous said...

Most of the above comments are spot on. This is about greed.
Re the Ziegfield, when you go there you feel as though you are attending something special. Look at the Tribeca Film Festival. 18$ plus, and they closed down that lovely Screening Room and its bar for years. Dead space until their festival..
The Ziegfield should be their premiere venue.
I went there for a full capacity screening of a a movie that was part of the Greek Film Festival.
It was exhilarating seeing a community come together in such a historic

Two days ago Vanity Fair/Tribeca Film Festival held a party on the steps of the Supreme Court building downtown. Let us hope they paid some rental fees.( De Niro, hello?).

Unlike the people who now populate NY who sit on their butts after yoga and working out and ordering online, allowing our restaurants and stores to close at alarming rates, and feeling righteous about Netflix and Amazon and their UPS boxes, I still go to movies.
The suburbanization of NY!
Like many commentators , I as a native New Yorker, feel what is left? A Denny's, more banks,...

Please write to our politicians.

revrev_nyc said...

Isn't this home to the city's last Cinerama® screen?
Anyone know?

Unknown said...

Well said. Your comment on styling made me think of Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House.

Unknown said...

Will the Paris Theater be next?

Myron said...

A shame. When I was a kid, seeing a movie in Manhattan was an experience which gave goose bumps with a magnificent curtain covering the screen, velvet seats, chandelier lighting now it's a multiplex with no amenities. The Ziegfeld Museum has a statue of the elephant Jumbo, one of Fli Ziegfelds' famed performers of days long ago. A shame like the Roxy closing.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason it couldn't get landmarked is it was built too recently, in 1969. I think to qualify, a building must be at least 75 Years or older. A shame!