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View Diary: Cheers and Jeers: Tuesday (150 comments)

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  •  From Big Bird to Alvin Ailey (39+ / 0-)

    In New York Magazine this building was shown in an article called The Glass Stampede but the new Alvin Ailey complex was listed as "A great swap."  I could not agree more. You can make out ghostly professional dancers rehearsing behind the screens or go to one of the corners for a better view. This is what replaced the bricks and fire escapes of The Town Theater on the 55th Street side.  

    I often think of myself as an expert on New York's changing scenes but I can't remember as much as I’d like. However this street corner, that had a rich history long before my memories kicked into gear, that place I clearly remember as the original location of Sesame Street.

    The bunker like theater that opened on December 21, 1922 was built by John A. Chaloner, originally a Vaudeville house called "The Chaloner." In 1928, Variety reported the Chaloner playing to packed houses with a 25-cents admission for 11 acts of vaudeville, a feature movie, short subjects, newsreels and a serial.

    During the depression when people embraced Vaudeville to forget their troubles the theater was too far uptown and way out west in the then infamous "Hell's Kitchen," so the building became a second run movie house. Now the shows are free, live dance as a sidewalk attraction.

    This building was renovated and renamed Town Theatre during the city-wide effort to spruce up for the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Then it was one of the first to close due to competition with television. The empty space that lost out to TV began a fifty year run as a television studio.

    That is how I remember that building. The orchestra section of the auditorium became a control room and the balcony seats stayed in place for live audiences.  Game shows, variety shows, all sorts of television, I doubt that Sesame Street was even the first children's show but it was certainly the longest running show in the history of that space.  

    I never knew it was ever called "Town" or "Chaloner." When I was a teenager the marquee had me thinking the name of the theater was "Reeves-Teletape" and when I walked inside for the first time to build scenery it was my first time ever seeing Sesame Street. To me it was always a live performance space and it is the reason that when I walk by those half hidden dancers on Ninth Ave I always seem to be singing "Sunny Days, Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street? "  

    Should you ever pass it by, then sing along.

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