Skip to main content

View Diary: Open thread for night owls: 'Hard Times USA' looks at how the poor are punished for being poor (85 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street (35+ / 0-)

    The sidewalk dynamic of New York City can be fascinating. It’s all about change and sometimes just knowing can improve a walk. I can remember a different look for this street corner. Fifty-Fifth Street and Ninth Avenue had a rich history long before my memories kicked into gear but this is a place I clearly remember as the original location of Sesame Street.

    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 almost ghostly professional dancers rehearsing behind the screens or be bold and go to one of the corners for a better view. This view is what replaced the bricks and fire escapes of The Town Theater on the 55th Street side.  

    Opened on December 21, 1922 and built by John A. Chaloner, originally as a Vaudeville house, he named it "The Chaloner." In 1928, Variety reported the theater 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 double feature neighborhood movie houses.

    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 “The Town” was one of the first to close due to competition with television. Back in the 1950’s this empty space that lost out to TV began a new life, almost a fifty year run as a television studio, the building that I still remember. 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 “The Town.”

    That's my recollection of Ninth Ave. and 55th Street, a big old marquee shading the sidewalk with a photo of Big Bird from 1969 until the 1980’s. I used to call it the Reeves-Teletape Theater and while I was too old to actually watch Sesame Street on television, every now and then I was invited inside to change some scenery and experience Sesame Street live. It was pretty scary when Caroll Spinney gave his arm a rest, looked like someone broke Big Bird's neck. I guess it was always a live performance space for me and now the shows are free, live dance as a sidewalk attraction.

    So if you should ever find yourself walking down Ninth Avenue and you come upon the dancers in the windows, sing a little tune in your head. Sing “Sunny Day, Sweeping the clouds away, on my way to where the air is sweet. Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street” and check to see if those dancers are still keeping the beat.  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site