New York State of Mind
21 September 2011
A couple of days ago I was dreaming again of moving to NYC.
The first time I went to the US was in 1983. I was part of a show called Kamustahan ‘83, an advanced celebration of Philippine Independence held in the US. It was a project of the former first lady Imelda Marcos. She brought more than 60 well-known movie and TV personalities from Nora Aunor to Gabby Concepcion. I was a part-time student working as a glorified alalay of Celeste Legaspi during that time and her then Manager Helen was my boss and was the production manager of the show. I was lucky because Helen asked me to be her production assistant. Will you say no? Of course I grabbed the chance even if it meant that I would have to miss my final exam of Law 3. I didn’t care. I was going to Washington DC. When I left that year for that show, I packed my luggage with the intention of not coming back and live in New York City. I arrived in the US and went to Washington DC for the show and then I went to Syracuse, NY and visited my only relatives there who are the only people I knew in the US that time. I told my relatives about my plans of going to NYC and make it there but my uncle discouraged me and told me to go home and he will find a way for me to come back in a legal way. I believed him and brought my over-weight luggage back to the city of Manila. The rest is history. I never left the Philippines. I visited the city of New York more than eight times since then and I’m always mesmerized by its existence.
What if I didn’t listen to my uncle? Will there be K I S H in Soho? Or maybe I will be doing the windows of Bergdorf? Or a Broadway star!
Below is a list of people who moved to NYC from an article that came out in New York magazine 3 years ago. The time I read the article, I was in a New York State of mind after visiting NYC for 18 days.
We had Andy Warhol do a big portrait of Bella Abzug for the cover of our “Welcome to New York” issue, and a few months later got Tom Wolfe starting to imagine Bonfire of the Vanities. It was an era of parties, and a great time for drugs and alcohol. Elaine’s was thriving. We felt more than welcomed. New York loves ambitious people—eats them up.
-Jann Wenner, editor and publisher, Rolling Stone Arrived: 1977
I was 17 years old and got on the elevator at the Algonquin and there was the famous actress Anna May Wong. I went into my room star struck. Then I lifted the window shade to look out and there was a brick wall. It was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen. In Texas, you have sky. Here, a brick wall!
-Tommy Tune, director and choreographer Arrived: 1957
Now, 93rd and Broadway in 1988 was a very interesting place to be. There were certain hours at the Narragansett that you just didn’t ride the elevator, because you wanted to live. That whole Friends thing with the naked guy across the way? We had one of those right across from us who would watch us and masturbate.
-Audra McDonald, actress Arrived: 1988
One factor that tipped things in New York’s favor was that New York had way hotter guys.
-Nick Denton, publisher, Gawker Media Arrived: 2002
I think my parents were a little nervous. Sometimes I’d lie and say I was at a friend’s house in Greenwich. They would not have been happy if they knew that I was at a rave all night long and then sleeping in the park. But not like a homeless person—like a teenager.
-Chloë Sevigny, actress Arrived: 1991
Apparently, all I needed to do was grab a shiny shirt and puffy pants, take some E, and twirl glow sticks to terrible trance music and I’d have a good time. I decided to take a pass on that scene.
-Aziz Ansari, comedian Arrived: 2000
I feel like life here in New York, it’s more intense. A day here is like many days in Rio. The city pushes you to grow up fast, but it’s not scary; it just encourages you to live your life. You can meet every kind of person here. I first came to the city in August 2005 because my aunt won a poetry contest. On that trip, I went to see the Statue of Liberty, and it felt like seeing the statue of Christ in Rio. Even though only one of them is religious.
-Jesus Luz, model Arrived: 2009
I felt at home right away, and I never left. I still live in the same apartment.
-Dr. Ruth, sex therapist Arrived: 1956
I wasn’t getting any auditions as an actress, so I started to think about comedy. Walking into Luna Lounge that night was the first time I realized I needed to stay in New York even though it was demanding that I leave.
-Kristen Schaal, comedienne Arrived: 2000
Julian was the first artist to leave my gallery, and I was heartbroken. It was like the spring of 1984, and I was sitting in my office, crying. In his explanation at the time—you know, it’s like anything, probably things change with the telling every time. But in those days, what he said was that he wanted to be separated. He said, “How many artists do you have in the Carnegie International?” And it was basically the whole gallery. And he said, “Well, if I go to Pace, I’m the only artist from that gallery in the Carnegie.” He wanted a kind of separateness from me, but also from his generation. He wanted to be seen as an individual. We’re still good friends; I think he’s a fantastic filmmaker. I also have a different perception of this, because I think that life is about shared experiences, and if you have an experience with an artist, you never lose that. It’s like if you’re married and you have a child with somebody, you’re never, ever really separated. And the child is the art. So anyway, I was sitting in my office crying, and Jean-Michel Basquiat comes in. And he was so sweet! He was so upset I was sitting there crying. He put his arms around me and he said, “Mary, don’t worry. I’m gonna be much more famous than Julian.” And then he walked out, and he came back in with a huge watermelon, which he plunked on my desk, and we ate.
-Mary Boone Arrived: 1970
I was in Japan teaching English for three months, right out of college. But I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I just came to New York because that’s where my friends were. I had no plans. Food was the only thing I really wanted to do, so I finally said, “Fuck it: I’m going to start cooking.” I enrolled in cooking school. Everyone thought I was a lunatic, especially my dad, who had worked as a dishwasher in New York and had hated it
-David Chang, restauranteur Arrived: 1999
We went to the Boiler Room and Beige and the Cock, where Miss Guy would D.J. this eclectic mix of rock and roll, Nirvana, and Dolly Parton. I drank a lot, starting around noon and going on till four. I was so blissfully ignorant of any kind of danger or defeat. I was so confident that I was brilliant and indestructible and could drink and sleep with people as much as I wanted. I no longer have that magic blankness. But when I think back on it, I’m proud of having cracked the code of living life to the fullest, and that it didn’t take me down—though it very nearly did in the end.
-Rufus Wainwright, musician Arrived: 1994
The first thing I saw when I came to New York was a man leaning up against a wall, shitting. Perfect! I was never scared in Chicago. Here your fear was sitting right in front of you. But I loved it.
-Amy Sedaris, comedienne Arrived: 1993
The first night I moved here, I met Madonna. She walked up to me at the opening of Club USA with a lollipop and a beer, and she was like, “Hmmm, you look cute.” And I was like, “You’re Madonna!” I’m like, this is New York. Wow
-Richie Rich, designer Arrived: 1993
I also got a chance to explore the gay bars off Third Avenue in midtown. There was one bar in particular called The 316, on East 54th. I would walk around the block five times before I got up the nerve to go in. There would be guys of all ages just getting off of work. Everybody would stand around not talking to each other. There were all of these unwritten regulations about cruising you had to learn.
-Larry Kramer, playwright Arrived: 1957
She had this wonderful boyfriend from Brooklyn who said, “Well, you’re going to have to get a job.” It made sense; I was going to Africa! There was an ad in the New York Times that said, “Wanted: High-fashion model for Christian Dior. Must have experience.” And he said, “This! You could do this!” And I said, “No, no. I’ve never been a model.” And he looked dead straight at me and said, “Of. Course. You have.” So I was getting all kinds of lessons in New Yorkese and survival, the very morning I got in.
-Lauren Hutton, actress Arrived: 1964
What I remember clearly is that you could go to the supermarket and for 50 dollars you could buy pasta, salad, and a big ham.
-Diane Von Furstenberg, designer Arrived: 1970
I had arrived at JFK with a backpack and a little suitcase and $150. I immediately started escorting for $300 an hour and working at the Gaiety Theater. Porn was not my dream; I wanted to be the next Tom Cruise. But I was realistic and practical, and saw my competition in Hollywood, and decided that the opportunity for me was in porn.
-Michael Lucas, porn star Arrived: 1997