Thursday, May 3, 2012

I Love New York (on TV)


    Here in Key West Seinfeld is on from 11 to midnight, two episodes, every night. A while back, when I was ill, I got into the habit of falling asleep to Seinfeld. It was therapeutic listening to those familiar voices, reminding me of the absurdity of the world in which I so wanted to stay. Now that I’m healthy again, I still do bedtime Seinfeld reruns again and again. I could probably recite verbatim most Seinfeld scripts, just as I can sing the score from West Side Story from memory. Really.
    For many years I worked Thursday nights -- Seinfeld night -- and only heard the talk about this new, very funny television show called Seinfeld. I was a late comer, but once I found the show, I couldn’t get enough of Jerry and Elaine and George and Kramer. Those characters are authentic. I knew these people when I lived in New York! George’s father -- that guy was my father, the quintessential, short, grumpy New York dad. They even look alike.
    When I hosted the locally produced television show MD TV, we chose to come on right before Seinfeld. MD TV was on for 8 years. We were on long after Seinfeld had hung it up. The key to our success: that lucky time slot of 7:30, Thursdays, right before Seinfeld.


    I’ve heard he’s gay -- not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love Anderson Cooper’s brand of journalism, but also his wry sense of humor, which he exposes far more often in his morning talk show than on his serious nighttime news show. Cooper is an American institution, a Vanderbilt heir, who could be hanging out, doing nothing but looking real good, with Paris Hilton and the other famous for nothing celebs. But no. Anderson has character and ambition. He has earned his fame, fair and square.
    His mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, to whom he shows utter adoration when she appears on the show, designs fabulous jeans. Gloria has led a poor little rich girl fairy tale life, with fantastic highs and horrific lows. How could her son Anderson be anything other than amazing?
    Anderson and I share a passion for dulce de leche ice cream. His talk show is at 9 a.m., opposite Rachel Ray, a show I used to like, but now turn to only when Anderson’s show is too real, like when he interviews murderers or dog trainers. Rachel is charming, sure, but when she lists ingredients for her daily recipe, she seems to think we all live just down the block from Balducci’s.

Mad Men

      Ah, New York in the '60s. I remember clearly that smoky train ride between Grand Central Station and Katonah. I might have chatted with Don Draper on that train ride that he, an advertising executive and I, a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, so frequently rode. We’d have flirted and shared a beer and many cigarettes, and we may well have taken that relationship a step or two further, because that’s how we behaved in the '60s. And yet at the time, just like the people on Mad Men, I wasn’t having much fun, doing what everybody was doing. I recall a pervasive misery, an aching sense of not fitting in. I saw a terrible reality gap between what my parents believed and demonstrated to me in the way they were living their lives, and the way people around me, and at my school in New York City, were living theirs, breaking all tradition, being free, outrageous and, well, shameless. I’d seen what shame could do so I wanted the opposite. I was 17 when I met a man and woman who unabashedly told me they were living together. In sin! I was certain that merely sitting at the same table with them would guarantee me a place in Hell.
    There’s a real sense of darkness around that show. It’s in the music, the endless smoking and drinking and sly sexing and moping children. Each week I wonder, who is the guy toppling off the top of the building? It really could be any one of them. In the '60s, it could have been me.

1 comment:

  1. The 60's were great for me-many dates but still a virgin when I married at the age of 28. My education was that of high standards and right & wrong. I distinguish the Camelot part 1960-1963, with the Hippy part-1964 to the present. the Hippy philosophy is that of Outback restaurants--"NO RULES, JUST RIGHT".