This may shock you, but so be it. By inclination, I’m not a preservationist, at least not a radical one, really about anything. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I have a theme park mentality on the subject of history. If I could, I would fix all of the broken ruins in Athens and open “Athens World” — that’ll solve your insolvency! But since that’s not going to happen, I’ll just have to adore – -and I adore — the Parthenon replica in Nashville. I love film colorization (as long as the black and white originals remain available) and I would LOVE to hire actors to dub the voices in Charlie Chaplin movies, as the Italians used to do with Larry Semon comedies. Why? Why the hell NOT? What is it, Scrolls from God?
I am a fan of show business, and show business is a business. I’ve written many times here on this blog for example in favor of rational, balanced development of Coney Island, and against the cuckoos who resist ANY change out there. If you don’t adapt in a growth direction, you will change anyway, and the form that change will take will be DECAY. One of my mentors, Professor Kenneth T. Jackson of Columbia used to talk all the time about the unique character of New York, how it is perpetually in motion, perpetually in a state of transformation. So much is gone now precisely because this is a healthy, growing, vital and rich city. Bills must be paid, people gotta eat, and so there must be development. What do you want: poverty, a stagnant economy, starving people — but lots of 100 year old buildings? You know where lots of buildings are being preserved at the moment? Detroit! Not so well maintained, maybe, but hey at least no one is CONSTRUCTING anything, right?
So today I learn that there is a movement afoot to stop the LEGAL OWNERS of the Palace Theatre from moving the building 29 feet around the corner so they can open their 7th Avenue frontage to retail. You know I’m a fan of the Palace, right? I sang its praises in my my book No Applause. And wrote this 100th birthday tribute here. Kind of a fan. . And I can tell you something for a fact…the guys who BUILT that building, you know what they would say? Without batting an eye: “go ahead and move it”. MOVE IT. It’ll increase the revenue stream of this building, it’ll keep the theatre solvent, it’ll keep US solvent — there is no question. In fact, anything else, any idea of turning it into some precious, immutable shrine is a sort of violation of the spirit in which the building was conceived, and the philosophy of every occupant who ever walked through its doors.
What has it done a dozen times in order to survive? IT CHANGED. Look at that picture at the top of this blogpost — does it look like that now? No! Looks nothing like it. I don’t even recognize it from the outside. When vaudeville was not paying bills in 1932, what did they do? They went to movies. Then concerts. Then Broadway shows. News flash! Broadway and Times Square are centers of COMMERCE. Colorful centers, theatrical centers, but if you think the name of this game ain’t Gettin’ Paid, you haven’t looked up at the billboards, or talked to Elmo or the rappers selling CDs, or the guy selling you a $6 bottle of water. And what the hell -? Am I hearing that this neighborhood — the site of the M & M STORE, for God’s sake — will be profaned somehow by the addition of STORES? Is THAT the absurdity I am hearing?
Move it! Move it, and if anyone is standing in your way, drop it on their toes. THAT’S the vaudeville way.