Archive for the FOOD & DRINK CULTURE Category

Yesterday’s W.C. Fields History Walk

Posted in Broadway, Comedians, Comedy, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE, Jugglers, Vaudeville etc., W.C. Fields with tags , , , , on November 20, 2016 by travsd

It was a lovely day in NYC for yesterday’s W.C. Fields History Walk, led by Kevin Fitzpatrick, which focused on the places where W.C. Fields lived, worked and recreated in the Broadway district. It’s all part of Fields Fest, our two-month celebration of Fields’ life and career. Here are some of the places we stopped.


Trav S.D. and Kevin Fitzpatrick, prior to starting the tour in Shubert Alley.


Fitzpatrick educates the throngs about the Great Man.


This building was formerly the Hotel Markwell, the last place where Fields lived with his wife Harriet and infant son Claude in 1905 before the pressures of show business finally drove a wedge through the marriage. Today it is an assisted living facility.


The Palace Theatre, the flagship of bigtime vaudeville, then and now. Fields appeared here on a bill with Sarah Bernhart in 1913 when he was still a juggler.

fe882de16fa4db322b38c0a40c65bb1e images

The New Amsterdam Theatre, home to the Ziegfeld Follies, then and now. Fields appeared in the 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1921 and 1925 editions of the Follies, as well as the 1919 edition of Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic and the 1920 edition of Ziegfeld’s Nine O’Clock Revue. Learn more about these and Fields’ other Broadway shows here. 


The uptown facade of the Lyric Theatre, currently comprising the former Lyric and Apollo Theatres. The Apollo was the site of Fields’s smash hit show Poppy. 


Formerly the Astor Hotel, where showfolk like Fields bent an elbow after the show.


The Globe Theatre (now called the LuntFontanne), where Fields appeared in George White’s Scandals of 1922.


Hammerstein’s Theatre, site of Fields’ last Broadway show Ballyhoo (1930). Today it is the Ed Sullivan Theatre, where The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is produced. If Fields had lived just two years longer, Sullivan could have presented him on his television show.


This was just a cool stop along the way. I must have walked by here a thousand times without ever noticing it. Israel Miller was shoemaker to the stars at the turn of the last century. In 1929 a contest was held in which participants voted on the four most beloved American actresses. Statues of the winners (Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Mary Pickford and Rosa Ponselle) were created by Alexander Stirling Calder (father of the better known modernist sculptor) and installed in the building’s facade.


The tour stopped at Flute Midtown, site of Texas Guinan’s Speakeasy and former home of Wit’s End, where your correspondent rewarded himself with the house’s signature champagne cocktail, which is infused with ginger and known as the “Intime” in honor of Guinan’s club. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it! And anyway, we said a toast to W.C. Fields! For information about upcoming Fields Fest events go here.

Look for more on this tour in coming weeks on the Classic Movies and More web show, hosted by Rob Medaska. 

Charles Feltman: Inventor of the Hot Dog

Posted in Amusement Parks, Coney Island, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE with tags , , , , on November 8, 2016 by travsd


Today is the birthday of Charles Feltman (1841-1910), Coney Island entrepreneur, restaurateur, inventor of the hot dog. To be much more accurate (as few seldom are) he is the inventor of the hot dog roll. His was the idea of placing the sausages of his native Frankfurt on long buns so you could eat them while walking around. The concept is so fundamental to us now we can’t imagine a world in which they didn’t exist.

Feltman made a fortune on his invention. Then one of his employees, Nathan Handwerker made a fortune of his own by selling a cheaper hot dog and calling it Nathan’s. Hard to tell which is the more American story!

The Feltman’s brand was revived a few months ago. Their web site is here.

Earlier this year, I was strolling around Green-wood Cemetery and came upon this, and that is the genesis of this post:


Famous Nathan

Posted in Amusement Parks, BROOKLYN, Coney Island, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE, Jews/ Show Biz, Movies with tags , , , , , , on January 17, 2016 by travsd


We were in a doc-watching mood the other night, yet not in the mood for anything too time-consuming or heavy. Thus, much in the same way as when you’re looking for something for something better than a candy bar, but not a seven course meal, you might choose to eat a hot dog…we chose Famous Nathan (2014). And ya know what? It turned out to be better than a hot dog! Even a Nathan’s hot dog!

Okay enough with the hot dog metaphors. We’ll leave that to y’all Freudians. Famous Nathan is of course a documentary about Nathan Handwerker, the entrepreneurial force behind Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, who came to the U.S. as an immigrant from Eastern Europe, began working for Coney Island’s original hot dog man Charles Feltman, then struck out with an innovation of his own: the nickel weenie. He established Nathan’s in 1916 — a century ago — and it is still going strong. (Stronger than ever. Nathan’s was sold in 1987, and now there are hundreds of restaurants bearing the name all over the world).

But for the first 71 years it was strictly a family operation, run by Nathan himself until the mid 1960s, and then by his son Murray, who oversaw the first expansion. The film Famous Nathan is by Nathan’s grandson Lloyd Handwerker, who had access to amazing material: audio interviews with Nathan himself about the early years; lots of black and white film footage from the classic era, including film interviews from the early 1960s; video interviews with the key remaining players shot in 1984; and some more recent interviews. Edited together with still photos and other material, it becomes a wonderful, textured Coney Island cole slaw depicting a time, a place and a culture. You meet lots of hilarious Handwerkers, occasionally backstabbing, occasionally admiring, occasionally at each others throats. (And occasionally in their house coats). You learn about the great LSD-in-the-mustard scare of the late 1960s. And above all you encounter a WORK ETHIC that scarcely exists in this country anymore. Nathan, a peasant from what is now Poland, built his empire nickel by nickel. He instilled in all his workers (including his family) an almost maniacal standard of speed and service — one I’d frequently love to impose upon contemporary servers with a cattle prod.

But what is the main takeaway from this movie? I’ve found that watching it makes you very, very hungry.

Coney Island 2016: Pizza Hut Express Signs Lease on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

Posted in Amusement Parks, BROOKLYN, Coney Island, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE with tags , on January 11, 2016 by travsd

Source: Coney Island 20

16: Pizza Hut Express Signs Lease on Coney Island’s Surf Ave

As always Amusing the Zillion has the latest scoop on Coney!

NOLA: Day Six

Posted in AMERICANA, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , on November 10, 2015 by travsd

Continuing the post from yesterday’s thread…

Tuesday, November 10

Today was our last day in New Orleans, but we managed to squeeze in some last minute sightseeing.

Truman Capote House

711 Royal Street, where Truman Capote wrote Other Voices, Other Rooms. 


The Jean Lafitte French Quarter Visitor Center — a good place to have gone first rather than last!


The Hermann-Grima House, an 1831 townhouse. Our tour guide provided us with much detail about life among the wealthy in the 19th century French Quarter.

Thus ended our sojourn in the legendary vieux carre. Not with a bang but a whimper, a very charming whimper. This was a life-altering experience for me, comparable only to my first trip to New York. A fork in the river? We shall see.

NOLA: Day Five

Posted in AMERICANA, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE, My Family History, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2015 by travsd

Continuing our thread from yesterday…

Monday, November 9

After breakfast at the Deja Vu Bar and Grill  we took a ride on the paddlewheel steamboat the Creole Queen to the nearby town of Chalmette to visit the site of the Battle of New Orleans, where many of my ancestors and relatives fought against the British with Andrew Jackson in 1815. Along the way, we also photographed the larger steamboat Natchez which was steaming up and down the river at the same time.



Trav & CR Creole Queen0001

Unaccountably I somehow managed to look like this BEFORE drinking the Hurricanes



history nerd

The Marchioness was much amused by this history geek, who didn’t appear to be an official part of the tour but was dressed like a 19th century pirate nonetheless


cathedral from the water

St Louis Cathedral as seen from the Mississippi River

Paddle Wheel as seen from inside the boat:


The battlefield.


The Chalmette Monument.

me as tourist

Your correspondent. I was actually hoping to look somewhat less like Mr. Bean.


Like the gator in our last post, I needed to see a tree with Spanish moss, and I finally got one.


On our trip back, our tour brilliant tour guide Charles, a true poet, told the story of Hurricane Katrina. Along the way, he pointed out this high school in the 9th ward, which still has protective roof covering ten years after the event

The steamboat Natchez from the Creole Queen:

After dinner, we went to Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, one of the oldest buildings in the city (1740s) and today a popular bar. If I lived here I would be there all the time.


This being our last night we allowed ourselves something resembling the alcohol consumption that everyone around us was indulging in. The night grew trippy and surreal — and still we somehow managed to stop ourselves well short of getting ill….the true sign of an old fogey.

Then we finally had a peek at Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodoo


This being our last night there we lingered long to hear the street musicians, in this case an outfit calling themselves Death in the Evening:

Death in the evening

For Day Six go here. 

NOLA: Day Four

Posted in AMERICANA, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, FOOD & DRINK CULTURE, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2015 by travsd

Continuing our thread from yesterday...

Sunday, November 8


On my birthday we took the romantic St. Charles street car to the Garden District, our first proper jaunt way out of the French Quarter. Along the way we passed Lee Circle with its monument to the Civil War general:


The Garden District is part of what was known as the American Quarter and is full of grand ante-bellum Greek Revival mansions and later Victorian ones. One of them was occupied for many years by the author Anne Rice. We paid it a visit.


Jut a few blocks away is the Lafayette Cemetery — where many of Rice’s vampire tales have been laid.



Then we walked down Magazine Street towards the waterfront to Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, the warehouse and studio of the folks who fabricate all the parade floats for Mardis Gras. We were strongly encouraged to enter by Slutty Jester:

slutty jester





After lunch at the Gumbo Pot (and an unavoidable football game on the television — it was sunday after all) we proceeded to the Aquarium of the Americas, where I was determined to finally see a gator.


In which I contemplate the big fish


Good thing the Marchioness had bird seed in her sleeve


Got my gator! He was sleeping in a really weird position . He reminded me a great deal of a relative of his I saw earlier at Musee Conti:


Because of our late lunch, we had little appetite left for dinner, so we went in search of birthday dessert. We wound up at Tony Moran’s an Italian place above Jean Lafitte’s Absinthe joint…where I had absinthe and bread pudding.

me at Tony Moran's

And took a picture of Bourbon Street out the window.

Bourbon street from Tony Moran's above Absinthe House

The wonderful band Eight Dice Cloth:

street musicians

For Day Five go here.

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