• Steven Heller

Saturday in the Park with Steve

The park in the title of this post is Gramercy. And I’m not actually “in” the park, since it is restricted to residents who have keys. But I am right outside the park. Also, it is not exactly Saturday, but rather Tuesday and Wednesday (but today is Saturday and the play on “Sunday in the Park with George” trope works better). But the point of this post is to say on any given day, at any given time, on almost any given street in New York, one can walk unaware into a parallel reality. New York has become, after Toronto, the filming location of choice – and Gramercy Park, with its 19th century charm, seems to be the favorite for many filmmakers.

I don’t know what film was shooting when I took these photos. But walking onto a set is a wonderfully surprising yet curiously eerie experience. The motionless well dressed mannequin-like extras were perfectly groomed for the fifties. In front of the Victorian-styled National Arts Club building stood a vintage telephone booth (however, on close inspection it contained an anachronistic push button pay phone) where none had been the previous day. Nearby were old street lamps, placed incongruously on the sidewalk. But the piece de resistance, were the 50s era cars, lined up as if in a time-warp – and my fave de favorite, a Good Humor truck, the kind you never saw in Manhattan proper, was just sitting their beckoning me to drive it away (I didn’t).

There is nothing like walking in on a movie set. Seeing the present made past is a joy. Yet witnessing reality turned into fantasy is curiously disheartening. It just proves how easy it is to manipulate truth. What’s more, I think I’d rather see the finished product, if only I knew what film they were making.

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