SoHo Walks of Fame

Mercer Street, November 2, 2012 after Hurricane Sandy

I took this photo outside my house on November 2, 2012 after Hurricane Sandy

After my way-too-serious post last month about “archivism as activism,” this month I decided to write about a more lighthearted subject—SoHo in the media.  As I was doing my research, something interesting occurred to me.  Many of the films I found were shot either on Crosby Street between Prince and Spring, or on Mercer Street between Houston and Prince.  Come to think of it, these two blocks, the first where I lived until I was five years old, and the other to which we moved in 1974 and where I still live today, have appeared countless times not only on film, but in print as well.  After some poking around, I came up with an inventory of media where these two blocks have appeared.  What makes them so appealing to photographers and film makers?  Or is it that every block in SoHo appears repeatedly in the media so I could have picked any two blocks at random?  These are not the most pressing questions of the day, to say the least.  But there are too many pressing questions being asked already these days.  You don’t need me asking any more.  So, I’m guessing it’s not MY presence on these two streets that have made them alluring to visual artists over the years.  Then what is it?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Let me know if you have any ideas!

Photography

MNY76144

Berenice Abbott shot this mini-Hooverville on Mercer and Houston in 1935, during the Great Depression before SoHo was SoHo.

 

Crosby Street & Spring Street, 1978 (Photo by Thomas Struth)

Thomas Struth caught the essence of 1970’s SoHo streets in this 1978 photo of the corner of Crosby Street and Spring Street looking north toward Prince.  I had already moved out by the time this was taken.

 

chanel ad

This Chanel ad, shot in front of my building on Mercer Street, appeared in Vogue, among other major fashion magazines, in the early 1990’s.  I always wondered why the paparazzi were photographing her from behind.  Note the photoshop job on the garage sign in the background.

 

christinahotel

And speaking of paparazzi, countless photos taken in front of the Mercer Hotel, where photographers camp out around the clock, have appeared everywhere.  Here, Christina Aguilera takes her dog out for a walk.

Mandatory Credit: Alequin/Bosch/INFphoto.com

Credit: Alequin/Bosch/INFphoto.com

In this December 6, 2012 photo from Just Jared: A grinning Taylor Swift and Harry Styles leave a party at Crosby Hotel  together.

Yukie and Mimi in the parking lot on Crosby, ca. 1974

This is a photo of me and my sister in ca. 1973 standing in almost the same spot at Taylor and Harry, back when it would have been absurd to even think about building a hotel in SoHo.

 

Album Covers

The back of Joni Mitchells' xxx album title title tile, photo taken n Mercer Street between Houston and Prince looking south.

This is the back of the album jacket of Joni Mitchell’s 1968 Song to a Seagull. The photo was taken on my block, outside 169 Mercer Street looking south.

 

Billy Joel

Growing up on Mercer Street, I owned and often played Billy Joel’s 1983 An Innocent Man.  Looking at the jacket photo, I had no idea that he was sitting on my block, on the steps of 142 Mercer Street at Prince, at what is now the Prada Store.

Music Videos

I was clued in to this  video by Alex at Flaming Pablum, who describes it as “an ancient, pre-Hip Hop Beastie Boys video wherein the fledgling foursome (back when future Luscious Jackson member Kate Schellenbach was still in their ranks) and their youthfully punky pals are depicted frolicking with juvenile abandon amid what looks like the then-grimy, industrial streets of SoHo.”  Much of this video was shot on Crosby near Spring, where the parking lot used to be.

 

Sean at The SoHo Alliance recently sent me a link to this trés trés groovy video “On the Sunny Side of the Street” by Pizzicato Five, shot almost entirely in SoHo, a good portion of it on my block.  Anyone care to guess when it was filmed?  It’s pre-Mercer Hotel, there are shots of the Prince Street Station post office and Jerry’s is still there as is the Prince Street Bar.

Movies

stateofgrace27

Although I never saw the film, I remember when they were shooting State of Grace with Sean Penn, Gary Oldman and friends, which came out in 1990.  They must have done twenty takes of this scene until they got it just right.  They also shot a scene inside Fanelli’s, where these trigger-happy guys are headed.

 

I am legend mercer

Here’s a heavily-CGI-ed shot of our block from I Am Legend, the 2007 film starring Will Smith as one of a handful of survivors in a post-apocalyptic New York City.

ghost crosby

And who can forget Ghost, the 1990 romantic thriller starring Partick Swayze and Demi Moore.  In this scene, Swayze’s character is shot right in front of my old house at 97 Crosby Street during an attempted robbery.

ghost cast mercer

This cast photo from Ghost was taken on my current block on Mercer Street, in front of the (now) Prada Store, where Billy Joel shot his album cover yeas before.

Basquiat

basquiat

Here, Jeffrey Wright as Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Bowie as Andy Warhol stroll down Crosby Street across the street from my old loft in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 biopic Basquiat.  Someone recently told me that Basquiat lived in our building at 97 Crosby about 10 years after we moved out.

My mom, my sister, and me standing in front of our building on Crosby Street, ca. 1975

My mom, my sister, and me standing on the same black in front of our building on Crosby Street, ca. 1975.

andy-jean-hi-rez-copy-1-1024x685

Here, the real-life Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol pose for a picture on my block on Mercer Street.  The Marc Jacobs store next door to my house used to be the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, where Basquiat and Warhol once had a joint show.

The poster for the Warhol-Basquiat show at Tony Shafrazzi, 1985

The poster for the Warhol-Basquiat show at Tony Shafrazi’s gallery, 1985

 

 

 

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10 Responses to “SoHo Walks of Fame”

  1. Sean Says:

    Great post with a lot of research behind it.

    “Anyone care to guess when {video “On the Sunny Side of the Street” by Pizzicato Five,” was filmed?

    The posters on the wall of 99 Prince (Mercer Hotel) advertise several shows in July, but no year. However, a movie is also advertised, “Just like a woman”, which was released on July 22, 1994. So there.

  2. Geoff Says:

    Yes, excellent post! Also check out the movies Eyes of Laura Mars with Faye Dunaway, Greene St. scenes(on my block) and An Unmarried Woman (1978), lots of upper Soho street scenes and interiors of the old Spring St. Bar…….

  3. Yukie Ohta Says:

    This is great! Thanks for the link.

  4. Dennis Kiernan Says:

    What a surprise stumbling upon your blog. I lived at 97 Crosby myself, from 1967 until April, 1970, when I left New York for California. I knew your parents, I lived on the 7th floor and you lived on the 6th. We shared a jury-rigged gas line that ran thru your ceiling. My daughter was born in 1969 and your mother, if she’s still alive, must remember us.
    Back then, my loft was heated by a potbelly coal stove. It was dirt-cheap illegal living with the inspectors being paid off, so never any trouble from the City. Almost all the furniture was stuff picked up for free from the streets. Kindling for the stove was wooden pallets left in Jersey Alley. I saw the place advertised by a realtor a few years ago and see that it is now a completely renovated luxury place, with a NYU professor living there.
    I havent seen SOHO since, but I doubt very much that I’d like it now. Back then, it was great.
    Dennis Kiernan

    • Yukie Ohta Says:

      Hello Dennis! Great to hear from you. Yes, 97 Crosby has been upgraded, but as far as I know, they still have that manual elevator. And yes, we, too, had a potbelly stove and scavenged for wood and furniture. And I, too, was born in 1969. Things have indeed changed and you probably wouldn’t like it now, but it’s also good to have grocery stores and trash pickup!

  5. Steve Linn Says:

    Hi Yuki,

    Two historical corrections. Patrick Swayze was shot and died in the doorway of 101 Crosby Street for the movie Ghost. Also Jean Michel Basquiat lived at 101 Crosby as well. I can attest to both facts as I lived on the 5th floor of that building from 1976 to 1993. I love what you are doing and am happy to participate a little when I can. I’ll be in New York in November lets have a drink.

    Best regards, Steve Linn

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