If I had eaten at Planet Hollywood in, say, Branson, Missouri, I would have been in something like my own personal, albeit imitation, heaven. I would even go so far as to recommend, dear owners of this fine franchise, that you move it to some place like Branson, Missouri. Effingham, Illinois. Des Moines, Iowa. Some place where people don’t feel they are anywhere near the same vicinity as actual Hollywood. Because New York City, to me, is Hollywood. Walking on those sidewalks was like walking in a movie. Stepping in its office buildings, I am convinced, put me practically on the doorstep of Hollywood’s workplace. Not its home maybe. After all, there’s an actual sign for that and it’s clear across the country. But definitely New York is Hollywood’s office. And I was there, and I was loving every minute.
New York City was my Planet Hollywood, and the restaurant by the same name, which held the dresses from Dirty Dancing and from Greece along with the actual hand print of Will Smith that you could place your own fingers inside, was really just a distraction from the real thing outside on the streets. When I’m in the midwest, I’d love a delightful glimpse of Hollywood with actual memorabilia. When in New York, give me the restaurants where celebrities might actually eat. Then put it on a secret itinerary for starry-eyed fans like me and call that Planet Hollywood. And that’s all I have to say about that.
After lunch on Thursday, we had free time. FREE TIME. It was oh so brief, and we were on Times Square which eats up free time like Monica Geller eats girlscout cookies, BUT IT WAS FREE. Do you wonder what I did? Are you dying to know which Times Square novelty store I perused (Toys R Us = I wanted pictures of the robotic T-rex for Jake), what unique things held my attention (the dude painted like the copper statue of a cowboy – he moved like a robot and made the noise of one if you put change in his bucket) or which Broadway poster I stood beneath and dreamed (Wicked, definitely Wicked – I missed the opportunity to see it in St. Louis to be on Times Square instead)? It wasn’t any of those actually. Or it was all of them, briefly, but what I really did with my free time on Times Square was call my mother so she could guide me to a web cam and then send the link to Michael so my boys could see me wave at them from the middle of Times Square. If you thought I was cool up until the moment you read that sentence, you just haven’t been here long enough.
Next I walked to Radio City Music Hall. Alone. (And again, so proud). We took the regular tour there, and can anyone guess what song played in my head the entire time? I’ll give you a clue, because for some of you not even the actual lyrics will give it away…”Let’s. Go to. The Mooooovies…..Let’s. Go to. the Shoooooow. Let’s go to the movies, ANNIE…..” Do you remember? Little red-haired Annie running up and down the aisle at Radio City Music Hall when Mr. Warbucks took her to the movies? I LOVE that scene! And now I was living it. Only there was no movie playing, only a stage crew setting up for New Kids on the Block, and though the Rockettes didn’t dance, we did get to meet one back stage for Q&A and a picture.
Radio City Music Hall is beautiful and intricate and rich with fabulous history plus frequent celebrity guests today. We entered a reception room where both Judy Garland and Justin Timberlake have mingled, and I was moved. You see what I mean about Planet Hollywood? I mean, seeing their memorabilia behind glass is pretty cool, but it really pales in comparison to standing in a room where they have stood.
But then we went to the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and celebrities meant nothing to me.
The Empire State Building is beautiful and evocative and belongs to New York City like New York City belongs to it. But don’t cry or hate me when I tell you this, the experience and the view from Top of the Rock is the one that takes your breath away.
Did you ever climb to the top of a church spire or the Old Post Office in Washington D.C. or a small town water tower in the middle of Missouri? The observatory at the Empire State Building is a little like being on one of those. It’s no longer the glamorous building that lights up special for holidays when you’ve stood in line for two hours and now stand on its narrow deck at the top. It’s just a really, really tall building, holding you in with metal. It’s an amazing view and a sentimental thrill, but elegant, it’s not.
The observatory on Top of the Rock is deep and spacious. They send up just the right amount of people at a time and offer two levels at once – the first with tall, wide plexiglass separating you from the sky – the second a little interior of that with nothing but New York City wind whipping around you where you stand. It’s the ultimate Dead Poet’s Society moment when you move above the world to see it from a perspective that makes its troubles little and its people basically all the same. I wish I was there today. I wish I was there again and again, just breathing in perspective and the power of nature and innovation beautifully mingled below. I loved it there.
After Top of the Rock we went to an Irish pub with food so good I took pictures of it just so I could remember. After our meal, we sat on its terrace and stole time – little bits of it anyway – we just drank it in, thankful for the power to stop and actually breathe the moment. We sat there enjoying the gift of being there, no one pointing out the history or the famous landmarks around us, no one wondering, It’s pretty but what does it do? We just sat and looked at nothing and talked about nothing and visited with the owner about the weather in Ireland and how no one moves to Ireland for that.
When time found us, we left the terrace and walked to that night’s theater for The Lion King. I slipped into my high heels before that little walk, and I took a picture of them at the theater. “I want a picture of your high heels on Broadway,” Grandma had said, and now she has it. I love that picture. The pictures I love the most really won’t mean anything to anyone but me – my high heels on Broadway, my little blue flats at the Met, my shadow on its steps, my purse at my feet on Bow Bridge. I like those pictures though, because they take me back.
I’d seen The Lion King before – in Des Moines, Iowa, actually – through Broadway Across America. I thought it would be a thousand times different to see it in New York, and I have to admit – it really wasn’t. The show is absolutely magical with its innovative costumes and music so powerful it beats its rhythm inside you, and that really wasn’t lessened from Manhattan’s Broadway to the Civic Center in Des Moines. The Lion King on Broadway is one of those amazing artistic pieces that makes me think of its creator as much as I think of its appeal. I’m fascinated by the inspiration to bring that show to Broadway in the first place and then by the mountains of creativity that accomplished it. It’s the kind of art that leads to years and decades of brand new art from all the little minds that it inspires. I love that so much.
Tomorrow is the last day of my trip, but I can’t waste a single minute with that bitter in the sweet. There’s still so much wonderful to come.