1988 in pictures…
When I read the first post on this website, written by its creator (and my second cousin) Laura Kelly, I had to laugh. Our stories are so similar. But perhaps all recent college grads who moved to Gotham in the ’80s have a similar story to tell: nights at clubs like Palladium and Limelight, days walking from one tip of the island to the other, friends and friends of friends and friends of those not your friends crashing at your place three nights a week….
I had dreamed of moving the Manhattan since I was a freshman in high school. My English teacher Mrs. Dutton assigned us to write a journal entry as if we were 10 years older. Where did we live, what did we do?
I decided I wanted to be a nurse. This was so I could live anywhere in the world and work a nightshift, so I could watch soap operas during the day. But after sophomore year’s pig dissection, I realized the medical field wasn’t for me. Plus, this was the year VCRs got a lot cheaper, so I could watch soaps without having to become a nurse. Still, the seed had been planted about living in New York City.
Fast-forward four years to my sophomore year in college when I learned about my school’s New York Arts internship program. I decided to participate my spring semester junior year and was determined to get a job in television production. The spots at Guiding Light and Saturday Night Live were already filled but they did have something at a fledgling network called FOX. A young man named Matt Lauer was the co-host and I had a blast participating in televised skits and working the green room, bringing danishes and coffee to the likes of Cousin Brucie, LeVar Burton and 20 Miss USA contestants.
I lived in a brownstone in Hell’s Kitchen with 23 other students from the Midwest. It was cramped and fun; a “dorm” full of creative types, who worked in theater, publishing, visual arts, and television. One of my favorite housemates was Alvin, the son of pig farmer from Indiana who worked in set design for an off-Broadway theater company. But this story isn’t about that apartment, because I wasn’t responsible for rent.
We had air conditioning… if you walked across to the grocery store and stood in the frozen food aisle
My first “real” NYC apartment was actually the apartment of another cousin of mine named Laura, who is now one of the most highly regarded casting directors on Broadway. She was an aspiring actress and recent NYU graduate at the time and was packing for summer stock in Vermont when I called to tell her I’d gotten a job in New York and needed a lead on a place to stay. She needed someone to sublet her apartment, which was in the center of Greenwich Village on Sixth Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets. It was an L-shaped studio with a loft.
The rent was only $450 a month (cheap even for those days), but with my salary of $15,600, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. So I called up a roommate from my internship days who lived in New Jersey. I barely get out the words, “I got a job and an apartment in the city and I need a roommate…” before she screamed “YESSS!!!”
We moved into Laura’s apartment in early June of what was one of the hottest summer’s in New York history. And we didn’t have an air conditioner. My poor roommate Cathy had to sleep up in the hot loft, while I got the bed underneath (I was related to the holder of the lease, you know).
When we had people over that summer, to take a break we’d walk across the street to the Food Emporium to stand in the frozen food aisle. After a visit from one of Cathy’s high school friends, Cathy’s dad showed up with an air conditioner. The friend had told his parents about the conditions we lived in and he told her dad. Funny thing is, that air conditioner never worked. But we didn’t mind (too much). We were young and busy working during the day and discovering the city during the nights and on weekends.
The apartment also had mice and roaches, more than average (so we heard) because it was over a deli and restaurant. I got used to having breakfast with the mouse that cleverly ate the cheese off of the trap in the corner without setting off the trap.
A comfy foam bed for visitors… and mice
Our friends (mostly Cathy’s from college) stayed over almost every weekend night, on the pullout foam sofa, which reportedly was a favorite hangout for the mice during the night. We also had a lot of visitors from Europe; students or recent grads my sister had worked with at a summer camp in Michigan. She had told them to look me up if they came through New York, and they all did. They didn’t have much money to spend (one had to borrow money to get to the airport), but they were entertaining.
Cathy’s friends all seemed to have animal nicknames and come from money, which led to a pretty nice trip to the Hamptons one weekend. We also spent many nights at Dorrian’s on the Upper East Side, which was a little creepy since everyone was still talking about “The Preppie Murderer” Robert Chambers who had met his victim Jennifer Levin at the restaurant/bar two years earlier. (Ironically, a friend of ours who worked for FOX shortly after my internship there, played Chambers in A Current Affair’s re-enacted version of the murder.)
The most memorable visitor at the Sixth Avenue apartment was my 72-year-old grandmother who was a highly ranked player on the senior women’s tennis bracket. She was playing in a tournament at Forest Hills and I invited her to stay with us. By day we went shopping at Macy’s (where I learned she had worked when she was just married and lived in New Jersey; two things about her I didn’t know); by night she hung out with the gang of us transplanted Midwesterners at The Peculiar Pub in the Village. And, of course she also played tennis.
We lived in this apartment for less than three months, but my memories of that summer are very vivid, and not just because of the heat wave. New York City. Greenwich Village. The Hamptons. Soap opera stars and the Daytime Emmys. Oh, I forgot to mention the best part: my job was at a soap opera magazine.
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