Midtown Manhattan 2022: Tieless, Gay, Black, And Depleted

Midtown Manhattan 2022: Tieless, Gay, Black, And Depleted


Leonard Zwelling

I’ve been coming to Manhattan and Broadway for sixty years. It has always been an exciting destination. When I was fourteen, it was a cheap steak at Tad’s and $3.50 for a balcony seat at a Saturday matinee on Broadway. When I was a teenager I had seen Robert Preston in The Music Man twice, Man of La Mancha with Richard Kiley twice, Mary Martin in the Sound of Music, Jackie Gleason in Take Me Along, and Burt Lahr (the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz) all on Broadway before I even left for college. Later, it was great dinners, basketball at Madison Square Garden, concerts at the Beacon Theater, jazz at the Iridium, world class shopping and still Broadway (A Chorus Line, Sweeny Todd {both iterations}, Jersey Boys, The Book of Mormon and so much more). But Manhattan was even more.

Businessmen hustled down the streets in expensive suits wearing ties and shiny shoes with fedoras and, in winter, wool top coats and scarves.

Manhattan was always cutting edge and after all this is Pride Month and summer is fast approaching, a time when things throttle back a bit in midtown and the tourists arrive and flood Time Square to get their pictures taken with Elmo, the Naked Cowboy, and the Statue of Liberty and see Wicked for the fifth time.

This is our first trip back in almost three years—probably the longest stretch of time I’ve been out of Manhattan since I was a Bar Mitzvah. But something has really changed.

First, the tourists are back, but few from off-shore as of yet. Kansas is here, but China only minimally which is unusual for this time of the year in Manhattan. Other than Spanish, the only foreign language I heard so far was from three girls speaking Chinese in the UGG Store.

There are still younger men fast walking the concrete in suits, but few sport ties and I was very impressed that the neck tie sections in Bergdorf’s, Saks, and Paul Stuart were much smaller than three years ago. And Barney’s is no more. What a loss!

June is Pride Month, and you have to be impressed that every merchant is pushing hard to attract gay customers with displays of the multi-colors and special merchandise aimed at the LGBTQI+ community.

It is the year of the Black person, too. Puma had special tee shirts and sweat shirts made up for the “Black Five” meaning basketball players. The shirts were sold out as we wanted to buy one as a gift. No worries. We found it on the web.

Broadway is dominated by gay and Black productions and the best musical at the Tony’s was A Strange Loop, which is both Black and gay. It is an intense exploration of what it means to have grown up Black and gay in a family that does not understand you at all. It was a deep dive into Blackness and a great cut on Tyler Perry who is depicted as stereotypically successful without being really Black. This play, the Tony Award winner and a past Pulitzer Prize winner, is really about something. This musical may not play outside of New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles which is too bad. It needs to be seen widely and would not be as effective as an “opened up” film.

Finally, supply chain problems have struck New York hard as the stores were not replete with merchandise for sale and some sizes were impossible to find—an issue for the BW who is still size zero.

The service sector is depleted as restaurants scramble for help in the kitchen and on the serving floor. Menus are shrunken and often what is on them is 86 (unavailable) from the kitchen.

Our favorite Israeli restaurant Taboon on the far west side has closed and a dependable noodle place called Sapporo is gone, too. As in so much of the world, things fell victim to Covid in Manhattan. Even my favorite Italian restaurant, Il Gattopardo on West 54th Street, was encouraging take-out service. I was glad. At least they made it through the pandemic thus far and the restaurant was crowding up as we left for a show.

I suppose Manhattan will always be there, but the Manhattan I knew is probably gone and that may not be a bad thing. A more inclusive attitude in New York midtown would be welcome. It’s always been that way downtown in the Village.

Nonetheless, this is not the Manhattan of my childhood. Like so much else I will miss it—especially the fedoras and the ties.

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