Shortly before I discovered I was going to New York, my son gave me a birthday present, a book called New York Art Deco, by Anthony Robins, with a map of locations and street walks that found the best examples of Art Deco in Manhattan. ‘How nice,’ I thanked him politely. ‘I didn't know you realised I was interested in New York Art Deco,’ while I couldn't help thinking, yeah, lovely; shame this book will be no actual use as I'll never GO THERE, will I? A few moments later my family was treating me like a TV show guest, raising their Uncle Sam top hats, popping confetti and singing along to Sinatra's New York, New York. Yes, this book was going to be of actual use!
So, with this special book in hand, we traced our way around the Big Apple's glug…its veritable deluge…of Art Deco. To quote from the book…The style is instantly recognisable but hard to pin down. It takes its sources from European flowery and zigzagged crafts and Art Nouveau, with African influences, and has become the collective name for all that is brash, polychromatic, geometric, whizz-bang…with a motto of ‘Beauty with Utility’ it was part of the Roaring Twenties, the Depression Era, the Jazz Age, and prohibition. Its hallmarks could summon up a skimpy dress, a rakish look, and a glass of champagne. These include vertical columns of windows to take the eye up, powerfully-built and scantily-clad figures of both men and women, the iconic sunset patterns, and loads of streamlined curves, speed-lines, chrome and gold leaf. Its chosen colours are red, black, white and gold.
Lanya only knew what he was supposed to know, not a fact more, and each over-emphasised factoid was accompanied by the work ‘indeed’. None of his jokes worked. ‘These ceilings need constant attention, almost slave labour. Indeed, I send my own five daughters in to do the regular job,’ he chirped.
He threw the question right back in her face.
Even so, he couldn't dim the glory of Radio City, where even the loos are a work of art. The highlight of the tour was getting away from Lanya to talk to a Rockette all kitted up in her fabulous costume and stage make up and able to make the little girls’ dreams come true by having a photograph taken with her. She told us it had been her own little girl dream to become a Rockette and she’d been dancing at Radio City for almost twenty years, even though she didn’t look much over 20 herself.