By Robert Heide
On August 4, 2016 a double-page feature article by Michael Riedel with Hana R. Alberts appeared in the New York Post headlined, “HEY, COME ON IN & STAY AWHILE.” The sub-heading below an assortment of photos read: “NEW YORKERS WHO HAVEN’T MOVED IN 50 YEARS.”
Two very large blow-ups of myself and my partner John Gilman stood out in the middle of the spread. One was a black and white photo from 1968 and the other was a color shot from today; both were taken on the same corner on Commerce Street near the Cherry Lane Theater. Two old-timers represented in smaller photos were Christine Sachiko sitting on the bed in her East Village pad and Aaron Frankel in his pajamas and socks in his reclining leather armchair.
Both sections included ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos, a ‘then and now’ concept that was at the heart of the piece dreamt up by Riedel, a Villager who lives on Perry Street and calls his neighborhood New York’s Beverly Hills.
The call to us initially came from Riedel who said he wanted to focus on myself and John as dyed-in-the-wool long-time West Villagers where, of course, rents have gone beyond the pale. The hook was to recreate an article Riedel had written about us in 1995 when our book Greenwich Village – A Primo Guide to Shopping, Eating, and Making Merry in True Bohemia was published. This book was in print for ten years; but now no one could write about where to go and what to do in the Village because the stores and restaurants open and close so fast.
At that time, Riedel was a working journalist at the Daily News and the double-page picture-heavy piece he wrote then focused on us as co-authors and the guided tours we were giving to historic places and Village personalities, jumping from music and literary legends like Dylan Thomas; Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul, and Mary; E. E. Cummings; Anais Nin; and Andy Warhol.
I first met Michael Riedel in the 1980s at the offices of the New York Native, a gay-oriented newspaper that featured articles about the horrific AIDS crisis. John and I had been writing entertainment pieces and centerfold guides for the Village Voice. To help the cause, I came up with the idea of writing upbeat campy fun articles such as book reviews of Lana Turner or Tallulah Bankhead bios as well as interviews with Village legends like Charles Ludlam who died of AIDS shortly after my interview was published in the Native.
It was in the New York Native offices that Riedel developed the magazine Theater Week featuring his theater columns before moving on to the Daily News job. Since then, Riedel has become a top commentator and columnist at the New York Post and host of the PBS interview show Theater Talk. Now just having turned 50 (and still looking about 32) he has written a must-read book called Razzle Dazzle – The Battle for Broadway, which tells the cut-throat backstage gossip and offstage anecdotes of Broadway in the 1970s and 1980s.
Our interview for the New York Post article took place in the cozy Wild West-decorated backroom at the wonderful Cowgirl Restaurant at 519 Hudson Street. When Riedel arrived with Post photographer Anne Wermiel in tow, we ordered the Cowgirl’s famous margarita on ice in a tall glass rimmed with a coating of salt. The owner and cowgirl hostess Sherry Delamarter showed up to say ‘hello.’ Hearing about the subject of our story, Sherry told us she was struggling with a $42,000 monthly rent.
Back in 1989 when John and I wrote Box-Office Buckaroos – The Cowboy Hero from the Wild West Show to the Silver Screen, Sherry threw us a big book party. Another tradition at Cowgirl was the Patsy Cline look-alike contest held on St. Patrick’s Day each year and called St. Patsy’s Day. Judges back then were usually newspaper people like Michael Musto from the Voice and Cindy Adams from the Post. However, rising costs forced the end of this rousing and very popular celebration where drag queens usually walked off with the top prize.
We ended our walk and talk with Riedel and Wermiel at Christopher Park which, along with The Stonewall Inn, has been, just like Mt. Rushmore, declared a National Monument.
Visit the Post website to view the article.