Brad & George move into Scott's and my neighborhood
Oh, come on! I just flew 3,000 miles to get away from the Hollywood scene! Not only has it pursued me, but gobbled up my New York neighborhood. Brad Pitt, George Clooney and the Coen Brothers have taken over every street parking space and blocked off most major roads to shoot "Burn After Reading," a dark comic drama about the missing memoirs of a CIA agent. While hanging out around here, they've been causing quite a ruckus, too, with George ending up in the hospital and Brad running through my neighborhood with blood all over his face. See photos - CLICK HERE!
Claremont Avenue — my little street on Manhattan's Upper West Side — and Riverside Drive around Grant's Tomb have become fave places to shoot stuff. "Law & Order" is always using this location, upsetting my neighbors who don't like moving their cars off the street when the hoighty-toighty showbiz folks invade, posting signs everywhere ("Quiet!" "No Pedestrians Near 185 Claremont Today!") to declare their dominion. "NYPD Blue" used to rule here. Woody Allen movies, too, back before he moved production to the U.K. I once jogged through a Riverside Park scene in his "Crimes and Misdemeanors." But I hate how popular this idyllic little pocket of New York City has become lately. I really don't like sharing it with the fancy folk, who would never welcome me to Beverly Hills and would certainly not permit me to invade their neighborhood with cameras, lights, tow trucks, trailers, blaring guns and bad music.
Above: Cops block off Riverside Drive, advising drivers how to find detours.
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant may be getting drafted into this pic. The Coen Brothers shot lots of scenes around the area of Grant's Tomb, which is located on the block just behind my apartment in Manhattan. Above, trucks and trailers line the west side of the tomb while Brad was shooting a scene on the east side.
At left, above, is my apartment at No. 185, right across the street from 200 Claremont, which is where F. Scott Fitzgerald settled in 1919 after fighting in Europe during World War I. He found a job at an ad agency as the writer of jingles to appear on trolley cars, but slaved by night writing short stories he vowed to sell to the Saturday Evening Post, Collier's or Cosmopolitan. When scores of rejection notes piled up, he pinned them to the wall like trophies, hoping to be shamed enough by his failure to press on, write the Great American Novel or Short Story and so dazzle Zelda back in Alabama that she would have to marry him. Finally, by mid-year, he sold his first short story, "Babes in the Woods," for $30, to the Smart Set. Scott used the money to buy Zelda flannel pajamas and a magenta feathered fan. ("The most beautiful feathers in the world!" Zelda gushed when she received them in the mail.) Scott stayed in New York until Prohibition hit in July. Suddenly, he figured Manhattan wasn't fun anymore, so he quit his job and left New York for St. Paul where he could mooch off his family while he finished rewriting the novel that would make him famous: "This Side of Paradise."
In "The Beautiful and Damned," Fitzgerald has the book's lead character — Anthony Comstock Patch, an aspiring writer very much like the young Scott — reside on Claremont Avenue. At one point the drunk ne'er-do-well falls down the stone steps in front of the building (right, above) and gazes at the night scene: "He looked up to where the moon was anchored in mid-sky, shedding light down into Claremont Avenue as into the bottom of a deep and uncharted abyss."
Today Brad was shooting on Riverside Drive right next to Grant's Tomb.
Riverside Church (built by the Rockefellers) looms over Claremont Avenue, which is home to the old Juilliard, now called the Manhattan School of Music (right) and International House (center), which is the chief dorm for foreign students attending nearby Columbia University.
Riverside Church is located directly across the street from Grant's Tomb. The tower is now under renovation, but normally its bells fill the local air with haunting melodies from the largest synchronized bell system in the western hemisphere. That's what the vergers at the church boast, anyway.
Above, the view from the hill behind Grant's Tomb: that's the George Washington Bridge in the distance lurching over the mighty Hudson River.
Above: a modest grave alongside Riverside Drive, marking the final resting place of an "Amiable Child" who died at the age of 5 in the late 1700s. A few years earlier, this location was the site of Gen. George Washington's disastrous Battle of Harlem Heights against the British. Today this area is known as Morningside Heights.
Photo: Speaking of Harlem, here is where it begins —125th Street. Overhead, the No. 1 and No. 9 subway trains emerge above ground at Broadway. Fitzgerald's and my apartments are about two blocks away. When Fitzgerald lived here he described this street scene above as teeming with "Salvation Army bands and spectrum-shawled old ladies on doorsteps . . . and the late sun striking down on the sides of the tall tenements. All very rich and racy and savory, like a dish by a provident French chef one could not help enjoying, even though one knew that the ingredients were probably left-overs."("The Beautiful and Damned")
New Yorkers who live in the fancier part of the Upper West Side, down in the 70s, brag that they've got the gourmet Fairway Market to shop in, but — ha! ha! — we've got Fairway's whole warehouse! that's open to retail customers (left). At right, a new pier is being built out into the Hudson at the end of 125th Street, part of a fancy new yacht club under construction.