I pride myself on my ability to see both sides of every story; playing devil’s advocate is a hobby of mine, and whichever side the devil’s on does not matter to me. However, I rarely get the opportunity to play a role in tourism, as it usually seems my roles are set. I am a New Yorker by birth, and my city hosts millions of tourists every year; I am a tourist at every other place I go, regularly snapping photos shamelessly. These roles are not very easily reversed; I cannot be the local in another city where tourists come to visit, and most of the time I am not a tourist in New York. Until last Sunday, when I got the opportunity to go on the NY TV & Movie Sites Tour.
I was offered the opportunity to cover this tour by the company itself, On Location Tours, and I brought along a friend to help me take some photos. I chose to do the NY TV & Movie Sites Tour, which was one of their more generic packages, because I’d figured that it would be good to get a basic understanding of the role film has played in my city. There are more specific tours, such as the Gossip Girl Tour, Sopranos Tour, and Brooklyn Sites Tour, as well as tours in Boston and D.C. I normally don’t do this kind of touristy stuff, and especially not with Dauntless Jaunter, but the tickets were free, so why not?
Niki, my friend and photographer, met me 15 minutes prior to the tour bus’ boarding time of 11:00am on Sunday, January 29, 2012 at Times Square (where better to start a tour in NYC?). Amadeo, our guide, met us and pointed us to the bus. We were expecting the double deckers that we often see cruising around with folks on the second floor perpetually pointing skyward, but we were surprised to find a plain, white charter bus, single-level, instead.
As the engine turned on, Amadeo started talking about how the tour was going to work. We took off from the corner of 51st and Broadway in Times Square in a northerly direction. We first past the Hearst Building, home to the Hearst Corporation, which publishes such magazines as Road & Track, Cosmopolitan, and ELLE, along with several dailies like the San Francisco Chronicle. We came to Columbus Circle, and then clips started playing on small drop-down screens overhead of several scenes from movies that had taken place in and around Columbus Circle. Crocodile Dundee had a scene there where someone went to chase him onto the subway, Borat had his “squatting in the bushes” scene, and the new Tower Heist was about the Trump Tower nearby.
Amadeo rattled off a list of those Hollywood names that lived in the neighborhood, including Bruce Willis. We went partially around Columbus Circle and took a right along Central Park South, where I learned that Central Park is the single most-filmed place on the planet, with over 250 movies filmed there alone. We watched clips of Ghostbusters and Superman, where scenes took place around the area we were headed down. At the other corner of Central Park South is the Plaza Hotel with its famous Oak Room and the Pulitzer fountain in the front. The Pulitzer fountain was the inspiration for the fountain in the introductory music video for the TV show Friends, though it was too large to use for real.
The bus driver made a right on 5th Avenue, where all kinds of famous fashion brands awaited. Along the way, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest decorated gothic-style Catholic Cathedral in the United States; Rockefeller Center was shown, where 30 Rock is filmed (30 Rock is actually short for 30 Rockefeller Center, the address of NBC studios). My first minor annoyance of the trip came as we continued south along 5th Avenue, but the video continued to play clip after clip of scenes related to the Pulitzer fountain we had passed. We continued past Sak’s Fifth Ave, where Joey from Friends had his gig as a perfume sprayer, the New York Public Library, where a memorable scene from Spider-man took place, and then we went by the Empire State Building, where we were shown clips of Sleepless in Seattle, The Adjustment Bureau, and I Am Legend. Right before our first stop, Amadeo showed us the iconic Flatiron Building, along with scenes from Ghostbusters, Hitch, Spider-man, and A New York Minute.
Our first opportunity to get off the bus came at Washington Square Park, at 11:38am, about 40 minutes after the tour commenced. I was surprised to learn that there were over 20,000 soldiers buried underneath the arch monument memorializing George Washington; Amadeo took photos for everyone in front of the monument. At noon sharp, we boarded the bus again, headed for the Lower East Side. At the corner of Astor and 3rd, we were shown the subway station where the boys in Sleepers pushed the hot dog cart down the stairs and forever changed their lives. Via St. Marks Place, the bus drove along Tompkins Square Park, and the overhead screen played parts of Die Hard 3 as well as Rent, which was based here.
At E. Houston St., the bus turned right, and we coincidentally stopped at a long red light next to famous Katz Deli, while watching scenes from Enchanted, Across the Universe, and When Harry Met Sally. Amadeo then tried to lighten things up by holding a trivia of questions about the Academy Awards, awarding the people who answered correctly with a Blow-Pop. Passing the Bowery Ballroom, we came to our second stop at Broadway, between Broome and Grand Streets, at 12:23pm, which is at the heart of SOHO. My second and greatest annoyance of the trip came here, as Amadeo plugged Kim Kardashian’s new store Dash over 10 times in 20 minutes, as if the trip was sponsored by her and her shop. Niki and I took the break to go eat at Sunrise Mart, a small Japanese market on Broome St where I like to fill my stomach with daifuku.
The rest of the trip was similarly routine: We went to the old Five Points nabe in Manhattan, notorious for gang wars in the early 1900’s, and where Gangs of New York was partially filmed; then we went up “Millionaire’s Mile,” called such for all the celebrities residing there. The bus let us out at the Ghostbuster‘s firehouse on N. Moore St., which is a fully-operational fire station today, still. We were let off again at the Cosby house at St. Luke’s Place, and then finally once more for the Friends apartment building.
All in all, the 3 1/2 hour tour was fairly educational; I learned quite a few facts about my own city that I had never known before, many of which were facts not even related to the TV and film industry. This tour was their generic package, covering bits and pieces of many different things; for a more specific coverage of a popular show, they have the Gossip Girl Tour, Sopranos Tour, and the Sex and the City Tour. On Location Tours also has the Brooklyn Sites Tour and the Central Park TV & Movie Sites Tour. I would recommend these tours for the die-hard film and TV buff, those who have a longer stay in New York City, or those who have been to NYC before.
*For general inquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at (212) 683-2027. Normal cost is about $40USD. The NY TV & Movie Sites Tour is every day at 11am.
*Photos taken by Niki Jackson.
*This article is NOT sponsored, but I was provided with press passes in order to write this post. These opinions which I reflect here are the exact opinions which I had, and were not biased in any way.