Stars of Summer
Has there ever been another city that shines as brightly? Aside from the video displays in Times Square and the Empire State Building's colorful display of nighttime lights, New York boasts stars of every magnitude, from the twinkling ones in the sky to the celebrities at the pinnacle of their careers.
Never mind the bright lights of the big city—you can see stars in New York’s night sky. One of the most popular sites for stargazing is the High Line, where members of the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York hold public observing sessions every Tuesday, weather permitting, beginning at dusk (approximately 8:30 p.m. during the month of July). Hundreds of passersby, from local couples taking a postprandial stroll to visitors from around the world, “are always surprised and delighted to discover they can do real astronomy in the city,” says Michael O’Gara, past president of the Association. “Light pollution notwithstanding, bright objects, such as Jupiter, Saturn, star clusters and the moon, are easily seen through our telescopes,” which are set up near the 14th St. entrance to the elevated park. On very clear nights, O’Gara and his colleagues may even focus their scopes on galaxies, nebulae and other distant, deep-sky objects.
Generations of science enthusiasts have learned even more about the universe at the state-of-the-art Hayden Planetarium within the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space (W. 81st St., at Central Park West, 212.769.5100). The current space show, Journey to the Stars, was created in conjunction with NASA; narrated by Whoopi Goldberg (a star in her own right), it immerses audiences in the galaxy using computer simulations and photos taken from land and space telescopes.
A more fanciful form of stargazing is offered at Grand Central Terminal (E. 42nd St., at Park Ave.)—the gold-leaf constellations on the teal-colored, vaulted 1912 sky ceiling that arches above the main concourse; fiber optics provide their gentle glow. Vincent van Gogh often had his head in the stars, but the Postimpressionist sure could paint. “The Starry Night,” his midnight-blue masterpiece of swirling brushstrokes, is one of the signature works at the Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd St., 212.708.9400).
New York is jam-packed with celebrities, who come here to live, play and, most of all, work. Many a famed career started here—especially in the restaurant field, thanks to the rock-star esteem accorded chefs in this gastronomic town. “New York is the food capital of the world,” declares Aarón Sánchez, the son of celebrated Mexican cooking authority Zarela Martinez and an award-winning chef and TV toque in his own right. “It’s such a melting pot of cultures that almost every type of cuisine is represented, from fine dining to street food.” Chef Sánchez’s contribution to the culinary constellation can be sampled nightly at Centrico (211 W. Broadway, 212.431.0700) where, using “unique combinations of ingredients, enhanced with exotic spices and chiles,” he puts a modern spin on regional Mexican specialties, such as slow-roasted pork shoulder or seafood frittatas.
Another megawatt chef is Masaharu Morimoto, star of both the original Japanese and American versions of the competitive cooking show Iron Chef. At his glittering Morimoto (88 10th Ave., 212.989.8883), guests can sample a full omikase dinner, with courses done in the toque’s characteristic East-meets-West style, or indulge in ingenious rolls at the 24-seat sushi bar. Then there’s Mario Batali, whose Italian restaurant empire ranges from casual-chic Otto Enoteca (1 Fifth Ave., 212.995.9559) for pizzas topped with asparagus and goat cheese to elegant Babbo (110 Waverly Pl., 212.777.0303) for refined yet hearty cuisine. One of Batali’s most recent ventures is Eataly (200 Fifth Ave., 212.229.2560), a bustling 50,000-square-foot emporium/food hall for all things Italian: Cognoscenti can savor authentic Ligurian pesto at one of the counter restaurants, pick up some imported kitchenware, get fingers sticky with a pistachio gelato to go, or sip a Birra Del Borgo in the rooftop beer garden.
A similar, if more eclectic, counter-restaurant concept exists at the Todd English Food Hall (The Plaza Food Hall, 1 W. 59th St., 212.986.9260), the brainchild of Chef Todd English, who gained national attention with his rustic Mediterranean cuisine at Olives (W New York–Union Square, 201 Park Ave. So., 212.353.8345) and now oversees a company that includes restaurants nationwide, cookbooks, TV shows and a housewares line. Still, he can sometimes be seen at the sprawling, subterranean series of food stations, cooking some of the smorgasbord of treats, which range from flatbread pizza (a signature English item) to pork dumplings to Maine lobster.
New York is also the epicenter of American theater, and this summer is an especially starry one on Broadway. James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen and John Larroquette are among the bevy of boldface names appearing in The Best Man (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St., 212.239.6200). Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara star in Nice Work If You Can Get It (Imperial Theatre, 249 W. 45th St., 212.239.6200), dancing to and crooning classic George and Ira Gershwin songs such as “’S Wonderful,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and the titular tune. Broadway darling Audra McDonald and her luscious lyric soprano light up the stage in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 W. 46th St., 877.250.2929). And while Latin heartthrob Ricky Martin doesn’t quite “shake his bon-bon” as Che in Evita (Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway, 877.250.2929), he does execute a few hip swivels, leaving audience members of both sexes swooning.
Other stars are shooting across the horizon. Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett undertakes Yelena, Chekhov’s sensual, sensitive heroine, in the Lincoln Center Festival production of Uncle Vanya (New York City Center, 131 W. 55th St., 212.581.1212, Jul. 19-28), set in the Soviet era of the mid-1950s. Veteran song-and-dance man Ben Vereen performs at the new nightclub 54 Below (254 W. 54th St., 866.468.7619, Jul. 10-21). “We only go below to rise above!” jokes Vereen, whose one-man show includes his renditions of tunes made famous by other local showbiz legends, such as Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., interspersed with personal anecdotes. “To perform in New York City is to perform at the quintessential home base of the arts,” says Vereen. “To be a part of the theater and to feel the vibrational pull of the people who are drawn there to experience it at its finest is a true blessing.” Most fleeting of all is the appearance of composer/trumpeter Chris Botti, who offers his characteristic fusion of jazz and pop for one night only (Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway, 866.858.0008, Jul. 24).
Other New York luminaries shine on the baseball diamond. Derek Jeter, the longtime shortstop (and perennial all-star) of the New York Yankees, has a flair for the dramatic (he reached his milestone 3,000th hit with a home run last season, and he’s moving up the all-time hits leaderboard). Fans can catch the team captain and his fellow pin-striped players, such as A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, at Yankee Stadium (161st St., at River Ave., 718.293.6000) in the Bronx.
Out in Queens, Citi Field (123-01 Roosevelt Ave., 718.507.8499), home to the New York Mets, is where red-hot third baseman David Wright and pitching ace Johan Santana—whose recent no-hitter was the first in Mets history—are steering the Amazin’ boys of summer toward what they hope is a winning season (you gotta believe!).
The Fashion Firmament
One-third of the clothes made in the United States are designed and manufactured right here, the fashion capital of the world—and one of the greatest shopping cities on the planet. Stellar designers with Fifth Avenue flagships include Giorgio Armani (717 Fifth Ave., 212.339.5950), Salvatore Ferragamo (663 Fifth Ave., 212.759.3822) and Michael Kors Rockefeller Center (610 Fifth Ave., 212.582.2444). High-powered names such as Tom Ford (845 Madison Ave., 212.359.0300), Calvin Klein (654 Madison Ave., 212.292.9000) and Christian Louboutin (965 Madison Ave., 212.396.1884) occupy prime real estate on upper Madison Avenue. Ralph Lauren has not one, but two major venues, facing each other across the avenue at E. 72nd St.: his men’s store (867 Madison Ave., 212.606.2100), housed in a 19th-century Renaissance Revival mansion, and a Beaux Arts-style building (888 Madison Ave., 212.434.8000) built expressly for his womenswear collections. Not to mention the boutiques for babies and children a block to the south.
Not that all the starry action is Uptown. Diane von Furstenberg, creator of the famous wrap dress worn by everyone from Kate Hudson to Anne Hathaway, is often spotted in her flagship boutique in the Meatpacking District (874 Washington St., 646.486.4800), while SoHo is home to the recently opened flagship of English designer Stella McCartney (112 Greene St., 212.255.1556); her BFFs Madonna and Kate Moss appeared at its debut bash. SoHo also contains the flagship Prada (575 Broadway, 212.334.8888), designed by celebrity architect Rem Koolhaas.
Miuccia Prada herself is the co-star of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute (1000 Fifth Ave., 212.535.7710, thru Aug. 19). Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations explores parallels between Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli, the great Italian couturier of the 1930s to 1950s. In addition to displaying historic works from these two mainstays of moda Italiana, the exhibit offers several short films by director Baz Luhrmann, depicting exchanges between the two designers (actress Judy Davis plays Schiaparelli).
Sartorial star tributes don’t just reside in museums, however. On the east side of Seventh (a.k.a Fashion) Avenue, from W. 35th to W. 41st streets—an area known as the Garment District—are large, circular bronze plaques embedded in the pavement. Each contains the name and a minibio of top U.S. designers: giants of the past, such as Mainbocher, Norman Norell, Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene; and current icons, including Norma Kamali, Klein and Lauren. “Visitors can see, in a few block stretch, some of the biggest stars in the fashion world along the Fashion Walk of Fame—the only permanent monument to American fashion,” says Barbara Blair Randall, president of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District. “There’s no better place to celebrate all the talented American designers that have contributed to not only the domestic fashion scene, but the global scene as well.” Be it up in the sky or down on the sidewalk, no matter where you look in NYC, you’re assured of seeing stars.