Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Neon News & Links

 From the bad news department, Angelo's on Mulberry Street in Little Italy suffered a serious fire on February 17, 2018, and will be closed at least for several months. 

Closed indefinitely due to fire: Angelo's of Mulberry Street. (T. Rinaldi)

 The official fork has been stuck in Two Boots Pizza's plan for the former Loft's Candy space on Nassau Street.  A "space for rent" sign has gone up.  This casts serious doubt on the future of the incredible Loft's sign, whose restoration was in progress.

Not so fast: Loft's neon resurrection in doubt. (T. Rinaldi)

 Also from the bad news department: we learned recently that Seward Wines and Liquors on Grand Street is no more.  

RIP: Seward Park Wines & Liquors. (T. Rinaldi)

 From the Shorpy blog, the following: 

      > Neon Central - Times Square NYC, 1957  

      > Anytown Neon - Durham, NC, 1940 

 Check out the American Sign Museum's "Save Our Signs" campaign. 

 A lovely tribute to West 46th Street's legendary Barbetta Restaurant featured in the New York Times, with an honorable mention  for the NY Neon blog, by writer Julie Besonen. 

Pre-neon survivor: Barbetta's opalescent sign glows on over West 46th Street. (T. Rinaldi)

 In Jersey, the great TRENTON MAKES - THE WORLD TAKES sign has been LED-ed.  

 Over at the Bowery Boys podcast, an evocative visit to the low years of Times Square in all its neon-clad glory. 

 While listening to the Bowery Boys reminisce on 42nd Street's bygone grit, feast your eyes on these fantastic photos by Maggie Hop showing Times Square and environs awash in crumbling, grit-encrusted neon signs.  

 And finally, from Debra Jane Seltzer, enough bad news to make you sick for a good long time.  Debra Jane spent the first months of 2018 checking in on a few dozen of the old signs she's photographed across the country.  The results of her survey are just plain heart breaking.  Her state-by-state redux starts here.  

Taking stock at Debra Jane Seltzer's Roadside Architecture blog.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Strand Books Neon

I will grant that my neon-centric worldview has made me abnormally attuned to all things neon.  But on a recent visit to the Strand bookstore here in New York, neon seemed to be everywhere. 

The trend for fake neon in graphic design (as noted in this post from last year) continues, as can be seen in cover art for all sorts of books.  Some of these neon covers, like that of Sheldon and Stefan Nadelman's superb book called Terminal Bar, are at least tangentially related to the subject matter within.  Others, not so much.  

Over on the new releases table, we find Hermione Hoby's novel Neon in Daylight, named in reference to Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems ("Neon in daylight is a great pleasure . . . ").  O'Hara, incidentally, lived just two blocks down from the Strand, in an old building that was destroyed a few years back to make way for a junior sized luxury residential palazzo.

Better still, neon between the covers.  Some old New York signs (neon and other) get their due in Julia Wertz's lovely new book Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City


Up in the photography section, meanwhile, neon makes some resplendent cameos in "Modern Color," a monograph of works by photographer Fred Herzog.  

And then there's I See A City: Todd Webb's New York, an exceptional photographic freeze-frame of the city as it appeared in the 1940s and 50s.  If not the first compendium of NYC street photographs from this era, this is certainly one of the most engaging and drool-inducing I've seen in a long time.

Finally, over by the cash registers, one last little testimonial for neon's place in the iconography of the city:  a nice glamour shot of the Chelsea Hotel sign in a rack of postcards featuring classic images that define the city, from the Staten Island Ferry to the Brooklyn Bridge to the famed WE ARE HAPPY TO SERVE YOU coffee cup.  In the New York Neon book, I wrote that the Chelsea Hotel sign's neon tubes are "as much interwoven with the fabric of the city's identity as any landmark of brick and mortar." The sign itself has gone unlit for years now, leaving us to wait and see whether this particular icon will prove more or less ephemeral than its likeness in books and picture postcards.