Scuba Duba.

As a child, I was given a rare glimpse into the explosion of off-Broadway theater in the late 60s. The 1967 season may have been the best ever, financially and artistically. Off-Broadway is where all the action was—a place where someone like Norman Lear could poach his ideas for future TV shows and the whole the zeitgeist would eventually be harnessed and watered down for the mainstream.
Pick a play, any play, and its small stage was likely to contain an eye-popping young cast. A $4 ticket led the way to George Tabori’s The Niggerlovers (with Morgan Freeman, Stacy Keach, Viveca Lindfors), or Murray Schisgal’s Fragments (with Gene Hackman, James Coco) or Israel Horovitz’s The Indian Wants the Bronx (with Al Pacino, John Cazale, Marsha Mason).


Ten Favorite Books on New York.

I’m sometimes asked what my favorite New York books are. These became favorites after I wrote Tales of Times Square. I never read much about New York before that. I was too busy experiencing it.


Famous New York Widows.

In 1980, Nicholas Pileggi at New York Magazine assigned me to arrange for a group photo of New York’s most famous widows. After months of fruitless overtures, I was utterly defeated. Maybe someone like Truman Capote or George Hamilton could have pulled it off. Rich doyennes are suspicious of people’s motives. They become the prey of “tombstone ghouls”—Earl Scheib-types who try to persuade them to erect bigger graveside monuments over the phone. Perhaps they feared I was scheming for their jewels.


Chasin’ Jackie Mason.

Around 1982, I went to see Jackie Mason at Dangerfield’s in New York. Mason had slipped into obscurity since the 60s when, legend goes, he made what seemed like an obscene gesture toward Ed Sullivan on the air. His TV appearances had long since dried up.

That night, Mason laid me out on the floor. There were exactly six people in the audience, and two walked out. “Too Jewish,” muttered an aging housewife, as she and her husband left their table. His performance, with barely an audience, was stunning. This throwback Yiddish stand-up would eventually become the only comedian in modern times whose solo act alone became a hit Broadway show.

Several years later, Mason was headlining Carolines, and I filed this report in my Naked City column.