What they have said
about the book:
FROM DARTMOUTH, March 4, 2002
BOOKS BY DARTMOUTH AUTHORS: IT HAPPENED IN MANHATTAN
Manhattan is a narrow
island, only 22 square miles, but its history is much bigger. It
Happened in Manhattan is an album of vintage photos and first-person
reminiscences that form mid-century Manhattan. Ranging from the early
post-World War II years to the mid-1970s, the book is an oral history
constructed from dozens of interviews with New York luminaries such as
Jimmy Breslin, Elaine Kaufman, Alan Greenberg, and Pauline Trigère, as
well as everyday people like Rabbi Dan Alder, teacher Linda Kleinschmidt,
and drugstore owner Joel Eichel. With chapters like "If I Can Make
It Here..." about emerging celebrities, "Sanctuaries in the
City" concerning religious communities, and "Politics As
Usual," It Happened in Manhattan evokes an era when Checker
cabs still passed down a two-way Fifth Avenue, when 11 daily newspapers
covered the city beat, and when young women attended their Katharine
Gibbs continuing education classes in hats and white gloves. Their
reminiscences and perceptions are woven into a narrative that describes
how New York became an international center in the wake of victory in
the Second World War, and how the city was affected by new immigrants
from Europe fleeing fascism and immigrants from the Latin America
seeking opportunity. This was an era when soaring real-estate values led
to the tearing down of whole neighborhoods, and when community activists
rallied to save many architectural treasures. It Happened in
Manhattan illustrates with personal details and anecdotes the
passing of the Manhattan of the Industrial Age, how the city government
almost went bankrupt, and how New York City survived and continues as a
financial, political and cultural center of the nation. Father Peter
Colapietro, pastor of Holy Cross Church on 42nd Street, offers his
As a kid, I always saw
Sixth Avenue as the dividing line between the East and West Side. The
East Side was Rock Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral; the West Side was
the stuff on 42nd Street. It was like you needed a passport to go from
one to another... Even though Manhattan was only a fifteen-cent ride
away from where I lived in the Bronx, it was a whole new world. I felt I
had to dress up to go down there. I couldn't wear jeans and a polo
shirt. I was an eleven- or twelve-year-old, I knew what Playboy
magazine was, but when I went into some of these stores on 42nd Street -
wow! Ten or twelve of us used to come down to Herman's Flea Circus. It
had an arcade with pinball machines, magic shows, and a famous Flea
Circus. We would go to Rockefeller Center and see as many television
shows as we could get into, getting there early to be first on line for
shows like The Price Is Right, The Match Game, and Truth or Consequence.
A warm-up person like Johnny Olson would ask the audience, "Anybody
out there celebrating a birthday? anniversary? parole? We got to know
the routine. Once my kid brother and I got a pair of handcuffs. When
Johnny Olson got to "Anybody celebrating parole?" we raised
our hands handcuffed to each other.
VALLEY NEWS, March 16,2002
It Happened in Manhattan probably is the anti-book for
unreformed New York haters. It revels in the story of Manhattan, a
22-square-mile borough in the city during the mid-20th century.
Interviews with more than 60 current and former residents of
Manhattan tell a rich story of city life in the post-war era. The
prologue, a monologue by Sid Bernstein, the music promoter who arranged
the first Beatles’s appearance in America, is wonderful.
"I’m still a tourist in the city I was born and raised
in," says Bernstein. "I’m a walker of the city
streets." Bernstein wanders and explores by his own north star: his
sense of smell. "If I walk by a place and an aroma greets me, I go
There are plenty of food stories in It Happened in Manhattan. There
is a lot more, of course. Sections deal with memories of growing up in
Manhattan, of starting careers in finance and fashion, of finding
sanctuaries in churches or museums. There are memories of restaurants,
nightclubs, department stores, eateries, celebrities. People remember
when they cleaned out a section of a restaurant for Frank Sinatra’s
posse, the early days of Bette Middler, described as colorful as a
Tin Pan Alley, the Guggenheim Museum, Yiddish Theater, Walter
Winchell, Harlem, Greenwich Village, escapees from the Hollywood
blacklist ?they’re all in here, not in formal history, but in the
memories of people who knew them.
Perhaps Manhattan expatriates will enjoy It Happened in Manhattan
most, as there really is a lot of nostalgia in a book like this, but
others can find many pleasures.
After all, even if we never go to New York, part of it come to us. It’s
that big a town.
"Contrary to the popular notion, nostalgia is pretty much what it's always been, judging by the latest offering from the Frommers (It Happened on Broadway, 1998, etc.). The professors Frommer (Liberal Arts/Dartmouth) have gathered interviews with iconoclastic New Yorkers Jerry Della
Femina, Robert Merrill, Jimmy Breslin, Monte Irvin, Elaine Kaufman, Saul
Zabar, and 57 others. They recall life in Manhattan (generally called "New York" back then by citizens of the outlying boroughs) from the end of WWII to the mid-'70s. In the new century, it was already a time and place starting to fade from memory. The New York of wonder is evoked once more with, as in
Proust, the reference to indigenous food (e.g., entrees at Le Pavillon or classic egg creams). And from Harlem to Wall Street, Washington Heights to Greenwich Village, there are old churches and delis gone by, the surviving Guggenheim and the lost Automats, Lincoln Center newly built and Lewisohn Stadium since gone. There are shopkeepers with pencil stubs behind their ears and practitioners of the rag trades, artists, sportswriters, and gossip columnists. The memoirists speak with the distinct flavor of Yiddish, or of Italian. And there's a Hispanic rhythm and that of Lenox Avenue, too. Study the ladies in gloves, the gents in fedoras, the haberdashers' billboards, the movie marquees, the trolley cars, the street furniture. Self-congratulatory oral history, garrulous nostalgia, and great fun for those who recall the days of Tin Pan Alley and three baseball teams in one small, favored place."
First-person tales from
the likes of Herman Badillo and Jimmy Breslin recall life here a
Katz and Harvey Frommer's It Happened in Manhattan ... is an
encyclopedic oral and visual memoir of life in New York from the end of
World War II to the fiscal-stricken era of the mid-1970s. The Third
Avenue El, Ebbets Field, the Automats, the Chelsea Hotel, the Fillmore
East, and the pre-AIDS clubs of the swinging gay '70s can all be found
here, along with accounts of the rise of abstract expressionist and pop
art and Norman Mailer's mayoral race. This book captures a New York in
transition, accelerating through the cultural changes of the 1950s and
'60s from the world of Joseph Mitchell to the world of Tom Wolfe.
YORK DAILY NEWS
delightful little book was written by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey
Frommer, New Yorkers to the core. The 302-pager contains interviews of
genuine New Yorkers such as Mickey Alpert, Herman Badillo, Jimmy Breslin,
Jerry Della Femina, Monte Irvin, Jack Lang, Leonard Koppett, Pauline
Trigere, Margaret Whiting, Howard Kissel, Elaine Kaufman, Bill Gallo
(that's me) and many more. Since the interviews took place some time
ago, I leafed through its pages to see what I had to say.
214, I answered the question, "How did New Yorkers respond to so
many newspapers years ago?" Being a cartoonist, I put it this way:
"They loved it because each newspaper had its own character. I
envisioned The Times as an aristocrat smoking a cigarette with a
cigarette holder. The Trib was a professor, not too concerned with money
although well dressed, and not pompous like The Times. But it was the
lack of money that did him in. The Mirror was a kid on the block running
after unreachable things, while The Post was a hard driving,
intellectual guy who took pride in being very liberal.
The World Telegram was a respectable sort of guy, steady and always wanting to improve. I saw the Journal-American as the only one who didn't know who he was - gossipy one day and trying to start a war the next. But the Daily News was the champ, the epitome of a real New Yorker with a great sense of humor, who rode the subways to study his readers, spoke straight and always was very sure of himself."
Greenville, NC, November 26, 2001
Frommer and Harvey Frommer look back to an earlier period of New York's
history in 'It Happened in Manhattan.' Subtitled 'an oral history of
life in the city during the mid-twentieth century,' the book covers a
period from the end of World War II to the mid-1970s. Ordinary people
and New York celebrities reminisce about the architectural and culinary
glories of Manhattan and about the personalities and institutions that
dominated business and the arts in those decades. Exclusively
black-and-white photographs illustrate this backward glance at New York
in the innocent '50s and the adventurous '60s and '70s.
ISLANDS MAGAZINE , March 2002
THE CITY HEARD
Words can conjure up places and times as vividly as pictures do,
especially when people are speaking from the heart, fueled by intimate
experiences and affectionate memories of a place.
It Happened In Manhattan stitches together anecdotes and
recollections told by a disparate group of Manhattanites ?from
writers and architects to rabbis and restaurateurs ?all steeped in
the spirit of the city where they live and work.
Stretching from the close of World War II through the psychedelic 60s
and beyond, the subjects of the recollections are equally diverse. Many
of the chapter headings come from songs ?"East Side/West
Side," "Puttin?on the Ritz" ?reflecting the writers? wish to celebrate their city as enjoyably as generations of entertainers
have. They also note its dark and somber sides.
Imaginatively chosen photos round out the portrait capturing
nostalgic moments or illustrating stories told on adjoining pages.
Flipping through the book is like riding a time machine to one of New
York’s energetic eras.
Good photos and fascinating interviews enliven It
Happened in Manhattan, by Myrna Katz Frommer & Harvey Frommer.
Already by page xiii of the acknowledgments, there is a photo of silvery
TARS 555 on the B line, destination 129th & Amsterdam. No, this is
not a railfan book, but rather a nostalgic narrative of the years
1940-1980 or so. There are plenty of evocative undated street scenes,
with enough street cars, buses, els, or autos in sight to challenge the
transit fan to figure out the date.