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Seeing New York City through the eyes of Woody Allen Richard Crouse 24 June 2009

Woody-Allen-on-the-set-of-001Long before I saw the Statue of Liberty in person I felt like a New Yorker. Woody Allen’s movies were my initiation and his romantic, idealized view of the Big Apple planted the seed for my longtime love of the city.

His latest film, Whatever Works, is the first of Allen’s films to be set in Manhattan in four years, and you get the sense he’s glad to be home. It’s his love letter to the city, showcasing only-in-New-York locations like Chinatown’s fish markets and the Yonah Schimmel Knishery (137 E. Houston St. near 1st Ave., 212-477-2858).

The movie will make you want to jump on a NYC-bound plane ASAP, which is exactly what I did.

There are no official Woody Allen tours of Manhattan, so I created my own daytrip to see Allen’s New York with my own eyes. With a good pair of runners, a map, a Metrocard (get a 1-Day Fun Pass for $7.50 US at MetroCard Vending Machines and neighborhood stores) and some determination you should be able to do this tour in about six hours.

The first stop serves a double purpose. The Dean & Deluca Café (560 Broadway at Prince St. in SoHo, 212-226-6800) is the perfect place to fuel up on coffee to get the day started — it’s also where Mia Farrow has lunch with the newly-single Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives.

Now that you’re in a caffeinated, New York state of mind, exit Soho for the funkier streets of Greenwich Village.

You’ll pass the former home of The Bleecker Street Cinema (144 Bleecker St.) — where Allen’s character takes his niece to see movies that will improve her mind in Crimes and Misdemeanors — on your way to his favorite pizza joint, John’s Pizzeria (278 Bleecker St. in Greenwich Village, 212-243-1680).

John’s Pizzeria is also the place where Allen and his much younger girlfriend, played by Mariel Hemingway, have the “in six months you’ll be a completely different person” conversation in 1979’s Manhattan.

Moving north, our next stop is in midtown. The Carnegie Deli (854 Seventh Ave. between 54th and 55th streets, 212-757-9889) is virtually unchanged since Woody shot much of Broadway Danny Rose here in 1984.

In fact it hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1937 and Henny Youngman was a regular.

Take some time to check out the autographed pictures of celebrities have eaten there, and if you have the appetite of three people order The Woody Allen — “Lotsa corned beef plus lotsa pastrami; for the dedicated fresser only!” says the menu, and it’s not kidding. There’s over a pound of meat between two slices of rye.

Next, walk off the sandwich with a jaunt to the The St. Regis-Sheraton Hotel (2 E. 55th St., 212-753-4500). Woody has used this location twice. This is where Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey carried on their covert love affair in Hannah and Her Sisters and, in Radio Days, the hotel’s King Cole Room (with its Maxfield Parrish Art Nouveau mural behind the bar) was the site of the swanky New Year’s celebration Joe Needleman listened to on the wireless.

The next stop is the location of one of Allen’s most iconic New York images. The poster for Manhattan showing Woody and Diane Keaton sitting in silhouette on a bench was shot at Riverview Terrace on Sutton Square, just beneath the 59th Street Bridge.

It looks a little different than it did in 1979. The bench is gone (stolen by Woody fans perhaps?) and the landscape is a little different but the view is still spectacular.

You’ve seen the movies and the sights, now catch a glimpse of the Wood-man in person. Allen and his clarinet have been blowing up a Dixieland storm on Monday nights (from September to June) at the Café Carlyle (35 E. 76th St. on the northeast corner of Madison Avenue, 212-744-1600) since 1996. Reservations and jackets are required and tickets ($100 for the show, dinner is extra) go quickly so book ahead for the toe-tapping fun.

Not quite as exclusive or as pricey is Elaine’s (1703 Second Ave. between E. 88th and E. 89th St., 212-534-8103), which restaurant writer A. E. Hotchner  summed up with the words, “What Rick’s place was to Casablanca, Elaine’s is to New York.”

On film it’s the location of one of Allen’s most famous one-liners: In Manhattan, he’s at Elaine’s complaining about the difficulties of seeing a 17-year-old. “I’m dating a girl who does homework,” he says.

Off-screen, it’s one of his favorite restaurants. “I ate at Elaine’s every night for about 10 years,” he said. “I’ve eaten alongside everyone from Don King to Simone de Beauvoir. There was no celebrity that didn’t show up there.”

One of the celebrities who ate there was Mia Farrow, who asked Michael Caine to introduce her to Woody one night at the restaurant, thus beginning their long and tumultuous affair. Soak in that storied atmosphere for the price of an entrée.

The tour finishes up with a trip to Pomander Walk, (260-266 W. 95th St. through to 94th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue). This beautiful village — built to resemble the London stage set from a romantic 1910 play — is made up of 27 Tudor-style houses and is the location of the architectural tour Sam Waterston gives Dianne Wiest and Carrie Fisher in Hannah and Her Sisters.

You’ll have to peek through the gate (it’s locked to the public) but its Alice in Wonderland aura and the fact that Humphrey Bogart used to live there make it a must-see for movie fans.

By the tour’s end you’ll see why Isaac Davis, Woody Allen’s character in Manhattan, famously said, “This is really a great city. I don’t care what anybody says, it’s really a knockout, you know?”

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