Patrick Pacheco is an Emmy-winning commentator and journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Esquire.com, and many other periodicals.
He was the longtime author of New York Newsday’s “Play by Play” theatre column and edited Clear Channel Entertainment’s theatre quarterly, “Show People”.
He wrote the 2009 Disney documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty” and is the co-writer, with Maria Cassi, of the play, My Life with Men…and Other Animals. He is the writer and editor of the Amazon best seller American Theatre Wing, An Oral History: 100 Years, 100 Voices, 100 Million Miracles.
His book The American Theatre Wing, An Oral History, was a best seller. He frequently writes about LGBTQ+ issues. His new show on CUNY-TV , THEATER: All the Moving Parts…etc, features in-depth interviews with artists, including directors, choreographers, writers, designers, and composers.
T2C: When did you first move to Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?
Patrick Pacheco: In April of 1992. In 1977, I was a senior writer and editor for a magazine called After Dark. I was assigned to do a story on Manhattan Plaza for the magazine and, as is true for almost all the residents, MP changed my life. I met and interviewed Rodney Kirk (and probably met Richard Hunnings at the same time), as well Irv Fischer. They liked the After Dark story and, as a thank you, they gave me a free membership in the health club for years! I was quite the swimmer then and I was at MP at least three times a week to workout in the beautiful pool. As an added bonus, I sometimes would swim in the lane next to Tennessee Williams. It was like swimming with God. I had an apartment in a dusty brownstone on the Upper West Side and I had no intention of ever living at Manhattan Plaza. It struck as too impersonal. (The turnstiles!) and cold. Boy was I ever wrong! However, I maintained a warm friendship with Rodney Kirk. I think Richard looked at me askance but we eventually became good friends. LOL!
T2C: Were you in the building during the AIDS Crisis? How did that time frame affect you?
Patrick Pacheco: When the AIDS crisis hit, I was a volunteer for the GMHC on the Upper West Side. Part of my Buddy group was a young struggling actor named Joe Mantello. Rodney asked if I would also help out at the MP AIDS Project. I was only too willing to do so. My volunteerism largely consisted of writing for Mitchell Rodman’s newsletter, profiling the wonderful volunteers and brave clients of the Project. So then I found myself at MP four or five times a week, to swim and to volunteer and to eat at the Little Pie Company and Curtain Up! Finally, Rodney and Richard said, “Why don’t you move here?” I was still reticent. I liked being close to Central Park. Finally they said, “Just put your name on the list for a fair-market apartment. Let’s see what comes up and you can decide then.” A spacious studio apartment came up on their floor, the 46th Floor with this expansive view of the Hudson. Better yet, I felt a lovely vibe to the place. After I moved in, a woman, waiting for the elevator with me, asked what apartment I was in. I said, 46P. She said, “You better be a good person. The man who lived before you was a lovely, generous and kind individual.” He had died of AIDS. I feel like I, in some way, honor his memory. She was right. MP makes you a better person.
T2C: Who have been your favorite people to interview?
Patrick Pacheco: In my long career as a journalist, I have had the privilege of interviewing over a hundred artists from all over the world in all sorts of different fields. I’ve travelled to over 55 countries, writing about theater, film, art, as well as design, social issues, travel, and to a far less extent, politics. In terms of film and theater, it has been a joy to interview Kate Hepburn (a crazy afternoon), Julie Andrews (twice and both times splendid), Mike Nichols, Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton and as part of a press pool, Barbra Streisand when she and Jon Peters were making “A Star is Born.” (Yes, this dates me!) But the two legends who most relate to MP are Chita Rivera and Angela Lansbury about whom I’ve had the esteemed privilege of writing. I’ve had a ball interviewing Chita at least four or five times through the years, often over cosmos at Steve Olsen’s West Bank Cafe in MP. I did the interviews that were the basis for her Broadway show, “Chita: The Dancer’s Life,” written by the great Terrence McNally. Ditto with Angela. When The Little Pie Company’s Arnold and his partner, Michael, were publishing a Little Pie Company cookbook, they asked Angie to write the preface. She replied that she’d be happy to do so—it was so apt because she had been so glorious as piemaker Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd.” She told them, she couldn’t write but they should ask me to ghost write it for her. They called and I said, Of course. They asked about my fee. I said, I’d be happy to do it for free. But they insisted I be paid and insisted that I tell them my regular fee. At that time, my magazine rate was $1/word. $700 for a 700 word piece. They said, they couldn’t afford to pay me that much. I again insisted they could pay me an honorarium if they wished. Finally they said, “Would you take the $700 in pies?” Absolutely! So I—and my friends—ate through the credit in about a couple of weeks. Ron Alexander even included the story in his column in the New York Times. As a total aside, the Times also wrote about Leo, the Wonder Cat, of MP, owned by Kirk Romero. He’s now in the Guinness Book of Records. He fell from the 46th Floor—and survived! But that’s another story…:)
T2C: What has living in the building allowed you to accomplish?
Patrick Pacheco: I have written so much stuff in my apartment at Manhattan Plaza. Mind you, I’m a procrastinator so the only thing that truly revs me up is an editor, publisher or producer screaming at me for the article, script, etc. When you have a deadline, and especially one that is a “hard” fixed deadline, you can write in the middle of Times Square; you so have to be in the zone. But I’m proudest of writing for producer-director Peter Schneider “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” , a 2010 documentary for Disney about the renaissance of the animation department, “My Life with Men…and other animals,” a one-person show co-written with Maria Cassi, a Florentine performance artist, a revised book for “Pal Joey,” and the oral history of the American Theatre Wing, “100 Years, 100 Voices, 100 Hundred Million Miracles.” I’m now co-adapting a stage musical version of a Barbara Stanwyck film.
T2C: What are your fondest memories of living in the plaza?
Patrick Pacheco: So very many. Rodney Kirk looms large because his goodness, not only spread blessedly over Manhattan Plaza and gave it its DNA, but also because his example was nourishment for our souls. I can truthfully say that the elevator rides and the “show” in the lobby of 484 are always consequential and, mostly, joyful from the sheer breadth of humanity in all its tender regard, generosity of spirit, and maverick craziness. I was also once involved in a gay bashing incident on 43rd Street, a group of young men were taunting me and a friend with homophobic slurs as we were returning from dinner at Chez Josephine. My friend, to top it off, was straight! When it started to become violent, he had the presence of mine to whip out his cell phone and call the police. The young men took off in a trot. But before they could get very far, MP security caught them and held them until police came. They rounded them in in the lobby of 484. The boys were scared shitless. The police asked us if we wanted to press charges. We said, no. The police then asked them to apologize to us. Which they tearfully did. The security guards asked them what they were doing in the neighborhood. They said they were on their way to visit a MP resident. Security called the resident to come to the lobby and informed him that these men were never to set foot into MP.
T2C: What has been the biggest changes to the neighborhood?
Patrick Pacheco: Certainly the rough and tumble has been replaced with gentrification. The eye candy has changed. As much as that might be welcomed, I miss the drugstore on the corner and other closed businesses. Every time a small mom-and-pop store closes, it’s a dagger to the heart. I hope the Greek pastry place and the shops along 9th Avenue, below 42nd Street, which are a godsend, never close but I fear it. Crime has been reduced and that’s always a good thing. But Damon Runyon and O Henry would never write about the Times Square of today. With progress there always comes loss. Thank God, MP is a beacon, not only for neighborhood revivalism but also for eccentricity. I was doing a follow-up phone call with Emma Stone for a profile I was writing for the Los Angeles Times. She was then in “Cabaret” on Broadway. She asked me where I was calling from. She said, “OMG, you live at Manhattan Plaza!”Her voice teacher lives at MP and she was there two or three times a week. There was a pause on the phone and then she said, “You’ve got some really weird people living your building.” We both laughed. I said, “I know and I LOVE it!” By the way, until that moment, I’d never thought about it in quite that way. But she’s right!
T2C: How does living in the building make you feel?
Patrick Pacheco: Like I’m at home. Like I’m part of the most wonderful urban family imaginable. That the creativity of the people living there could make it levitate. And that the generosity and kindness of my neighbors, despite the rejection many of them face every day, keep it grounded in humility—and resilience.
T2C: What would you change from your time living in Manhattan Plaza?
Patrick Pacheco: I wish I could help more. Be more involved in events and the tenants association. Finally, to get to the Wednesday night movie that Peter Valentyne organizes so well. Attend more of the special events.
T2C: What is your fondest memory of New York?
Patrick Pacheco: Oh, Lord. Forgive the long winded-ness but here’s what E.B. White famously said of New York:
“On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city’s walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”
I have been lucky far more than anyone, especially me, could deserve to be. I arrived, in 1972, with $17 bucks in my pocket, never having been here before and not really knowing anyone, and not having a job. My brother was then at Harvard so I knew I could always hitchhike to Cambridge if I really got in trouble. The West Side Y on West 63rd Street took $7 of my $17 bucks. But that afternoon I went to see a friend of a friend, Mary Chipman, who was a Bunny at the New York Playboy Club. Mary’s extraordinary generosity, to a virtual stranger, has served to inspire me to do what I can,whenever I can, to help people in the same boat. Or just in need. Within 24 hours of arriving, I had a place to stay with Mary in her small studio apartment at Lincoln Towers. I had a temp job filing Blue Cross Insurance forms on 23rd Street, and I had an interview at After Dark Magazine. They fired somebody that Friday and within three days of my arrival, I was hired to be a go-for at After Dark. I started that Monday. After getting the job, I literally danced around, like a fool, on the plaza in front of 10 Columbus Circle. Mind you, that weekend, Mary Chipman and I saw Bette Midler’s last performance at the Continental Baths with Barry Manilow at the piano. And on the way home, we witnessed an epic fist fight at the local bodega on 10th Avenue–over potato chips! The Lay’s Potato chips were flying all over the place. What’s not to like?
T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?
I suppose the only one thing I’d add is just how much I appreciate and am moved by the small black-lined cards—“May perpetual light shine upon them”—announcing the death of residents in the building. This is an opportunity for people to respond with cards, flowers, remembrances of the dead that are truly touching. In the case of dogs—my Clementine included—the messages are so very comforting. It is a reminder of our mortality. And I would suspect that many people feel and think the same way that I do when I see one: “One of these days, my name will be on one of these cards with the date of my birth and the date of my death.” I can only hope that people will pause–as I do whenever I see them–and say a prayer and think kindly of me.
By the way, there was a card—I believe within the last six months are so—which was in remembrance of a resident who lived to be 114 or thereabout. God bless him!
Find out more about American Theatre Wing, an Oral History: 100 Years, 100 Voices, 100 Million Miracles: https://amzn.to/2J8AP9U
The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream.