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Secrets of Times Square

Meet The Former and Present Residents of Manhattan Plaza: Tom Fontana

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Tom Fontana is a writer and producer who has received multiple awards such as Emmys, Peabodys, Writers’ Guild, Television Critics Association, Humanitas Prize, an Edgar Award, and more. He worked on NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street and created HBO’s Oz. 

Tom Fontana back in the day photo by David Laundra

His stage debut was in college as an actor in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan, directed by his frequent mentor, Warren Enters. While working at the Williamstown Theater Festival in the early 1980s, he was offered the opportunity to write for television – the offer coming from Bruce Paltrow who was launching St. Elsewhere on NBC.

Fontana has had numerous plays produced in New York City and at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the Buffalo Studio Arena Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival and McCarter Theatre.

Detective Joe Fontana, Dennis Farina’s character on Law & Order, was named for Tom Fontana. Fontana, became close friends with Law & Order creator Dick Wolf while working as writers in the same building, at the same time, on the series St. Elsewhere (Fontana) and Hill Street Blues (Wolf).

Fontana wrote the HBO film Strip Search, directed by Sidney Lumet. He was the Executive Producer of American Tragedy for CBS; Shot in the Heart for HBO Films; the independent film Jean, and the documentary, The Press Secretary for PBS. Fontana also created the TV series Borgia for the French premium-pay channel Canal+. The series recounts the Borgia family’s rise to power and subsequent domination of the Vatican during the Renaissance. Fontana also co-created Copper an 1860s police procedural set in the turbulent Five Points neighborhood of New York.

Tom Fontana

Fontana does not own or use a computer and writes all of his scripts longhand on a yellow legal pad.

Fontana has written articles for such publications as The New York TimesTV Guide and Esquire and has taught at Columbia, Syracuse, Rutgers and the State University College at Buffalo, his alma mater. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.

Rita Moreno and Tom Fontana at the Peabody Awards

He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Producers Guild of America, and the WGA, East from which he received the Evelyn F. Burkey Award for Lifetime Achievement. Fontana served as Vice-President of the WGA, East from 2005–2007. He is President Emeritus of the WGAE Foundation, commonly known as the Writers Guild Initiative and serves on the boards of The Acting Company, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, DEAL, The New York City Police Museum, Stockings With Care, among others.

T2C: When did you first move to Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?

Tom Fontana:  I don’t remember the exact year, but I moved in fairly early on. I had been living in an apartment in the East Village, which I couldn’t afford. Being a writer and young and foolish, I decided to hitchhike across country, alone. I was gone a couple of months. When I got back to New York, I was broke and sleeping on the couches of friends or being an urban gypsy — taking care of people’s plants and cats when they were out of town, in exchange for a bed. Linda and David Laundra were ensconced in Manhattan Plaza by then and they encouraged me to talk with Rodney Kirk about getting a studio. Miraculously, I was accepted. I paid $52 a month my first year. When my wife (then girlfriend) Sagan moved in, we were given a one bedroom. We thought we’d gone to Heaven.

Tom Fontana and Sagan Lewis

T2C: What made you move out?

Tom Fontana: I went to Hollywood to write “St. Elsewhere”. In time, we hired a business manager, who pointed out that we could turn the money, which we were using to pay fair market value, into a mortgage on our own place. Sagan and I were in tears the day we moved out of MP. We felt such a strong bond with the place.

T2C: As a producer what did you accomplish?

Tom Fontana: I wasn’t a producer back in the day. I was only a lowly writer. That said, David and Linda — with a bunch of talented friends — started a theatre and they foolishly put me on the board, so I did help to get the plays we staged up and running.  

T2C: As a writer how did Manhattan Plaza inspire you?

Tom Fontana: I’d say the biggest inspiration for me was the people who lived there. To know that I was sharing a world with Tennessee Williams, Angela Lansbury, Gloria Graham and Jack Warden, among many other famous folks, made me feel like I could, someday, succeed. But more importantly, those who, like me were struggling in their careers gave me a powerful sense of community. I felt like we were there for each other, in times of need and in times of joy.

T2C: What did living in the building allow you to accomplish? 

Tom Fontana: If I hadn’t gotten into MP, I probably would’ve left New York and given up my dream of being a professional writer.

T2C: What are your fondest memories of living in the plaza?

Tom Fontana: My fondest memories? That’s a tough one, as I have so many.  Maybe the Christmas decorations. I will say that I loved the fact that I could do my laundry on the same floor, as the one where I was living.  

Tom Fontana

T2C: What were the biggest changes to the neighborhood?

Tom Fontana: Manhattan Plaza took a beaten-to-a-pulp area of the city, at a time when New York was on the ropes, and proved that if you bring artists into a neighborhood, flowers will grow.  

T2C: How did living in the building make you feel?

Tom Fontana: I think I answered this above

T2C: What would you change from your time living in Manhattan Plaza?

Tom Fontana: Heaven is Heaven. I wouldn’t change a thing from those days. The place worked because Rodney Kirk and Richard Hunnings treated everyone with respect. Didn’t matter if you were a Broadway star or a humble scribe, in their eyes, you belonged. In a way, MP was almost a cathedral.

T2C: What is your fondest memory of New York?

Tom Fontana: Pizza

The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream. 

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Secrets of Times Square

Mr. Black Is Back and This Time In Times Square

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The new artist that I discovered on May 10th is back with a new series of messages on trucks and this time he made it uptown to Times Square.

His newest messages say the following:

This newest Banksy, definitely has a message, but what is he trying to say?

He was also going around the court house where the Trump’s trial is taking place, so could this be a clue?

If you google the QR code you are taken to a twitter account for a Mr. Black, but so far Mr. Black is only sending out cryptic messages on trucks. Why not send out messages via social media or are you and I missing this clue?

I am now even more curious about Mr. Black and what he wants us to know.

Who are you Mr Black? What are the eyes? What is your message? Why coward? Why NYC? Why is nobody reporting this? It seems to me there is a story here.

Mr. Black curious minds want to know.

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Family

Nathan’s Famous and Major League Eating host a Hot Dog Eating Contest with Jen Catron & Paul Outlaw

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A time-honored tradition rewarding the most skillful engorgement, Nathan’s Famous and Major League Eating will host a real deal hot dog eating contest under the shadow of the most imposing frank of all, Hot Dog in the City. Featuring both reputable competitors and amateur eaters alike, the top male and female finishers from the Times Square-based qualifying event will compete at the ESPN-televised 2024 Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island on July 4th.

According to Nathan’s Famous, the origin story of this celebrated competition is rooted in a performance of patriotism — supposedly on July 4th in 1916, four European immigrants were arguing about who amongst them is more American, and decided to settle it with a hot dog eating contest. Regardless of its true roots, the annual Coney Island event has sparked a bona fide endurance sport and storied American spectacle. Join us to witness champion chewers take on the seemingly impossible with maximum bravado in Times Square.

Hot Dog in the City Public Programming & Events Schedule:

Daily, April 30 – June 13, 2024 | 12pm

Confetti Celebrations

Broadway & 46th St

Friday, May 3, 2024 | 6-8pm

Condiment Wars: A Wrestling Match featuring EWA and Choke Hole

Broadway & 46th St

RSVP Encouraged

Friday, May 10, 2024 | 5-6pm

The Hottest Dog Show: A Canine Beauty Pageant with AKC Museum of the Dog

Broadway & 46th St

RSVP Encouraged

Friday, May 17, 2024 | 12-1pm

Hot Dog Eating Contest with Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs & Major League Eating

Broadway & 46th St

RSVP Encouraged

Sunday, June 9, 2024 | 12-5pm

To Be Frank: A Hot Dog Summit with The Town Hall

The Town Hall, 123 W 43rd St

Tickets Required

Thursday, June 13, 2024 | 12pm

Closing Ceremony & Election Results

Visit tsq.org/hotdog for more information on upcoming Hot Dog in the City programming and events.

The Hot Dog Eating Contest will be held on Duffy Square in Times Square, at Broadway & W 46th Street. The sculptural installation, Hot Dog in the City will be on view on the Broadway pedestrian plaza between 46th and 47th Sts through June 13, 2024.

Closest subway lines include 1, A, C, E at 50th Street Station; B, D, E at 7th Avenue; B, D, F, M at 47-50 St-Rockefeller Center; N, Q, R, W at 49th Street Subway Station.

We intend to hold this outdoor event in (light) rain or shine, but we will monitor the weather and share updates closer to event dates if necessary. Events may be canceled should severe weather conditions be forecasted.

There will be is ADA Accessible seating/viewing area. For guests needing special accommodation, please email Times Square Arts at arts@tsq.org.

Frankfurters, wieners, Coneys, red hots! Dynamic artist duo Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw take street meat to new heights with a 65 foot long sculpture of the iconic New York City style hot dog. Complete with hydraulics and bursts of confetti, this spectacular animatronic installation sited in the heart of Times Square will also be an anchor for serious talks, playful performances, and political debate. With equal parts spectacle, celebration, and critique, Catron and Outlaw symbolically supersize the all-American hot dog to examine consumption, capitalism, class, and contemporary culture. Hot Dog in the City builds upon the artists’ layered conceptual practice which spans elaborate large-scale sculptures, kinetic installations and immersive experiences, often infused with humor and camp to prompt cultural and political commentary.

Jen Catron (b. 1984, Bluford, Illinois) and Paul Outlaw (b. 1980, Fairhope, Alabama) are collaborative artists who create elaborately staged large-scale sculptures, kinetic installations, participatory performances that oscillate between the tragic and absurd. The duo’s enduring fascination with gastronomy and performance took them all the way to the reality TV show “Chopped,” which became the pinnacle of their performative fish fry food truck project. Catron and Outlaw often use humor, camp, and spectacle as a subtle veil for subversion, and their layered conceptual works become a genuinely playful and entertaining platform for pointed cultural and political commentary. The two first met and joined forces while studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art located outside of Detroit, Michigan. After graduation, they relocated their art practice to Brooklyn, New York, where they continue to live and work. Their work has been exhibited at institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Cranbrook Art Museum, and Postmasters Gallery.

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Events

Time To Recycle Your Textiles

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The Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) is teaming up with Wearable Collections for a Spring 2024 Textile Recycling Drive in the center of Times Square on April 10, 2024 from 11:00am – 2:00pm. This drive is open to all shows, theatres, industry members, and fans as a free resource to responsibly recycle their unwanted show and personal textiles.

ACCEPTED:
All used and clean clothing including shoes and hats, as well as household items such as curtains, linens, towels, handbags, and belts.

NOT ACCEPTED:
Carpeting, rugs, bath mats, comforters, household items, pillows, large luggage, fabric yardage, and scraps of any kind.

Community members unable to attend this event can drop-off their items at the refashionNYC textile bin. This bin is located in the lounge of the Actors’ Equity Association at 165 West 46th Street on the fourth floor and is available on days when there are on-site Equity auditions.

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Art

Midnight Moment Presents Life Forms

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Each midnight this April, Times Square’s screens become a portal into New York-based artist Tricia McLaughlin’s Life Forms, a humorous fantasy world filled with hard working mutant creatures who toil around the clock constructing an endless city. As these glassy-eyed creatures called “Phantasmachina” mount buildings and scale sidewalks, a threatening figure starts to approach. Undeterred, the organisms continue their Sisyphean task.

Crafted through painting and  3D animations, these life forms are inspired by biotechnology, prosthetics and the exploration of mutation. Striving to anthropomorphize geometry, McLaughlin imbues her community with not only emotions but also a sense of social responsibility.

A recorded musical score by David B. Smith and Omar Zubair will accompany McLaughlin’s Midnight Moment presentation on April 5, 2024 on Duffy Square.

Life Forms is presented in conjunction with McLaughlin’s exhibition phantasmachina, showcasing drawings, paintings and animations sponsored by En Foco at WallWorks Gallery in the Bronx, NY, from April 6–30, 2024. In addition, TFLR Contemporary will present an online exhibition of McLaughlin’s work, Out of the Abyss, from April 1–30, 2024.

Tricia McLaughlin is a physical and digital media artist exploring the transformative effects of technology on nature with unexpected consequences. Mutant creations where function follows form stem from McLaughlin’s intuitive repurposing of robotics, biotechnology, and aeronautics. As McLaughlin explains her process, “each painting and drawing begins as a collection of random marks on a page, allowing my subconscious mind to guide the initial creation. As the artwork develops, I start to see patterns and shapes arranging the chaos. Then I refine and define these elements, gradually transforming the initial marks into living, mechanical beings and/or structures.” Paintings are inserted into animation, 3D-designed constructions inspire paintings.

TFLR CONTEMPORARY is a gallery dedicated to exhibiting emerging and mid-career artists, both in the US and abroad. Exhibitions and curatorial projects are planned throughout the year in various venues and online platforms.

En Foco, Inc. presents U.S.-based photographers and digital imaging artists, focusing on women and people of African, Asian, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander heritage. Through exhibitions, workshops, events, and publications, it provides professional recognition, honoraria, and assistance as they grow into different stages of their careers.

The phantasmachina exhibition is co-presented by En Foco, Inc. and WallWorks Gallery, South Bronx, NYC.

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Family

Miniso Launches A Pop-Up in Times Square Complementing Their Flagship Store

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The flagship Miniso store in Times Square is on the corner of 42nd Street and 7th. Now there is a pop-up situated next to the Disney Store at 1540 Broadway. This shop will remain open for a year as a plushie and IP heaven, with products including Sanrio, Snoopy, Winnie the Pooh, and Minions. It s the perfect store for teens, tweens and those who love cute, practical products that relish the child within.

I decided to go shopping in the store and bought the following: These adorable Sally “Peanuts Sock”, which are super soft and comfortable ($6.99)

Some fabulous facial masks ($2.99 – $5.99) and will definitely be back for more.

Easter Egg Q-Tips ($3.99). These were a great buy.

 A Sanrio wireless speaker ($25.99), that I have yet to have made work, though it is adorable.

And my favorite purchase Hello Kitty sticky roller ($6.99). This is one of the best I have ever used. I have a long haired white cat and this really does the job.

Miniso is continuing to expand rapidly around the world, particularly in the US where it now has 120 stores in more than 20 states.

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