By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
AMMI: Keepin' it reel
Before Hollywood was Hollywood, Astoria was Hollywood. And in a way, it still is. The American Museum of the Moving Image, blessedly far from the Left Coast headquarters of the film and TV industry, bills itself as the only museum in the country devoted to the art and technology of movies and TV. More than 500 screenings a year emanate from this space, most of them in a comfortable theater with easily the best projection and sound facilities in New York. Don't feel like watching? Then do something: You can create your own animation or reprogram the soundtrack of Terminator II with Road Runner effects. Or, watch someone else create: See a baseball game on the monitors in a production truck and listen to a director create TV from practically nothing. (Hmm, maybe that isn't so novel after all.)
Get off your duff and check out some of the 7,000 artifacts, ranging from 19th century flip books to the Seinfeld diner set. Somehow you get the feeling that a California-based museum honoring movies and TV would be considerably tackier, (maybe with a separate wing devoted to Hollywood Squares). Here, Red Grooms' Tut's Fever Movie Palace serves as an over-the-top homage to the great theaters of the past where you can watch old movie serials until your eyes fall out or see contemporary and classic films in optimum conditions. Worth a separate visit is a permanent installation by Gregory Barsamian, a three-dimensional sculpture of moving objects and strobe lights that may be more magical than movies themselves. AC
AMMI 35th Avenue at 36th Street, in Astoria. From the Island, take the Northern State Parkway to the Grand Central Parkway, exit at Hoyt Avenue (the last exit before toll). Left on 31st Street, right on 35th Avenue. 718-784-0077.
Queens for Queens
Juan Miguel has spent less than 10 minutes in Friends, the anchor hangout in a string of gay bars on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, but already he's the belle of the ball.
"It's freedom here," he declares, preening near the bar in a Nike muscle T-shirt, struggling to find enough English to describe his elation about moving from Colombia to Manhattan two weeks ago and finally being an out gay man in America. A guy from Jersey buys him a beer and fetches him an extra bar stool from across the dimly lit room as his friend ogles from the sidelines. All around, other recent immigrants from Latin America, Puerto Rico and Cuba chat to one another in Spanish, throw back cocktails and cruise each other not-so-slyly.
This is "the Roosevelt," the gay ghetto of Jackson Heights that's as revered as the Village or the Castro for gay people arriving from Spanish-speaking countries.
Within 10 blocks, boys and girls can choose from a variety places: the friendly Friends (78-11 Roosevelt Ave., 718-397-7256); the new Club Atlantis 2010 (76-19 Roosevelt Ave., 718-457-3939), drawing in a young, late crowd with strippers and drag shows; the Music Box (40-08 74 St., 718-457-5306), a dark and mellow place with a pool table that also pulls in a 20- and 30-something group (and even a few women); Zodiac Tavern (69-19 Roosevelt Ave., 718-899-4724), with drag shows and DJ dancing; Lucho's (38-19 69th St., 718-899-9320), a dark and fun place with go-go boys; and Bum Bum Bar (a.k.a. The Bar, 63-14 Roosevelt Ave., 718-651-4145), with lesbian night on Thursdays, where I recently watched a fired-up butch-femme couple do a mean and sexy salsa between rounds of pool. And that's not to mention the gay clubs that pepper the rest of Queens, like the packed and fabulous Krash (34-48 Steinway St., 718-937-2400) in Astoria or Hatfield's (126-10 Queens Blvd., 718-575-3014) in Kew Gardens.
It's where to go when you're tired of the white-bread Long Island scene, but not quite up for the attitude and high prices of Manhattan. In Friends, two beers were $6and after only an hour visit, my pal and I hugged five new buddies good-bye. Beth Greenfield
Aqueduct: A Sure Thing
Before the bugler blows, eager characters at this snazzed-up, refurbished racetrack in southern Queens are ready to teach you how to decode a racing form. Most of the time, anyway. The other day, an enthusiastic degenerate gambler named Skelly Billy gave up trying to teach two Hofstra sophomores about track conditions and early speed by saying, "Look, bet the jockey, bet the color of the horse or his name. You'll do as good as anyone in here. Just have fun."
Just don't go with the idea of climbing out of debt. With that in mind, Aqueduct may be the cheapest sporting event in the tri-state area. A dollar for parking, three dollars for admission and you're in. Take 20 bucks to bet all races and enjoy the uncommon spectacle of winter racing in a northern climate. The beauty and nobility of the animals in full flight, steam rising off them, their breath pouring out in cloudsthis is a sensuous sport. Watch the crouched, motionless jockeys in their bright silks, and hear the roar of the bettors rising as the pack turns for home.