By now, everyone’s sorted out his or her own two-degrees-of-separation story about the terrorist destruction of the World Trade Center two weeks ago. For me, it’s that Windows on the World’s executive chef, Michael Lomonaco, happens to be an old high school friend, one I’d just caught up with when I dropped by Windows 10 days before the attack. Jump ahead to the horror, and over 70 people who were working at Windows, plus over 110 businesspeople who were breakfasting there, are presumed dead, but Lomonaco was miraculously spared. Why? Because on that very morning from hell, he decided to order reading glasses at the LensCrafters in the WTC’s shopping concourse before going up to his job—a move that saved Lomonaco’s life, since he wasn’t in the tower when the insanity hit.
“I was almost through with my appointment,” Lomonaco told me last week, “when the optometrist noticed people evacuating and said, ‘Something happened. We’ve got to get out of here.’ As soon as I got out that door, I knew it was something completely dreadful. I ran across Church Street and looked back up at the buildings, and tower one was clearly on fire. That’s the building where Windows was.”
The master chef—the sunniest one I’ve ever known—was deeply shaken, grappling with the personal impact of the horror. “I thought of all the people who were working,” he said, somberly. “It encompassed every department—kitchen workers, prep cooks, pastry cooks, accounting, wait staff, housekeeping. Personally, I feel a great sense of loss for all of my friends and coworkers. It’s a completely unimaginable catastrophe. It’s a miracle that I wasn’t up on that elevator.”
And it’s a shame—call me superficial—that there’s no more Windows on the World, which was such an integral part of the city’s entertainment landscape that it merits its own wake. “It was such a romantic place,” said Lomonaco, “that it appealed to even the most jaded sophisticate. The other tower had the tourist attraction—the observation deck—but when people wanted to feel part of the view, they came to Windows. You’d be mesmerized by the civilization that lay just outside that window—the harbor, the boroughs, the bridges. Windows felt like New York’s crown. When people were up there, they felt like the jewel in the crown.” I’ll miss being one of those lucky baubles.
Amid all the hideous mayhem, the view from an otherwise shattered Broadway has been improved by the fact that Urinetown just transferred there in hopes of filling the need for some—any—lightness and buoyancy. Color me superficial again, but since civilized entertainment is as important to me as air and food, I strapped on my Depends and ran there with bells on. Urinetown‘s not your typical escapist show, mind you. It’s about a metropolis whose water shortage prompts an evil tycoon to charge poverty-stricken citizens for the use of public bathrooms. Party? No, but the premise is mainly an excuse to be nudgily clever while relentlessly poking fun at the conventions of the musical genre. (My favorite moment comes when the bound and gagged heroine carries on the choreography anyway.) The show was more surprising in a tiny theater, but it’s still a riot of satire and staging, and the let-freedom-ring theme couldn’t be timelier. My only complaint about this Three Peepee Opera is that number two is only mentioned once. Is that where Broadway draws the line?
MTV apparently draws it at new boy bands—it’s almost impossible to break a cutie combo on the channel these days, especially with its new somber tone—so testoster-pop Svengali Lou Pearlman went elsewhere to start up his latest bunch of boppers. His new male group, Natural, is being marketed strictly through Claire’s Accessories stores, a plan Pearlman claims has made the band bigger than hair barrettes. I can see why, having met the Naturals and finding that—unlike those other bands, where there’s at least one bottle rocket and one survivor of inbreeding—these guys are all scarily attractive and personable. What’s more, they really are a band—they insist they can play instruments and were together for over a year before Pearlman made them into a flashy teeny accessory. In other words, they didn’t audition, they just were!
To paraphrase an ‘N Sync hit—”Bi Bi Bi”—my recent remarks about Anne Heche may have been a bit harsh. If she’s really sexually label-free, maybe we shouldn’t treat her relationship with a man (even a man with a gigunda gay vibe) any less respectfully than we did her lesbian one. And if her dad was label-free (and very twisted), I guess he could have had a wife, boyfriends, and a craving for his tiny daughter too. Anne’s life redefines the rules, and we might want to believe her, even if her claims (and alter ego) are from outer space and her memoirs are titled Call Me Crazy.
As for poor Mariah Carey, she bolted the cobweb to do promo, only to find that no one wants promo right now, especially for the deeply misguided Glitter. It’s a tawdry compendium of every showbiz cliché ever imagined—every two seconds, some character emerges to say, “God, you’re talented!”—that drew derisive guffaws at the press screening last week. (Only the seriously dated shot of the World Trade Center got serious applause.) Mariah plays an ’80s dance diva who romances a DJ-producer and misses her mother. She’s basically Madonna!
But at least Glitter is amusing, if inadvertently so. The abundance of corny, patriotic schlock rock filling the airwaves these days is making me puke. I’m also going borderline thanks to all the columnists, editors, and talk show hosts declaring the end of irony (excuse me, but a wry, mocking sense of perspective is the hallmark of a free society), and saying that what they do is now trivial and irrelevant and they’re having trouble continuing. Funny, they did their trivial shit all through the AIDS crisis and other globe-threatening horrors, but now they’re thinking twice? Well, I’ve always thought my subject matter was smallish and specialized, but I approach it with utter seriousness, because it matters to me and aims to provide relief, entertainment, and sometimes even information to others. If I could cure cancer or reattach limbs, I would, but this is what I do, and in the face of threats to our liberty, it’s crucial to seize back the chance to do what we do! Besides, there are enough people beating their chests, waving the flag, and screaming, “Get the bastards!”
Of course, even in chasing trivial pursuits, there has to be a limit—and that was surely surpassed by a dumb-assed fax that went out on September 14. It was a shameless press release for the Imitation of Christ fashion show the week before, and it didn’t even mention the war—it simply spewed on about how “an eclectic group of models and icons participated, including May Anderson, Carol Alt, Kylie Bax . . . ” Oy.
Still, they were honest. When I got a make-millions-quick e-mail that began with a caring, topical intro, it was jarring beyond belief. “May each of us find the peace and strength we need to get through this difficult time,” it said, touchingly. And then it went into the real message: “Since I’ve joined this program, I’ve been making money. If you’re interested in checking it out . . . “ Double oy. In fact, glory, glory, hallelu-yuck.
email@example.com. Musto can be heard weekdays at 3 and 7 p.m. on Voice Radio.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 25, 2001