When it comes to divining the precise locations of these photographs, as much as I’d like to take credit for the solutions, more often than not I have a lot of help. Sure, on occasion, I’ve managed to act on my hunches and close the circle myself, but I frequently field -- and take full advantage of -- any assistance I can find. While it’s fun to find them on my own, I’m actually more concerned with just getting the puzzles solved –- and if that means someone else lending a hand, or even completely solving them by themselves, then so be it. So long as they get figured out and we all learn something, however trivial, I’m good with it.
The quest that took the longest for me, of course, was my recent endeavor to pinpoint the location of that Lunachicks shot. Had I not been fortunate enough to have been put in contact with the photographer who snapped the original picture, I doubt I’d have been able to close the case on my own. In other instances, I’ve had a few people involved in the chase. To awkwardly mangle an oft-cited line from a certain presidential candidate, sometimes it takes a village.
In any case, in the wake of invoking that Lynn Goldsmith photograph from 1980 of the mighty Pretenders striking some precious poses (sorry) in front of an enigmatic eatery called Cell 54, I must admit that my hopes of solving this new puzzle were not especially high. It seemed like the details might be too minute and the period now too remote (a good decade before that Lunachicks photograph). Even in the last ten years, the topography of Manhattan has changed so radically. Entire blocks have been razed. Bricks and mortar have been knocked over and replaced by steel and glass. Bodegas, butcher shops and book stores have been excised like cavity-stricken molars and replaced with condos, banks and antiseptically clean pharmaceutical mega-marts. Whole neighborhood have switched from bleak to chic. If the humble storefront in question is indeed still there, would it look even remotely similar today to its incarnation from 36 (!!!) years ago? Again – the task of pinpointing the exact former location of Cell 54 seemed daunting.
My first guess was that it might be somewhere on or just adjacent to 54th Street, based simply on the name of the place. Not able to just pull up my stakes and go check it out, however (these things are tougher when you have a job to go to Monday through Friday), my only initial recourse was to trawl around the “Street View” function of Google Maps — an exercise that only served to demonstrate how lengthy a stretch of ever-changing real estate that street is. I spotted nothing that matched up.
Shortly after that, a reader named John weighed in with this to say…
I'm almost certain the address in this photo is 54 E. 1st St. It is most recently the location of Prune restaurant. If you do a Google Street view you'll see that the building on the left still has the same architectural details around the ground floor and above the windows.
Could that be? I’ve actually eaten at Prune (and read its owner’s somewhat yawnsome autobiography). It sure looks similar, although there are still some discrepancies. As with 54th Street, however, I haven’t had time to go check it out on foot.
The internet, however, has reduced our troubled globe to something more like a very small town -– one wherein the degrees of separation between individuals are easier to access. It just so happens that another regular reader of my silly blog – one Richard Moody (you may remember me invoking him recently on this post) – alerted me to the fact that he used to work alongside photographer Lynn Goldsmith. He couldn’t promise that she’d remember the shoot, but he gamely said he’d fly it by her.
And that’s just what he did.
According to Richard, Goldsmith — whose studio was on West 36th between 7th and 8th Avenues — says the photo was taken somewhere on the Uptown side of West 36th, … essentially the same strip she shot the great picture of Keith Richards a couple of years later.
Scan your eyes across the lengthy expanse of that street, meanwhile, and you’ll also see a couple of possible matches, but nothing that immediately leaps out at you. Richard Moody had some hunches.
Once again, though, until I can go check it out in person, I’m not sure we can nail it down.
Unless one of you wants to go investigate….
What say you?