Gazing out the back window of a noisy, smelly, exhaust-spewing bus up Sixth Avenue, I couldn’t help but marvel at the myriad of asphalt-covered lanes of moving traffic, filled with other buses, speeding autos, blaring horns, and zigzagging taxis; hearing vicious epithets spewed by angry motorists and pedestrians alike, words and expressions I never heard before. Multitudes of good-looking and finely dressed people (compared to 42nd Street) marched along the massive sidewalks like tin soldiers through this concrete jungle, together like migrating herds of cattle, speedily heading in both directions, in and out of stores, shops, offices, apartments, and eateries containing every kind of cuisine.
Scores of buildings along the way, one after the other, consisting of all shapes, sizes, and building materials, comprised the ensuing conglomerate of high-rise structures that lined both sides of the vast avenue, appearing like upright dominoes, progressively increasing in monumental height as we proceeded toward Rockefeller Center. The largest towers were tremendous skyscrapers, situated right beyond our bus stop: across the street from Radio City Music Hall. The Time-Life Building, 48 stories tall and mostly brand-new—having been completed in 1959—sat diagonally across the street from where we stood at the southeast corner of W. 50th Street. The landmark overtook the skyline predominately on the northwest side, but the domineering, monstrously tall, 70-floor RCA Building, which housed our destination and was set outstandingly facing us, took prominence to all the others. Both aforementioned monolithic erections appeared as Towers of Babel in the middle of a cement desert, combined with other lofty, seemingly mile-high structures, seen scattered and hovering well above the magnificent, sprawling complex as well.
My intense love for Art Deco grew steadily from my first, overwhelming impressions of the stunning architectural designs of the buildings within and surrounding this enormous center, built in the ’30s by the honorable J. D. Rockefeller, Jr., whilst the country was in throes of the Great Depression. Forty thousand people were put to work for this unprecedented architectural enterprise during those incredibly dire and economically trying times. The colossal endeavor was the largest private building project ever undertaken in modern times, relatively comparable to Edward II’s remodeling of Windsor Castle in 14th-century England, which then was the largest secular building accomplishment of the Middle Ages. The business mogul spared no expense for his undertaking, hiring only the best architects of the period, coupled with master artisans to craft the artistic aesthetics of the building facades and interiors, which mostly adhered to the extremely popular Art Deco movement of the time. The creation of Rockefeller Center is a whole, unique story within itself.
The RCA Building, incorporating Radio City Music Hall—named after the skyscraper’s main tenant, Radio Corporation of America—is also the home to NBC corporate offices and studios since 1933. Saturday Night Live is taped there, as well as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; and the original Tonight Show was broadcast from that location, soon to be returning next year when Fallon takes over. The phenomenal observation deck at the top of “30 Rock,” as it is nicknamed, is second only to the Empire State Building’s 86th-floor attraction for the best 360-degree panorama of New York City from the clouds. I wanted to go up to the pinnacle (getting back to the story), remembering my excitement during our previous excursion to the top of the Big Apple, but the next showing of our intended program inside the music hall was scheduled to begin in forty-five minutes; and my mother said we’d have to make that ascent some other time.
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To be continued…