Monday, 30 August 2010

The UK's No.1 record 50 years ago

Recorded at Abbey Road studios.

The vandal of Corbridge

Our host plays the innocent abroad.

But now he hides his shame. If Inspector Knacker is watching it was 'im what done it gov'ner. It can be revealed that once more the words "McConkey's Arse" have been left in a public place. Not a urinal this time thank goodness. The boy needs treatment for MCA synrome - and fast.

Judy, Judy, Judy...

Judy Garland: Lost Tracks

Here they are: The long lost Decca test recordings! The first two tracks in this set are two of the three test recordings made by the then 12-year-old Judy Garland for Decca Records on March 29, 1935. Her first time in a recording studio. Luckily, her two solos survive. The third recording of "Moonglow" she made with her sisters (as "The Garland Sisters") has not. The two recordings here, with mom Ethel Gumm on the piano, are the only recordings (excepting the sister's brief appearance in the 1935 short La Fiesta De Santa Barbara) of Judy Garland's raw talent. The film shorts from 1929/1930 are the earliest recordings of Judy, but those were recorded live on the film set, not in a studio, and they feature a loud 7-year-old Judy who, while obviously photogenic and exhibiting some vocal prowess, had not fully matured as a vocalist. But within a few short years she would, and these Decca tests are the only record of her voice as audiences thrilled to it before her tutelage with Roger Edens at the MGM Studios. These are the real proof that Judy Garland was born with a one-of-a-kind, and rare, natural talent.

These tests were thought to be lost until they were found in 1960 in a garbage heap outside of Judy's recently vacated home in the Hombly Hills of Los Angeles, California. The family who found them had no idea what they had, until 2004 when an internet search by their now grown-up daughter Cynthia led her here to The Judy Room, where she found the information she was looking for and was pleasantly surprised to find out just how rare these discs are!

But this set isn't just two tracks, it's a 100 track compilation, 55 on CD for the first time! Included are many rare, previously unreleased radio and live performances, plus some previously released that are newly remastered for this release. A stellar set, a "must have", and to date the best overall CD compilation of Judy's rare, radio, and live performances.

Label: JSP Records
Catalog Number: JSP 965
Release Date: August 2, 2010 (U.K.)
August 10, 2010 (U.S.)
Type: CD
Discs: 4
Length: 4hrs:32min:31sec

http://www.thejudyroom.com/discography/decca/losttracks.html?utm_campaign=Garland%27s%20Lost%20Decca%20Test%20Records%20To%20Be%20Released&utm_medium=Email&utm_source=VerticalResponse&utm_term=CLICK%20HERE%20to%20see%20The%20Judy%20Garland%20Online%20Discography%20page%20that%20details%20the%20contents%20of%20this%20new%204%20CD%20set%2Ecampaign

http://www.mpbn.net/News/MPBNNews/tabid/1159/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3762/ItemId/12711/Default.aspx

And finds it...

Ian goes in search of enlightenment

Drink's a funny thing...

I could've sworn Ian and I were talking to Dave at this point. By the way, the image isn't blurred - it was the drink.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Glasgow Sonnet No. 1


i

A mean wind wanders through the backcourt trash.
Hackles on puddles rise, old mattresses
puff briefly and subside. Play-fortresses
of brick and bric-a-brac spill out some ash.
Four storeys have no windows left to smash,
but the fifth a chipped sill buttresses
mother and daughter the last mistresses
of that black block condemned to stand, not crash.
Around them the cracks deepen, the rats crawl.
The kettle whimpers on a crazy hob.
Roses of mould grow from ceiling to wall.
The man lies late since he has lost his job,
smokes on one elbow, letting his coughs fall
thinly into an air too poor to rob.

EDWIN MORGAN
From Collected Poems, Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1990

The poem is part of Glasgow Sonnets, a sequence of 10 sonnets, numbered i to x, which was originally published in 1972 by Castlelaw Press, West Linton.

The Demon Sings


O to be an angel
Do whatever you're told
Preen each other's wingtips
Grin your set of gold

I'd rather be a demon
Ploughing through the glaur
Whistling to my fellows
What against is for

Against is not for nothing
Against is drive a nail
Against is draw a crown down
Fill a quaich with hail

So hail to all high water
The maelstrom and the pit
You'll never hear a harpstring
If we can smuggle it

Away from the high heavens
And tease it out to bind
Every gasping evangelist
Right out of his mind

For we are merry dancers
Through curtains of the dark
Feel us hear us fear us
When the dark begins to spark!

EDWIN MORGAN
From Demon, Glasgow: Mariscat Press, 1999


Mariscat Press
10 Bell Place
Edinburgh EH3 5HT
Scotland

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Stan the Man

Amazing collection of Stan Laurel pics found

by Tony Henderson
Evening Chronicle
Aug 27 2010

A UNIQUE family photo archive of slapstick comedian Stan Laurel has emerged on Tyneside.

More than 50 images, many of them never seen in public, will be sold by Newcastle auctioneers Anderson and Garland on September 7.

Most were sent by Stan to his sister Beatrice, also known as Bea or Olga – her middle name – and are of a personal and family nature.

It is expected that the collection will fetch between £10,000 and £15,000.

The archive is being put up for sale by Olga’s granddaughter, who lives in Sunderland.

One remarkable set of seven pictures from around 1897 are thought to represent the first images of Stan acting.

They show scenes from a play written by a young Stan starring himself, elder brother Gordon and Olga in the back yard of their home in Dockwray Square in North Shields.

The pictures of the performance of the play The Rivals of Dockwray Square, are set to make £1,500-£2,000.

Stan and his family lived in Dockwray Square for four years. A statue of Stan marks the spot today.

The collection also includes a photograph of his theatre manager father Arthur Jefferson, and portraits of Stan and Olga as youngsters, taken by H J Thorne and Co, of Spencer Street, North Shields. And among the snaps are informal family pictures from Stan’s home in the United States.

He lived at Cheviot Hills in Los Angeles and there are pictures inside his house and of his new car.

Anderson and Garland’s Steven Moore said: “A lot of the material was sent to Stan’s sister, with notes and messages.

“They are private, family photographs of a famous star and they illustrate the personal life behind the famous face.“These are very rare photographs which people are not going to see anywhere else, and I think they will be of huge interest.”

Olga, or Bea, married Bill Healey, and the couple ran The Bull public house near Grantham in Lincolnshire.

One picture shows Stan and his Russian wife Ida behind the bar with Bea and Bill.

Another image, probably created to amuse Olga, depicts Stan as Mona Lisa.

It is inscribed by Stan with the words, “Mona Laurel. Love to Bea and Bill. From Mona.”

Other pictures show Stan and partner Oliver Hardy at events and on film sets. They played at the Newcastle and Sunderland Empire theatres in the 1940s-50s.
Stan’s father Arthur managed a string of theatres around the North East, including the Theatre Royals in Tynemouth, Wallsend, Blyth and Hebburn and the Eden Theatre in Bishop Auckland.

Stan went to school in Tynemouth, and the statue by South Shields sculptor Robert Olley was commissioned by Persimmon Homes for their Dockwray Square development.

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/north-east-news/evening-chronicle-news/2010/08/27/amazing-collection-of-stan-laurel-pics-found-72703-27149666/

More of the photos at:
http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/multimedia/history-and-nostalgia/images/2010/08/27/stan-laurel-photographs-uncovered-72703-27151814/

On The Inevitable Decline Into Mediocrity of the Popular Musician Who Attains a Comfortable Middle Age

O Sting, where is thy death?

DAVID MUSGRAVE

http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/poetry/2010/08/30/100830po_poem_musgrave

Frank

Gerard Depardieu calls Juliette Binoche 'nothing' in provocative interview
French star expresses incredulity that Binoche, an actor with more than 50 films behind her, has achieved such acclaim

Lizzy Davies
guardian.co.uk
Thursday 26 August 2010 13.59 BST

To most people, she is one of the foremost French actors of her generation: a popular and versatile performer with almost 50 films in her repertoire and an array of international awards on her mantelpiece.

But Gerard Depardieu is not most people. To him, quite simply, Juliette Binoche is "nothing".

In a no-holds-barred interview proving once again the rambunctious star's lack of social graces, Depardieu expressed incredulity that Binoche had met with such acclaim.

He asked: "Please can you explain to me what the secret of this actress is meant to be?

"I would really like to know why she has been so esteemed for so many years. She has nothing. Absolutely nothing!"

Binoche, who won the award for best actress at this year's Cannes film festival for her role in Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy (Copie Conforme), is one of the most established actors in contemporary France, impressing critics both at home and abroad.

But in the eyes of the 61-year-old Jean de Florette star, she does not meet the standards of her female counterparts. "She is nothing," he reiterated in the interview with the Austrian magazine Profil. "Compared with her, Isabelle Adjani is great even if she's totally nuts. Or Fanny Ardant – she is magnificent, extremely impressive. But Binoche? What has she ever had going for her?"

Depardieu was equally dismissive of French director Leos Carax, who cast the 46-year-old Parisienne in Les Amants du Pont Neuf. "Carax needed six years to shoot his film with Binoche, which turned out not even to be a film but just a piece of shit," he said.

Observers pointed out that Depardieu has another reason to hate Binoche, who is more given to directing her rage at political leaders such as Nicolas Sarkozy and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than at her fellow artists: she has an Oscar, and he does not.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/aug/26/gerard-depardieu-insults-juliette-binoche

Watch out for that sandtrap!

Ring! Ring! Goes the bell...

Terry and his chums shortly before their daily thrashing from Father *******.

Street Art

Hang on, let's look again but this time check out the graffiti scrawled on the railing...

Solitary Man

THE MANY HATS OF MICHAEL EDWARD LOVE - Bonus feature!

Mike Unplugged

Incognito

Secret agent Jim about to infiltrate a bund meeting.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Friday night...

at Fitzgerald's????

Another cat in a hat

Jimmy 'J.R.' Henderson at his country club. If only the rest of the FNB had his money (and his style).

THE MANY HATS OF MICHAEL EDWARD LOVE

SMiLE, Mike!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Another cat in a bin

Basket Case

Following an evening on the drink, Terry awoke abruptly in the early hours with the room whirling around around him: he knew he had to dash to the toilet. But nothing's ever simple, is it? We'll never know whether it was solely down to the eight pints of Schiehallion he had consumed in a frenzy on Friday night or whether it was the difficulty his fuzzy head had in negotiating a way through the piles of freebies accrued over his profitable career reviewing music and books for the Shields Gazette, but the runner stumbled and landed on his ass - or rather his ass landed on Val's wicker basket.

Fortunately, lest he forget this lesson on the evils of drink ("God's revenge," according to his daughter), it was commemorated by Andrew McCullough (of the Pelaw McCulloughs) in this work of art:This is clearly the original. We believe the version in the British Museum to have been drawn by one of McCullough's followers, as Terry is depicted without his shorts. This may be more accurate, but McCullough was protecting the modesty of his long-time friend. The version held in the Prado in Madrid is definitely a fake; if one looks closely, "McConkey's" has been inadvertently replaced with "McConnell's", the forger clearly having no knowledge of Friday Night Boy mythos.

Here's the artist presenting the original drawing to Terry:
Let me allay your concerns about Terry's health: once the basket had been surgically removed, he was able to return to the pub the next evening.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Tonight's set list

At The Habit, York: -

Harvest
Mellow My Mind
Long May You Run
After The Gold Rush

The place was heaving with both punters and players. Some excellent turns too.

New York Stories #3

Photograph: Joyce Hackett

The day I found an alligator in New York
Tales of giant reptiles in the city's sewers are one of the city's most enduring urban myths. Or so one local writer thought until last Sunday . . .

Joyce Hackett
guardian.co.uk
Tuesday 24 August 2010 19.00 BST

An alligator? A crocodile? We were stumped. But it was definitely, well, quite a reptilian reptile. Driving back from JFK airport in torrential rain, I had turned off the flooded, bumper-to-bumper highway. As I threaded my way back to my home in Manhattan through the side-streets of Queens, I noticed a crowd of about 30 people gathered around an old navy Datsun. I rolled down my windows, and signalled to the lady cop.

"What's going on?"

She rolled her eyes. "Alligator," she said, as if the overriding issue here was that she should already be on her break.

Ah, New Yawk, New Yawk. Recently, I was dining in a fancy Italian restaurant, and noticed a rat making its way along a high ledge above a wall of wine bottles. "A RAT!" I screeched loudly. The room went dead for exactly 30 seconds, after which everybody went back to their pasta. Rats and cockroaches, of course, are our constant companions, dining on every subway track, scurrying across every late-night sidewalk. But alligators in the sewers?

This celebrated urban legend begins in 1935, with a New York Times story about an alligator found in Harlem. The headline alone deserves a Pulitzer: "ALLIGATOR FOUND IN UPTOWN SEWER: Youths Shoveling Snow into Manhole See the Animal Churning in Icy Water. SNARE IT AND DRAG IT OUT: Reptile Slain by Rescuers When It Gets Vicious – Whence It Came Is Mystery."

Reading on, however, it becomes clear that the alligator is not a lurking predator living in our drains, but rather a sickly, exhausted, accidental passenger that has fallen from a Florida ship, then struggled to drag itself out of the icy East river.

Well, no matter. No matter that a recent new $400,000+ machine, built to clear the city's overloaded sewers, found everything but an alligator. And no matter that the man interviewed in a 1959 book, The World Beneath the City, about his campaign to clean out all the gators from the system had never been sewer commissioner. This is a myth with legs and traction here; one that jumps from children's book to horror film, from Thomas Pynchon's V to a bronze, subway-art sculpture in a 14th St station of a happy gator clambering out of a manhole to chomp on a baby. Nothing gives more pleasure than leaning over to a young New Yorker on the subway, who has just flicked his gum into your hair, and quietly introducing them to the concept.

Then, last Sunday afternoon, I pulled the car over, got out, and came upon a real, live alligator. Storm drains and gutters all over the neighbourhood were flooded from the downpour – maybe a wave had washed this creature on to the pavement of civilization, separating it from its pack? At a distance, people were snapping photos with big-lens cameras. Workers in overalls were throwing out names. One pulled his friend's finger towards the car, as if to offer him up for dinner. "Oh, scaly-pie!" he cooed. As we waited for pest control to turn up, everybody seemed strangely cheered by the appearance of a bad-ass reptile that could bite them.

I squatted down, and there it was on the wet asphalt, crouching motionless. Not an 8in baby alligator: this was more like 2ft. I thought of my dog, poised to hunt, and wondered if the gator's stillness was a prelude to lunging for the ankle of one of its hecklers. Looking away (no eye contact – I learned that trick early on when approaching my skittish dog), I held my iPhone at the edge of the car, and snapped, hoping for a shot.

I missed, so I looked again. And slowly, bewilderedly, the gator blinked. It seemed less like a menacing predator, more like an abandoned pet cowering under a car, forlornly hoping for tips on how to play its role. In fact, it reminded me of me, at every publishing party I'd attended during my first years in New York.

Here was a fresh-off-the-boat New Yorker, like the baby arctic seal seen floating on an ice floe on the Hudson near the Chelsea piers, or the handsome, bewildered coyote who managed to wander over a train bridge in Inwood that swings open and closed, and into Central Park. Maybe the gator would settle in among us, like the peregrine falcons who nest on the wide ledges of celebrities' fancy Fifth Avenue co-op buildings, or the flock of tropical parrots (released or escaped pets) that flourish year-round near the warmth of a Brooklyn electrical substation. I found myself imagining a happy life for the gator, in the streams that still flow below the basements of some of Manhattan's oldest buildings, fed by some gentle janitors.

The lady cop cautioned me to be careful, but the poor thing seemed one of us, a stage-one New Yorker, blinded by its lights. I stared at it, thinking: "Little, lost alligator washes up out of the New York sewer and is menaced by tough New York rats, bureaucrats, and push-cart owners that almost run over its tail, until finally it returns to its safe, cozy sewer. Surely, there's a children's book in here somewhere." By now we were almost friends, so I reached in further.

"Careful!" the cop urged.

One thinks of novelists as inspired by muses, and living by their wits. But reality, especially the New York variety, is sharper and stranger than fiction. A few years ago, the spark came for the novel I am currently writing, a love story between a male abolitionist and a female suffragist. I had intended to read the papers of Frederick Douglass, the heroic, ex-slave abolitionist, and Susan B Anthony, America's legendary suffragist, just for background. But I could not put down their letters. Here was the staid, buttoned-up Anthony after a speaking tour engagement, chopping her way through a foot-thick wall of winter ice that had formed around the home of her hosts for the night. And who could have imagined that, beneath our concrete jungle, are streams that may once have hidden fugitive slaves from their hunters? As the cop in Queens remarked to me on Sunday afternoon: you can't make this stuff up.

Finally, I reached my arm completely under the car, and took a last shot of my new neighbour. The cop warned me again. Then I stood up and showed her my best shot.

"Wow!" she said. "Can you email that to me?"

"Did you ever expect to see an alligator on the streets of New York?" came a reporter's first, lead-footed question later that day.

Well, kind of. Because New York is a city where one expects the unexpected; a city where alien creatures take root, and whose gutters, basements, archives and streams serve up more stories than all its writers can think up. A city that writes itself.


Other tall tales from the city
by Joe Jackson

The money train
One popular rumour concerns the existence of a "money train" on the New York Subway, which collects cash receipts and rolls the money to an undisclosed location each night. This well-known yarn has been made into a film of the same name. The MTA, which runs the subway system, refuses to confirm or deny it, for security reasons. But one veteran hack from the Daily News says he knows it existed at some point – because he rode it.

Grand Central's whispering hall
Rumour has it that the palatial Grand Central Station houses a whispering wall. The unusual acoustics of the hallway outside the once-decadent Oyster Bar Restaurant allow people to stand at either end and hear each other's voices. Bar workers claim the effect disappeared for a while following renovations, but then mysteriously returned.

Jimmy Hoffa's grave
Macabre tales abound from the city's mafia heyday. One of the best-known is that Jimmy Hoffa, president of the Teamsters Union who disappeared from a restaurant outside Detroit in 1975, was buried under the old Giants' Stadium in New Jersey. The rumour mill went full throttle 20 years later when a self-described mob hitman told Playboy that Hoffa was cemented under section 107. The FBI quashed the claim and the truth is unlikely to emerge now – the stadium recently made way for a car park.

Pennies from heaven
Chief among the myths surrounding New York's most iconic building is the claim that pennies dropped from the 102nd-floor observation deck have killed passers-by. The Empire State Building and Observatories dismiss the story, claiming the physics make this impossible. The owners say coins tend to end up on the 86th-floor observation deck, where they are pocketed by maintenance workers.

The animal hospital
America's battles with obesity have left their mark: when a patient in need of a scan is too fat to fit into an MRI machine, doctors have reportedly turned to an unlikely alternative – the Bronx zoo's giant MRI scanner. Back in 2005, The New York Post reported that doctors referred a 407lb patient called Jennifer Walters there for a scan. The only problem? The zoo has no such equipment.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/aug/24/alligators-new-york-sewer

New York Stories #2

Real Americans, Please Stand Up

By DICK CAVETT
August 20, 2010, 9:00 pm

All this talk about the mosque reminds me of two things I heard growing up in Nebraska.

I had a 6th grade teacher who referred to American Indians as “sneaky redskins” and our enemies in the Pacific as “dirty Japs.” This abated somewhat after I asked one day in class, “Mrs. G., do you think our parents would like to know that you teach race prejudice?” She faded three shades.

The rest of that year was difficult.

As a war kid, I also heard an uncle of mine endorse a sentiment attributed to our Admiral “Bull” Halsey: “If I met a pregnant Japanese woman, I’d kick her in the belly.”

These are not proud moments in my heritage. But now, I’m genuinely ashamed of us. How sad this whole mosque business is. It doesn’t take much, it seems, to lift the lid and let our home-grown racism and bigotry overflow. We have collectively taken a pratfall on a moral whoopee cushion.

Surely, few of the opponents of the Islamic cultural center would feel comfortable at the “International Burn a Koran Day” planned by a southern church-supported group (on a newscast, I think I might have even glimpsed a banner reading, “Bring the Whole Family,” but maybe I was hallucinating). This all must have gone over big on Al Jazeera news.

I like to think I’m not easily shocked, but here I am, seeing the emotions of the masses running like a freight train over the right to freedom of religion — never mind the right of eminent domain and private property.

A heyday is being had by a posse of the cheesiest Republican politicos (Lazio, Palin, quick-change artist John McCain and, of course, the self-anointed St. Joan of 9/11, R. Giuliani). Balanced, of course by plenty of cheesy Democrats. And of course Rush L. dependably pollutes the atmosphere with his particular brand of airborne sludge.

Sad to see Mr. Reid’s venerable knees buckle upon seeing the vilification heaped on Obama, and the resulting polls. (Not to suggest that this alone would cause the sudden 180-degree turn of a man of integrity facing re-election fears.)

I got invigorating jolts from the president’s splendid speech — almost as good as Mayor Bloomberg’s
— but I was dismayed, after the worst had poured out their passionate intensity, to see him shed a few vertebrae the next day and step back.

What other churches might be objectionable because of the horrific acts of some of its members? Maybe we shouldn’t have Christian churches in the South wherever the Ku Klux Klan operated because years ago proclaimed white Christians lynched blacks. How close to Hickam Field, at Pearl Harbor, should a Shinto shrine be allowed? I wonder how many of our young people — notorious, we are told, for their ignorance of American history — would be surprised that Japanese-Americans had lives and livelihoods destroyed when they were rounded up during World War II? Should all World War II service memorials, therefore, be moved away from the sites of these internment camps? Where does one draw the line?

I just can’t believe that so many are willing to ignore the simple fact that nearly all Muslims were adamantly opposed to the actions and events that took place on 9/11, and denounced them strongly, saying that the Islamic religion in no way condones it.

Our goal in at least one of our Middle East wars is to rebuild a government in our own image — with democracy for all. Instead, we are rebuilding ourselves in the image of those who detest us. I hate to see my country — and it’s a hell of a good one — endorse what we purport to hate, besmirching what distinguishes us from countries where persecution rules.

I’ve tried real hard to understand the objectors’ position. No one is untouched by what happened on 9/11. I don’t claim to be capable of imagining the anguish, grief and anger of the people who lost their friends and loved ones that day. It really does the heart good to see that so many of them have denounced the outcry against the project. A fact too little reported.

And it seems to have escaped wide notice that a goodly number of Muslims died at the towers that day. (I don’t mean the crazies in the planes.) What are their families to think of being told to beat it?

“Insulting to the dead” is a favorite phrase thrown about by opponents of the center. How about the insult to the dead American soldiers who fought at Iwo Jima and Normandy, defending American citizens abiding by the law on their own private property and exercising their freedom of religion?

Too bad that legions oppose this. A woman tells the news guy on the street, “I have absolutely no prejudice against the Muslim people. My cousin is married to one. I just don’t see why they have to be here.” A man complains that his opposition to the mosque is “painting me like I hate the whole Arab world.” (Perhaps he dislikes them all as individuals?)

I remain amazed and really, sincerely, want to understand this. What can it be that is faulty in so many people’s thought processes, their ethics, their education, their experience of life, their understanding of their country, their what-have-you that blinds them to the fact that you can’t simultaneously maintain that you have nothing against members of any religion but are willing to penalize members of this one? Can you help me with this?

Set aside for the moment that we are handing such a lethal propaganda grenade to our detractors around the world.

You can’t eat this particular cake and have it, too. The true calamity, of course, is that behavior of this kind allows the enemy to win.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/20/real-americans-please-stand-up/

New York Stories #1

The developer's rendering of 15 Penn Plaza, as seen from the north, shows it and the Empire State building in unimpeded spots on the skyline at sunset.

A rendering provided by the owners of the Empire State Building shows how the 15 Penn Plaza tower, as seen from the west, would obstruct the view.

A Fight on New York’s Skyline

By CHARLES V. BAGLI
Published: August 23, 2010

To hear the two sides in the skyscraper war tell it, never has so much been at stake.

The owners of the Empire State Building and their supporters say their tower’s international status and New York City’s skyline are in mortal danger of an assault from a “monstrosity.”

Their rival: a proposed tower on 34th Street two avenues to the west that, according to its developers, will help the city grow and prosper, provide thousands of jobs and improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

What irks the former is that the latter would rise to be 1,216 feet, almost as tall as the Empire State Building, and would be just 900 feet away, a little too close for a building that has stood apart in the skyline for its entire 79-year life.

“The question here is: How close is too close to one of New York’s iconic landmarks,” Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick said Monday, after a hearing in which the owners of both properties made their cases, in advance of a City Council vote on Wednesday.

“Is this going to swallow up the Empire State Building,” Mr. Garodnick asked, “or are we just talking about another big building a couple of avenues away?”

The owners of the Empire State Building, Anthony E. and Peter L. Malkin, even want a 17-block no-go zone surrounding their 1,250-foot tall tower. This would prevent Vornado Realty Trust, which wants to erect the new building on Seventh Avenue, or any other developer, from putting up a similarly oversize building in the zone.

The City Planning Commission has already approved Vornado’s plan for a tower, called 15 Penn Plaza, opposite Pennsylvania Station. It would be 56 percent larger than what would ordinarily be allowed, in keeping with the city’s desire to promote high-density development close to transit hubs. But Community Board 5, whose district includes the area, did not approve. A committee at the board said the developer had not provided a rationale for such a large zoning bonus, especially since it did not have a tenant and might not build for years.

The vote on Wednesday by the Council would be the project’s final regulatory hurdle.

Vornado has long wanted to demolish the building that stands there now, the Hotel Pennsylvania, and build a major office tower. In addition to the hotel, a sagging presence across Seventh Avenue from Madison Square Garden, the company owns 10 other buildings in the area, with a total of 11 million square feet.

“The fact is that New York’s skyline has never stopped changing, and one hopes it never will,” said David R. Greenbaum, president of the New York office division of Vornado Realty Trust.

Vornado would undertake a package of transit improvements for Penn Station, the busiest rail hub in North America and a confusing maze for many commuters, worth more than $100 million, he added.

Each side has produced renderings that it says put the new building in perspective. Vornado prefers a view from the north, which shows 15 Penn Plaza and the Empire State Building carving out their own unimpeded spots on the skyline at sunset.

In a full page advertisement in The New York Times on Monday, the Malkins showed a view of Midtown from New Jersey in which a bulky 15 Penn Plaza nearly muscles the sleeker Empire State Building out of view.

At the hearing on Monday, the Malkins produced a poll they had commissioned showing that two-thirds of the respondents felt that 15 Penn Plaza should be rejected as proposed.

“It’s all about the iconography of the New York skyline and whether it matters to people or not,” said Anthony Malkin, president of Malkin Properties. He suggested that 15 Penn Plaza be reduced to 825 feet and that developers should be prohibited from building anything comparable nearby.

George Kaufman, another real estate owner and a friend of the Malkins, submitted a letter saying that 15 Penn Plaza “would be an assault on the Empire State Building and the New York City skyline.” Henry Stern, a former parks commissioner, testified that the proposed tower “could do irreparable harm” to the city.

But various construction union officials spoke in favor of Vornado’s tower, as did Daniel A. Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership, a business group that includes his longtime mentor, Peter Malkin, and the biggest property owner, Vornado Realty.

“If there’s anywhere a building of this size and bulk should be built, it’s at Penn Station,” said Mr. Biederman, who also went out of this way to praise “people the quality” of the Malkins.

Completed in 1931, the 102-story Empire State Building was the winner of a fierce three-way race to be the tallest skyscraper in the city. The 927-foot tall tower at 40 Wall Street briefly held the title when it opened in 1930. But it quickly fell to No. 2 when workers raised a spire atop the 1,047-foot tall Chrysler Building. Months later, the Empire State Building topped it at 1,250 feet. It was overtaken by the first World Trade Center, and will again be relegated to No. 2 when the new, 1,776-foot 1 World Trade Center is finished.

Councilman Leroy Comrie posed a final question at the meeting on Monday that seemed to foretell how he would vote: “Is New York City a snapshot taken in 2010 to be held in perpetuity, or is New York City an evolving, dynamic entity?”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/24/nyregion/24empire.html?_r=1