New York: where Bowie the Starman fell to Earth
David Bowie has long been linked with the artistic whirl of the Big Apple. Steve Turner explores the city the musician made his home
Saturday 23 March 2013
David Bowie has spent half his adult life in America, the bulk of it in New York, the city "I had fantasised over since my teens" and where he has lived since 1992. A major exhibition examining his effect on culture has just opened at the V&A, so it's a great time to explore Bowie's Big Apple.
Start your crawl at Washington Square Park, the place that in 2003 Bowie cited as his favourite spot in New York. This open space in Greenwich Village, overlooked by the Washington Arch, is a great place to people-watch. At one time you could have heard Woody Guthrie sing and Allen Ginsberg read poetry here. Today you're more likely to encounter dog walkers, nannies and students rushing between lectures.
Head to the south-west corner, exit between the chess tables and walk down MacDougal Street. Turn right on 3rd Street, and on the left you'll see the red neon window signs of Bleecker Bob's (001 212 475 9677; bleecker-bobs.blogspot.com), Manhattan's longest-surviving independent record store, and a Bowie favourite for rare vinyl, that's soon to become a frozen yoghurt shop. Until then, second-hand records are lovingly sorted, labelled and stacked. It opens daily at 11am but doesn't close until the early hours.
Turn back on to MacDougal. A few yards along is Caffe Reggio (001 212 475 9557; cafereggio.com ) established in 1927. It's everything you could want of a Greenwich Village coffee bar, and the ideal place for a late breakfast. Bowie has been spotted here with notebook on table.
MacDougal and Bleecker were at the heart of the folk music revolution of the early 1960s, a period that Bowie evokes in his new track "(You Will) Set the World on Fire" through references to The Gaslight and The Bitter End. Alas, The Gaslight, a cellar café beneath 116, has long gone.
Continue on MacDougal and turn left on Bleecker Street. Three blocks down is The Bitter End (001 212 673 7030; bitterend.com), another pioneer folk venue that trades on its illustrious past rather than promoting the future.
Follow Bleecker three blocks along to Broadway, cross over and turn right. Walk past the giant Urban Outfitters, Ugg and Adidas stores, cross Houston Street and you're in SoHo. A further block down on the corner of Prince Street is Dean & Deluca (001 212 226 6800; deandeluca.com) a food emporium with marble floors and staff in white uniforms. The choice is overwhelming; 150 to 200 varieties of cheese, 100 types of bread. In 2008, Bowie was papped carrying a Dean & Deluca bag back to his home.
Two blocks along Prince is Lafayette Street, Bowie's NoLita (North of Little Italy) home since 1999 when he bought two adjoining apartments for $4m (£2.7m) in a newly converted chocolate factory. From his window he can see a punk boutique, a German handbag store, a gas station, and a huge Calvin Klein billboard of two young men in clinging underpants.
Cross Lafayette and on the right side of Prince is McNally Jackson (001 212 274 1160; mcnallyjackson.com), an independent book store frequented by the star. Want to buy a Bowie biography? There are three by different authors in the basement.
Walk back across Lafayette and then another block along to Crosby Street. Turn left down this narrow cobbled street. On the left is the Crosby Street Hotel (001 212 226 6400; crosbystreethotel.com), owned by London-based hotel group Firmdale, where Bowie and his wife Iman have attended events. Stop for a spot of lunch in its popular Crosby Bar.
Further down Crosby behind an unmarked grey door is The Magic Shop (magicshopny.com), the studio where Bowie clandestinely recorded his new album The Next Day.
Return to Spring, turn right, walk five blocks to The Bowery and then one block left. Over the road, looking like a stack of grey boxes, is the New Museum (001 212 343 0460; new museum.org; open 11am-6pm Wednesday to Sunday), Manhattan's only museum dedicated to contemporary art. The current show ("NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star") runs until 26 May.
Finally, turn right outside the museum, walk one block and turn right on Stanton Street. Six blocks down you will reach Ludlow Street, home to Manhattan's more adventurous music scene. Here are Pianos (straight ahead rock), The Living Room (singer-songwriters) and Cakeshop (art rock, punk). Bowie has been known to drop in but, at 66, is reputedly happier spending time on Lafayette, looking down on the earthlings below.
'David Bowie Is' is at the V&A in London until 11 August (vam.ac.uk/davidbowieis)
The General (001 212 271 7101; emmgrp.com/restaurants/the-general) opened in January just south of the New Museum of Contemporary Art at 199 Bowery. It's a café between 6am-2pm, serving an innovative range of doughnuts created by the pastry chef (cinnamon toast, coco puff, fruity pebbles), pretzels known as breakfast bombs, and Stumptown Coffee. After 5.30pm, it's an Asian fusion restaurant with a menu created by Top Chef winner Hung Huynh. There are four managers, one dedicated to its VIP clientele. If the Bowies haven't already dined there, they will.
Steve Turner travelled with Virgin Holidays (0844 557 3859; virginholidays.co.uk), which offers three nights at the Tribeca Grand Hotel and Virgin Atlantic flights from Heathrow, from £819 per person.
Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7310; virgin-atlantic.com) and BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com) fly from Heathrow to both New York JFK and Newark. Delta (0871 221 1222; delta.com) and Kuwait Airways (020-7412 0007; kuwait-airways.com) fly from Heathrow to JFK; American Airlines (0844 499 7300; aa.com) from Heathrow and Manchester to JFK; and United (0845 607 6760; united.com) from Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heathrow, and Manchester to Newark.
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