City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Madeleine Bokan grew up dancing at Saratoga City Ballet. Her college studies at Fordham University took her to New York City, and subsequently on to her current position as a sales manager for a start-up publisher. Her love of dancing remained strong. She searched for an outlet.
“You’ve had this really important thing, but if you’re not doing it professionally, it’s suddenly gone,” says Bokan, who began attending workshops for ex-dancers who still love to dance. “I was paired up with another member of the program who I quickly learned also had a full-time career outside of the dance world. She was there, like me, to fill that void for movement that all dancers-at-heart hold. Immediately I felt comfortable with these people… a creative space where I fit again.”
Inspired, Bokan re-connected with fellow Saratoga City Ballet dancing alum Erin Dooley who has continues her pursuit of a dancing career, dancing at Joffrey Ballet School and Alvin Ailey School. The duo co-founded Getaway Dance Collective and this month will launch their first retreat in their native Saratoga Springs.
It’s a way of expressing yourself and rehabilitating your body, Bokan explains, for dancers to see themselves as dancers again, by stepping out of their reality and rejuvenating with movement and choreography. “For me, it’s restorative.”
The Getaway Dance Retreat will feature dance classes and workshops at the National Museum of Dance studios and include yoga, Pilates, a guided trail walk on the Avenue of Pines, and a group dinner in Downtown Saratoga Springs. Attendees will be housed for a two-night stay at Anne's Washington Inn - which has been in Bokan’s family for three generations - and takes place Jan. 19-21. Registration is $175, which also includes a Friday welcome happy hour and dinner; Saturday breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
It’s about showing how movement can rehab the body and the mind in countless ways, Bokan says. “A weekend of wellness, of immersing everyone in movement.”
Registrations will be accepted through Sunday, Jan. 7, and be may be made at: https://getaway-dance.squarespace.com/retreat/.
“The Mudd Club,” by Richard Boch. ($24.95. Feral House. 445 pages).
For 21 months Richard Boch served as the gatekeeper at the Mudd Club, a legendary club located at 77 White St. in downtown Manhattan in the late 1970s and early ‘80s which staged performances by everyone from Marianne Faithful and The Cramps to John Cale and Nico, the B-52’s and William S. Burroughs – the latter reading behind a steel desk from his classic works, as Allen Ginsberg sat stage left, looking on.
“By early spring of 1979, I felt the whole world was headed for White Street – and that working the door was a big deal,” writes Boch, whose job manning the door made him akin to a modern-day St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, deciding who would gain entry and who would be denied to the never-ending mayhem that awaited inside. The door policy: no beards, no fat people, no pre-packaged punk outfits bought by suburbanites at boutiques and no tourists queuing up to gaze at the freaks. More than a concert space – the building’s first floor had a legal capacity of 300, the exclusive second floor offered 2,500 square feet of space, with beer on ice served from a claw-foot tub, and a black steel cage – the club served as a link between the generations where music, art and fashion collided.
Fortified by hot dogs and vanilla egg creams at Dave’s Luncheonette – “a twenty-four-hour dive that specialized in extra grease and lousy coffee,” Boch, a Long Island kid who grew up listening to the Jefferson Airplane, scribes a downtown world of night-stalkers that included David Bowie and Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa, and members of the Sex Pistols and The Clash.
“I met everyone and the job quickly defined me,” he writes in this memoir of the cobbled streets of Lower Manhattan, as the seventies spilled into the eighties during a fiery time of creativity long before the realtors and hipsters would invade and conquer, their hyper-gentrified sensibilities resulting in the blandness that exists today.
“Cover Me: the stories behind the greatest cover songs of all time,” by Rod Padgett. ($22.95, Sterling Publishing Co., 232 pages).
Rod Padgett, who a decade ago founded the popular blog Cover Me, details the stories behind nearly two-dozen original songs popularized by later day “cover” versions. In each of the tunes - which includes Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Hound Dog,” Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Padgett describes how these artists have a way of making the songs all their own, how those revised versions came to be, and offers a significant historical nod to their original creators, while displaying the artwork of record jackets and context from previously published interviews.
“Stranded in the Jungle: Jerry Nolan’s Wild Ride,” by Curt Weiss. ($24.99, Backbeat Books, 310 pages).
Jerry Nolan, one of the 20th century’s most overlooked drummers, finally gets his story told – and who better to tell it than fellow drummer Curt Weiss. Nolan most famously played drums in the 1970s and ‘80s with the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers, two bands that inspired music and fashion on both sides of the Atlantic.
“They sounded close to what punk rock would sound like a few years later: a steamroller of exuberant, take-no-prisoners rock ‘n’ roll, teetering on the edge of collapse…bum notes be damned,” Weiss writes. “And Jerry…he drove the band like a locomotive.”
Weiss’ biography traces a timeline from Nolan’s Brooklyn upbringing – where he was childhood friends with Peter Criss, later the drummer of Kiss – his earliest inspirations from 1950s rock and roll, and his study of legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa: “blasting out a snare drum roll, bobbing his head, chin extended, deeply entranced by the music.”
The Jerry Nolan story has been a long time coming, and Weiss has done a great service to music fans by sharing that story.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - A 39-year-old man, suspected of being involved in Wednesday's alleged robbery at the main branch of the Adirondack Trust Company, has been charged with felony robbery and felony grand larceny, according to Saratoga Springs Police.
The man, Anthony J. Paradise, of Ballston Spa, was taken in to custody at approximately 9 p.m. Wednesday. The robbery occurred shortly after noon, earlier that same day. Paradise is suspected of forcibly stealing in excess of $3,000 from the bank.
Police said a search warrant was executed at the Ballston Spa residence where Paradise had been staying short term, and that items were secured with potential ties to the robbery. Paradise is believed to have acted alone.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A robbery allegedly occurred Wednesday afternoon at the main branch of the Adirondack Trust Company bank.
Authorities were notified at about 12:20 p.m. that a white male passed a note to a teller demanding money and subsequently left the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash. No weapon was displayed.
Police describe the man as being “over 6 feet tall and having a bigger frame.” His jacket was emblazoned across the back with the “Petraccione Plumbing and Heating” company logo.
Police ask anyone with information regarding the incident to contact the Saratoga Springs Police Department at 518-584-1800 or, to remain anonymous, call 518-584-TIPS.
Two previous robbery attempts - in 2007 and in 2010 - occurred at the Broadway branch of the bank, which is located at 473 Broadway, one block from the city police station.
In July 2007, Moreau man Rick Massey handed a teller a threatening note, escaped with nearly $7,000 cash, and fled to Nashville, Tenn., where he turned himself in to police, six days after the incident.
In October 2010, a 57-year-old city man who proclaimed himself to be "a non-violent bank robber" walked into the branch and handed a note to a teller that read, "Give me all your money and God will love you." After the teller gave him nearly $7,000, he put the money back on the counter, made several incoherent statements to bank employees, and exited the bank without any money in hand. He fled on a bicycle, headed west on Church Street and was apprehended by police three blocks later.
The scene outside the Adirondack Trust Co. bank Wednesday afternoon:
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Rochmon Record Club continues its successful monthly run at Caffe Lena on Tuesday, Dec. 19, this time with a focus on the music and career of Tom Petty.
Some fading notebook scribbles related to live appearances witnessed by this reporter, to get you in the mood:
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, August 2006 --- In the end, Tom Petty finished where he began, completing the circle of a 30-year career with a final stroke on his jangling guitar to the tune of “'American Girl.”
Thirty years ago, the youthful face of the singer stared back from his debut album, donning a black leather motorcycle jacket beneath the logo of a guitar shooting through a heart like a broken arrow. Sunday night, Petty returned as the musical maestro of the timeless verse, adorned in crushed velvet with glitter speckles and caught in the reflection of the floodlights that sprayed the crowd in crimson and lavender neon.
With the word out that this summer's tour may be the band's last large cross-country journey, there was a touch of finality in the air at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where a sell-out crowd of 25,000 cheered Petty and his band of Heartbreakers through a 19-song set celebrating their decades of musical service.
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, August 2005 --- Wearing a schoolboy smile and a multi-colored ascot that invoked the mod Carnaby Street pop-isms of his teenage years, Tom Petty clutched the neck of his white tear-shaped guitar and led his band of Heartbreakers through a rousing two-hour set at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Saturday night.
Petty's onstage exuberance was reciprocated by a joyous gathering of nearly 25,000 fans, while breathing new life into 1970s material “Breakdown,” “Listen To Her Heart,” and “Refugee,” revisiting drive-time radio hits “'I Won't Back Down,” and “Free Fallin,'” and ratcheting up the sonic intensity beneath the lighted effects of the white-hot strobes with a hit parade that included “Learning To Fly,” “Mary Jane's Last Dance,” and “Don't Come Around Here No More.”
Saratoga Performing Arts Center, July 2002 --- For a quarter of a century, Petty has weaved the poetic language of the common man with a sonically jangled surrealism, along the way acquiring star-power leverage to do battle with record labels, concert promoters and music publishers, and championing the rights of fans and fellow musicians.
His name has been engraved on a five-point star on Hollywood Boulevard, and he was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not bad for an insurance salesman's son who grew up in Gainesville, Florida who left high school to pursue his vision of the American dream.
Friday night, performing on the fifth date of a summerlong tour, Petty tore through the set opener ''Runnin' Down A Dream,'' flashing his pearly whites at the mic. “'It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down,'' he sang, amid the arsenal of guitar riffs behind him, ''I felt so good, like anything was possible.''
With the backdrop projecting images of falling snow, Petty sang, ''Please shed some light on the road less traveled,'' in a piece titled ''Lost Children,'' as the stage resembled a scene inside a tumbling Christmas snow globe. Haunting melodies oozed from within during his tune ''It's Good To Be King,” and Petty donned a Rickenbacker guitar for the show-closing ''American Girl,'' giving birth to a jangling resonance which hung in the dense air long enough to inspire one last primal dance from the faithful. Eventually, they filed out to rejoin the rest of the world, taking the vibration of its memory far as they could with them into the night.
Palladium, New York City, July 1978 --- “Breakdown” is a nice song. Moody, like Mink DeVille. “I Need To Know,” from the new album, kicks it well enough for a boy from the sticks, ‘tho not as kicking as, say, The Ramones. A slew of obligatory ‘60s covers dotted the night and the highlight was, of course, “American Girl,” which sounds like a tune Petty lifted from Roger McGuinn’s mojo.
Rick Derringer opened the show. He was fine, though not nearly as entertaining as when he played with Edgar Winter Group a few years back. Ted Nugent came on to play a song or two, which signaled most everyone it was a good time for a bathroom break. Ran into David Johansen in the art-deco bathroom downstairs. His new solo album is great and he’s playing the Bottom Line next weekend with Sylvain. Somebody said Warhol is here, up in the front somewhere.
Tuesday’s event begins at 7 p.m., although if last month’s sold out celebration of Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells A Story” is any indication, you want to get there early, or you’re likely to get shut out. Doors open at 6:30. Admission: $5 donation, which goes to the restoration funds of Caffe Lena and Universal Preservation Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Congress Park and the Saratoga Battlefield. Ulysses S. Grant and Solomon Northup. Yaddo, the Canfield Casino and Saratoga Race Course.
Millions of viewers across the country will have the opportunity to learn about the lore and allure Saratoga has offered its locals for centuries with the premiere broadcast of a special Saratoga Springs segment airing on C-SPAN II and C-SPAN III this weekend.
The show was filmed during a multi-day visit by a C-SPAN Cities Tour crew in late September, and is presented by the cable and satellite television network as an exploration of the American Story.
The episode includes a visit to the mineral springs, a driving tour through Saratoga Springs, and conversations with local politicians, historians, horse trainers and jockeys, and Solomon Northup biographer David Fiske.
Inside the Music Room at Yaddo. The artist colony is one of several sites in and around Saratoga Springs visited by a C-SPAN crew in September. Photo: Thomas Dimopoulos
Noon, Saturday, Dec. 16: Book TV (C-SPAN2, Spectrum Channel 226). Non-fiction programming from the city includes a look at the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant as he spends his dramatic last days at his cottage, racing against time and terminal cancer to finish writing about his life. Former Albany attorney Andrew McKenna discusses his memoir, "Sheer Madness: From Federal Prosecutor to Federal Prisoner," – which details his struggles with opioid addiction.
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17: American History TV (C-SPAN3, Spectrum channel 227). History segments include a visit to Saratoga Race Course to examine thoroughbred racing's impact on the historical identity and economy of Saratoga Springs, a tour of Saratoga National Historic Park where two battles occurred that help turn the tide of the American Revolution.
Segments will be available to view after broadcast at: www.c-span.org/citiestour.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A pair of music-centric street festivals which bookended the start and conclusion of the Saratoga racing meet for a generation are no more.
The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, main sponsors of the Hats Off and Final Stretch festivals, announced this week that it will instead feature a “Welcome Back to Racing” fan event promoting bands performing at a variety of on-site locations at bars, restaurants and hotels.
“It’s a different downtown than it was 30 years ago,” said Chamber President Todd Shimkus. “We have so many more bars and restaurants. We think a better way to spend our time and money is to promote all the different bands playing at all the different restaurants. So, instead of us closing streets and setting up bands and stages, we’re going to collectively promote everything that’s going on inside the restaurants, bars and hotels downtown.”
Last year, the festival featured five bands each night over the course of the two-day festival, down from eight bands that performed at eight different venues each night just six years earlier, and the 10 bands who performed at the free festival in 2004. At that time, there were approximately one dozen different businesses and organizations sponsoring the event along with the Chamber and the New York Racing Association.
The cost to stage the events totals more than $30,000 and while Shimkus acknowledged sponsoring entities like NYRA and others are not contributing as much as they once had in years past, he said money is not a driving force in the Chamber’s decision. “For us, it was the fact that we think there is a better alternative that is more supportive of the entire downtown.”
Shimkus also refuted some public comments that have been made, including some raised during this week’s City Council by local residents, that fears of vehicular terrorism played a role in the festival’s cancellation.
“I can absolutely guarantee you the notion of a terroristic attack had nothing to do with our decision to make this change,” Shimkus said.
The Hats Off festival, later complemented by the season-ending Final Stretch festival, was first staged in the 1990s as a way to increase crowds for the annual opening weekend of the racing season.
“NYRA came up and Ed Lewi was with them and they were discussing what they could do to build up the attendance at the races on the first and the last weekend,” recalled Joe Dalton, who ran the Saratoga County Chamber for 40 years, before retiring in 2010.
“The Chamber basically put it together – myself, and Ed Lewi. NYRA said they would put up half the money and we would raise the other half. And it went very well,” Dalton said. “It attracted people and built up the first and last week of racing, attendance-wise. It benefitted the town and NYRA. Over the years, though, it built up so much that both of those weekends now have big crowds coming, so the need for it dissipated.”
Susan Farnsworth was hired by the Chamber to coordinate the Hats Off and Final Stretch festivals, which she did for for 17 years. Among her duties were hiring a team that set up and tore down the staging, supplying equipment, securing city permits and coordinating with the police, and collaboratively working to secure sponsors and to hire bands
“The Hats Off Festival would draw about 20,000 people each night; Final Stretch drew about 15,000 the first night, and about 10,000 on the second evening,” said Farnsworth, who currently lives in Israel. “My favorite part of the festivals was watching people enjoying the music, seeing children dancing; The atmosphere was fun, friendly, welcoming. It helped secure Saratoga Springs’ reputation as one of the best small cities in America,” she said.
Farnsworth recalled how some visitors would schedule their trips to Saratoga to coincide with the festivals. “The original purpose (of the festivals) was to bring more visitors to town the first and last day of racing,” she said. “I am very sad to see this tradition end, but times change.”
“The primary change is that Hats Off has largely been, for 30-plus years, a bunch of bands the Chamber has paid for, with staging outside and downtown in a variety of different places,” Shimkus says.
“This last year, we had a stage on Caroline Street. We closed the road. We had security there. We paid for a band. What we saw was that Saratoga City Tavern (also) had a band, Gaffney’s had a band, Spa City Tap and Barrel had a band – everybody on Caroline Street that had a space, had a band, and we went: What are we doing?”
Plans are being formulated to sponsor a July festival – it may be staged the Thursday prior to Opening Day – in and around existing bars and restaurants and could include locations such as Hattie’s alleyway, Henry Street venues and on Beekman Street.
The Hats Off festival, which ran from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, largely drew crowds 21 and over. “Maybe that wasn’t the case 10 years ago, but it is now. Families are not coming to the Hats Off festival,” Shimkus said. The specifics will be decided in the new year.
“Everybody out there that’s freaking out, just be a little patient and know that the Chamber has always done what’s in the best interests of the downtown,” Shimkus said. ‘When we announce our final plans, I think everyone will go: ‘Wow, that’s a really good idea.’”
INSIDE THE RIGGI THEATER, the stage lights flare bright, illuminating a scatter of white paper scripts, clipboards and heavy binders strewn about the cherry-red seats. Actors mill about, waiting their turn to audition atop the stage.
“Can you do a cold scene?” an actor sporting a man bun is asked.
“Yes,” replies manbun. “Is it OK if I put you in a headlock?”
Inside the theater, it is the middle of the summer on a weekday afternoon. Onstage it is June 1967, the time of the Monterey International Pop Festival, where the Who famously blew up their instruments and Jimi Hendrix set his guitar ablaze.
“Let’s do The John Scene,” suggests Mary Jane Hansen, who scripted the play, titled “American Soup.” The actor quickly falls into character.
“I don’t want to go swimming!” he exclaims. “I want to go see the Jefferson Airplane!”
Four months later, multiple auditions have been held, rehearsals staged and the cast in place and ready to present the production, which will take place at the National Museum of Dance Dec. 14-23.
“American Soup” - presented by iTheatre Saratoga, a division of The Creative Place International - is a celebration of pop culture and the landmarks of history on the evolution of the American spirit, Hansen says. It features the adventures of two American families in Queens, N.Y. living through events at the time – the moon landing, Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination - juxtaposed with Andy Warhol’s philosophy. CPI founding member John McGuire portrays the role of Andy Warhol.
“You have three things going on at the same time. You’ve got Andy. You’ve got the family in the restaurant. And there’s a band - music plays a big role in the play - and they all weave together,” explains Hansen, who grew up in Whitestone, in the north section of Queens.
Live music from the 1960s to the turn of the millennium provokes a visit to where and who we were, say show organizers, and “American Soup” reminds that there is hope, even during our darkest times.
Proposal to Decrease City Taxpayer Costs for Health Care Voted Down
Outgoing Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen initiated a public hearing and council discussion this week to alter the salaries and benefits received by future council members.
The proposal suggested, starting in 2020, councilmembers pay a portion of health care benefits they currently receive cost-free and that health care benefits for life be eliminated, while increasing the five councilmembers’ annual salaries from $14,500 to $18,000.
City Council members, upon election, are eligible to receive health care coverage free-of-charge. The family plan cost is approximately $25,000 for each council member, and four members are currently enrolled in some form of a city health insurance plan. For former council members who have served 10 years or more and retire after age 55 – of which there are a small handful – those benefits are received for the duration of their lifetime.
Mathiesen suggested councilmembers receiving city health care coverage pay $4,000 annually out-of-pocket, and that given the rising costs of health care coverage, that the lifetime benefits be eliminated. The measure was defeated 4-1, with Mathiesen casting the lone yes vote.
The recommendation, had it passed, would have amended the City Charter – which sets salaries for the mayor and commissioners. There are no charter stipulations regarding deputies’ salaries, or related to health benefits for council members. Those are periodically set forth by City Council resolution, or through collective bargaining agreements.
Council Adopts $46.1 million Budget for 2018
The council on Nov. 28 unanimously adopted the city budget for 2018. The $46.1 million plan represents a slight increase over this year’s $45.5 million budget.
“I view the 2018 year as a transformative year for the city,” Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan told the council when presenting the plan for vote. “I have high hopes that the new City Council as well as our ever-evolving workforce will be able to tackle several key issues and problems: lowering the city’s health care related expenses, addressing short-term rental concerns, updating parking systems citywide, better using IT to benefit city residents and City Hall itself, (as well as) some land use issues that will be before the next City Council that need to be addressed.”
City Center Parking Garage Seeks Extension
With construction not yet begun due to pending litigation, the Saratoga Springs City Center Authority this week plans to approach the Design Review Commission to seek an extension of an Architectural Review approval, which was granted June 1, 2016 for the development of a multi-level parking structure at High Rock, just east behind the existing City Center.
Next week, a representative of the Hollywood, California based owners of West Avenue Property LLC will meet with the Zoning Board of Appeals. The company has proposed the construction of a mixed-use development adjacent to the Saratoga Train Station consisting of a hotel, townhomes, senior and assisted living residencies and retail stores. The purpose of the meeting is to request a variance of the maximum building height of its hotel – from 50 feet to 56 feet – as well as to seek zoning ordinance relief in build-out requirements for a number of the accompanying buildings.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A limited engagement run of “A Star Has Burnt My Eye,” written and performed by Howard Fishman, will be presented by Skidmore College Dec. 7 – 9.
The production, which had its world premiere at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in November 2016, and was a New York Times Critics’ Pick, is directed by award winning director Paul Lazar of Big Dance Theater.
Synopsis: A Star Has Burnt My Eye is a multimedia theatrical meditation on the life and music of polymath Elizabeth “Connie” Converse, who some have taken to calling “the first singer-songwriter.” A prototype of the DIY artist, Converse wrote and self-recorded an extraordinary collection of songs in the early 1950’s before deliberately vanishing years later in despair of ever finding her audience. The show features a group of New York musicians, led by playwright and composer Howard Fishman, who perform her songs, read from her letters, and make the case for Converse’s particular genius, and her belated status as a great lost American artist.
Howard Fishman has toured the world as a headlining performer, fronting ensembles versed in pop, New Orleans jazz, country, bluegrass, classical, punk, gospel and experimental music.The New York Times has written that his work “transcends time and idiom.”