Saying “I Do” at the Kaufman Astoria Studios

Tying the Knot where Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rogers, and Maurice Chevalier Worked

The Kaufman Astoria Studios is a historic movie studio in Astoria, Queens, and home to New York City’s only backlot. On January 29th the studios became the center stage for the wedding of my son and his bride.

Kaufman Astoria Studios

A Bit of History
Jesse Lasky and Adolph Zukor founded the studio in 1920, the first two Marx Brothers films were shot here, and silent-movie idol Rudolph Valentino filmed Monsieur Beaucaire at the studio in 1924.

After Paramount Pictures moved all studio operations to California in 1932, the Astoria location became home to independent producers until the United States Army, in 1942, took over the studio to produce training and propaganda films, including the series The Big Picture.

In 1971 the United States Army left the movie business and the studios were given to The City University of New York to turn into a campus or a film school. These plans did not materialize, and the future of the studios didn’t look promising. In 1976 a group of New York film people recognized the historic significance and the potential of the studios. They created a foundation to manage the studios, and eventually, The studios were declared a National Historic Landmark. The facility was restored and is the center of a bustling creative environment where shooting, pre-, and post-production take place around the clock.

In recent years films and television shows, such as Sesame Street, Law & Order, Orange is the New Black, Men in Black 3, and The Bourne Legacy, just to name a few, have been filmed at the Kaufman Astoria Studios.

Saying I Do Inside the Atrium of the Kaufman Astoria Studios

The wedding ceremony took place inside the atrium of the Kaufman Astoria Studios. It was the first wedding ever held in the atrium. It was, however, not the first wedding held at the studios. On August 9, 2008, Annie Evans, a writer for Sesame Street, and Martin Robinson, a puppeteer for the show, got hitched in Studio J. The couple exchanged vows on a staircase of the Sesame Street set. Interestingly enough, they got engaged on a New Year’s Eve, just like my son and his beloved.

The original studio’s commissary, now The Astor Room, is where the wedding reception and dining took place. Guests were seated where Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, and Mary Pickford once took their meals.

The party continued downstairs at the Bamboo Lounge, where my son surprised his new wife with “As Time Goes By” from the movie Casablanca before dancing the night away.

Back home in Birmingham, my thoughts often return to the young couple, the many special moments, and the studios. I know that every New York visit will bring us all back to the Astor Room for a meal and a cocktail. After all, who can possibly resist the classic Mary Pickford cocktail? Made of Cruzan aged light rum, maraschino liquor with house-made grenadine, and fresh pineapple juice, this is the stuff dreams are made of!

Winter Tales

IMG_4510The Earth is tilted to the plane of its orbit and we no longer directly face the sun. At this time of the year I wish I could freeze moments in time. It would be hard for me to adequately describe what winter means to me. Nothing, not even the most beautiful moments during that time of the year reveal what it takes, every year, for me to simply get through it.

Thankfully Winter also meant to be reunited with my son and to be welcomed in Laura’s family for a week. It had been over six months since I last saw Idan. Never before had I been away from him–or New York City–for so long.

Stepping out of Grand Central Station and hearing people talk in different languages was the most powerful reminder of what had changed for me over the past six months.  I did return to Forest Hills to meet friends but never summoned the courage to go back to Burns Street and look at what used to be my home for so long. Home, what does it really mean? My mom always said that home is where the heart is. While I understand what she meant, it is not always as simple as that.  My heart first and foremost is where my son is–in Los Angeles. My heart is where my brothers and their families are–in Belgium. My heart is with the family in Israel.  All these places are familiar, yet none is really home for me, and neither is New York anymore.

Gary Zukav said it best: “We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.”