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!

Cell Phone Addiction—Time to Let It Go!

Cell phone on bikeIt never ceases to amaze me how we seem compelled to check our cell phones constantly. We rarely are truly unplugged and have become addicted to a constant buzz of information that often distracts us to a point that we are oblivious to our surroundings.

I love to bike to work and always worry about the traffic, drunk or texting drivers, and, lately, Pokémon Go players. I wonder if drivers realize that when they are checking their phones while driving they are playing some sort of Russian Roulette. It is no secret that texting and talking while driving, or checking social media while behind the wheel, has started to cost lives. The only biker I caught checking in with his mobile device at least did it while stationary—but in the middle of the pedestrian walkway!

Hot phoneWhen did constant access to mobile communication become necessary or even desirable? The stress of multitasking, working on weekends, evenings, and on lunch breaks, is, of course, furthering all this.

I am by no means perfect. I rarely leave my home without my cell phone and am guilty of taking pictures, checking my mail, scrolling Facebook and other social media far more often than I would like. I have even managed to overheat the device! Yet, it would never occur to me to do so while driving. I am bewildered at how many people put their phones on a restaurant table. Even couples, obviously on a date, are on their phones instead of talking to each other. Why would I ignore someone’s company so that I can check in with other people who may not even be real-life friends? It just seems wrong.

Guests on cell phones at MKThe usage of mobile devices is a real nuisance at concerts and movie theaters. Can we no longer watch a movie without checking our mail? Why are you watching a concert through the screen of a tablet—and at the same time obstructing my view? The theme parks are no exception. Guests are spending a disproportionate amount of time on their mobile devices.

To be present and in the moment is so important. I recently discussed cell phone wedding etiquette with my son and future daughter-in-law. They decided that during the ceremony only an official photographer will be allowed to take pictures, and that we will, like at the movies, ask guests to turn off their mobile devices. Here is to hoping that nobody will try to catch a Pokémon at the wedding.