Touring NBC Studios

The NBC studio tour had been booked for 11 am this morning 1st January; the studio is part of the Rockefeller Centre, a centre that first opened in 1932. The Rockefeller Centre is huge and that’s an understatement.  It between 48th and 51st Streets and comprises of 19 buildings, as well as NBC studios, it includes a skating rink and Radio City Music Hall. It also has an amazing viewing deck on the 70th floor….not to be missed if you happen to be in New York.  A mini city within a city full of eye-popping architecture and “in your face” bill boards.

Earlier this morning we moved from our hotel in Times Square to the Beacon Inn on the Upper West Side and, so far, we had managed to stick to our schedule.  This hotel was next to the Beacon Theatre in a residential area with a supermarket, delicatessens and other interesting shops around it. The taxi fare from Times Square to the Upper West side was the princely sum of $7 plus tip, of course!!!   Starbucks was on the next corner which meant a stop at Starbucks for a warming coffee to start the day became mandatory. Although we had been introduced to mochas since arriving in New York, and the mocha was much more conducive to this weather….hmmm, I think we’ll blame Troy for this.

The subway, 72nd St, was a 5 minute stroll away.  Starbucks would be the first stop before the subway.  Coffee ingested now we start the short walk to the subway.  We had to walk past our hotel and at the very moment we were passing the door Troy said “i didn’t put a jumper on and I’m freezing so I’m just going to go upstairs and put one on”.  “How could you forget to put a jumper on?’ I asked as Maryanne shook her head and laughed. I know our rooms are really warm but it’s not easy to forget the chill in the air.  it’s bone aching cold at times..  We all stepped into the foyer of the hotel as Troy headed for the lifts. We’re still standing around 5 minutes later waiting, waiting, Ty stepped outside to get some air because the heat inside was stifling. Another 5 minutes passed……”is he knitting that jumper?'” I mused.  Ty offered to go and find him, “oh no you don’t, you best stay here otherwise you’ll go up in one lift and he’ll walk out of the other lift then we’ll be waiting for you”. By this time we had been waiting more than 15 minutes.  What can that man be doing??

Whilst waiting we discussed the rather large rat standing on the footpath, swaying back and forth, towering over the hotel. “Goodness, where did that come from and why is it there?” I asked Ty, as if he should know everything that goes on in New York.  He didn’t have a clue at all but we concluded it must have something to do with the hotel and not in a good way.  We were still musing over it as I instructed Ty to stand in front of this giant blow up rat so I could take his photo…..yes, it’s the dreaded photo shoot……and wouldn’t you if you were confronted with a giant rat outside your hotel? Of course you would!!!!  IMG_4953

After taking the photos  we turned our attention to the doorman, he must know what this rat symbolizes….and he did.  Doormen know everything!!  They need to know what’s going on so they’re able to answer all the crazy questions guests come up with.  He explained, in a very polite manner, and as we had suspected, this was not a good rat, it wasn’t there because rats had been caught on the premises, well, at least not the furry four legged variety.  The hotel was having some building work carried out and the contractor had a couple of workmen that weren’t in the union so work had stopped whilst the union was in negotiation with the contractor and the non-unionist workers.  So the rat stayed, hovering over the hotel entrance like a giant gargoyle, until the dispute was resolved.

Suddenly Troy appeared in front of us, out of breath.  “Why are you puffing, did you walk down the stairs instead of taking the lift? “No” he said between bouts of catching his breath “I’ve just rushed down to the subway and back”. I started to laugh saying “Why did you do that, didn’t you see us standing here in the foyer?” “We wouldn’t go to the subway without you, silly person you”. Had to add “i can’t believe you rushed past us and also, Ty had been standing outside”.   How funny but at this moment Troy wasn’t amused because not only had he rushed to the subway, he actually went through the barriers and to the platform looking for us!!!! It had cost him $2.25 and that was his last fare on his travel card.  We all laughed harder at that revelation because Troy wouldn’t top up his card with too much money which meant his balance was teetering on zero after only 2 or 3 subway rides. So to waste $2.25 was a disaster for him.  Troy was good value on this trip, he gave us lots of fun moments, perhaps not according to him but certainly for us.  On this occasion he didn’t disappoint, he was Mr Grumblebum again, but with a smile on his face.  He could see the humour in what he’d done – he was our comedy relief!!!!

More about the subway ticket, now I’ve mentioned it. We were in New York for 6 days so it made sense to purchase the subway ticket for more than 3 or 4 trips.  You could put as much as you wanted on the ticket so Ty put $20 to see how far that would take us. The cost of a one way trip was $2.25 and the ticket could be topped up at an automatic ticket machine or at the ticket window.  There were also a couple of machines that gave the balance of the ticket before you went through the barriers, needless to say Troy gave these a workout. Hmmm, was Troy trying to tell us in a subtle way that he didn’t like travelling on the subway?  No, I think he was just being careful with his money!! The subway is the best way to get around New York, and so easy.  We didn’t travel in peak times so perhaps if we had we might have felt differently about it.

After Troy topped up his ticket again we took the subway to Times Square and strode off in the direction of the Rockefeller Centre.  Not hard to find the entrance for NBC, there is a large awning overhanging the footpath.  We were ushered to an area near the NBC gift shop and were told to step inside the roped area.  “We would need to wait here in our line for 15 minutes” the usher informed us. We dutifully did that.

Eleven am on the dot the rope was moved and we were met by our guide.  After the usual pleasantries our guide instructed us to “Please follow me quietly, this is a working studio and many of the studios we will pass are on air”.  We’re embarking on our NBC studio backstage and behind the scenes tour. We walked down thin corridors with frames of celebrities along the walls, were taken into studios where the guide would point out why a desk might be situated in such a way or what the newsreaders preference might be for the lighting in his studio.  It was very interesting to see newsreaders at work, although I have to admit I didn’t recognise them or know many of the names. We saw several people in a small meeting room and we did recognise 2 of them – their names? Yes, well, we’ll come back to that! Some studios are actually purchased by celebrities such as David Letterman.  Dr Oz (The Dr Oz Show) had purchased one of David Letterman’s studios and had fitted it out to suit his lifestyle show.

The final part of the tour saw us in a small studio where we had our photos taken at the news desk; the four of us look like startled rabbits so you won’t be seeing that pic!!  One of the people in our tour group was chosen to be the newsreader and another was chosen to ad lib the weather in front of a green screen.  We saw costumes, props, auto cue and the control rooms.

Next stop after the NBC tour was the Top of the Rock.  After passing the first checkpoint and having our tickets checked we rounded the corner and there were the conveyor belts, scanners and security staff.  Passing through security is now just expected whenever you enter many of the buildings or theme parks in the US.  I know it’s for everyone’s safety but at times it is a little tedious. That over with we were ushered down another corridor to a lift.  Not being terribly fond of lifts this was a little more daunting for me than others…….it had a see-through roof so as you looked up you could see the sides of the building and the sky as it travelled through the narrow brick channel to the 70th floor.  It also had the words top of the rock and flashing lights popping up intermittently as we sped ever closer to the grey wintry skies of New York.   I hope this thing stops when it’s supposed to. Stepping out of the lift and onto the 70th floor the views were spectacular.  The wind was freezing and the sky showed no hint of blue and a slight mist hanging around but New York City from 70 floors up was still something very special.  There were several other platforms above the 70th floor but we only stepped up one more as the wind was very strong and, if you think the wind chill is bitter at ground level, it was frostbite material up here. Step down to the main viewing area rather than venturing another level was sensible. From Top of the Rock we could see the Empire State Building standing stately amongst the other skyscrapers and we could even see the Statue of Liberty away in the distance. 

If you thought Central Park was large from ground level you should see it from 70 floors up – it’s a massive piece of real estate, I mean, park. The city  formed around the park  because, we were told, the area that is now Central Park, was an area unsuitable for building on due to rocky outcrops and swamp land. The park covers over 800 square metres and some inclusions are football field, lakes, music bowl, roadways, bike paths, bridges, subways, and so much more.  From Top of the Rock you see it in full….

2013 has started off the way we aim to continue the year, having a few laughs with good friends and exploring new places.