“As we cross the crowded, filthy, immigrant street, now black and Puerto Rican instead of Jewish and Italian, she marvels at how changed it all is. I tell her nothing has changed, only the color of the people and the language spoken. The hungry, angling busy-ness of Delancey Street is all still in place.” — Vivian Gornick
January 21 was declared Squirrel Appreciation Day in 2001 by North Carolina wildlife rehabilitator Christy Hargrove, who says celebration can take any form from leaving out extra food for squirrels to learning something new about the species. In the green spaces of New York City, squirrels live so close to their human neighbors that they tend to be very friendly and entertaining. Especially in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, locals and tourists alike can enjoy an almost interactive experience with squirrels climbing fences and benches right in front of them. So enjoy the day and, says a popular Pixar movie says, “Squirrel!!!”
On January 20, 2003, legendary cartoonist Al Hirschfeld died at his Upper East Side home. One of the most important figures in contemporary drawing and caricature, Hirschfeld was most famous for his black-and-white line drawings of Broadway performers and productions. After the birth of his daughter Nina, Hirschfeld took to including her name hidden within the line of his drawings. Fans of his work made a hobby of looking for “the Ninas” in every caricature they could find. So intrinsic the theatrical culture was his work, that the theatre that once bore the name of the great vaudeville impresario Martin Beck was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theatre almost immediately after the artist’s death at the age of 99.
On January 18, 1868, steamship entrepreneur Thomas Henry Ismay purchased the White Star Line. Believing iron-hulled steamships were the future of maritime travel, and leaving the old wooden ships of the past behind, Ismay founded the Oceanic Steamship Navigation Company and bought the White Star flag shortly afterward. His son J. Bruce Ismay was a surviving passenger on the line’s most infamous voyage, that of the RMS Titanic.
On January 17, 1968, The Indian Wants the Bronx by Israel Horovitz, opened at the Astor Place Theatre. Starring Al Pacino in his Off-Broadway debut and John Cazale (who would go on to collaborate with Pacino another five times), the one-act play ran 177 performances. Both stars won Obie Awards, for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively, and Horovitz won Best Play, effectively launching the performing arts careers of all three men.
On January 14, 1993, former NBC comedian David Letterman announced his move to CBS in the wake of Johnny Carson’s retirement from The Tonight Show. Passed over for Carson’s seat in favor of Jay Leno, Letterman departed from CBS and from Los Angeles and came to the historic Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York to produce a show that would air opposite his historic rival. The Late Show with David Letterman premiered the following August and the star would proceed to be a dominating presence in late night television until his retirement in 2014.