Cab Craze Began a 100 Years Ago
New York Post, 4 October 2007
OK, so taxi drivers are mumbling again. FYI: Our soon-to-reopen Plaza is the source of our modern-day yellow-cab mania. Back when skirts grazed ladies' ankles, passengers negotiated fares with the driver. October 1907 meter cabs were first introduced in a line outside the newly christened hotel. VIPs rode them in a publicity gambit for the opening. This week, a century later, the senior citizen Plaza's rejazzed and rejuiced - and the news is still our cabbies.
There's something about 58th and Fifth. Monday the Plaza had a pre-opening party, Tuesday an even bigger, starrier event - the Paris Theatre premiere of the Jude Law-Michael Caine thriller "Sleuth." Between gawkers and fotogs, the movie crowd would've filled whatever that new owner left of the hotel lobby.
First, the fashions: Jude Law wore black stovepipe pants, brown felt hat. No tie. Michael Caine wore a pale-blue sport jacket. No tie. Director Kenneth Branagh was in light brown. No tie. The movie's a Sony Pictures Classic. What its CEO featured besides a beard, I don't remember. I only know no tie.
This being New York, ladies displayed every shade of black. Michael Caine's wife, Shakira - black. Joan Collins - black. Bebe Neuwirth - black. There was that good-looking blonde in tight low-cut sheath working the red carpet, jutting out her varying parts for whoever pointed even a Brownie, and nobody knew whothehell she was. Photographers asked wildly, "What's her name?" One volunteered, "Kimberly something. Used to do Court TV. Ex-wife of that San Francisco mayor guy." Kimberly Guilfoyle also wore black.
No need to be a sleuth to know "Sleuth" has been around. In '70, a play. In '72, a film co-starring co-Sirs Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. Now back in a blacker, tougher version, Michael's got the older-man Olivier role, and Jude young Michael's role.
About the 1972 version Michael said: "I'd made many films already and won an Oscar before working with the greatest stage actor ever, and this being more my medium than Olivier's I wasn't as frightened being with him as I might've been.
"You know, I really remember my early days. The first money I made I spent on a bathroom. I'd been very poor, never lived anywhere with a great bathroom, so at that time a loo seemed to be all I wanted in the whole world."
Shakira: "He also bought everything to do with clothes. He's a compulsive shopper." Michael: "True. I buy everything. Anything that's made I buy. Books, records, clothes, gadgets, kitchen stuff, high-def flat TVs." Shakira (flashing diamond bangles): "Also good jewelry."
Jude Law talked family. "Before I came here I was planning a 40th wedding anniversary party for my parents, whom I adore and am very close to. But they chickened out on me. And I do understand. They live quietly in their home in France, and I see them all the time. The idea of coming to London for all the glare and hoopla and friends I'd gather for this big celebration because I adore my mother and father just seemed too much for them.
"I hope to raise my children the way they did. They were blessed to my sister and me. Let us live our lives, go our ways and loved us no matter what. I'm appreciating them even more lately because when you have children it's an evolution. And I'm still trying to learn. I mean, kids do things like throw up on you. I can't tell you how many cashmere jumpers I've had to give away."
Kenneth Branagh spoke of his new "Sleuth" version: "Mine's more macho, more testosterone-fueled. It's about sex and passion turning men from civilized individuals into cavemen. Sexual jealousy is dangerous. It creates irrationality and male-dominated crimes of violence."
So, was he ever so wildly passionately in love that he could empathize? Said Branagh: "This movie is about the older man losing to the younger man. You wonder, is domestic violence losing sight of love or is it losing possession of the woman?"
Since what I was losing was an answer to my question, I asked it again. Indicating a handsome brunette off to the side, he grinned: "My wife, Lindsay. And, yes, I do feel passionate about her."
So, enjoy the movie. Enjoy the Plaza. Enjoy the cabs. And, remember, 58th and Fifth is only in New York, kids, only in New York.