"I used to write angsty poetry here," he told me, as we gazed over the crowd at Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project's annual Spring Gala. Tonight, he'd be rapping that very same poetry alongside beat boxer extraordinaire, Chris "Shockwave" Sullivan, as part of his honorary co-chair duties. So, what does a ten-year-old Lin-Manuel Miranda rap about? The answer is slap bracelets and not Lisa Frank stickers. Ah, the early nineties. Side note: If you want to see for yourself the stylings of Shock and "Slim" Manuel Miranda (as Shock calls him), please do yourself a favor and check out this video, Silent E is a Ninja, from The Electric Company. It is highlarity.
But back to Miz Midler! This was probably my third year going to this event that is held in a part of the city that has been gorgeously transformed thanks to the efforts of Bette and NYRP.
Bette explained to me how she got involved in Ft. Tryon's transformation. "When I first came back to the city in 1995, the city was reeling. This park was a haven for drug dealers, prostitution, you name it. Whatever bad behavior there was, it was happening in this park. And when I came in, it was shocking. You could see the bones of it were so gorgeous. But it had fallen into such a state of disrepair it was really heartbreaking. [It's undergone] a glorious incarnation…it's the first park we ever cleaned."
So Bette got all her friends up to Ft. Tryon to check out first hand the fabulous work the New York Restoration Project has done cleaning up the place. Friends included Martha Stewart, Tim Gunn, Judy Gold and rapper 50 Cent. "He is such a star," Bette told me. "He is a big fat star. He's fantastic." Mama Rose, anyone?
So, can we expect a 50 Cent/Bette Midler record any time soon? "I would love to…but, you know I'm 40 years older than him! I can sing the background." All in all, NYRP raised over $850K last night, which will be put to good use. "We've cleaned up a bit of New York City. We're still working at it!"
If you want to get involved with NYRP, check out their site www.nyrp.org. They really are doing wonderful work to beautify the city. Oh…and you really should check out Ft. Tryon on a sunny Saturday. It's truly beautiful. They have a great little restaurant in the park as well called New Leaf where they have jazz performances at night and really yummy grub. So. . . just follow Duke Ellington and . . . "Take the A Train" …. to 190th.
Blake Ross is the editor of Playbill Magazine.