On Set in the Village

Last week we took a look at some of the many Village locations used on the television series Friends. Not content to stop there, however, today we are going to showcase more locales in and around the Village which were supposedly the scene of several popular TV shows.

Let’s start with Will & Grace.  Where was Grace Adler Designs located?  Why, in the Puck Building of course.

L: the shot of the Puck Building's gilded statues often used on Will & Grace; R: the Puck Building

This large, regal structure, which sits on the block bounded by East Houston, Lafayette, Mulberry, and Jersey Streets,  was built in two parts, the north section in 1885 and the south addition in 1892.  In 1983 it was declared an official NYC Landmark and, thanks to the Neighborhood Preservation Center, you can read that designation here.  Designed in a German Romanesque Revival style (technically known as Rundbogenstil) by Albert Wagner, the Puck building originally housed  the printing facility of J. Ottmann Lithographing Company.  Today, the space contains two large ballrooms on the ground floor, three floors that are owned by NYU, and a very controversial soon-to-be penthouse (read more about the Puck Building’s six degrees of separation from a popular TV sitcom HERE).

But enough history, let’s take a look at the Puck Building according to Grace Adler….

Karen & Jack in the "Puck Building" office of Grace Adler Design

Don’t expect to bump into Karen Walker in the Puck Building, though.  The show was shot entirely on set in Hollywood, as was our next series- Mad About You.  This show and its location actually won a GVSHP Village Award in 1995.  Paul & Jamie’s apartment building was shown as 51 5th Avenue.

51 5th Avenue, the building that was supposed to serve as home to Paul & Jamie Buchman; the Salmagundi Club is to the right.

From the 1995 presentation of the GVSHP Annual Award: “In its portrayal of an appealing, witty Greenwich Village couple, the show characterizes our community in a positive way.  The opening shot of 51 Fifth Avenue, where Paul Reiser’s and Helen Hunt’s characters live, includes a view of the historic Salmagundi Club where GVSHP’s offices are located” (GVSHP moved from the Salmagundi Club to our current home in the Neighborhood Preservation Center in 1999).

Somewhat unusually, the portrayal of apartment spaces in the building was surprisingly accurate — a rarity for TV shows set in uber-cramped New York City — as you can see from the below comparisons.

L: Paul & Jamie's living room; R: actual living room at 51 5th Avenue

L: Paul & Jamie's bathroom: R: actual bathroom at 51 5th Avenue

L: Paul & Jamie's kitchen; R: actual kitchen at 51 5th Avenue

L: Paul & Jamie's bedroom; R: actual bedroom in 51 5th Avenue

In a further surprising case of TV art actually reflecting life, in an early episode of Mad About You the Buchmans end up trapped in their apartment on a Sunday when they discover the Gay Pride Parade is going past their building, making the surrounding streets impassable (the annual parade does in fact go down Fifth Avenue past #51, and as anyone who has ever been here can attest, the throngs of people — to say nothing of the parade contingents and floats — do in fact make the streets rather challenging to navigate).  Though the apartment shots and setting were accurate, was it accurate that a documentary film maker (Paul) and a PR specialist (Jamie) could have afforded such a large space on lower 5th Avenue?  We’ll leave that one up to you.

Next, we go to a show to which Mad About You was often compared – Seinfeld.  Most of the portrayals (this one also was shot in CA) took place uptown, but there were still a good amount of below-14th Street references.  As described in one of our earlier posts, the corner of 1st Street & 1st Avenue was where Kramer got lost and declared, “I’m at the corner of 1st and 1st, how can the same street intersect with itself? I must be at the nexus of the universe.”  According to many blogs out there, Elaine’s apartment building in later seasons was known to be 17 East 7th Street, right next to McSorley’s.  The New York Health and Racquet Club at 24 East 13th Street was where Elaine starting dating John F. Kennedy Jr., Jerry met Sidra (played by Terri Hatcher),  who tells Jerry in a memorable farewell that her un-augmented body was “real and spectacular,” and Kramer believes he spots an incognito Salman Rushdie in the sauna.

L: 17 East 7th Street; R: New York Health & Racquet Club at 24 East 13th Street

Now, we know you’ve all been wondering to yourselves, “What about Mad Men??”  Fear not, we have you covered.  One of the first downtown references in the show was right at the beginning when Midge’s friend Roy invites she and Don to a poetry reading and music show at the Gaslight in Greenwich Village.  This club was a real place located at 116 MacDougal Street, made famous by regulars like Bob Dylan and Allan Ginsberg.  It opened in 1958 and closed in 1971.

L: Mike Wallace interviews Jack Kerouac at the Gaslight Cafe – 1960 (image courtesy of Racon Tours); R: the Mad Men crew in their Hollywood version of the Gaslight

In the premiere episode of season 4, Don Draper’s address was revealed as 104 Waverly Place, Apartment 3R.  As New York Magazine discovered, though, this address does not exist: “There is a 106 Waverly Place, but after that, where 104 would be, there’s just a service entrance to 29 Washington Square West and the office of Dr. Anthony Starpoli, gastroenterologist.”

L: the check signed by Don Draper that revealed his address; R: the building on the right is 106 Waverly Place....the open alley to the left of 106 is where 104 would have been

So, there you have it, you’ll never watch TV the same again!  Still left wondering about all those Sex and the City locations?  Don’t worry, that’s coming next.


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