07 June 2006

Dubai Is Good for Something!

Dubai, the nuttiest money-choked Arab nation of them all (Man-made archipelago? Sure! Underwater hotel? Why not? Home to Michael Jackson? You bet!) has finally done something that makes the world a better place.

The New York Times reports that the royal emirate has purchased the old Knickerbocker Hotel, one of the last architectural gems left from old Times Square. (Actually, one of only two survivors, not counting the landmarked theatres. The other is the Paramount building.) It plans to return the 16-story Beaux-Arts building, which is right smack dab ON Times Square at 42nd and Broadway, to its hotel origins.
If they succeed, the Knickerbocker will easily become the most beautiful place to lodge in Times Square. It's terra cotta and limestone facade and mansard roof have always been a balm to the eye. And the place's short history as a hotel (1906 to 1921) is toothsome. George M. Cohan hung out there. So did Caruso, who would stand on the balcony of this room and treat the crowds to impromptu recitals. Maxfield Parrish's 30-foot-long painting, "Old King Cole," hung in the bar. It's now at the St. Regis (will Dubai want it back?), which is fitting, since the firm of Trowbridge & Livingston designed both hotels. Other art adorning the place included sculptor Frederick MacMonnies' two electrified fountains, Charles Finn's "Masque of Flowers" in the Flower Room, and, in the Knickerbocker's cafe featured, a mural by western chronicler Frederic Remington "The United States Cavalry Charge." Also, some say the Martini was invented there. But people are always claiming shit like that.

Let's hope Dubai's plan comes to pass. Hey, it's better than financing terrorists or trying to take over our ports.

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