The 1977 Blackout: Part 2

On July 12, 2012 by Will Hermes

Tomorrow is the 35th anniversary of the 1977 NYC blackout. I write about it in Love Goes To Buildings On Fire. Here’s another excerpt.

The newspapers, which had gone to press with their Thursday morning editions, scurried to pull together supplements. The New York Times dug out some old propane lamps left over from the ’65 blackout and sent runners over to the Holy Cross Rectory on West 42nd to scare up candles; as the newsroom still had plenty of manual typewriters, editors and writers kept right on typing. Outside the Daily News building on 42nd Street, a film crew was shooting Superman with diesel generators; after some pleading, the News borrowed some lights from them and ran wires up to their seventh-floor editorial offices.

Up on 77th Street and Lexington Avenue, power mysteriously returned to music writer Paul Nelson’s apartment and other buildings on his block after just a few hours. He and Lester Bangs, who had hiked uptown, listened to new The Sex Pistols’ single “Anarchy In The U.K,” over and over. Then they went up to the roof and watched the buildings burn uptown and across the river.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had been at the Record Plant on 44th Street when the power went out. They muttered curses, but were relieved to have the night off. Springsteen and Jon Landau left the studio and walked, the city lights extinguished around them. They barely noticed: they were deep in conversation about the record that was now, finally, after all the post-Born To Run legal wrangling, getting made.

Down the block from Record Plant, at Sardi’s, David Murray had been eating dinner with Ntozake Shange—his new wife—and some friends. Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, an experimental poetry-theater piece that premiered at Studio Rivbea and remarkably wound up being produced at the Booth Theater, had been nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play this year, though it lost to Michael Cristofer’s The Shadow Box. Still, the couple was on top of the world. They’d had met last year, fallen in love, and were married on July 7 – 7/7/77 – in Berkeley, California, Murray’s home turf. Back in New York, dining in the restaurant where Brock Pemberton had conceived the Tonys back in 1946 in tribute to his late wife, Antoinette, they were getting ready to leave for a honeymoon in Hawaii. The couple made their way through the dark, left the restaurant and wandered downtown, sated.

Meredith Monk had been watching Annie Hall at a midtown theater with a friend when the film sputtered to a halt. They headed back towards her loft in Tribeca. Elsewhere downtown, Voidoids guitarist Robert Quine, dominatrix Anya Phillips and Lou Reed’s future wife Sylvia Morales played Monopoly by candlelight.

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