In the new book My City, My New York, author Jeryl Brunner asks the question: What do you like to do in New York City when you have free time? The people she asks this to include 300 of NYC’s most notable including actors, writers, chefs, directors, sports stars and moguls. Here, she gets luminaries like Mathew Broderick, Tina Fey, Fran Lebowitz, Woody Allen, and many more to tell us what their favorite haunts are and their rituals, capturing an intimate look at the city and highlighting the people that make it great. We had the chance to talk to Jeryl about the book and more.
What gave you the idea for this book?
The reasons are more or less, twofold. I love and am passionate about New York City. I dreamed of living here since I was a kid. From the time I was 15 or so, nearly every week I took the commuter train from Westchester County into Manhattan to take acting and dance classes (I always wanted to be an actress). New York offered a myriad of endless magical experiences (theater, museums, restaurants, you name it) and I wanted to devour them all! Then I went to college at New York University to study drama (and politics) and except for living in Hoboken for 5 years, I have been in Manhattan ever since. So I wanted to share my passion for New York City – but as seen through the eyes of others. And also, whenever I’m in a new locale, I love to ask people who live there, what would be your idea of a perfect day – if you could do anything, what would you do, eat, experience, etc. And the answers are not only informative; they also speak volumes about the person sharing the information. It’s really telling. So I love learning about someone based on what they tell me about how they spend their free time. You learn so much!
How long did it take you to put the book together ?
About 10 months or so. I mean, I’ve been thinking and dreaming about the book for years but from the time I got my deal until I turned it in, was about 10 months.
What person surprised you the most with his response and what was it?
I love that Mayor Bloomberg adores eating fried chicken at Viand diner on the Upper East Side. He didn’t even hesitate. He knew his favorite thing right away! I mean the guy could go to the fanciest restaurants around town, but he picked a diner! I love that! And I am so delighted that Patricia Field picked going to Pathmark as her ultimate spot! (She loves the free parking and the fact that the store has a good variety of foods.) There’s something wonderful about that! And I love that Jason Sudeikis adores doing private room karaoke (especially with Will Forte!). He says, “one of the most fun things about this kind of karaoke is that it’s not in front of a big group of people. You don’t have a long wait. You’ll sing six or seven songs in an hour and can take chances. You can take risks. You can finally sing that Broadway song that you have always wanted to sing. I did “Look Over There” from La Cage Aux Folles and really got to belt it. My friend did songs from Shrek.”
Who was the person (who you thought not accessible) that you were most surprised that gave you an answer and what was it?
I was surprised and truly thrilled that Anthony Malkin, who owns the Empire State Building agreed to participate. And he really spoke from his heart about how it feels to go up there on a Saturday night amid all the tourists and be anonymous to them. And he also gave his sweet take on the restaurant Raoul’s. (He particularly loves to eat there during a blizzard.)
I love when he says, “I really relish those things in New York which remind me of being a teenager in my early 20s and me and my wife’s early years together in New York where we were really always going for the corners. We were going for the wonder, the excitement of what is New York City. These are my moments to step away. That’s the real magic of New York – when I step out of the business mode and slide back into the wonder-of-it-all-mode.”
Are you planning a second book about New York?
It’s funny. Even though the book is complete, I’m still collecting quotes about New York whenever I can! So I hope there will be a second edition of My City, My New York so I can add all these additional quotes. And I know that I have more books in me. I’m thinking about some nonfiction essays.
As a journalist, who was your best interview and why?
Oh, that’s a tough one. Years and years ago, when Sex and the City was somewhat new and Mr. Big was not as well, big, I interviewed Chris Noth. He was such a lovely and smart person and filled with passion and ideas. It was really a joy to talk to him.
What is your favorite part of New York or favorite things to do?
I love, love, love Central Park. I can visit nearly everyday and it’s not enough. I’m in love with water so a gorgeous pond called the Pool on the north western section of the park above 96th Street is so beautiful. It feels as if you’re in one of Monet’s paintings at Giverny. And the spot even has a wooden bridge and weeping willows. It’s so peaceful. Also, the reservoir is particularly special. It offers so many riches – the soft dirt so it’s not as jarring to walk on, the gorgeousness of the water with the buildings, as a backdrop is so dramatic and interesting. Every time I visit, it’s different, unique and beautiful to me.
You live on the Upper West Side? Why?
I have been an Upper West Sider since I moved from downtown in 2002. It’s funny, since coming to the city to attend, New York University, I mostly lived downtown. I loved it, but equate that area with my youth. When I moved to the Upper West Side, it felt like some kind of rite of passage. I love the sense of neighborhood here. The close proximity to both Central Park and Riverside Park and the river. And I really treasure that at on a whim, even as late as 7 pm, I can walk out my door and be in the theater district and see a great play. And I’m the biggest theater geek ever, so that’s paradise to me! Also, everything seems to be at my fingertips!
Jeryl Brunner’s book My City, My New York is available in bookstores everywhere, but for more information, visit mycitymynewyork.com.