Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

Gray’s Papaya

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 I know I have blogged about this location briefly once before in my You’ve Got Filming Locations page, but I think this is one location that is worthy of its very own blog post.  So here goes.  🙂  I have long been a fan of Gray’s Papaya, a small hot dog stand/restaurant chain that was started in 1973 on New York’s Upper West Side.  Today, 36 years later, it is practically a New York institution.  Gray’s serves up the BEST darn hot dogs I have ever eaten in my life.  I honestly don’t know what they put in there that makes ’em taste so darn good, but I sure want them to keep doing it!  Every year, during my December New York vacation, I gain a few pounds in my stomach region thanks to Gray’s and its fabulous hot dogs.  So I was super excited, while watching Sex and the City  reruns this past week, to see Gray’s pop up in a Season 5 episode entitled “Plus One is the Loneliest Number”.

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That episode centers around the launch party for Carrie’s newly published book – a party for which she has no date.  When she leaves the celebration all alone, her limo driver happens to ask her what the party was for.  When Carrie tells her that she has just published a book, the driver says that they have to celebrate the occasion and the two stop off at Gray’s Papaya for a midnight snack.  And, after hearing about Carrie’s new book, the Gray’s worker gives them the hot dogs for free.  This scene was actually based on the real life experience of SATC  write Cindy Chupack.  According to fave book Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell, after winning her first Emmy, dateless Cindy left the post-Emmy party alone and was headed home when the limo driver asked her about her night.  When the driver found out Cindy had just won an Emmy, she immediately headed to a McDonald’s drive-through to commemorate the occasion.  After the driver announced that Cindy had just won the award, the McDonald’s worker gave her a free chocolate shake.  🙂  For the SATC  episode, producers decided to use Gray’s Papaya instead of McDonald’s because SJP has always been a big fan of the hot dog chain.  🙂

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Gray’s was also featured quite notably near the end of You’ve Got Mail, as the location where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks eat lunch just before Meg heads off to meet NY152 for the first time (pictured above). 

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Besides You’ve Got Mail and Sex and the City, Grey’s also showed up in one of my very favorite movies, For Love or Money (pictured above).  It was also featured in Down to Earth, Crossing Delancy, and (very briefly) Die Hard With A Vengeance.

Nicholas A.B. Gray opened up the first Gray’s Papaya in 1973 with the belief that a good hot dog didn’t have to be costly.   Thirty-six years later Gray’s is still serving up excellent dogs at low prices, even if they’ve had to raise those prices a few times over the years.  In October of 2008, due to increased business expenses, Gray’s raised the cost of its ever-popular Recession Special (two hot dogs and a drink) from $3.50 to $4.45.  Still not bad for what is easily the best hot dog in New York.  I highly recommend stalking Gray’s – your pocketbook won’t mind at all.  Your pants’ size might, but not your pocketbook.  🙂

Until next time, Happy Stalking! 🙂

Stalk It: The main Gray’s Papaya – the one that was featured in all of the above productions –  is located at 2090 Broadway Street on New York’s Upper West Side.  There are also two other Gray’s locations in Manhattan.   One is located at 402 6th Avenue and the other can be found at 539 8th Avenue.  All Gray’s restaurants are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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The You’ve Got Mail Brownstone

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A few years ago, while in New York, I dragged my boyfriend out to stalk many of the filming locations from fave romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail.  I had managed to find almost all of the locations except for the most important one – Meg Ryan’s Upper West Side brownstone from the film.  For some reason this location was a tough one for me to find and, unbelievably, I wound up locating it about two days after I returned from last year’s New York vacation.  😦  Talk about bad timing!!!

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Upon my return from New York last December, I popped in my You’ve Got Mail  DVD – which happens to be another known cure for New York homesickness, second only to watching Sex And The City reruns.  🙂  Anyway, in one of the final scenes of the movie, as Kathleen Kelly leaves her house and walks toward the 91st Street Garden to meet NY152 for the first time, she walks past a garbage can with ” W 89″ painted on the lid.  Eureka!!  That little stalking clue led me to search West 89th Street on Google Maps and I quickly found the brownstone used in the film.  On an ironic side note, a guy named Jonathan recently posted a comment on my You’ve Got Mail post alerting me to the garbage can clue.  I guess great minds think alike.  🙂

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So two weeks ago, I was able to finally stalk Kathleen Kelly’s adorable brownstone.  And I am happy to say that it looks almost exactly the same today as it did ten years ago when filming took place.  There are, of course, a few differences, though.  Most notable is the gold intercom that Tom Hanks uses to talk himself into Kathleen’s home in the film.  In real life that intercom does not exist.  Most likely it was just a prop that was added for filming and then removed when production ended.  The brownstone’s front doors are also slightly different from how they appeared onscreen and, again, I believe set decorators brought in new doors for the filming that were subsequently removed.  Aside from that, though, You’ve Got Mail  fans will definitely recognize the brownstone as Kathleen Kelly’s.

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I can’t tell you how excited I was to finally be stalking this location – especially since I had been searching for it for years!  For any You’ve Got Mail  fans this one is a definite must see and I highly recommend stalking it!  🙂

Until next time, Happy Stalking!  🙂

Stalk It: The You’ve Got Mail brownstone is located at 328 West 89th Street on New York’s Upper West Side.

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The Millennium Biltmore Hotel

One of my favorite places to visit in all of LA is the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, located in Downtown Los Angeles.  The hotel is also a favorite of film producers and it has been used in more productions than I can blog about.  The hotel was built in 1923 and at the time was simply called The Biltmore.  The building is absolutely gorgeous inside and out and definitely looks like it came out of a different era.  Besides being a popular filming location, the hotel has played host to the Academy Awards on eight separate occasions between the years of 1931 and 1942.   The hallway on the way to the hotel pool has many framed photographs of old time Hollywood celebrities who stayed at the Biltmore.

Movie buffs will probably most easily recognize the Biltmore from the first Beverly Hills Cop  movie where it was used as the hotel where Eddie Murphy sets up camp during his stay in Beverly Hills.  Molly Ringwald’s prom from Pretty in Pink  was held in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom, a room which was also used in Rocky III, The Sting, Ghostbusters, Alien Nation  and The Fabulous Baker Boys.  The Biltmore’s indoor art deco style pool was the pool where Ryan Phillipe and Reese Witherspoon take a midnight dip in the movie Cruel Intentions.  The pool was also used in Bugsy  and The Fan.

The movie Bachelor Party  also filmed extensively at the Biltmore where it was used as the location of Tom Hanks’ wild bachelor party.  And yes, they really did put a live donkey in the hotel’s elevator during the filming!   Both Bachelor Party  and Beverly Hills Cop  were filmed in the Biltmore’s former lobby.  Currently that room is a part of the hotel’s Smeraldi’s restaurant and is used for high tea and dinner.  Today, the lobby is located in the hotel’s former Music Room, which was used in 1960 by JFK as the location of his official campaign headquarters.  The Music Room’s ornate glass and wrought-iron ceiling (pictured below next to the “Stalk It” paragraph) was the model for the dining room ceiling of the ship in The Poseidon Adventure.

Alfred Hitchcock used the Biltmore’s 11 story high back staircase for the vertigo sequences in his 1958 movie of the same name.  Hang over the ledge of the staircase on the 11th floor and you might catch a bit of vertigo yourself!  In all, over 300 productions have been filmed at the hotel, including Species, The Nutty Professor, Independence Day, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, True Lies, The American President, In the Line of Fire, Mother, and the short lived TV show Vanished.   Britney Spear’s Overprotected video was filmed in a large hallway just off the lobby of the hotel.  You can watch that video here.  Once you’ve visited the Biltmore, you will recognize it popping up all over the big and small screens. 

The Gallery Bar is one of my favorite spots at the Biltmore.  It is dark and quiet and definitely evokes an aura of Old Time Hollywood.  The Bar was most recently used in National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets  as the location of Abigal’s date at the beginning of the movie.  But the Gallery Bar’s main claim to fame is its signature drink – the Black Dhalia Martini, named for one of LA’s most famous unsolved murder cases.  Actress Elizabeth Short, whose nickname was the Black Dhalia, walked out the Biltmore Hotel doors on January 9, 1947 at approximately 6:30pm.  She was never seen again.  Her mutilated body was found six days later in an abandoned field.  The last person to ever see the Black Dhalia alive was the Biltmore doorman who tipped his hat to her as she walked south down Olive Avenue.  Although garnering widespread media attention and public fascination that exists even to this day, the case has yet to be solved.

The last time I stayed at the Biltmore, there were FIVE separate productions being filmed in and around the hotel – a car commercial, a fitness water commercial, the TV shows Alias and Standoff, and the pilot episode of Capitol Law  with Joshua Jackson.  I was especially excited to see Josh because Pacey was always my favorite Dawson’s Creek  character.  I so heart Josh!  The grainy photo to the left is one I snapped of him during filming.  🙂 

Until next time, Happy Stalking!

Stalk It: The Millennium Biltmore Hotel is located in Downtown Los Angeles at 506 South Grand Avenue.  I highly recommend staying there if you find yourself in the LA area.  The rooms are exquisite and extremely reasonable.  Be sure to ask the hotel’s concierge about the Biltmore’s filming history – they usually have some great stories to share and they will also give you a print out of every single production ever filmed at the hotel.

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