December 30, 2004
New Year's Eve in Times Square: Hell on Earth?
The throngs of tourists that have spent the last week clogging midtown, standing in line to get into the American Girl Store or to look at the damn tree in Rockefeller Center, and all shoving to get through a single set of subway doors at the 49th Street station (it's a long train with many doors, people!) are getting ready to converge on what might be the most anxiety-provoking place in the universe at midnight on New Year's Eve: Times Square. Get ready for a night of repeated frisking!
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the traditional Times Square overcrowding, the Post published a list of 100 interesting facts about the history of the event. A few notable ones:
1. Before Times Square, New Yorkers rang in the new year at Trinity Church by shaking tin cans with bricks inside them.
3. Until 1995, the ball was lowered manually, by six men and a guy with a stopwatch.
18. In 1943 and '44, there was no ball, for fear it could prompt an enemy strike.
21. The ball wasn't always a ball. For five years in the '80s — the height of the "I love NY" campaign — it was an apple.
22. It was the same ball — with a green stem pasted on the top. It turned back into a ball in 1987. [Remember, NY in the 1980's wasn't doing so hot]
24. The actual symbol of a ball dropping to signal the passage of time dates back to 1833 when a time-ball was installed atop England's Royal Observatory at Greenwich.
31. In the late '90s, someone suggested the crowd dance to "YMCA" to entertain themselves. Police said no. [Too bad--this might have been the biggest collectively gay moment in our nation's history]
32. In the 1990s, various corporate logos were suggested in place of the ball.
33. They included a giant Bayer Aspirin bottle and a Pepsi can. [This year's suggestions include a White Castle slider, Tara Reid's breast implants, and Al Goldstein.]
43. Public drinking was prohibited at the celebration after Mayor Giuliani took office.
44. New Year's cleanups got easier after that.
47. In 1996, the first guest invited to flip the switch was Oseola McCarty, a poor, Mississippi laundress who donated her entire life savings — $150,000 — to a scholarship fund.
59. In 1980, the ball went dark from 11:58 to 11:59 p.m., to honor hostages in Iran.
60. This year, more than 2,000 pounds of multicolored, fire-proof confetti will drop from six rooftops.
61. Confetti Master Treb Heining supervises six volunteers to drop it. [Treb Heining might have the best job title ever]
65. This year's special guest: Secretary of State Colin Powell. [Powell, as Low Culture points out, already has some experience with dropping the ball]
72. Ten to 15 minutes after the ball drops, 38 sanitation workers start picking up every drop of confetti.
74. Viewership of the televised event seems to increase during times of crisis.
84. The crowd at that first post-9/11 New Year's Eve was the most polite ever.
85. The most raucous revelers were in the early '70s. [A few anecdotes related to these revelers would have made for a much more interesting list, Post writers]
94. Recent celebrations generated about 57 tons of litter per night.
And a few observations of our own:
1. If you are in the midtown area and want to escape before the real craziness starts, get on the subway before 4 pm, or you'll never get out of there.
2. Warmer weather means more drunk people out on the street longer. This year, New Year's Eve is expected to be a very mild night. Expect a lot of puke mixed in with the confetti, sanitation workers.
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