Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dancing The Night Away at Forest Hills Stadium's FOLD Fest!

Nile Rodgers with CHIC at FOLD, Photo by Michael Perlman

 Dancing The Night Away at Forest Hills Stadium's FOLD Fest!

by Michael Perlman

It was history-in-the-making, as Grammy award-winning songwriter, producer, and guitarist Nile Rodgers coordinated and presented the “Freak Out Let’s Dance” (FOLD) Festival at Forest Hills Stadium on October 8. It was the penultimate concert of the 2016 season, which turned America’s earliest tennis stadium and a restored and renovated concert venue into a 5-hour outdoor disco party. 

The heavens must have shed tears of joy, as citywide concertgoers and out-of-towners danced and sang, refusing to allow intense downpours to place a damper on their plans. It was largely a celebration of the soul of the 1970s and 1980s, followed by a few more recent hits. Decades have passed, but the vocals were very much in tune and complemented by rich instrumentation.

The prediction of concert manager Jon McMillan, who said that the evening would be “the party of the year,” came true. He explained, “We’re used to having one legend on stage at a time, but in this case, we're ecstatic to have four on one night.”

Nile Rodgers at FOLD, Photo by Michael Perlman
The lineup featured Nile Rodgers & CHIC, the band which he co-founded in the 1970s, with showstoppers such as “Le Freak,” “Everybody Dance,” and “Dance, Dance, Dance.” 

Bette Midler in the moment, Photo by Michael Perlman
Bette Midler, a special guest, performed with Nile Rodgers. Her set included her classics such as “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and marked her return engagement following her August 1983 concert. Midler said, “This is only the second time I’ve ever been to Forest Hills. It is so gorgeous and glamorous up here.” She exchanged witty banter with the audience and said, “When Nile invited me, I was confused and knew it was going to be ‘Ahh… Freak Out,’ and he looked at me. I was going to break out my platform shoes from the old days, but I realized I’d fall from that height and end my life.” 

Village People, Photo by Michael Perlman
The high energy, elaborately costumed 6-member Village People’s performed their most memorable number “YMCA,” “In The Navy,” and “Macho Man.” 

Earth, Wind & Fire, Photo by Michael Perlman
Earth, Wind, & Fire energized the stage with a multiplicity of genres with hits such as “Shining Star,” “Let’s Groove,” and “Fantasy.” The festival also featured Alex Newell, Studio 54’s DJ Nicky Siano, a most successful DJ of his time, and the iconic DJ Cassidy, who mastered works in front of a 24 karat gold mic and ornate table. 

DJ Cassidy, Photo by Michael Perlman
Alex Newell, Photo by Michael Perlman
Among the crowning moments was “We Are Family,” where Nile Rodgers was joined by the multitude of musicians and numerous dancers. This topped off his vision for the festival, where he explained his goal as “to demonstrate the evolution of dance music as defined by his own life and the spirit of collaboration.” He called FOLD “a fun, open, and wonderful experience with real people and real music.”

Miri Malach flew in from Boca Raton. As part of her VIP package, she met Rodgers. “I enjoyed getting a minute alone with Nile, who is friendly, affable, and warm, and I had a photo-op.” She continued, “The Village People instructed us on the proper way to do the ‘YMCA’ at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. Bette Midler has been one of my favorite stars for decades, and I was thrilled to finally see her.”

Bette Midler, Photo by Michael Perlman
For New Jersey resident Sandy Goldbeck King, the festival sparked a recollection of Midler’s 1983 concert. “The incomparable Bette Midler is fun and energetic, but also moving. I have distinct memories of when her backup singers, the Harlettes were dressed as mermaids.” 

A concert ticket from 1983
The most memorable moments for some attendees related to music’s impact and the diversity of genres. Forest Hills resident Evan Ginzburg, who regularly features varied genres on his Net TV show, “Evan Ginzburg's Legends TV,” said, “Hearing what was voted the happiest song of all time, Earth, Wind, & Fire’s ‘September,’ a mere two weeks after my beloved mom Barbara Ginzburg passed on, was uplifting for me, as music is always therapeutic.” Another local attendee, Alicia Venezia explained, “When Nile Rodgers said he found out he had cancer, he wrote more and sang more, and then went on to perform ‘Get Lucky.’”

Catherine Joyner, a Bronx resident, who was raised during the disco era, attended with her friends from the High School of Music & Art, and the concert was a continuation of her reunion. “We were vocal majors and sang along to most numbers such as ‘Good Times’ by CHIC, which wakes me up each morning. If it wasn’t for our reunion, we wouldn’t have seen this concert, and now we hope to see more in Forest Hills.”

Manhattan resident Halli Moskowitz recalled intriguing moments. “I’m a huge fan of old school hip hop artists Grandmaster Melle Mel and Doug E Fresh (who made an appearance), and back in the day, I actually danced with Felipe Rose of the Village People on the dance floor.” Also from Manhattan, Kyle Supley of the web series, “Kyle Supley’s Out There,” said, “The trip was quick and the architecture of the stadium and surroundings is a historical throwback that everyone from Manhattan should experience.” 

Concertgoers dancing the night away! Photo by Michael Perlman
The concert became a family affair for many including Kara Hailey, who commuted from Brooklyn Heights. She commented, “I was incredibly impressed with how tight Nile Rodgers and his band were, and of course how Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind, & Fire can still hit those high notes!” Praising the stadium, she said, “It is intimate, which is rare for an outdoor venue.” 

Where the magic begins - Photo by Michael Perlman
"America's 1st tennis stadium" & a foremost concert venue, Photo by Michael Perlman

Note: A similar version of this feature story was published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

Additional photos are available upon request. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Forest Hills Tennis Archive, Library, & Maybe A Museum?

Reminiscing & Building Tennis History in Forest Hills

by Michael Perlman, Historian, Preservationist, Author

The stately Tudor style Clubhouse
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium: First in America
Significant achievements in recent West Side Tennis Club (WSTC) history include the comeback of world-class concerts in 2013 and pro tennis in 2016, and now the club is considering the development of a public tennis library and archive, and perhaps a museum on the property.

On August 27, 2016, the historic clubhouse became the grounds of a seminar and dinner, where national and international members of Tennis Collectors of America (TCA) and WSTC members gathered to help shape the future of the club. A day earlier, the club hosted a tennis antiques trade show.

Vintage tennis publications on display
The TCA, a non-profit, was founded in 2003 to promote tennis collecting and tennis history through the TCA website, published media, and an annual meeting at varying locations throughout America. The seminar was attended by WSTC members. It featured a WSTC history slide show by 45-year member and chair of the archives committee member Bea Hunt, plans for the tennis history library by Alan Edelman, and memories of the US Open among tournaments by panelists Linna Hunt, Nancy Crabill, Ray Fitzmartin, and Jim Sheridan, and moderator Jack Leibler (past WSTC president). Edelman and B. Hunt both joined TCA last year. 

Memories committee panelists: Linna Hunt, Nancy Crabill, Ray Fitzmartin, Jack Leibler, Jim Sheridan
TCA & WSTC members gather
The WSTC was founded in 1892 on Manhattan’s West Side, and leased land at Central Park West and 89th Street, Amsterdam Avenue and 117th Street, and Broadway and 238th Street before calling Forest Hills home in 1913 and developing America’s first tennis stadium in 1923. Bea Hunt explained, “Originally, there were 13 charter members, who organized our club as a men’s tennis club, but that same year, we held our first club championship for men and women. By the end of our first season, we had 5 tennis courts and 43 members.”

Forest Hills Tennis Stadium as "America's Tennis Stadium" - MIT's The Technology Review, November 1922
Today, Forest Hills offers a stately Tudor clubhouse designed by Grosvenor Atterbury, but attendees were hard-pressed to learn that the first clubhouse was a shanty with cold showers. Hunt emphasized how far the club has come, and said, “In 124 years, Angela Martin is our first woman president, but I am disappointed to say that we didn’t have one earlier.” Throughout its history, numerous pivotal moments included the Wightman Cup featuring the first international team match for women on the stadium’s opening day, breaking racial color barriers when Althea Gibson became the first African American to win a US national tennis title in 1957, and the birth of the US Open, where Billie Jean King played the first “open” match in 1968.

Alan S Edelman addressing his audience 
Baltimore resident Alan Edelman is much of an inspiration to the WSTC and largely a reason for their expansion plans, as well as WSTC member James Wilson. Nearly two years ago, Edelman was seeking a New York venue to play tennis, visited the WSTC, and met Wilson. He reminisced, “One of the first things I was told, which was shocking, was that West Side doesn’t have much of an archive. I consider this the most important tennis institution in the United States, and I really couldn’t believe they wanted my collectibles.” That consisted of over 500 magazines featuring WSTC history from 1953 until the late 1980s.

Time capsule: WSTC tin   
The site of pivotal moments!
Wilson suggested that they create a public archive extending beyond the club’s membership. Edelman said, “It became apparent that most institutions don’t have archives. If we can accumulate an encyclopedic history of all of tennis, it will be a very important thing for the tennis world.”

Bea Hunt with Alan S Edelman
Part of the archive will document members’ memories. During the US Open, Nancy Crabill escorted players to center court from 1975 to 1977 and carried male player racquets, which she called glamorous, but there was one time she escorted female players. She said, “Jimmy Connors approached me and asked if I was going to escort Chris Evert onto court. He asked if I would give her a message (although they were not together then), and said to tell her that I love her and wish her luck.”

During the US Open, Linna Hunt once sold tennis merchandise in the pro shop under the stadium and distributed passes to tennis players. She recalled her experience with Patricio Cornejo, a Chilean tennis player who made it to the men's doubles finals in 1974. “On the day of the tournament, his favorite racquet was still being strung and he told me to please bring it out, even if the game was starting. I was shy in front of an audience, but ran out, gave him his racquet and got a standing ovation. That was the high point in my tennis life.”

Jim Sheridan, now an honorary member and consultant to the club, has been a familiar face at the WSTC for 52 years. In 2014, he was presented with a plaque in recognition of his dedicated service as assistant through head groundskeeper, which was built on the legacy of his father Owen Sheridan, who began tending the grounds in 1932. Sheridan reminisced The Beatles concert in 1964, when they landed in a helicopter. “No one thought about the wind screen, and it blew the fences down,” he said. Fans throwing jelly beans at Ringo was a common sight. “There was grass at that time at the stadium, and jelly beans were stuck in the grass for some time since it rained.”

Ray Fitzmartin worked the US Open for nearly 50 years, officiating various matches and tournaments. “As an umpire in Forest Hills, we had to show up at 9 AM every day. If the match ran 3 hours, you had to stay that long with no bathroom breaks. You had to wear a blazer and a long sleeve shirt and tie, no matter what the weather was.” In contrast to the US Open in Flushing Meadows, he said, “Here the atmosphere was warm, and players would ask if they could join you for lunch or dinner.”

Jim Sheridan signing "Legendary Locals of Forest Hills & Rego Park" by Michael H Perlman for TCA President Becky Desmond
WSTC Foundation President Roland Meier addressing the dinner party
After the seminar, TCA members further expressed their support for an archive. President Becky Desmond, a founding member who resides in Downingtown, PA, has been teaching tennis since 1967. One of her earliest collectibles took a creative spin, when she acquired a tennis motif button depicting two Edwardian ladies on each side of the net with a dog, and transformed it into a ring while maintaining its integrity.

Desmond said, “I look forward in seeing how the TCA can help the WSTC, and it’s wonderful that this venture will take place on the historic site and memorabilia will not be locked up in a closet somewhere.” She may even donate her 1970s era personal photos of Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors walking the grounds, and another of Connors and Ilie Năstase cleaning the lines on court after the rain.

Michael Perlman & Jeanne Cherry: Two authors come together
Santa Monica, CA resident Jeanne Cherry, another TCA founder, is the author of “Tennis Antiques & Collectibles.” “I searched for books on tennis memorabilia, but after finding none, decided to write the first book on this topic,” she said. Her tennis collection consists of everything from trophies and paintings to letters to and from players and greater than 600 racquets. Eyeing the future, she said, “I am writing a pictorial biography of Helen Wills, who won the women’s singles national championships at Forest Hills seven times in the 1920s and 1930s, and I will be glad to donate a copy.”

Archives committee chair Bea Hunt, WSTC President Angela Martin, WSTC Foundation President Roland Meier, TCA President Becky Desmond, Photo by Michael Perlman

Caitlyn & Elise Carpenter host WSTC trivia
At the dinner, the youngest attendees were two sisters, 11-year-old Caitlyn and 10-year-old Elise Carpenter of Mamaroneck, who have been playing tennis for 7 years and volunteered to become speakers for 2 rounds of WSTC tennis history trivia. “If you bring forward a sport, you need to preserve its origins, so you can learn from it,” said Caitlyn. Elise then added, “I thought it was really cool how they got everyone to put out their antiques for others to see.” Both sisters expressed interest in becoming TCA members someday by saying “yes” with a smile.

Step into the future of the WSTC, beginning with the Clubhouse's Hall of Fame

Tennis memorabilia display
WSTC Certificate of Subscription toward the Stadium, July 20, 1923

1931 & 1923 Lawn Tennis magazines 
1935 & 1968 tennis publications

WSTC Centennial plate, 1892 - 1992

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sept 25th: Four Forest Hills Events - Mark Your Calendar!

What do animals, books, a yard sale, & a street fair have in common? Between 10 AM & 4 PM on 9/25:

At the Forest Hills Street Fair, I will be offering signed copies of my book "Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park" as a collaboration with Trylon Vet Care P.C.'s Posh Pets Rescue fundraiser. Stop by our table on Austin Street near Starbucks. I will also be selling signed copies at the Tea Garden of the Forest Hills Inn around the corner from Station Square, as part of the Inn's annual yard sale that will benefit this historic property. Feel free to email with questions or requests.

- Michael Perlman

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Pro Tennis Makes A Comeback At Iconic Forest Hills Stadium

By Michael Perlman

US Open 1977 at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, 35 mm slide

A milestone for the West Side Tennis Club and the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium was achieved in 2013, when the iconic-but-long dormant stadium underwent restoration work and a rebirth as a concert venue that hosted Mumford & Sons. It recalled the days of the Forest Hills Music Festival, predominantly held during the 1960s and 1970s and featuring the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan.

Now the club’s integral role in tennis history will have a new chapter. On February 17, Mylan World TeamTennis announced the formation of New York Empire, a franchise that will debut this summer at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.

“Excitement, enthusiasm, and a historic moment are some of the words members have used to express their feelings,” said Angela Martin, president of the West Side Tennis Club. “One of our junior players is thrilled that he will be able to see Andy Roddick play. There is also a great deal of conjecture about who the other players will be, not only on the New York Empire team, but other teams as well.”

Mylan World TeamTennis is a leader in professional team tennis competition, and features some of the world’s best players. The 2016 regular season will run from July 31 to August 13 and conclude with the Mylan World TeamTennis Finals on August 27.

The season will consist of six teams in competition for the King Trophy, which was named after its co-founder, Billie Jean King.

Former world number one Andy Roddick was signed as a marquee player, and ESPN commentator and former tour player Patrick McEnroe will serve as a coach.

“As both a player and an owner, I have always enjoyed all that encompasses Mylan World TeamTennis,” said Roddick in a statement. “To be able to play on the legendary courts at Forest Hills and be involved with a team in a city that I love will make this even more special.”

The initial contract, negotiated by former director Bob Ingersole and a committee comprised of David Duff, Carl Koerner, and Jon Knipe, will stand for three years.

The WSTC holds high expectations for this summer and the future of the club and its stadium.

“Not only for our club’s young members, but several generations have not had opportunities to witness pro tennis at the stadium,” Martin said. “In addition, tennis lovers will have unique opportunities to see matches.”
Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in 1923, Courtesy of West Side Tennis Club

The stadium was designed in 1923 by Kenneth Murchison. It was the first concrete tennis stadium in America and the site of several historic firsts. Tennis was a segregated sport until racial barriers were broken in Forest Hills, when Althea Gibson became the first African American to win a US National tennis title in 1957, and Arthur Ashe became the first African American male to win the US Open title in 1968.

The stadium was also the birthplace of the US Open, where Billie Jean King played the first “open” match in 1968. In 1977, the final US Open was played at the stadium, and when it relocated to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, some spectators claimed that the stadium’s glory days were over.

In 2010, the stadium came close to demolition, until a plan to sell the site for a condo development was rejected.

At the time of the WSTC’s 100th anniversary in the spring of 2013, past president Roland Meier eyed a mix between quality tennis events, ice hockey in the winter, and concerts consisting of classical and modern music.

“Opportunities have arisen and will continue to surface for future uses of the stadium,” Martin said.

Billie Jean King at the US Open Tennis Championships, 1971

Also accessible at:Forest Hills Times - Pro tennis makes a comeback at iconic stadium

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Feb 26 Special Event: Legendary Locals & Queens History

Special Event: On February 26 at 7:30 PM, celebrate diverse achievements & Queens history by learning about legendary locals linked to Forest Hills, Rego Park, & Richmond Hill. RSVP:

A presentation & book signing will be led by Michael H. Perlman, a 33-year Forest Hills resident who is an author, columnist, and Chair of Rego-Forest Preservation Council. Michael will personalize copies of his book, "Legendary Locals of Forest Hills and Rego Park" (foreword by Jerry Springer)

Admission is FREE & his book is available for purchase. Refreshments will be served. The event will be held at the Leonard Center at 86-13 112th Street in Richmond Hill. Please invite your friends.

This event is being coordinated by the Richmond Hill Historical Society to commemorate the history of Richmond Hill, which has been recognized as a preservation priority through the Historic Districts Council's "Six To Celebrate Program" -

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Improving Our Parks with Historic Roots - How YOU Can Help!

By Michael Perlman

 Locals have the chance to get creative and feel like an urban planner. As part of an initiative to encourage citywide residents to play an active role in the beautification and versatility of citywide parks, the Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) launched the “Parks Without Borders” program in November, and began seeking requests, where the public can log suggestions for improvements on interactive maps through 

The program’s goal is to make park entrances more inviting, boundaries greener with enhanced sight lines and cozier with furnishings, and integrate underutilized park-adjacent spaces into ones the community can call their own.

Friends of MacDonald Park with founder Steve Melnick in the footsteps of Captain Gerald MacDonald Statue, September 2015

As communities plan their future, it is imperative to rediscover how such parks in Forest Hills and Rego Park bear historic ties to their neighborhood. MacDonald Park, a green oasis along the vibrant Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and 70th Road, was named on April 25, 1933 after Captain Gerald MacDonald (1882 – 1929), a WWI veteran from Forest Hills. He was an officer of engineers at the Battle of Meuse-Argonne and erected bridges and dug trenches. On May 26, 1934, a bronze Gerald MacDonald statue was dedicated to those who served in the war. In 1964, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy addressed an audience of 700. This is also the site of Forest Hills Tree Giveaways and the 112th Precinct’s Night Out Against Crime.

Captain Gerald MacDonald Statue under stately shade trees, 2008, Photo by Michael Perlman

Forest Hills resident Steve Melnick, founder of “Friends of MacDonald Park” ( explained, “Council Member Karen Koslowitz allocated $6,000 for MacDonald Park, and we received an $800 capacity fund grant from the City Parks Foundation and Partnerships for Parks, which will be used for tools and plantings.” Melnick submitted a Parks Without Borders request. He explained, “The entranceways need to be more open and inviting, and benches, tables, and bike racks could be added to bring more people into the park. The cracked sidewalks need to be reconstructed and LED lighting would improve security.” He also suggested a senior and children’s butterfly garden, children's events such as reading and puppet shows, musical events, and yoga. 

Council Member Arthur J Katzman & Marcia Katzman Allen, Courtesy of Marcia Katzman Allen

Another generously sized park is Yellowstone Park on Yellowstone Boulevard between 68th Avenue and 68th Road, which includes the Arthur  J. Katzman Playground. Council Member Arthur Katzman (1904 – 1993) whose nickname was “the conscience of city government,” served City Council for 29 years. When the land was slated for residential development, he advocated for the creation of a park, which opened on May 27, 1968.  

After the Parks Without Borders program was unveiled, another advocate came forward. Forest Hills resident Alexa Weitzman founded the grassroots organization, “Yellowstone Park Alliance” (, and has since met with a NYC Parks representative. She explained, “This is a vibrant mixed-use park, and there’s always room for more greenery. It’s nice seeing grass, lots of open space, and maybe even a gazebo.” Her wish list also includes additional plantings, benches, resurfacing the bleachers in the basketball courts, and asking local dog owners how the trails can be upgraded. Prior to coordinating the alliance, she launched a petition which references three gates that open directly onto city streets. She stated, “Allowing these gates to open and close and installing locking mechanisms would create a much safer play space.” In addition, she envisions introducing lower fences to make the park more inviting.    

Leo Ehrenreich in 1949, Courtesy of Community Board 6  

Ehrenreich-Austin Playground between 76th Avenue and 76th Drive on Austin Street also merits sprucing up, and residents now have a chance to follow in the footsteps of Leo Ehrenreich (1882 – 1962). Under his “one-man civic association,” he advocated for Forest Hills and Kew Gardens playgrounds, and the park plot was acquired on May 2, 1947 after Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and Queens Borough President George Harvey were receptive to his petition. 

Ehrenreich-Austin Playground in 2009, Photo by Michael Perlman

This generation has another Forest Hills-based visionary named Amy Long, who founded “Earth Citizens Club for Ehrenreich-Austin Playground.” She explained, “I would like to see our parks become a center for community events such as performances, a venue for arts and culture, and educational activities to promote ecological mindfulness and sustainable living; especially now when climate change and the environment is such an important focus.”  The grassroots group submitted ideas to Parks Without Borders, which included minimizing the fence, restructuring benches, and introducing a central arts installation and/or a mural. To date, the group has planted daffodils, launched a cleanup, and coordinated Family Yoga Fun Day last August.

Other local parks with historical ties awaiting public input include Federoff Triangle, Real Good Park, World’s Fair Playground, Lost Battalion Playground, Russell Sage Playground, Annadale Playground, Plaza 67, Horace Harding Playground, Pebblestone Triangle, Fleetwood Triangle, Willow Lake Playground, and The Painter’s Playground.

“Over 300 volunteer hours were devoted just to MacDonald Park in 2015,” said Melnick, who indicated that such a commitment by locals coupled with the city’s Parks Without Borders program has the makings of a success story. 

A modified version of this article appears in the Forest Hills Times:

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cinemart Cinemas Fundraiser Begins Dec 30 with "The Hateful Eight"

Please ATTEND & SHARE the 12/30 fundraiser to help upgrade & preserve the classic Cinemart Cinemas​ at 106-03 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills.

Beginning on 12/30, Quentin Tarantino’s film, “The Hateful Eight,” an American mystery western with an all-star cast will debut at the Cinemart in a rich 35 mm film format & a digital format (only theater outside Manhattan). An $8 admission will include free popcorn, free drinks & refills (seniors $6). Help finance the installation of novelty leather recliners, slated for March 2016, which is part of owner Nicolas Nicolaou’s commitment towards providing comfort & affordability. 


The Cinemart is presumably the city’s longest independently owned & operated theater since its opening in 1927, & one of the last.

Last year's screening of the first-run film, "American Sniper" achieved record ticket sales, thanks to the community, and helped prevent the Cinemart from closing its doors. Please continue your support. 

Owner Nicolas Nicolaou and manager Sal Parete welcome you....