AREA 10 is New York noir, from the forgotten subway platforms to the bloated, fish-chewed corpses dragged from the East River. It might surprise those who know me as a diehard Red Sox fan who grew up in Massachusetts, but I was born and spent the first five years of my life in the Big Apple, where my Dad was an investigative reporter covering the Mafia for the New York Times. I remember New York in the '70s as a place both wondrous and terrifying, and I tried to imbue AREA 10 with that feeling. Let me set the scene for you.
1) In the building next to ours there was a cult. Their leader died. They laid him out on an altar and waited for him to rise again. He never did, but he did start to stink something fierce, and finally the police came and took him to his reward. Actual policemen will tell you the most realistic cop show ever is Barney Miller. This is the kind of stuff they deal with every day.
2) My father was friendly with Dino De Laurentiis, producer of the KING KONG remake. Dino had a small number of King Kong maquettes made up to give to friends as gifts, and he gave me one. (I still have it.) I saw the movie, but I knew King Kong dies at the end, so as the finale approached I pitched a fit until my mother took me out of the theater so I didn't have to see it. I've always been an animal lover, and the scene in AREA 10 with the lab mouse is my revenge fantasy on a real experiment I learned about in college.
3) New Yorkers know Zabar's as a gourmet food store and local landmark. I was in a pre-school play group with the daughter of the owners. Once at her house we were playing with her Dad's new toy, one of the first electric exercise bicycles, and I managed to get my foot caught in the machinery. The super had to cut me free with a chainsaw, and I got to ride to the ER in a police car. Had it been a more litigious era, I would now own Zabars, and they'd sell comic books.
4) Every St. Patrick's day, while older folks celebrated with green beer, I looked forward to a uniquely New York delicacy: green bagels. I'm sure whatever they used to dye them has done irreversible damage to my DNA, but man, they were tasty.
5) One day they shot KOJAK outside my building. My father was a prominent Greek journalist, and his countryman Telly Savalas came up to our apartment for a chat and some Greek food. He gave me one of his signature lollipops. I can't remember if he said, “Who loves ya, baby?” but I think he saved that one for the ladies. Dr. Avery's address in AREA 10 is where we lived back then. Feel free to drop by…tell 'em Telly sent ya!