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Lonnie Ostrow
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On this the 26th anniversary of Paul Simon's legendary free concert in Central Park, here I share my personal memories of that glorious day. One that music fans of my generation will remember as a communal event that served as our one-day Woodstock celebration.

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From the moment he was revealed in 1978 as the star of the first Superman movie, Christopher Reeve heroically captured my imagination.  So one can only imagine my complete shock when in 1992 during a lecture at my university, he stood up at the podium and uttered the line: "Superman was the greatest thing to ever happen to me. But as an aspiring serious actor, it was also the worst."

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Writing a novel which takes place in the early 1990s in New York City had me frequently thinking back on what life was like in that not-so-long ago era. One of the simple joys that I recall both with fondness and a tinge of melancholy is a summertime ritual lost to time and terror. From 1987 – 2001, thousands of downtown workers would gather each week at Austin J. Tobin Plaza during their lunch hour for a series of free concerts. Tobin Plaza served as a park, performance venue, and crowd-funneling area in the open space directly between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. It was the ideal spot in lower Manhattan to entertain a large mid-day crowd.

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Throughout the history of pop music, there have been countless songs of pleading, anguish, longing and finality. Unrequited love and despair are almost certainly the greatest source behind the most heartfelt songs ever written. Here is a unique look at some of the more heart-wrenching ballads and the stories behind the musical heartbreak.

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New York City is forever a big-event kind of town. It has hosted 216 parades down the Canyon Of Heroes, 40 Macy’s July Fourth Fireworks spectaculars, 89 Thanksgiving Parades, 5 Papal visits, 44 NY Marathons, 96 US Open Tennis Tournaments, 115 Times Square New Years Eve celebrations, 6 Presidential party conventions and 2 World Fairs. But in a city known for high-profile pageantry, there is nothing larger, or more spectacular than a free concert in Central Park.

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I first met Cousin Brucie in November of 1995. Back then, I was the director of marketing for the world’s largest postal agency. I was organizing a major event to “unveil” a series of international John Lennon stamps at the Hard Rock Café. Bruce - the most legendary name in New York radio (and a fine mensch) - happily agreed to be our MC. And from this, a lasting friendship was born. This is our story...

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Twenty-two years. That’s how long I’ve been a daily passenger on the Long Island Railroad. I’ve pretty much seen it all over these past two decades. Crazed commuters. Yapping yentas. Cell phone screamers. High stakes card games. Reckless revelers. Ticked-off ticket-takers. I’ve weathered broken trains, busted seats, overcrowded cars, overheated passengers, increased fares and a world of noise. And yet over the past 14 years, I’ve somehow managed to complete a full-length novel on my daily back-and-forth commute aboard America’s busiest railroad.

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Of the many celebrities that I've had the pleasure of knowing, Ray Manzarek of The Doors was the one I learned the most from. He was sociable, moody, erudite, poetic, energetic, playful, temperamental and wonderfully thoughtful. The coolest rock star I ever met… well almost.

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Star-struck. Awed. Nervous. Giddy. These are a few of the words that come to mind when I think back on my early encounters with celebrities. From the time I was six years of age, I have had the unique privilege and good fortune of a wide array of celebrity sightings. Some were by chance at restaurants, airports,and on the streets of New York City. Others were planned at autograph signings, and later at countless events that I organized professionally. I remember every one of them as if they occurred just minutes ago. But it is one extraordinary brush with an icon that forever changed my perception of celebrity mythology. One that humanized the whole lofty experience.

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It was the summer of 1995 and the voice of Alanis Morrissette was everywhere. A little-known Canadian female singer had emerged from total obscurity to become the reigning queen of the FM airwaves, MTV and VH1. Everywhere you went, another angst-filled anthem blared from radios and CD players. My office receptionists knew every word. Ironic. Hand In Pocket. Head Over Feet. You Learn. If you lived through that time… well, you oughta know.
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