Celebrity commercials kick-start effort to rebuild New York tourism
By Henry Goldman
Bloomberg News Service
NEW YORK Mayor Rudolph Giuliani unveiled tourism commercials last week featuring famous New Yorkers living improbable dreams, including Woody Allen doing acrobatic spins on figure skates, Henry Kissinger rounding the bases at Yankee Stadium and Yogi Berra conducting the New York Philharmonic.
The city plans to buy $15 million in national television advertising time and hopes the networks donate additional air time, said Phil Dusenberry, chairman of BBDO North America, a division of Omnicom Group, which put the six commercials together.
The performers, production crews and directors Barry Levinson, Bryan Buckley and Joe Pytka donated their services to help the city rebuild tourism after the World Trade Center attack, Dusenberry said. NYC & Co., the city's convention and visitors' bureau, reported last week that the number of visitors had declined 30 percent from last year.
Giuliani appears in all of the commercials, saying "the New York miracle. Be a part of it." A narrator says "everyone has a New York dream. Come find yours."
One ad has actor Robert De Niro, in pilgrim garb, sitting on a Central Park bench with comedian and actor Billy Crystal, in a turkey costume. De Niro is skeptical about Crystal's suggestion that they should switch roles in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
In another commercial, ABC News personality Barbara Walters sings, dreadfully, in a failed audition for a role in Broadway's "42nd Street." She makes a last-ditch bid to join the cast of "Cats."
Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State, is depicted (by a body double) swinging a phantom bat, chugging around the bases in an empty Yankee Stadium and sliding head first into home plate. The real Kissinger dusts himself off and says, "Derek who?" referring to popular Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
Computer imagery also put Berra, the Hall of Fame ex-Yankee catcher, in front of the orchestra with a conductor's baton. Berra, who is famous for his misuse of language, turns to the camera and asks, "Who in the heck is this guy, Phil Harmonic?"
Allen's punch line after the skating performance on Rockerfeller Center's ice rink is, "you're not going to believe this. That was the first time I put on ice skates in my life."
The Stage Delicatessen is the backdrop in another commercial that plays on its practice of naming sandwiches for celebrities. When a matronly woman orders the Ben Stiller with a side of bacon, Stiller and Kevin Bacon take seats alongside her. She asks for a doggie bag to take them home.