On Angelina Jolie and Washington Heights

18Feb09

In which The Gay Recluse wins an Oscar.

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Recently we learned from US Magazine that “[a] few weeks after signing the lease on a $60 million Long Island mansion, [Angelina Jolie], 33, was spotted checking out a nice building in Manhattan’s uptown Washington Heights neighborhood Tuesday afternoon.”

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It makes us wonder how it came about that she would consider Washington Heights for even a second.

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Did Angelina wake up one morning and say: I want to live in the most ruined and barely functional neighborhood in New York City, with sweeping views of the Hudson and the George Washington Bridge, which has been my favorite bridge in the world since I first saw it as a child driving from ___ to ____ in the back seat of my ____’s car?

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Or perhaps she’s going to be starring in a movie about the drug trade and wants to understand what it’s like to roll up and down Broadway in a massive SUV with blackened windows, laughing at the cops and expressing surprise/dismay at all the “white fggts” starting to move into the neighborhood.

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Or maybe she’s a fan of The Gay Recluse!? (<3 u, Angie!)

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Whether she moves in or not, we were struck less by the implausibility of it than a certain longing to see what would happen if she did.

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Does she know that Washington Heights is a metaphorical and literal graveyard of shipwrecks and resignation, from which most of us who are lucky or unlucky enough to end up here can never hope to escape?

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Maybe she will be the one to change this collective destiny:  maybe Angelina could live here for a few seconds and then leave forever, having taken in her share of the beauty — both architectural and geographic — yet remain unscathed by the ghosts of longing and torment with which the rest of us are so familiar.  After all, as US Magazine breathlessly informs us: Angelina “has owned or rented properties in three different countries in the past year alone.”

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Or maybe this is too much to ask, even of her; maybe she looked out the window and was disturbingly entranced by the clouds gathering over her beloved bridge, at which point she instructed her driver to take her away from this place as quickly as possible, knowing that if she stayed any longer, she would never be able to leave.

[Thanks to Bennett for sending us the US Magazine article.]



25 Responses to “On Angelina Jolie and Washington Heights”

  1. great stuff!

  2. 2 sj

    i wonder where in the heights….

    thanks for bashing my neighborhood!

    -s (170th and Fort Washington Ave)

  3. 3 Tom

    This is the Riviera at 790 RSD (157th St.) She will be using this as a movie location. (I own an apartment in the building has apparently finalized a contract to use the lobby and one of the apartments in the building). I believe it is the movie noted in the Us article and according to the info from the board, they’ll be filming in March. For what she’s paying on LI, if she lived there for a year, she could buy any apartment currently for sale in the Riviera outright.

  4. 4 Susu

    She bought in New Orleans after Katrina, and New Orleans remained a dysfunctional, crime and graft ravaged city in ruins. Not that she could really change this, and to suggest that this were possible wouldn’t be fair. But Ms. Angelina s visits her house in New Orleans probably about as often as she visits her house in war-ravaged Cambodia.

  5. Good stuff. Linked to you on my site.

  6. 6 nigget

    wow they just used the same photo over and over again

  7. 7 Paul Chapru

    I am from an extremely multi-cultural family. I have lived in Washington Heights for over 9 years. It is a wonderful community of diverse cultures. To call Washington Heights “the most ruined and barley functional neighborhood in New York City” is extremely insulting to the people who have made this their home. There are many immigrant families who have set their roots down here, raised their children and produced accomplished doctors, lawyers, professors musicians, actors etc… I have enjoyed sitting in the local restaurants and coffee shops and observed the diversity of families; mixed race couples, gay families with children, white families, Dominican, French, Haitian, Asian, Israeli, you name it. This appears to be what New York City is all about. There is not a Gap, Banana Republic or Olive Garden Restaurant on every corner. There are local small businesses that have kept this community from turning into any other chain riddled community in America. We have our elements of crime and drugs that have hurt many communities. But for those of us that have purchased homes in this community or come here to find affordable rentals, and those that have been here for generations, the strength of community has far out numbered any bad element. The crime rate has decreased over the past years, housing has improved in many areas, and new local restaurants have been opened, many by hard working local families. Whether this is for a movie or not, I applaud Angelina Jolie and her multi-racial family and their courage to show interest in a neighborhood that represents what she stands for. A community of hard working, strong, diverse, educated, interesting and beautiful people. A community where we manage to embrace our differences rather than judge them. If we all become involved in our neighborhood and not just talk about it, change can be made to what you think is such a “ruined and barley functional neighborhood’.

    • Umm, yeah…thanks for the comment, and I also applaud AJ for whatever she does in Wahi. Gotta say tho, I think if you were a regular reader of the blog, you’d understand that I have a well-documented love/hate relationship with Washington Heights (where I’ve lived even longer than you have — and have a partner who’s been here close to 30 years — not that I think it really matters, but just sayin’). I love much of the architecture/geography/history and many (but not all) of the people, but I get sick of dealing with noise/drug-traffic/litter/homophobia that’s a little too intense/inconsiderate at times, not to mention an often ambivalent police force and city administration. There’s a huge diff between the neighborhood as it is now and the “chain-riddled” horror shows you describe, and I frankly would welcome (and did in the case of the OC, which sadly closed) a place that sold fresh bread and coffee, a few neighborhood bars where I felt comfortable getting a beer, and (like more desirable nabes) could sustain a variety of ethnic cuisines that — and please let’s be honest — don’t exist here. Kinda sounds like you live in Hud$on Height$, tho? I’m in the low 160s (east o’ B-way).

  8. 9 nneka

    boy oh boy…angelina and her multi-culti brood are moving to “da heights?” what about harlem???? lol!

  9. 10 Amanda

    Um, wow. “the most ruined and barely functional neighborhood in New York City”? If you dislike Washington Heights so much and find it so below par, then MOVE! No one’s making you stay here. There are plenty of people who would move in in a second and actually appreciate it. It’s actually one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL parts of nyc. Maybe if you actually explored it entirely, you’d know that. It’s a shame we have ungrateful people like you moving into our neighborhood. Good riddance.

    • Amanda, I’m sorry that I don’t rise to your standards, but I’ve lived her for 10 years (and my partner for 30); I agree that Wahi is the most beautiful neighborhood in the city and I have written about it as such repeatedly on the blog. You remind me of ppl who say with regard to the United States (which I also criticize regularly): “Why don’t you move to Russia if you h8 it so much?” I write my own truth; I’m not asking for your approval.

  10. 12 RR

    I am offended!!!! how can you say “…Washington Heights is a metaphorical and literal graveyard of shipwrecks and resignation, from which most of us who are lucky or unlucky enough to end up here can never hope to escape?” This is insulting to me especially to those that live in the heart of Washington Heights. How can you sit there and degrade an area of NY that has for the most part stayed true to what it is..a melting pot of cultures. Yes, there is crime and the usual dealers in the corner.. I agree with you on that. But underneath all that, there are hardworking people that live there trying the make the best of what they have and what they can get. i am so very offended… and for the record I lived on 188 and Saint Nicholas!!!!

    • I’m sorry I offended you, RR (though actually I’m not sorry at all) but that is how I see Washington Heights, which is why I both love and hate it (as you’d understand if you read more of the blog and didn’t jump to conclusions). I write the truth as I see it, which may or may not be your truth, but in any case is not designed to be a pr campaign for the type of shallow optimism you seem to espouse.

  11. 14 wally

    I was born and raied in Da Heights and just moved BACK a year agoe. I lived in orlando for 7 years before coming back HOME. I can’t believ u called the heights “the most ruined and barley functional neighborhood in New York City”. Little italy is no longer italian, el barrio is no longer puerto rican and black are quickly being pushed out of harlem. China town may be the other exception. I used to think just like you..”i cant wait to get out of the heights.” But when u live down south, talk about recluse towns, you realize the beuty of the neighborhood. We haven’t sold out to corporate giants like other naighborhoods with their targets and best buys. we haven’t succumb to the pressures of condo developers and most of all, we haven’t raised prices on our residents as dramatically as the rest of the city. we still have a neighborhood where neighbors know and help each other for generations. we are still located on the island and still considered manhattanites….better than living in trust fund baby capital of the world—brooklyn!

    • Look Wally (and everyone else), I’m not oblivious to the beauty and assets of Washington Heights (and have written about both repeatedly on this blog). You have your experience with the neighborhood and I have mine, which is not new (I’ve been here 10 + years and my partner 25 +) and is not meant to speak for anyone but myself. I personally would like to see more diversity in the neighborhood — particularly on the commercial front — and generally welcome change and newcomers (though not all of them, just as I don’t love everyone who’s already here). I think it speaks to a reactionary conservatism and insecurity on the part of those who can’t handle what is really meant to be a poetic if slightly ironic view of a neighborhood that I have every right to call my own.

  12. 16 brynn

    Um, all these haters need to relax. There is nothing more irritating than someone who relentlessly praises something beyond what it deserves. Amanda, RR, and Paul, you sound like midwestern patriots. Chill out.

    I also live in WaHi, and I loved this post. Good one, TGR!

  13. 18 gusto

    How dare you say these things about Washington Heights, I can’t believe you– oh wait you said low 160s (east o’ B-way), forget it then. Figures. Proceed.

  14. 19 J.

    Ditto to Brynn and big props to you, GR. I love living in a place where shipwrecks are at home. (Though I do, technically, live in Inwood.)

  15. 21 Antonio

    You must talking about the area south of 168 street. it is still sketchy down there.
    I refer to areas bet 155 and 168 as “south washington heights”. Overall the area is sketchy, loud, obnoxious and poor, except for several nice luxury buildings near riverside dr.
    The area around 181street to Dyckman is much better especially west of broadway. I have lived here all my life. Different worlds indeed.

  16. 22 Emilse Laguna

    if you lived in WH for ten years, clearly, you cannot afford to be anywhere else. get your info right,the production company paid 75.000 to rent the building no to A.jolie to move in!Maybe your brain needs a break!

    • You’re right, I guess I’m not as rich as you are, and therefore I’m a loser/inferior to your excellency. But I’m not a journalist and was only speculating based on the US article, which I thought was amusing (I personally could care less about A. Jolie and if she does/does not move here). Maybe your soul needs a break from writing such insipid, sour and hateful comments.

  17. 24 MD

    Im gay and Dominican and have lived in the highrise on 178 and st nicholas over the major deegan for about 2 years. If u dont like Dominicans and Dominican food go somewhere else. Do u see me going to brooklyn heights and complaining about a lack of dominican culture?..U want fresh bread? Go to a bakery. Itll b a Dominican bakery. U want a beer walk a couple blocks. U want different music play different music. Yes theres crime and litter. Thats not part of the culture, thats just ghetto. There r a whoooooole lot of reasons for that. And theres plenty of coffee.

  18. 25 Arian

    I live in the building…it’s a convenient locale for escaping the city!


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