Com­ing to life

Get on the fa­mous streets! TV tourism on the rise in New york.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By BRIGITTE DUSSEAU

FANCY a cos­mopoli­tan a la Car­rie Brad­shaw or tit­il­la­tion down the strip club favoured by Tony So­prano? TV tourism is whip­ping up a storm in New York, where fans can live as their he­roes.

Twice a day, a Sex And The City bus fills up out­side the posh Plaza Ho­tel with gag­gles of young women des­per­ate to tour film­ing lo­ca­tions, and to shop, drink and eat like their small-screen hero­ines.

Trav­el­ling around Man­hat­tan, the bus plays clips of Car­rie, Mi­randa, Char­lotte and Sa­man­tha from the hit se­ries and a guide nar­rates anec­dotes and vignettes about the show and the city.

For three-and-a-half hours, de­lighted fans blur the line be­tween fic­tion and re­al­ity, tak­ing photographs at ev­ery stage.

The Plaza? It’s where Car­rie froze when she saw on-off lover Big leav­ing with another woman, says guide Stephanie Schweitzer.

The bus heads down Fifth Av­enue, pass­ing jewel­ers Tif­fany and Co. “Who pro­posed to who?” asks Stephanie: the an­swer bursts out with an out­break of gig­gles from the back of the bus.

In Green­wich Vil­lage, the bus stops at a pizze­ria fea­tured in the se­ries, near a sex shop vis­ited by Char­lotte. Some fans want pizza; oth­ers come out of the shop with a lit­tle rib­boned pack­age.

“I don’t want it to end, I am com­pletely ob­sessed with Sex And The City,” says Kristi Tang­hare, 28, an Amer­i­can nurse study­ing crim­i­nal jus­tice and sta­tioned in Ger­many with her hus­band.

“To me it’s com­ing to life now.” She came as a treat for her friend Jen­nifer He­garty’s birth­day.

“So far we bought a toy in the sex shop, went to Juicy Cou­ture, and bought a purse and a match­ing wal­let and we are plan­ning to get a cos­mopoli­tan (cock­tail) at the next stop, just like the girls.”

Sex And The City, star­ring Sarah Jes­sica Parker, has be­come a TV clas­sic since first air­ing from 1998 to 2004, break­ing new ground by tack­ling head on women’s sex lives with­out in­hi­bi­tion. “Women can re­late to it, it’s real,” says Jen­nifer.

The next stop are the lux­ury bou- tiques on Bleecker Street.

Back on the bus, ev­ery­one’s given a cup­cake like those that Car­rie or Mi­randa some­times con­soled them­selves with when their love lives hit a blip.

French­woman Aure­lie Ma­heux, 26, is one of the few women ac­com­pa­nied by a man. She said she had re­cently re-watched all 94 episodes of Sex And The City in just 10 days.

She is plan­ning to have din­ner in a restau­rant fea­tured in the se­ries and says she loves her hero­ines be­cause “they are mod­ern women, free, who talk about sex with com­plete open­ness.”

In re­cent years there has been a spec­tac­u­lar growth in spe­cialised cin­ema and tele­vi­sion tourism, par­tic­u­larly in New York, which has been a back­drop for count­less shows and flicks.

Ge­or­gette Blau, 39, is the di­rec­tor and pres­i­dent of On Lo­ca­tion Tours, which of­fers seven bus tours in New York de­voted to cin­ema or tele­vi­sion, in­clud­ing the Sex And The City itin­er­ary. Some of­fer guides speak­ing French or Ger­man. There are also ver­sions of the tour by pri­vate limou­sine, and one tour in Bos­ton.

“To be hon­est, I re­ally started as a kind of a side weekend hobby. I was in pub­lish­ing, my big dream was to write for tele­vi­sion,” Blau said.

One of the com­pany’s other pop­u­lar draws is a five-hour bus tour through New Jersey for cult TV show the So­pra­nos that starred the late James Gan­dolfini as the de­pressed mob­ster.

Guide Marc Baron, a for­mer ex­tra on the se­ries, nar­rates the tour, and even gives out lit­tle presents.

Among the fans are more cou­ples than on the Sex And The City tour, and on one re­cent Satur­day a no­tice­able con­tin­gent from Bri­tain.

But they are just as pas­sion­ate about the award-win­ning se­ries, con­sid­ered by some the great­est TV show of all time.

High­lights of the tour are Hol­sten’s restau­rant where Gan­dolfini’s char­ac­ter Tony So­prano ate dur­ing the last episode and the “Bada Bing” strip club which in real life is called Satin Dolls.

It is prac­ti­cally de­serted in the mid­dle of the day. Two young women, one of them in a thong and a sweat­shirt, shimmy around with­out con­vic­tion. But the fans are de­lighted.

Blau says that around 90,000 peo­ple go on her tours each year, half of them from over­seas – most of­ten Aus­tralia, Bri­tain, France, Ger­many, Italy and Ja­pan.

When she started in 1999, she says three com­pa­nies in the world of­fered such tours. “Now there are over 100.” – AFP

Cup­cake ma­nia: The mag­no­lia bak­ery, a stop on the SexandThecity bus tour run by On Lo­ca­tion Tours in New york. The group vis­its lo­ca­tions from the pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion show and movies.

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