Being backstage at the Apollo Theater on Amateur Night was an incredible experience. I had always heard about the Apollo as this great cultural icon, so I was interested in the musicians, singers, and other artists who got their start there. About ten acts waited backstage on Amateur Night, and every one of them was nervous and apprehensive. Then they finally got their moment in the spotlight. Unfortunately, some of them didnt do so well, and they literally got the hook. But some of the good acts may actually get a break out of their appearance at the Apollo. It certainly worked for Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, and Lauryn Hill.
Harlem has as many as nine zip codes. It was hard for illustrations editor Susan Welchman and me to decide which one to do. Every part of Harlem is interesting and different, but we finally decided on the area near 125th Street in zip code 10027partly because of the development and partly because of the Apollo Theater, Hale House, and a number of other places that we just couldnt leave out.
I was surprised at all the Southern cooking I got in Harlem. I lived a good part of my life in Virginia, where grits were a favorite dish. I never figured Id get any in New York City, but I found them in Harlem. I met a lot of families with roots in the South. After the Civil War, their people came up North to Harlem looking for jobs and opportunities. Now the descendants run these great restaurants all along 119th Street. I got my fill of fried chicken, grits, and lots of other Southern home-cooked dishes.