Around the Nation
4:47 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

With Headline Bus Tour, 'New York Post' Takes Manhattan

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 12:06 pm

One of the joys of living in New York City is laughing at the giant screaming headlines in the New York Post. When the former secretary of state knocked back a beer on one of her trips abroad: "Swillary." When the Lance Armstrong doping scandal broke: "Drug Pedaller." And when CIA director David Petraeus admitted having an affair? "Cloak And Shag Her."

The Post's headlines tell you a lot about the way many New Yorkers view the world, and now visitors can see the city through their eyes. The New York Post has launched a bus tour — and not just any tour, it's a cruise around Manhattan accompanied by the headlines of the city's most notorious tabloid.

Jason Hackett, chief marketing officer of New York Cruise Lines, which runs the tour operator Metro Sightseeing, welcomes people on board the double-decker bus for its inaugural run this month. It's 28 degrees, and everyone's shivering on the open-air upper deck.

The tour costs $49 a head and is run in partnership between the tour company and the newspaper, whose history and culture are on full display.

The New York Post "was established in 1801 by the guy on the $10 bill, Alexander Hamilton," says guide Dennis Lynch. "So it's 50 years older than the New York Times."

Lynch's tour patter revolves around the paper's most legendary headlines, like "Headless Body In Topless Bar." By far the most famous, that line arrives 53 seconds into the two-and-a-half-hour tour.

The New York Post's take on New York is defined by crime, celebrities, scandals — and puns. While other tours show you Central Park, the Post tour looks at the other side of the street.

"See the Helmsley Park Lane [Hotel] on the right?" Lynch motions. "Remember Leona Helmsley, the 'Queen of Mean'? She's the one who left $12 million to her dog."

You can see where this is going. The Post's rhyming headline for that story started with "Rich" and ended with a word that referred to Helmsley's female dog.

At Rockefeller Center, home to NBC, Lynch goes out of his way to taunt Matt Lauer, a favorite target of the Post. Alec Baldwin takes some hits, too — "He and the Post, they're always tangling with each other," Lynch says. "Alec the Bloviator!"

"You know, there's a great Post cover for almost every scandalous, crazy thing that's happened in New York," Hackett says. "Even going back to the archives with Mae West as we were going past Jefferson Market Library — she was held in there in prison, and that's great stuff for them."

But are there some stories the Post asked the tour not to cover?

"We all agreed that, to really have the impact, there were the things that we wanted to hit — the celebrities," Hackett says. "But nothing was off-limits."

And yet there were some Post headlines the tour chose not to focus on. Like an infamous headline about an event that took place just north of Times Square. The paper put a photo on its front page showing a man about to be hit by a subway train, under the headline "Doomed."

The journalism world was appalled. As it often is.

The Post's headlines are sometimes gory, insensitive or flimsy excuses to parade women on the cover in skimpy outfits. The paper reflects a New York that is both sexualized and cruel.

And that's what built the Post: creating larger than life characters in headlines such as "I Am Death Wish Vigilante." That's the headline the Post ran when New York City subway shooter Bernard Goetz turned himself him. The tour guide pointed to his home on West 14th Street.

Sitting on top of the bus, Matt Haber, an editor for TravelAndLeisure.com, says the New York Post mentality is bigger than just the newspaper. "Tabloids and gossip is sort of the language we all share, and it seems like something that a lot of people would be interested in," he says.

Of course, no matter how many headlines they can dig up from the glory days, they've got to keep writing them over at the New York Post. After all, not only do they have to sell tickets to the tour — they also have to keep selling newspapers.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

If you're in New York and you need a good laugh, you could go to a comedy club.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Or you could just pick up the latest edition of the New York Post, which is known for its irreverent front page headlines. When the former secretary of State knocked back a beer on one of her trips abroad...

SIEGEL: Swillery. When the Lance Armstrong doping scandal broke...

BLOCK: Drug Pedaller. When CIA director David Petraeus admitted to having an affair...

SIEGEL: Cloak And Shag Her. Well, as NPR's David Folkenflik reports, the Post's headlines are a guilty pleasure that say a lot about the way some New Yorkers view the world.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: So I'm standing at the corner of 57th and 7th Avenue here in midtown Manhattan and I'm about to get on a bus, but not just any bus, a tour bus. And not for just any tour, but a tour of New York, a tour of Manhattan through the headlines of the city's most notorious tabloid.

JASON HACKETT: Are you joining us today?

FOLKENFLIK: Jason Hackett of New York Cruise Lines welcomes people on board the double-decker bus. And we're all on the open-air upper deck. The tour costs about $50 a head. It's run in partnership between the tour company and the newspaper, whose history and culture are on full display.

DENNIS LYNCH: It was established in 1801 by the guy on the $10 bill, Alexander Hamilton. So it's 50 years older than the New York Times.

FOLKENFLIK: And we're off with our guide Dennis Lynch, whose tour patter revolves around the paper's most legendary headlines.

LYNCH: Headless Body In Topless Bar. You probably are familiar with that, are you?

FOLKENFLIK: That is by far the most famous. The New York Post's take on New York is defined by crime, celebrities, scandals and puns. Other tours show you Central Park, the Post tour looks at the other side of the street.

LYNCH: Now, look to your right. See the Helmsley Park Lane? Remember Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean? She's the one that left $12 million to her dog.

FOLKENFLIK: You can see where this is going.

LYNCH: Of course, The Post's the headline there was Rich...

FOLKENFLIK: Let's just say the next word referred to the dog. At Rockefeller Center, the home to NBC, the tour guide goes out of his way to taunt NBC's star Matt Lauer, a favorite target of the New York Post. And here's another.

LYNCH: Alec Baldwin, he and the Post, they're always tangling with each other. Alec the Bloviator.

FOLKENFLIK: At a certain point, it gets too cold on top of the bus and I'm not referring to the hearts of the Post headline writers. It was actually 28 degrees, so I ducked downstairs with Jason Hackett, the tour guide's chief marketing officer.

HACKETT: There's a great Post cover for almost every scandalous, crazy thing that's happened in New York. And even going back to the archives with Mae West as we were going past Jefferson Market Library, you know, she was held in there in prison and, you know, that's great stuff for them.

FOLKENFLIK: Were there ones that they said, you have to do this and ones where they said you can't do that?

HACKETT: No. We all agreed that, to really have the impact, there were the things that we wanted to hit, the celebrities, but nothing was off-limits.

FOLKENFLIK: And yet, there were some Post headlines the tour chose not to focus on.

LYNCH: We're at 7th Avenue just north of Times Square.

FOLKENFLIK: But we do not hear about a recent and infamous Post headline about an event that took place yards away from here. The Post put a picture on the front page of a man about to be hit by a subway train, the headline "Doomed." The journalism world was appalled. As it often is. The Post's headlines are sometimes gory, insensitive or flimsy excuses to parade women on the cover in skimpy outfits.

It reflects a New York that is both sexualized and cruel. That's what built the Post: creating larger than life characters in headlines like, "I Am Death Wish Vigilante."

LYNCH: 55 West 14th Street is Bernie Getz, the famous vigilante subway gunman. He still lives there.

FOLKENFLIK: Not sure if it'll be a hit with tourists, but sitting on top of the bus, Matt Haber says the New York Post mentality is bigger than just the newspaper. He's the editor and chief of TravelAndLeisure.com.

MATT HABER: Tabloids and gossip is sort of the language we all share and it seems like something that a lot of people would be interested in.

FOLKENFLIK: Of course, no matter how many headlines they can come up with from the glory days, they've got to keep writing them over at the New York Post. After all, they not only have to sell tickets to the tour, they have to keep selling newspapers. This is David Folkenflik, NPR News, somewhere on Manhattan's lower east side. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Related program: