If you find yourself wandering on the Upper West Side from say, James Dean’s apartment on West 66th to James Baldwin’s on West 69th, (heading perhaps to Grey’s Papaya) treat yourself to a teriffic New York gawk session by strolling past the relatively unknown Pythian Building at 135 West 70th Street.
It was designed in 1927 by the great American movie palace architect Thomas Lamb for The Knights of Pythias, prompting him to doll up its facade with hieroglyphs, giant urns, giant oxen, griffins, gilt work, pharaoh likenesses, pharaoh-headed columns, Mesopotamian monsters and oodles of terracotta.
It is remarkable for more than its beauty – for example, it has outlier status as the headquarters for the slightly enigmatic Pythian Society of which President Franklin Roosevelt and Louis Armstrong were members.
But, most impressive, it housed the Decca Records recording studio in which, in 1954, Bill Haley and the Comets recorded Rock Around the Clock, (included in the soundtrack of the infamous film The Blackboard Jungle) which was the very first Rock & Roll song to reach number one on the Billboard Pop Charts in the United States of America and afterward, around our planet.
You might describe Rock Around the Clock as the two-minute experience that changed the world. Akin to Beatlemania, it was.
In 1986, the temple was converted into apartments where lived Stefani Germanotta and her parents, completing a circle of R&R illuminati. In case that name is unfamiliar, Stefani does business as Lady Gaga.