A couple of weeks ago, I stopped to gaze into the window of Magnolia Bakery in midtown while en route to the NBC Studios to attend a taping of that week’s Saturday Night Live (Host: Rami Malek). What a delight it was to see this tiered Halloween-themed cake right up front. So scary cute! Whatever your plans (or lack thereof ), have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!
I’ve got a story about the band Big Wreck – specifically involving lead vocalist/ guitarist Ian Thornley — and it goes all the way back to 1997. In those glory days, I was writing about Rock music exclusively and interviewing bands at a pretty steady clip. Big Wreck had signed to Atlantic Records and their debut, In Loving Memory Of… was creating a pretty respectable buzz (radio hits, etc), so I was assigned to Interview Ian for I don’t even remember which outlet. Since Big Wreck had a gig booked at NYC’s Irving Plaza, the interview was scheduled to take place at the venue during sound check the evening of the show. Pretty standard procedure.
Aside from the fact that Ian was a cool and candid guy who did a hilarious Eddie Vedder imitation (plus, I was a fan of the record), what makes this incident stand out in my memory from hundreds of other interviews is that it took place in the ladies restroom. This was pre-renovation Irving Plaza, so the place still had tons of character and the Ladies Room had a big, antique velvet sofa, so we had a nice, quiet and comfortable place to chat. Plus the acoustics were insane. Ah, Big Wreck. What a good Rock band.
Big Wreck has been through some changes in the 17 years since Ian and I hung out together in the bathroom. The group’s original lineup disbanded in 2002. Ian went on to have a very successful career in his native Toronto with his band Thornley, and in 2010 he and original Big Wreck guitarist Brian Doherty reformed the band, absorbing the members of Thornley into the new Big Wreck.
Big Wreck’s fourth album, Ghosts, was just released in the US on July 15th, 2024 (on Rounder Records) and the biggest compliment I can pay it is to say that Ghosts – represented here by this amazing performance of “Come What May” – proves that Big Wreck is still a force to be reckoned with, both in the studio and live. Obviously, Ian Thornley knows that he can let the music do all the talking. Enjoy!
It was a very hot and sunny day in late December when my sister and I visited the Queen Mary, docked at Long Beach, California. Formerly a luxury cruise liner specializing in North Atlantic crossings (between US and England) for the Cunard Line, the ship has been retired since 1967 and now has a permanent home at the Port of Long Beach, where it does a brisk business as a luxury hotel, special exhibit venue, event space (get Married on the Queen Mary!) and one of Southern California’s most popular tourist attractions.
Having been on several cruises myself, it was especially fun for me to explore the ship and appreciate how all of the interiors and finishes have been preserved in the ship’s original Art Deco design. While some people might say that these finishes and interiors should be modernized, on the contrary, I think it would be a shame to obliterate so many visual remnants of this ship’s rich history.
Wood Inlay Mural of the Ship
I have a background in architecture and interior design, so I found myself drawn to photographing a lot of interior details that some people might miss, but I think these photos will give you a good feel for the historic atmosphere on board the ship. It is no secret that the ship is haunted and, in fact, you can choose to purchase several different self-guided or guided tours which will clue you in on the history of the various ghosts and hauntings that figure into the Queen Mary’s personal story.
Bar with Haunted Piano (Far Right)
What I was reminded of most is the Overlook Hotel, made famous by Stephen King’s The Shining. I can only imagine how eerie it would be to roam the ship at night. This might be reason enough to investigate staying the night as hotel guest if that works with your plans.
Observation Bar and Deco Lounge
Located around the ship are tons of display cases that hold items for the ships history, such as serving dishes, china, bar ware, furnishings and souvenirs from the time when the Queen Mary regularly transported passengers across the Atlantic.
This Deco Planter Flanks Two Rows of Glass Cases Filled with Historic Items
Each case has a write up on the background and history of each item.
Deco Ceiling Fixture
Deco Pendant Light
The Pendent light above can be found inside this very cool shop, Royal Gifts and Fashions, which sells dresses and other clothing and accessories, as well as jewelry and fun items similar to what you might find in a cross between a vintage clothing boutique and a Hot Topic. Very Fun!
The Dragon Shoppe is an tiny import store that sells all kids of imported chotskies, collectibles and souvenirs.
Miniature Tea Sets Sold in The Dragon Shoppe
This is the door that leads to to the ship’s indoor swimming pool. Although it is not accessible to the general public, I believe there could be a guided tour you could purchase that would take you through that area.
The ship’s original Ticket Office has been preserved with its original furniture, brochures and old fashioned office equipment. When the ship was functional, this is the place that passengers could go to book land transportation, trains or whatever they needed once the ship docked in the UK.
The Queen’s Salon is still used for banquet and wedding functions.
These elevators are no longer in use.
A few of the public rooms have been preserved or recreated to show them as they looked more than fifty years ago. One of those rooms is the Children’s Play Room. I imagine that children did have a nice time playing in this room, but to me it seemed rather sterile and reminded me more of a Pediatrician’s waiting room from the sixties.
I bet there are some ghosts in here.
This is the Grand Salon, which is massive, and where the famous Sunday Champagne Brunch is served. You can find out more about Sunday Champagne Brunch aboard the Queen Mary at This Link.
If you can’t afford $50 for brunch, the ship has many excellent restaurants, including the Promenade, where we enjoyed a fantastic BBQ Pulled Chicken Flatbred Pizza and an awesome Club Sandwich!
I had a great time exploing The Queen Mary and recommend you check it out when you are in Southern California. Find out more about all of the different tours and attractions that the Queen Mary has to offer and plan your trip by visiting This Link!
How cute is this delicious-looking cake that, when sliced, reveals the image of scary Ghost? Seriously, it’s adorable. Sadly, the website from which I originally snagged the above image and accompanying recipe has gone offline, but I found another recipe which will allow you to achieve similar ‘ghostly’ results at This Link!