100 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS PARTY
When the first band of revelers gathered in Times Square to welcome in the New Year, there wasnít even a ball ó just firecrackers, homemade noisemakers, and the start of what would become the most famous First Night in the world. Believe it or not, that was 100 years ago. Indeed, what most of us donít know about New Yearís Eve and Times Square could fill a book ó or at least these pages. So here goes: one tidbit for every year weíve celebrated in that heralded square.
1 Before Times Square, New Yorkers rang in the new year at Trinity Church by shaking tin cans with bricks inside them.
2 The tradition of dropping the ball began in 1906.
3 Until 1995, the ball was lowered manually, by six men and a guy with a stopwatch.
4 One year in the mid-í50s, the ball got stuck halfway down and took a while to untangle. The new year came anyway.
5 A worldwide audience of more than 1 billion watches the ball drop each year.
6 The first ball, made of iron and wood and adorned with 100 25-watt light bulbs, was 5 feet across and 700 pounds.
7 At the time, 25-watt bulbs were considered very high tech.
8 Some 20 to 30 tons of trash are left behind by New Yearíscrowds each year.
9 At the first celebration in 1904, Times Tower, at Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street, was, at 400 feet high, Manhattan’s tallest building.
10 Back then, the subway cost a nickel.
11 Estimates of the 1904 Times Square crowd vary from 100,000 to 200,000.
12 Early revelers used homemade noisemakers and a bottle-shaped horn that sold for 10 cents.
13 In 1920, a 400-pound iron ball replaced the original.
14 When the first automated ball dropped, in 1995, it was two or three seconds late.
15 The Post’s headline on Jan. 1, 1996: “First screw-up of 1996” ó with a photo of the ball.
16 That day, Jeff Straus ó president of Countdown Entertainment, which represents the ball ó stopped telling people what he did for a living.
17 Straus spends all year planning the celebration.
18 In 1943 and ’44, there was no ball, for fear it could prompt an enemy strike.
19 In 1955, the aluminum ball debuted.
20 The ball had a total of 180 lightbulbs.
21 The ball wasn’t always a ball. For five years in the ’80s ó the height of the “I love NY” campaign ó it was an apple.
22 It was the same ball ó with a green stem pasted on the top. It turned back into a ball in 1987.
23 This New Year’s Eve, ev eryone in Times Square can have a say in how the festivities unfold ó thanks to cell-phone text messaging, by voting for their choice of song out of a selection of three. The one with the most votes will be played.
24 The actual symbol of a ball dropping to signal the passage of time dates back to 1833 when a time-ball was installed atop England’s Royal Observatory at Greenwich.
25 Around 150 public time- balls were installed around the world thereafter, but few survive.
26 There have been six different balls since 1906.
27 In 1995, the aluminum ball got upgraded ó with 10,000 rhinestones.
28 The current ball was first dropped on Dec. 31, 1999.
29 It’s six feet across and some 1,070 pounds.
30 To celebrate the 100th anniversary, 100 “white comet” candles will be lit and will rocket into the sky shortly after 11 p.m.
31 In the late ’90s, someone suggested the crowd dance to “YMCA” to entertain themselves. Police said no.
32 In the 1990s, various corporate logos were suggested in place of the ball.
33 They included a giant Bayer Aspirin bottle and a Pepsi can.
34 In “When Harry Met Sally . . .” (1989), a lonely Harry (Billy Crystal) watches Dick Clark emcee the ball drop.
35 These days, Billy Crystal’s playing Broadway.
36 Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” features a 1944 New Year’s Eve party on a Times Square rooftop.
37 Dick Clark was 43 when he made his original New Year’s Eve TV show from Times Square in 1972.
38 Clark has nothing on Guy Lombardo, the bandleader who presided over Times Square New Year’s Eves from 1929 to 1972.
39 In 1931, the celebration was broadcast via radio around the world.
40 Times Square’s most famous billboard ó the Camel cigarette sign ó was installed in 1941.
41 In 1946, Times Square got its famed Armed Forces Recruiting Station ó nicknamed “The Booth.”
42 In 1998, “The Booth” got its first bathroom.
43 Public drinking was prohibited at the celebration after Mayor Giuliani took office.
44 New Year’s cleanups got easier after that.
45 Mayor Giuliani was the first mayor to officially join the celebration.
46 Contrary to some media reports at the time, Sarah Ferguson did not oversee the dropping of the ball.
47 In 1996, the first guest invited to flip the switch was Oseola McCarty, a poor, Mississippi laundress who donated her entire life savings ó $150,000 ó to a scholarship fund.
48 Before she flipped the switch, McCarty, 88, spent the night wrapped in a blanket, touring the square in a golf cart.
49 In 2002, Christopher Reeve had his hand on the button that signaled the ball drop.
50 Other honorees included Chinese gymnast Sang Lan (1998) and Muhammad Ali (2000).
51 In 1997, a monstrous Astro- Vision TV screen above 50th Street and Broadway gave crowds a clear view.
52 New Year’s Eve ’97 also marked the 100th anniversary of the unification of NYC’s five boroughs.
53 The estimated revenue from that ’97 bash? $57.7 million ó including fines for ignoring the ban on drinking.
54 In 1949, a fuse on the roof of Times Tower blew at 10 minutes to midnight, and the side of the ball facing the crowd went dark. The crew turned off the ball, spun it around, and hoisted it back up. Nobody noticed the back wasn’t lit.
55 In the mid-1950s, a windstorm caused the ball to be pushed back up the pole. An electrician leaped for a tag line and held on for dear life.
56 The exterior of the current ball ball is illuminated by 168 crystal bulbs.
57 The interior has 432 light bulbs and 96 high-intensity strobes.
58 The exterior features 90 rotating pyramid mirrors.
59 In 1980, the ball went dark from 11:58 to 11:59 p.m., tohonor hostages in Iran.
60 This year, more than 2,000 pounds of multicolored, fire-proof confetti will drop from six rooftops.
61 Confetti master Treb Heining supervises six volunteers to drop it.
62 The biggest problem? Avoiding clumping and ensuring even distribution.
63 Dick Clark hosted American Bandstand for 32 years before it went off air in 1989.
64 Regis Philbin will step in this year for Clark. The Bronx-born Philbin has never been to Times Square on New Year’s.
65 This year’s special guest: Secretary of State Colin Powell.
66 A seat for the 2000 Millennium drop was booked 15 years ahead of time. An Armonk, N.Y. man made a reservation at the Marriott Marquis in 1985, before the building was even built.
67 The confetti drop started in the early 1990s.
68 Zoning rules approved in 1987 create a new unit to measure the brightness of lights in Times Square.
69 Manhattan, Kansas, is having its second annual Little Apple New Year’s Eve Celebration, for crowd of 5,000.
70 Times Square celebrated its 100th birthday last April 8.
71 Mylar streamers and giant balloons started in the 1990s, when the Times Square Alliance feared the festivities weren’t festive enough.
72 Ten to 15 minutes after the ball drops, 38 sanitation workers start picking up every drop of confetti.
73 Beginning in 1996, televised feed of New Year’s Eve in Times Square was distributed for free, worldwide.
74 Viewership seems to in crease during crisis.
75 In 1999, for fear of terrorism, there were 8,000 police officers and national guardsmen on duty.
76 The ball is raised at 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
77 It drops 77 feet in 60 seconds.
78 When the weather’s good, revelers arrive at 4 p.m.
79 Area in question: 43rd to 47th streets.
80 This year’s handouts include 25,000 hats, 150,000 pompoms, 9,000 pair of 2005 glasses, and 10,000 2012 Olympic flags.
81 Times Square isn’t even square ó it’s a bowtie.
82 Before 1904, the area known as Times Square was Longacre Square.
83 After 9/11, Mayor Giuliani encouraged the celebration to continue.
84 The crowd at that first post-9/11 New Year’s Eve was the most polite ever.
85 The most raucous revelers were in the early ’70s.
86 This year’s celebrants can practice the countdown, starting at 7 p.m.
87 All 696 lights and 90 rotating pyramid mirrors on the ball are computer controlled.
88 When the ball isn’t being lowered, it rests in the “Ball Vault,” feet below 1 Times Square.
89 Stored with it is the glitterball that was retired in ’99, plastic rhinestones and all.
90 Covered with a total of 504 Waterford crystal triangles, the current ball cost more than $1 million.
91 From his hospital bed, Dick Clark told his wife, Kari, that he wanted Regis to host.
92 Ashlee Simpson will perform at this year’s “Rockin Eve” special on ABC. She promises not to lip-sync.
93 Even the button that will be pushed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Secretary of State Colin Powell is made from Waterford crystal.
94 Recent celebrations generated about 57 tons of litter per night.
95 Some would-be ball- nap pers from New Jersey once tried to get their own ball from Artkraft Strauss.
96More than a million revelers welcomed in the new millennium on Jan. 1, 2000.
97 The sanitation department uses garden rakes.
98 Wet confetti is a lot harder to pick up than dry.
99 Also picked up, says a Sanitation spokesman: “The first kiss, a ton of broken resolutions, and a lot of personal effects.”
100 After the millennium celebration, workers found two kilts, still unclaimed.
100 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS PARTY