Public eye: Barbara Wachtel

New York street interviews: Stories from the sidewalk as told by real New Yorkers about their lives in the city that never sleeps.

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Photograph: Zenith Richards


64th St at Broadway

May I ask how old you are? You know, people know my age, but I'd just as soon not have it published.

What are you up to? I just saw a movie, the Woody Allen one about Paris. It was terrific.

In spite of Owen Wilson, huh? [Laughs] I just thought it was really visually beautiful, great effects.

What do you do, other than go to movies? Well, I have been doing volunteer work for the New York City Ballet for about 17 years.

What kind of work? The kind of work that even if they paid you to do it, you still wouldn't do it. [Laughs]

Sounds terrible! No, no. I help at rehearsals, which is great.

Does that mean you get to watch? Yes, once a week when they're in season. I love dance, and I love watching the progress of the dancers. It's unbelievable, the work that they have to put into it.

You must see a lot of bloody toes. [Laughs] I don't see that much.

How long have you lived in New York City? My entire life, except for 27 years while my children were growing up and we lived in Scarsdale. I grew up on Park Avenue and 78th Street.

In a New York of a different time. Oh yes, incredibly different. It's changed both for better and worse.

What do you miss? Well, it's so hectic now. It used to be slower-paced, calmer.

I suppose you're not talking about crazy, filthy '70s New York. No, no, I mean the '40s and '50s.

Mad Men--style. Oh yes. All the years I lived in Scarsdale, I would come into New York City once a week to go to a museum, to the theater, or to go shopping. I came into the city in heels, a skirt and white gloves. Every time. That was just what you did.

And you returned without scuffed heels or filthy gloves, I bet. Absolutely. It was very different. I still have those white gloves in a box in my closet.

Why not put 'em on again? Oh, no way. You have to change with the times. [Laughs]

More from Barbara

"I went to Dalton. I loved being in an all-girls school, but if I had to repeat it, I would probably pick coed—it's more natural."

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