Washington Pl and Washington Sq West
What are you up to?
Oh, I was just doing some conducting in the park with the local bands.
Which bands do you work with?
Whatever groups are there, really. Sometimes I'll go around the whole place conducting each one.
Wait, so you mean you go count time for strangers?
Does anyone ever resist?
A few times in the beginning, a couple bands would move away quickly. I just followed them, and after two or three years, they got used to me. Now they welcome me. One lady said, "The music doesn't start till Benjamen gets here." Wasn't that nice?
Nice! But how do you conduct with bands playing music you don't know?
I do it automatically. It's kind of like a trance I go into.
Do you have a conducting stick?
Yes, someone gave me a conductor's wand, but I use a straw usually. When I go into that trance, sometimes a kid will run in front of me.
What else do you do with your time?
Well, I'm writing a number of books on couponing. I collect coupons. Between that and food stamps, I save about 50 percent on bills.
Any memorable coupon gets?
Oh yeah. One time I got 150 free unlimited coupons for Ocean Spray cranberry juice. I send in five or six every day.
Are you sick of it yet?
No, I love it.
What did you do before you retired?
I had boutiques that sold jewelry, dresses, handbags.... My partner is Jules Van Rouge. He made jewelry for Vogue and designed for Valentino.
Sounds like the makings of the good life.
It was. We had 27 covers of Vogue! We have 10,000 pages from magazines with our jewelry in them—and our names. But our money went to lawyers, and on moving and medical bills. Now we're on a tight budget, and it's tough.
Where's all that jewelry?
Well, we gave it to the magazines and we rarely got it back. In exchange, though, we got to be No. 1 artists.
More from Benjamen
"My stores were called Benjamen's. Always Benjamen's."
Paul's on Times Square
Searching for a restaurant in Times Square that specializes in something other than hot dogs and hamburgers? Paul’s serves modern Italian fare for both lunch and dinner. Start with beef carpaccio ($19.50) or a burrata caprese salad with truffle oil ($19) or an antipasto plate including prosciutto, salami, parmesan and eggplant caponata ($14.50). For the main course, there is plenty of pasta, including linguini with white wine and clams ($20) and sun-dried tomato ravioli in thyme cream sauce ($26.50). The menu also includes personal pizzas topped with everything from prosciutto and arugula ($17) to duck confit and caramelized onions ($22) to Maine lobster and grilled corn ($29). If you’re looking for a protein-centric entree, the lamb osso buco with mushroom risotto ($37) or Tuscan seafood stew ($36) might tempt you. In need of refreshments after a long day of sightseeing? Paul’s offers a menu of signature cocktails including a chocolate martini and blue margarita ($15-$17).
Venue says: “Fun, fine dining experience with friendly service & delicious Italian food in the heart of NYC.”