Sex and the City Tour featured in “The Tastemakers”
On Location Tours is excited and honored to be included in the new book The Tastemakers by David Sax! Read an excerpt below and discover why cupcakes have become one of America’s trendiest foods.
On Location Tours bus parked in the shadow of New York’s Plaza hotel, idling in the damp January chill as its passengers trickled in from nearby sights. They ranged in age from their early twenties to late fifties, coming from as close as Long Island and as far away as Sweden. With the exception of two of their husbands and myself, the thirty-odd passengers were exclusively women. Some came with friends, others in large groups. All were here for the same reasons as everyone else on this bus: Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha, the four leads from the HBO television series Sex and the City, which aired from 1998 to 2004 along with two subsequent films. To the ladies seated around me, these were not only TV characters but also the hallowed names of prophets: icons of feminine identity, sexual liberators, and symbols of everything the Big Apple had to offer.
“All right, ladies!” said Staci Jacobs, practically singing into the microphone as the doors closed and the bus started to roll down Fifth Avenue. “Welcome to the Sex and the City Hotspots Tour!” Jacobs, who wouldn’t divulge her age but is “old enough to have watched the show” (she was likely in her early thirties, like me), had been leading the tour twice a day, every day, since 2005. A stylish redhead in tight jeans and knee-high boots (think Charlotte with Miranda’s coloring), Jacobs had passed the same sights thousands of times, unleashing practiced anecdotes at each location.
“Remember Ed?” Jacobs asked outside the Plaza hotel, where Samantha once met her elderly fling for a drink in season two. “He had a saggy ass, am I right, ladies?” The bus exploded in knowing laughter.
“If you thought this was a PG-rated tour, you’re on the wrong fucking bus!” Jacobs said. “Can I get a ‘Fuck yeah’?”
“Fuck yeah!” the bus shouted back as Jacobs tossed her strawberry mane to the side with a devilish smile that’s oh-so-Samantha. On we went downtown, past the library where Carrie—spoiler alert!—fled her lavish wedding and the church where the good-looking monk known as Friar Fuck worked. Two stops and a dozen video clips of the show later, the tour bus parked at the corner of Bleecker and West Eleventh Street, in the heart of the West Village, the picturesque, boutique-laden sun at the center of Sex and the City’s glittering solar system. The show had turned the leafy, bohemian neighborhood into a paradise of quaint cafés, high-end clothing shops, and giant handbags, drawing hundreds of thousands of fans a year to wander the narrow streets in awed disbelief, like medieval pilgrims in Jerusalem.
As we stepped off the bus, Jacobs instructed everyone that we had the better part of an hour to take in the neighborhood. “And when you come back to me I’ll have cupcakes,” Jacobs said, singing the last word with a cooing sort of siren call, her voice rising to a crescendo on “cakes.” Oohs, ahhs, and giggles of anticipation greeted this news, but the show’s seasoned fans already expected this. “Are they Magnolia cupcakes?” one woman, from Alabama, asked hopefully, looking out her window at Magnolia Bakery, kitty corner from where the bus parked.
“No,” Jacobs said, with a tense smile, “but they’re just as good.” Alix Galey and Emily Pavlin, a pair of friends in their early twenties from Melbourne, Australia, exited the bus, and like most of the people on the tour, they made a beeline for Magnolia, where they purchased a pair of the bakery’s signature red velvet cupcakes.
“I’m obsessed with the show,” said Pavlin between bites. “I’ve seen each episode five times.” It was a gray, cold day, and the heat and moisture inside the bakery had fogged up all the windows so all you
could see from the street were hazy round shapes, muted pastel colors, and the outlines of different magazine and newspaper articles taped to the glass.
Just by the door, barely visible through the condensation, was a small framed photograph of two women sitting on a bench in front of Magnolia. To the left sat Cynthia Nixon, the actress who played Miranda, and to the right was Sarah Jessica Parker, who starred as Carrie Bradshaw. Their legs were crossed, shopping bags at their feet, and they were looking directly at the camera. Each of them was holding a cupcake. At the bottom of the frame was a narrow piece of paper, which read, “Magnolia Bakery is featured on Sex and the City Season 3.”
Thousands of years in the future, when archaeologists are combing through the artifacts of our age, what will happen when they excavate this photograph and the site around it? Will they have any idea what Sex and the City was or how it captivated the hopes and dreams of millions of women globally? Will they know that these two females in the photo were not just revered actresses but actually symbols of modern woman’s sexual and social empowerment?
Will the archaeologists recognize cupcakes?
Will they know that in the first decade of the twenty-first century there were cakes baked in cups, cakes of every imaginable flavor and combination; that these cakes were covered in sweet frosting, in everything from simple vanilla creams to elaborate artistic 3-D creations; that for more than ten years these little cakes were a subject of great power and fascination all over the world; and that all of that, from the global tribes of devoted bakers to the chroniclers of the phenomenon to the multibillion-dollar cupcake economy, all began here, on this sacred corner of Manhattan, at this small bakery, with these two women and a twenty-second scene of a television show that, once upon a time, changed the way we ate dessert?
From the book The Tastemakers by David Sax. Excerpted with permission from PublicAffairs, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2014.