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Reel estate: Following the haunts of 'Ghost,' 20 years later

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ghost Photo Credit: handout

The movie “Ghost” is best known for its famously hot Patrick Swayze–Demi Moore pottery wheel love scene, but there is a lot more to this classic than mushy romance.

Set in 1990, this fantasy–comedy flick depicts pre-Giuliani New York as a place where downtown was hip, but still somewhere you had to look over your shoulder at night.

“I think 1990 might have been just sort of the cusp of the change,” said Bonnie Lynn, an artist who has lived in SoHo since 1980. “I think the city had turned a corner.”

Reclaiming a dusty old SoHo loft with his artist girlfriend, young investment banker Sam Wheat (Swayze) is murdered near his Prince Street apartment after sniffing out some fishy financial transactions. Remaining on earth as a ghost, Sam enlists psychic Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) to help him set things straight in the world of the living.

There is no doubt things have changed a lot since then, when working on Wall Street was still an enviable profession and a back alley murder in SoHo seemed plausible. These days, of course, tourists and high fashion shops crowd West Broadway and Prince Street, and the once bombed-out streetscape of Brooklyn, filmed in Bushwick, has become the latest frontier of gentrification.

These days, the movie is also a look back at a highlight of the career of Swayze, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2009.

REEL VS. REAL
 

New York Stock Exchange
18 Broad St
.
Little has changed about the stately facade of this national historic landmark, built in 1903, in the past two decades. But inside lies a whole new creature: the New York Stock Exchange, the world’s largest, became a publicly traded company in 2005, later merging with Euronext, the European stock market, forming the first transatlantic stock exchange in 2007.

Sam and Molly’s apartment
104 Prince St.

When Sam and Molly move into their SoHo loft, the couple knocks out an old wall, discovering a vast, high-ceiling space that, like much of the neighborhood, was once used in the manufacturing industry. Today, in a mark typical of the neighborhood’s changes, the building’s beautiful, white cast iron facade houses a Calvin Klein Underwear shop and a designer handbag store.

Franklin Street Subway
Franklin and Varick streets

As Sam follows his killer, he hops a train at TriBeca’s Franklin Street station. Or at least that’s what we’re led to believe. The movie’s subway scenes were actually filmed on the 8th Avenue line’s abandoned lower level at 42nd Street, according to IMDB.com, and the lack of Franklin Street’s original mosaic tiling is a dead giveaway. If Sam tried to catch a train at Franklin today, he could hop the 1 or 2 train, but not the 9, which the MTA discontinued in 2005.

Spring Street Repertory
Search for the theater where Molly takes Sam to see a production of Macbeth and you won’t find it; The “Spring Street Repertory” is a figment of the screenwriter’s imagination. The venue could be based on the Soho Repertory Theatre, a company still alive today, albeit in a new TriBeCa location at 46 Walker Street. Founded in 1975 on the ground floor of a Mercer Street loft, Soho Repertory launched many young actors and productions, including Kevin Spacey and the Blue Man Group, and in its early years was dedicated to classical plays from writers such as Shakespeare.

Crosby Street
Sam’s death, filmed on this cobble stone street, paints a picture of a Crosby as a dark back alley. These days, it’s far from it. Rows of boutiques make the street a mini shopping destination, capped by the MoMA Design Store at the corner of Spring. The hood’s latest neighbor, the swank, 86-room Crosby Street Hotel, serves afternoon tea and $18 cocktails in an imaginatively renovated industrial space.

The Killer’s Apartment
303 Prospect Place

We know from Sam’s sleuthing that his killer, Willy Lopez (Rick Aviles), lives at this Prospect Heights address. But when Sam follows Lopez home, he takes the J train to Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick. The movie’s scary-looking Brooklyn hood, littered with trash and graffiti, is a far cry from the real Prospect Place, which is lined with charming redbrick townhouses.

WHY THIS MOVIE MATTERS: ASK AN EXPERT

Is the kind of paranormal activity in "Ghost" accurate?

That kind of thing does actually happen. It all depends on the medium.
Nobody's going to be 100 percent accurate. I do tarot readings and I'm
amazed by the things I see. One time I was reading for a woman and the
first thing I saw was orange, purple and white flowers. I didn't know
what that meant but it turned out, her husband never gave her flowers,
except the last day she saw him he gave her orange, purple and white
ones. Does that help anybody? I think what that does is it just gives
validity that these things can and do happen.

Donna Kent, founder, Cosmicsociety.com

WHAT WOULD "SAM WHEAT" DO?

With plenty of time to roam the city in the afterlife, the ghost of Sam Wheat might want to check some to-dos off his list, such as brushing up on his pottery skills or snagging a hot gallery exhibition for his lady. Here, you’ll find some of the places he might frequent.

Brooks Brothers
1 Liberty Plaza,
212-267-2400

What better place to pick up some investment banker threads than Brooks Brothers, which not only is conveniently located in the heart of the financial district, but also holds the distinction of being the oldest men’s clothier chain in the United States. The shop, which specializes in conservative dress and can take custom measurements on shirts and suits, was founded in 1818 at the corner of Catherine and Cherry streets.


Mezzogiorno
195 Spring St.,
212-334-2112

The wide round bar at this SoHo Italian eatery, an antique Florentine import, is instantly recognizable from Demi Moore’s scene here with Whoopi Goldberg. When the movie was shot, Mezzogiorno, opened in 1987, was still a newbie. The restaurant serves Tuscan fare and wood oven pizza in an interior decorated by 100 artists commissioned to add their touch to identical square wooden boxes lining the walls.

SoHo Psychic Shop
444 Broome St.,
646-662-9627

Sam Wheat needn’t have gone all the way to Brooklyn to find a good psychic. Just around the corner on Broome Street, SoHo Psychic Shop has friendly, professional mediums that do tarot card and palm readings at reasonable prices.

Bridge Cafe
279 Water St.,
212-227-3344

Where’s a good-hearted ghoul to get his kicks? This centuries old bar near South Street Seaport would make a good start. One of the city’s oldest taverns, a former porter house and brothel whose wood frame building dates to 1794, the Bridge Café is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of pirates who once frequented the establishment.

Chambers Street Pottery
153 Chambers St.
212-619-7302

As Ghost’s famous love scene attests, Sam’s skills at the pottery wheel weren’t quite up to snuff. For a bit of practice, he could head to Chambers Street Pottery, which offers both children’s and adult classes, at $270 and $350 for a 10-week session, respectively. Open studio hours and private lessons (at $55 per hour), are also available.

June Kelly Gallery
166 Mercer St.,
212-226-1660

In 1990, Sam’s sculptor girlfriend would have had plenty of nearby galleries to show her work. June Kelly Gallery, founded in 1986, is one of the few that have remained after most art establishments followed cheaper rents to Chelsea in the mid-1990s. The gallery specializes in contemporary paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography.

REAL ESTATE

Sam and Molly find a dusty fixer-upper when they choose their Prince Street loft. These days, the once low rents that attracted artists to SoHo in the 1960s and ’70s are a thing of the past. Now many of the neighborhood’s iconic lofts, boasting huge windows and high ceilings, sell in the millions.

To Buy
$2,450,000 for a one-bedroom, two-bath duplex loft with 10-foot windows, 13- to 16-foot ceilings, central air and a wood-burning fireplace, 1,650 square feet. (170 Mercer St.)

$1,495,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bath loft with high ceilings, columns and oversized windows on a cobblestone block, 1,760 square feet. (141 Wooster St.)

$2,650,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bath condo with 14-foot ceilings, exposed brick, a wood-burning fireplace and personal garden, 1400 square feet. (426 West Broadway)

$3,750,000 for a three-bedroom, three-bath condo with 11-foot barrel vaulted ceilings and gas fireplace in an 1898 doorman building, 3,007 square feet. (151 Wooster St.)

Contact: Vaneide Giacobe, Corcoran, 212-893-1730; Rex Gonsalves, 617-240-6655 Halstead Property Source: Trulia.com

To Rent
$2,295 for a renovated studio with granite countertops and marble bath, pet friendly. (Sullivan Street at Prince Street)

$6,400 for a three-bedroom, two-bath loft with a keyed elevator, 12-foot ceilings and washer/dryer, 2,200 square feet. (Spring Street)

$2,655 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. (Sullivan Street)

$5,500 for a two-bedroom loft with large windows and high ceilings, 1,700 square feet. (Greene Street and Spring Street)

Source: Craigslist.org

THEN AND NOW

Cost of a slice of pizza
Then: $1.25
Now: $2.25

Cost of a movie ticket
Then: $4.25
Now: $12.50

Mayor
Then: David Dinkins
Now: Michael Bloomberg

Chic restaurant
Chanterelle
The Standard Grill

Q&A

Shawn Marie Edgington, 45, author, and Jesse Garcia, 29, visiting SoHo on a business trip from San Francisco.

Are you a fan of the movie Ghost?
Shawn: I’ve probably seen it 20 times.

What do you like about the movie?
Shawn: Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze made a really great couple. It was interesting, it kept you focused, and it really made you believe in ghosts. It was a feel good ghost story.

What’s your favorite scene?
Jesse: The penny going up the door. That’s how she knew he was there. That was the best part. And Whoopi Goldberg.

How do you think the movie portrayed New York?

Shawn: I remember that it was very shady.
Jesse: I think it was a positive light. There were the dangers and the history. It teaches you not to fight a mugger in dark allies.
Shawn: I didn’t know it was in SoHo. Their neighborhood was cute.

Did the movie inspire you?
Jesse: It made me want to take a craft making class and learn ceramics. What a way to get the girl!

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