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On Broadway, Tom Courtenay continued in Otherwise Engaged by flashlight, with an actor shouting "Erring!" when a phone was supposed to ring and humming the overture to Wagner's Parsifal in place of a recording. About a quarter of the 2,000 people who were watching the stage show Salute to New York City stayed on at Radio City Music Hall after the lights went out, snacking on pretzels and Italian ices bought from street vendors who crowded into the foyer. At Shea Stadium, play stopped in the sixth inning, with the Chicago Cubs leading the New York Mets 2 to 1. For about 45 minutes, the 22,000 fans sang along with Organist Jane Jarvis; to take their minds off the heat, she played White Christmas.
Doormen at some high-rise buildings gave tenants candles and flashlights to help them climb to their apartments, but others groped in the dark. Anyone living on the upper floors was without water because pumps had stopped and rooftop tanks were quickly emptied. Some people preferred to bed down in the lobbies or walk the streets. Others sat in their cars, listening to the news—any news about the blackout.
Few bars remained open, and they were packed with thirsty people even though their ice supplies were rapidly melting. Said one woman who had visited three other bars before she stopped at P.J. Clarke's, a well-known East Side watering place: "We're typical New Yorkers. We're going to get smashed." At Elaine's restaurant on Manhattan's upper East Side, tables were moved outdoors for a block party. The guests included Woody Allen, Al Pacino, Andy Warhol and Designer Calvin Klein. At One Fifth, a Greenwich Village restaurant decorated with fittings from the cruise ship R.M.S. Caronia, a patron quipped: "We've hit an iceberg." Pianist Nat Jones scrounged a candle to light his keyboard and played It Ain't Necessarily So. Unfortunately, it was.
There was some fast free enterprise—and some gouging. At a fancy East Side high-rise apartment building one block from Gracie Mansion, the mayor's residence, two boys with flashlights offered to escort people up the stairs at $1 each. Some cabbies cruised with their off-duty lights on, trying to negotiate high-priced deals, charging as much as $50 for the trip from Shea Stadium to Manhattan, which normally costs about $10. Cold cans of beer and soda went for $3 in Forest Hills, Queens. An ice-cream vendor in Greenwich Village did a brisk business. As the temperature in his refrigerated case dropped, so did his prices—until he finally gave away free but slightly soggy cones.
The cost to New York is more difficult to reckon. There was no official estimate of the loss, but some city officials thought the total—including damage to buildings and theft of their contents—might be a staggering $1 billion or more. Because of the blackout, the city lost $4 million in tax revenue and had to pay $5 million in overtime to policemen and firemen. Estimates of business losses—beyond the looting—included up to $15 million in lost brokerage commissions for Wall Street and $20 million for retail stores.