Culture


In Worn in New York, people in and out of the public eye share surprising, personal, wild, poignant, and funny stories behind a piece of clothing that reminds them of a significant moment of their New York lives, building a contemporary cultural history of the city by paying tribute to these well-loved clothes and the people who wore them.

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Aubrey Plaza, of Parks and Recreation and Legion fame, lived in New York from 2002 to 2008. Read all about her cheeky NBC workplace souvenir here.

I stole this NBC page uniform after I was encouraged to leave the Page Program. I wasn’t outright fired, but it was suggested that I leave, so I never gave it back. I wasn’t used to working in a corporate environment like NBC where there are HR rules. It’s fuzzy to me exactly what happened, but I think I made a joke about Jesus being crucified or I wrote it on a wall, and I got in trouble. Three or four months after I started, they were like, “Maybe this isn’t right for you,” and I was like, “Maybe it isn’t.”

There’s a respect for pages because of the program’s history. Everyone knows that if you get into the program, then there’s something special about you. At the same time, when you’re wearing the page uniform around 30 Rock, you’re actually low status. You walk through the building giving tours and you stick out like a sore thumb because you’re wearing this ridiculous outfit, a custom-fitted polyester uniform that makes you look like a 1950s flight attendant. And in 2006, we could only wear skirts—there were no pant options for girls. 2006! I think it had been the same uniform style since the 1950s. Now female pages have pant options, but when I was doing it, it was old school.

Aubrey Plaza’s page uniform

Emily Spivack

The main job of the page is to give studio tours: to lead a group of twenty tourists every hour and a half through 30 Rock. During the tours, I was always making up facts about the history of NBC. For example, on the soundstage where they shot Late Night with Conan O’Brien, you’re supposed to say, “Does everyone feel how cold it is here? Can anyone guess why?” People would guess and eventually you, as the tour guide, would say, “Because there are 20,000 lightbulbs in the ceiling and in order to keep the lights cooled down, we have to keep the temperature at blah blah blah.” But I would say, “Does anyone know why it’s cold in here? It’s because sometimes they’ll bring in penguins for the late-night shows and we’ll keep them in rooms that are set at a specific temperature for them.” I would just make up dumb things like that to make myself feel better about life.

Another girl in the program named Meg and I made up a game when we’d give studio tours. She and I were both weird and witchy, unlike everyone else in the program, who seemed to be cheerleaders or former sorority presidents. We’d say to one another, “On the next tour, you have to incorporate into your speech these three words—abortion, pineapple, and Minnesota.”

Pages had to work six or seven days a week. I don’t know why. I was twenty-two and I’d have to work on the weekends, which was a disaster because I was always hungover. On many, many tours, I would take a group to a soundstage, give them the spiel, and say, “OK, I’ll let you guys look around for five minutes and I’ll be right back.” Then I’d go into the hallway, throw up in a trash can, and continue on. I got really good at giving tours wildly hungover.

After working as a page, I got a gig as a low-level intern within the casting department
at NBC in the 30 Rock building. During the first season of 30 Rock, they needed a page
character in the background for one of the shots. I said, “I can do it. I’ll put on my uniform and pretend to give the spiel I would actually give.” I did it. My stolen uniform and I made it on to the first season of 30 Rock. —As told to Emily Spivack

Excerpt from Worn in New York: 68 Sartorial Memoirs of the City

By Emily Spivack

Published by Abrams Images

Photo credit: Photograph by Bon Jane

Text credit: © 2017 Emily Spivack

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