Meet The Former and Present Residents of Manhattan Plaza: Barry Hoff and David Carson
Barry Hoff, a Texas native has been dressing some of Broadway’s best for over two decades. His clients include; Sean Hayes, Johnatan Freeman, Katie Finneran, Jane Lynch, Faith Prince, John Larroquette, Beau Bridges, Michael J. Fox, Barry Bostwick, Matthew Modine, Mara Davi, Andrea Martin, Beth Leavel, Joanna Gleason, Debra Monk, Alan Campbell, Glenn Close, Betty Buckley, Elaine Paige, Edward Hibbert, Lenny Wolpe, Peter Bartlett, Tom Wopat, Marc Anthony, Reuben Blades, Brent Barrett and Patty Duke, to name a few. He was the personal assistant for Celeste Holm and Joan Copeland.
Andrea Martin and Barry during Oklahoma
David Carson directed the original productions of Jeffrey Solomon’s Mother/Son, Robin Goldfin’s The Ethics Of Rav Hymie Gildfarb, and Danny Ashkenasi’s musical adaptation of Poe’s The Telltale Heart. He has guided script development workshops for Metropolitan Playhouse and Reverie Productions. In 2014 he received an Innovative Theatre nomination for Best Actor for his performance as Gloucester in the American Bard production of King Lear.
Barry Hoff, David Carson
T2C: When did you first move into Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?
Barry Hoff: I worked at the health club at MP, starting in 1983. It was my “survival” job, and I got it the first day I moved here, Nov. 21, 1983. I moved into the 400 tower in 1985, sharing a studio apartment with David.
David Carson: I’m an original tenant, and I came in as a working actor. I moved into the 10th Ave Bldg in 1977 with a roommate, then into a studio in the 9th Ave in 1979.
T2C: Were you in the building during the AIDS Crisis? How did that time frame affect you?
Barry Hoff: Yes. I had just come out and was so happy I finally knew who I was. It affected everything.
David Carson: Yes. I was also a member of GMHC’s Speakers Bureau at the time. Barry and I were both care givers for friends in the buildings who were living with AIDS. It took four of my closest friends.
T2C: Has living in Manhattan Plaza changed you in anyway?
Barry Hoff: I grew up in a very small town in Texas. MP is like a small community, only vertical. So it was very comfortable and safe – it was like finding home.
David Carson: It has given me a sense of “family” I never expected to find in an apartment complex. We’ve lived here long enough to make friends with folks who have met, married, become parents and then grandparents. We’ve become Godparents. As an only child, those experiences didn’t come to me the way they come to most people. My sense of “community” has heightened here.
T2C: What has living in the building allowed you to accomplish?
Barry Hoff: Finding and living my dreams. Since I was 6 years old, I always wanted to be in the heart of the theatre. And even in small town Texas, I knew that was NYC. And here I am – 42nd and 9th.
David Carson: There is no question for me that having found a home in a subsidized building has allowed me to remain in Manhattan. When the real estate market transformed in the late 70s, I would have been forced out without MP.
T2C: What shows did you get while living in the building?
Barry and Beth Leavel
Barry Hoff: I’ve worked on 21 Broadway shows, including Sunset Boulevard, Aladdin, Crazy For You, Annie Get Your Gun, How To Succeed… and just last year Springsteen On Broadway.
Beth Leavel, Barry in Crazy For You
David Carson: I spend 35 years acting and directing with Metropolitan Playhouse, Reverie Productions, and MTWorks. I have found a wonderful niche helping writer/actors develop solo shows, most recently Ty Autry’s A Southern Fairy Tale, which has played festivals in NYC, Ireland and Atlanta during the last year. And with the playwright Robin Goldfin and composer Oren Neiman I spent 5 years developing Suddenly A Knock At The Door, based on 8 short stories by Israeli writer Etgar Keret.
T2C: What are your fondest memories of living in the plaza?
Barry Hoff: Game nights, progressive dinners, neighbors becoming best friends, and sharing 37 years of my life with my husband. (and what David answered!)
David Carson: We are currently in the midst of developing our favorite memory – going out on a friend’s balcony every evening at 7:00 and raising a ruckus with hundreds of neighbors to thank those on the front lines of the pandemic.
T2C: What have been the biggest changes to the neighborhood?
Barry Hoff: No prostitutes on every corner.
David Carson:Development!! When I moved in, MP was the only high-rise apartment West of 8th Ave. on 42nd St. Now every block as at least 6. And the neighborhood is much safer (in general) than it was in 1977.
T2C: How does living in the building make you feel?
Barry Hoff: Going back to that sense of small-town community; I feel safe, secure and comfortable.We have our nest here.
David Carson: I feel a sense of security here that is perhaps false in many ways (pandemic), but none-the-less it’s how I experience it. I feel safe here.
T2C: What would you change from your time living in Manhattan Plaza
Barry Hoff: I’d have a 2 bedroom/2 bath apt. And I’d be a working actor.
David Carson: I’d meet Barry sooner. And I’d be a star. LOL
T2C: What is your fondest memory of New York?
Barry and David’s wedding
Barry Hoff: Getting married on the stage of The Palace Theatre at 11:00 on a Friday night after a performance of Annie (I was dressing Katie Finneran), in front of 50 of our closest friends. And seeing A Chorus Line a month after it won the TONY.
The marriage of David and Barry
David Carson: I have way too many. But a highlight would be the blackout of 1977. It was right before I moved in, and it was an amazing 24 hours. And getting married on the stage of The Palace Theatre.
T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?
Celest Holm, Barry Hoff
Barry Hoff: If it weren’t for MP, I wouldn’t have had my incredible career on Broadway. In 1988 I met Celeste Holm through another MP resident and I became her personal assistant. I worked backstage with her on I Hate Hamlet, her last Broadway show. Celeste’s dresser was Irene Bunis who offered me my first job as a dresser (on Nick & Nora, dressing Barry Bostwick), which led to Crazy For You. And the rest is history.
David Carson: I think MP helped save a threatened artistic community in NY. It opened the same year as Theatre Row. Among the literally hundreds of artists who joined the others moving in here, were people – young and old – who would have left the city because they would have been priced out. Even early tenants like Tennessee Williams and Angela Lansbury might have found other “homes”, but MP gave them an opportunity to remain in Manhattan.
The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream.
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