One of the joys of living in New York City is laughing at the giant screaming headlines in the New York Post. When the former secretary of state knocked back a beer on one of her trips abroad: "Swillary." When the Lance Armstrong doping scandal broke: "Drug Pedaller." And when CIA director David Petraeus admitted having an affair? "Cloak And Shag Her."
The Post's headlines tell you a lot about the way many New Yorkers view the world, and now visitors can see the city through their eyes. The New York Post has launched a bus tour — and not just any tour, it's a cruise around Manhattan accompanied by the headlines of the city's most notorious tabloid.
Jason Hackett, chief marketing officer of New York Cruise Lines, which runs the tour operator Metro Sightseeing, welcomes people on board the double-decker bus for its inaugural run this month. It's 28 degrees, and everyone's shivering on the open-air upper deck.
The tour costs $49 a head and is run in partnership between the tour company and the newspaper, whose history and culture are on full display.
The New York Post "was established in 1801 by the guy on the $10 bill, Alexander Hamilton," says guide Dennis Lynch. "So it's 50 years older than the New York Times."
Lynch's tour patter revolves around the paper's most legendary headlines, like "Headless Body In Topless Bar." By far the most famous, that line arrives 53 seconds into the two-and-a-half-hour tour.
The New York Post's take on New York is defined by crime, celebrities, scandals — and puns. While other tours show you Central Park, the Post tour looks at the other side of the street.
"See the Helmsley Park Lane [Hotel] on the right?" Lynch motions. "Remember Leona Helmsley, the 'Queen of Mean'? She's the one who left $12 million to her dog."
You can see where this is going. The Post's rhyming headline for that story started with "Rich" and ended with a word that referred to Helmsley's female dog.
At Rockefeller Center, home to NBC, Lynch goes out of his way to taunt Matt Lauer, a favorite target of the Post. Alec Baldwin takes some hits, too — "He and the Post, they're always tangling with each other," Lynch says. "Alec the Bloviator!"
"You know, there's a great Post cover for almost every scandalous, crazy thing that's happened in New York," Hackett says. "Even going back to the archives with Mae West as we were going past Jefferson Market Library — she was held in there in prison, and that's great stuff for them."
But are there some stories the Post asked the tour not to cover?
"We all agreed that, to really have the impact, there were the things that we wanted to hit — the celebrities," Hackett says. "But nothing was off-limits."
And yet there were some Post headlines the tour chose not to focus on. Like an infamous headline about an event that took place just north of Times Square. The paper put a photo on its front page showing a man about to be hit by a subway train, under the headline "Doomed."
The journalism world was appalled. As it often is.
The Post's headlines are sometimes gory, insensitive or flimsy excuses to parade women on the cover in skimpy outfits. The paper reflects a New York that is both sexualized and cruel.
And that's what built the Post: creating larger than life characters in headlines such as "I Am Death Wish Vigilante." That's the headline the Post ran when New York City subway shooter Bernard Goetz turned himself him. The tour guide pointed to his home on West 14th Street.
Sitting on top of the bus, Matt Haber, an editor for TravelAndLeisure.com, says the New York Post mentality is bigger than just the newspaper. "Tabloids and gossip is sort of the language we all share, and it seems like something that a lot of people would be interested in," he says.
Of course, no matter how many headlines they can dig up from the glory days, they've got to keep writing them over at the New York Post. After all, not only do they have to sell tickets to the tour — they also have to keep selling newspapers.