MUTUAL OF NEW YORK BUILDING, Columbus Circle

by Kevin Walsh

This month, I’m working at 1740 Broadway at West 56th Street, which is up the street from the famed Brill Building of pop music fame. However, 1740 Broadway, a 1950 skyscraper originally built for Mutual of New York, an life insurance company that is now a subsidiary of AXA International, a French insurance firm, has some pop history of its own.

When I was a kid, and I would pore through magazines like Sports Illustrated, I’d see print ads for MONY featuring illustrations by the great sports cartoonist Willard Mullin. This got me to thinking, could MONY possibly have anything to do with “Mony Mony,” the top 10 hit in the spring of 1968 by Tommy James and the Shondells?

Indeed it did. Tommy James and songwriting partner Richie Cordell were looking for some inspiration and had run a little dry when Tommy James spotted the blinking neon MONY sign from the top of 1740 Broadway: he could see it across town from his apartment house. The song, also co-written by Bobby “Montego Bay” Bloom, became a stone cold classic, and hit #1 19 years later in a live version by Billy Idol one week after teen pop star Tiffany had hit #1 with James/Cordell’s “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

As for 1740 Broadway, the MONY blinking neon sign, also famed for its use in Midnight Cowboy, was finally removed in 2007. The building also features the Weather Star, a 150-foot tall neon star that notated the expected weather by color: green for sun, orange for rain, etc. I’m not sure whether the star still lights up.

MONY left the building after its acquisition by AXA. Today the lower floors contain offices of Victoria’s Secret, the women’s “foundations” company. Other floors contained shared offices, where I am for a few weeks.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

6/4/19

7 comments

CSF June 5, 2019 - 8:44 am

If I am not mistaken didn’t the mast of the weather star show ascending (up) and descending (down) lights on the mast to show when temperature was rising and falling in addition to the color coding?

Reply
CHRIS June 5, 2019 - 10:30 am

I work down the block & have only see the weather star lit in yellow if lit at all.

Reply
Peter June 5, 2019 - 2:21 pm

My reasoned guess is that the percentage of Victoria’s Secret customers who ever think of the products as “foundations” is somewhat below 0.001

Reply
Kevin Walsh June 5, 2019 - 9:36 pm

I’m being cheeky.

Reply
Peter June 5, 2019 - 10:10 pm

As cheeky as Victoria’s Secret panties?

Reply
Frank P June 5, 2019 - 2:33 pm

I grew up in Cliffside Park NJ, probably best known as home to Palisades Amusement Park (and Joe’s Elbow Room). Cliffside sits atop the Palisades, about a five minute walk from my house. My father pointed out how the MONY Weather Star worked and I always made a point to check it out.
Me and my friends used to party at an overlook by the GWB in Fort Lee and were there in July 1977 when the lights went out. The city went almost totally black and we could hear the car horns on the West Side Highway. Quite a sight. I even saw (maybe I imagined) the Milky Way over NY.

Reply
Andrew I. Porter June 6, 2019 - 9:26 am

Back in the late 1960s I worked at 1776 Broadway, and remember the weather indicators were visible from distant points north of the building, across Central Park and Central Park West. Then they built higher buildings north of it, and…

Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.