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Nomenclatural Floodgates

Image has not been found. URL: /wp-content/uploads/2008/09/mccall2.jpgIllustration by: Bruce McCall

Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman and co-founder of the powerful hedge fund, the Blackstone Group, recently donated $100 million to the New York Public Library. In a complicated arrangement, the library’s main building will be known as the Stephan A. Schwarzman Building and the financier’s name will be placed on the structure, though in proportionally smaller type than Lenox, Astor or Tilden, the men who created the world-famous library system.



As The New York Times described:

The name will appear five times on the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue: at the base of each of the two center columns leading to the century-old building’s main entrance; on a gold plaque on the marble floor just outside the front door; and in the marble of the pedestals beneath the lamps at the library’s 42nd Street entrance. The letters will range from 1 to 2 ½ inches in height, those cut into stone etched in a new font that gives the patina of age.

The name will not be as big as some others high atop the facade on Fifth Avenue — like Astor and Tilden — but it will be visible to all who pass by or ascend the steps.

  • Wealthy donors might well begin vying to underwrite the care and upkeep of other important landmarks:*

** Oprah’s Purple House**

  • Formerly the White House*

Insiders are throwing around an estimated price tag of a billion dollars to connect Oprah Winfrey’s name with the official residence of the president of the United States. The addition of TV’s “hostess with the mostest’s” private “Top Wing,” a complete floor added above the existing structure, would be barely visible — except at night and during daylight hours. Sparking the idea for a repaint in purple is the Oprah-produced smash Broadway revival of “The Color Purple,” which Oprah’s Purple House visitors will be offered at a steep discount. Renaming the Oval Office as the Oprah Office is the final condition of the Winfrey windfall.

** Lincoln-Mercury Memorial**

  • Formerly the Lincoln Memorial*

The multimillion-dollar change to the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial will see the two brands’ logos proudly mounted on the portico entrance. A permanent rotating display of new Lincoln and Mercury models inside the rotunda is regarded as easily accommodated within the space. But the requirement that a steering wheel be placed in the martyred president’s hands is still being spiritedly debated.

Ronald S. Perelman Cigar Tomb Bar

  • Formerly Grant’s Tomb*

Donor and Consolidated Cigar Corp. owner Perelman has attached to his $9-million check a personal guarantee that the exterior of the former Grant’s Tomb will never be altered once the giant smoke-puffing Cohiba Maduro is mounted atop the dome. What will be the world’s largest circular cigar bar is designed to be tastefully decorated in appropriate Early Gilded Age, down to the authentic late-19th- century spittoons and Civil War uniforms for the waitstaff. It will be screened off from the sacred tomb itself by wall-size HDTV screens for sports events.

** Parc Trump Mount Vernon**

  • Formerly Mount Vernon*

In return for his $900 million donation, The Donald has imposed few conditions beyond that subtle name change; a repaint of the house in Aztec Gold; conversion of the slave quarters to time-share condominiums, and a blinking neon sign atop a 600-foot tower visible from Washington, D.C., designed to blend in with the environment. Trump is mum about adding a Jack Nicklaus-designed championship 18-hole golf course to the grounds until plans are finalized for the digging of the canal from the Potomac River right up to the mansion’s front veranda, to accommodate the Trump Presidential Yacht Club marina.

** Rupert Murdoch Bridge**

  • Formerly Golden Gate Bridge*

His half-billion-dollar gift check was reportedly written “due to a clerical mistake” in invisible ink, forcing even some San Franciscans of goodwill to question Murdoch’s sincerity. Meanwhile, rumors are already spreading that the foxy media baron intends to change the name to Fox Fair & Balanced Bridge to Australia as soon as he can get the ad hoc Save Our Bridge Committee dissolved. This may require purchase of the San Francisco Chronicle to provide a local forum for the necessary character assassinations. Immediate doubling of bridge tolls, a spokesperson says, is only a temporary measure

** Gettysburger**

  • Formerly Gettysburg*

Benefactor Burger King has paid more than $100 million for rights to re-name the sacred Pennsylvania Civil War battleground “GETTYSBURGer” – a change so slight that Burger King demographers predict that fewer than 99 percent of park visitors will even notice. Use of the company’s logo will be limited to balloons hovering over every important Gettysburg site, and to the authentic l863 Burger King walk-thru kiosk in the middle of the famed battle diorama, open 24 hrs. Whether Burger King will go through with a plan to sub-license American Express to rename the Pickett’s Charge site to “Pickett’s Charge-It” is, as yet, undecided.


Bruce McCall, a humorist, is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. He is the author of “All Meat Looks Like South America: The World of Bruce McCall” and “Zany Afternoons.”

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