The Times Square Alliance is proud to continue to work to improve and promote Times Square, so that it retains the creativity, energy and edge that have made it an icon for entertainment, culture and urban life for over a century.
From sharing dangers on the battlefields of Germany as the regimental chaplain of the fighting 69th to his vital work in New York, Hell's Kitchen and Times Square, Father Francis P. Duffy's unrelenting efforts to serve his community are honored by a statue on the island that carries his name. A bronze statue of George M. Cohan also rests on Duffy Square -- the only Times Square statue honoring a Broadway legend. Among his classic tunes, Cohan wrote 1904's "Give My Regards to Broadway," a song popularized in the film "Yankee Doodle Dandy," starring James Cagney.
Duffy Square is also home to TKTS, offering reduced-price tickets to Broadway's best. The TKTS booth is a popular ticket-buying location for Times Square visitors, selling over 1.5 million tickets each year. The bleacher-like stairs that cover the back of the wedge-shaped building are a great place to get a panoramic view of the excitement in Times Square.
George Michael Cohan, one of the biggest stars in Broadway history, got his start in a family vaudeville act called The Four Cohans. The act debuted in New York in 1893, and while his sister commanded much of the attention on stage, George began to gain recognition for the songs and plays he wrote off-stage. Eventually, he moved from writing for vaudeville acts to writing Broadway musicals.
Soon after he developed his wise-cracking, all-American, patriotic character that would become his go-to stage persona. With this character established, he finally hit the mark with “Little Johnny Jones”, the musical that debuted both hit songs “Yankee Doodle Boy” and “Give My Regards to Broadway.” The show also garnered attention for his triumphant tap dance routine that helped usher in a new style of dance for broadway males, who were previously confined to small areas of the stage.
As he continued performing, he also became known for "Cohanizing" plays. When a show was a flop, producers went to Cohan to fix (Cohanize) it, often transforming the show into a hit. He did this work as a ghostwriter, so no one knows exactly how many shows he fixed in this way. However, it was known that he had an invariably unfailing eye for what worked on stage. After the loss of his family members, and an opposition to Actors Equity strike, Cohan took a break from Broadway.
In 1942, “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” a movie about Cohan’s life starring James Cagney as Cohan was all the rage. Cohan, who was ill and wheelchair-ridden when the movie debuted, snuck out of his apartment to enjoy the film. He died later that year, but his memory lives on. His statue in Times Square stands as a silent monument to a bygone era.
Cover photo credit: @timessquarenyc via Instagram