New York Film Locations

otsoNY in 2009: Desperately Seeking Susan

21 October 2019

In 1985, Madonna was already becoming a household name in the pop industry with two successful albums, one of which ‘Like a Virgin’ had gone to number one in several countries, combined with several top 10 hits and a number one single ‘Into the Groove’ which stayed at the top of the UK charts for four weeks, so it was no surprise that the ambitious pop star wanted to turn her hand to acting.

Film Poster: Desperately Seeking Susan

Directed by Susan Seidelman, ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ was a comedy-drama film set in New York. The plot involved the interaction between two women, a bored housewife and a bohemian drifter, linked by various messages in the personal column of a newspaper. Initially, the filmmakers wanted Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn to play Roberta and Susan, but the director decided to cast newcomers Rosanna Arquette and Madonna instead and the studio wanted the film to have younger actors in order to appeal to younger filmgoers. Bruce Willis was up for the role of Dez and Melanie Griffith was up for the part of Susan. Madonna barely beat out Ellen Barkin and Jennifer Jason Leigh for the part.

Scene from Desperately Seeking Susan featuring Rosanna Arquette at Battery Park

Scene from Desperately Seeking Susan featuring Madonna at Battery Park

Creator of, Mark Rogers still remembers his visit to New York City in the summer of 1996, in particular Battery Park. “In the mid-90s Battery Park still had a handful to public binoculars facing out towards the Statue of Liberty, of which Rosanna Arquette had used in the film when she was spying on Madonna,” recalls Mark. “I’m not sure why they have since been removed, and to be honest, it is a bit of shame.” During the filming of ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’, the Statue of Liberty was covered in scaffolding as it was still going through its two-year renovation.

Scene from Desperately Seeking Susan

Scene from Desperately Seeking Susan at Love Saves The Day store

Scene from Desperately Seeking Susan featuring Madonna

Returning to New York City in May 2009, Mark was faced with several disappointments when tracking down the film locations for ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’. “I certainly wasn’t prepared for the set-backs,” says Mark, matter-of-factly. “And they started with the closure of the vintage clothing and bric-a-brac shop in New York City’s East Village just a few months before my visit.”

A lady called Leslie Herson had originally opened the ‘Loves Saves the Day’ store in 1966 at 77 East 7th Street. She stated the name was a nickname for the drug LSD, noting that at that time in the 1960s, many of the people she knew were on drugs. The title is also a symbol of her self-described hippie lifestyle. She was known for her collection of Beatles memorabilia, and the store title was also inspired by the song ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. The store operated at that location until 1982, when she moved to the now famous location on Second Avenue and East 7th Street, from where the store operated from 1983 until 2009. In the summer of 1984, she allowed for filming to take place at the store, which as a result made the store even more popular. Many local artists and production designers came to Leslie for items used for film and stage sets. Inside the store, there was an autograph wall which contained signatures from some of the many famous visitors over the years, including Marc Jacobs, Joey Ramone, Alice Cooper, Björk, Kelly Osbourne, Tim Burton, Drea de Matteo, and Debbie Harry. The store was managed by Martin Ruginis, who painted the famous colourful exterior, and created many of the window displays.

Love Saves The Day Store at the corner of East 7th Street and Second Avenue

Closing down sign in the window of Love Saves The Day store

Boarded up front door of Loves Saves The Day store in May 2009.

In 2005, the store was in danger of closing due to rent-increases from the landlords. But after much negotiating from Leslie Herson, she managed to agree a three-year lease that kept the store going. Sadly on 16th August 2008 in Carversville, Pennsylvania, at the age of 65 Leslie passed away. Her husband Richard, who described the store as her ‘canvas’ as an artist, soon decided he could no longer operate the store in the East Village, and it was announced it would close, which it did in January 2009. “I had no idea the store had closed when I arrived in New York,” said Mark. “I took the scenic route to its East Village address, passing through St Marks Place, which had also been featured in ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’, only to realise that what used to be the shop front had now been boarded up.”

Fire destoryed the building in March 2015.

Mark made a brief returned the area in 2011 and noticed that the entire front of the shop had been transformed, and was now fast food joint. “The place was barely recognisable, if only for the apartments above the shop,” said Mark. “It was at this point that I realised the city could simply disregard history if it wasn’t that important.” The final chapter in this story came on Thursday 26th March 2015, when a fire broke out and completely destroyed the entire building.

One other location that Mark visited was the Landmark Cafe at 158 Grand Street at the corner of Centre Street, which was the diner that Aidan Quinn’s character Dez gets thrown out of. “The actual layout of the diner hadn’t really changed since 1985,” says Mark. “What I did notice though was just how small it was inside, and I had to wonder just how the filmmakers managed to cram all of their cameras and recording equipment in there.”

Scene from Desperately Seeking Susan featuring Rosanna Arquette at Grand Street cafe

Scene from Desperately Seeking Susan featuring Rosanna Arquette outside cafe

Other locations from the film included Audubon Ballroom in Harlem that doubled for The Magic Club, and Danceteria, a nightclub that Madonna frequented and which gave her a start in the music business.

Click HERE for a full list of film locations from Desperately Seeking Susan

In the next article of this series, Mark talks about the film, ‘The Seven Year Itch’ and the apartment building where Marilyn Monroe once appeared on the front steps.


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