New York stairway leads to Joker fame

  • Americas
  • Wednesday, 06 Nov 2019

This stairway in New York's Bronx neighbourhood is enjoying its 15 minutes of fame. — Reuters Jay Garcia, a radio host from Queens, dancing down the ‘Joker Steps’ in the Bronx borough of New York. — Reuters

Like most tourists, Patricio Osuna had a list of “must sees” on his trip to New York City: the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and, surprisingly, a steep flight of steps in an out-of-the-way neighbourhood of the Bronx that has now become a cult-movie landmark.

This autumn, Osuna and a stream of fellow visitors have flocked to the stairway, known as a “step street”, to see the real-life backdrop to a memorable scene in Joker, the hit movie that tells the backstory of Batman’s deranged foe, the Joker.

The scene captures the moment that the loner Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix, transforms into the Joker as he dances down the steps to Gary Glitter’s anthem Rock & Roll Part 2, his hair dyed a menacing green and his face painted like a clown.

“I’m visiting New York for the first time and I said that I have to come visit the stairs, ” said Osuna, a 46-year-old bus company owner from Tijuana, Mexico. He then broke into a theatrical strut mimicking the Joker’s dance down the stairs.

Until recently, not many tourists ventured into the Bronx, which has long sought to shake an unfair image as a crime-ridden backwater. The borough’s biggest draws are the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Gardens and the New York Yankees, the perennial baseball powerhouse that makes its home about a mile south of the steps, located on West 167th Street between Anderson and Shakespeare avenues.

But since the release of Joker a few weeks ago, many New Yorkers and out-of-towners travelled there to gawk, take selfies and, in the spirit of the Joker’s choreography, to ham it up.

“There’s something about his moves. He just killed it. It was in his soul,” said Jay Garcia, a 30-year-old radio host from the neighbouring borough of Queens.

For long-time Bronx residents like Laura Harry, step streets are a common feature in the borough’s hilly landscape.

“I’ve lived around here for 30 years... people use them every day,” said Harry, as she stood at the top of the steep stairs with her groceries, gazing at the people below. “I’m fascinated, because they made the steps famous.”

While the borough has struggled with its reputation as a dangerous place, it is perhaps ironic that a threatening figure like the Joker may have helped burnish its image.

“It’s good for us. You know, publicity,” said Jose Cruz, a long-time resident who climbs the 131 steps at West 167th Street daily.

“People don’t have to be scared of the Bronx no more, the way they used to.” – Reuters

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new york , joker , joaquin phoenix , tourism , travel


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