When it comes to climactic film confrontations, the 1964-65 World's Fair grounds at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (which straddles the Queens neighborhoods of Flushing and Corona) can claim a couple of doozies. In 1997's 'Men in Black,' the former New York State Pavilion's observation towers are found to house spacecraft used by the first extraterrestrials to visit Earth; at the movie's end, Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) try to stop intergalactic terrorist Edgar the Bug (Vincent D'Onofrio) from leaving Earth via the towers. a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/4458256721/" target="_blank">
When it comes to climactic film confrontations, the 1964-65 World's Fair grounds at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (which straddles the Queens neighborhoods of Flushing and Corona) can claim a couple of doozies. In 1997's 'Men in Black,' the former New York State Pavilion's observation towers are found to house spacecraft used by the first extraterrestrials to visit Earth; at the movie's end, Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) try to stop intergalactic terrorist Edgar the Bug (Vincent D'Onofrio) from leaving Earth via the towers.
In 'Iron Man 2,' the fairgrounds house Stark Expo 2010, a high-tech version of the 1964-65 World's Fair, complete with recreations of long-demolished pavilions. The movie's final showdown, in which Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Lt. Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) battle Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) and his drones, features digitized versions of both the N.Y.S. Pavilion and another World's Fair relic, the Unisphere. Though the movie wasn't actually shot in Flushing, director Jon Favreau -- who grew up in a house overlooking the fair site -- clearly pays homage to his hometown.
The 1,255-acre Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is home to both New York Mets stadium Citi Field and USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which hosts the US Open. However, the fairgrounds haven't been used for a major event since 1965, and the once-grand N.Y.S. Pavilion, designed by architect Philip Johnson, is in a sadly neglected state. (The Unisphere is in much better shape.) Area residents, encouraged by Flushing Meadows' glamorous 'Iron Man 2' transformation (on screen anyway) are already envisioning a possible Stark Expo-like revitalization.
In addition to the above-mentioned films, the New York State Pavilion was also used in 1978 movie 'The Wiz' as the set for Munchkinland; the Unisphere -- official symbol of Queens -- has been the site of several music videos and scenes from various TV series; and the park itself was the final destination on the first season of 'The Amazing Race.'
Location as Character: In 'Men in Black' Edgar attempts to escape via the N.Y.S. Pavilion's observation towers, later crashing into the Unisphere. In 'Iron Man 2', the Flushing fairgrounds has its own backstory as the site of Howard (Tony's dad) Stark's 1974 Expo (which strongly resembles the real-life 1964 World's Fair). During Expo 2010, Tony, wearing his Iron Man suit, triumphantly lands on the stage of the N.Y.S. Pavilion, which houses an exhibit for Stark Industries. Later, during the movie's final battle scenes, drones fly into and careen off the Unisphere. (Spoiler Alert: The 'sphere also holds the key to a new element crucial for Tony's failing heart.)
Historical Significance: A former dumping ground described as "a valley of ashes" in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby,' the area was cleared for the 1939-40 Worlds Fair; one of its buildings served as temporary headquarters for the UN before it moved to its permanent location. The lone surviving structure from the '39 Fair is now the Queens Museum of Art. The 1964-65 World's Fair was the last exposition to be held on the site. Recently, the N.Y.S. Pavilion was voted into the state's Register of Historic Places, and there are plans to nominate it for national landmark status.
Fun Facts: The skate-worthy ledges that surround the Unisphere have appeared in numerous professional skateboard videos. In 'Iron Man 2,' Tony's computer mentions the 1974 Stark Expo's Belgian Waffle Stands, an inside reference to a treat that many '64 World's Fair visitors still fondly remember.
Directions: From the Triborough (Robert F. Kennedy) Bridge: Grand Central Parkway (GCP) East to the Northern Blvd.-Citi Field exit/from Long Island: GCP West to Exit 9A.
From Manhattan/Queens Midtown Tunnel: Long Island Expressway (LIE) East to Exit 22 to GCP West, Exit 9A/from Long Island: LIE West to Exit 21 to GCP West, Exit 9A.
From points north: Whitestone Expressway (I-678) South to Exit 13, Northern Blvd/Citi Field.
By train from Manhattan: #7 subway to Mets-Willets Point or Long Island Railroad (Port Washington branch) to Mets-Willets Point.
Visitor Information: The New York State Pavilion is an empty shell, but other park attractions include the Queens Museum of Art, Queens Theater in the Park, New York Hall of Science, Queens Zoo and banquet hall Terrace on the Park (former '64 World's Fair heliport), in addition to picnic areas and ball fields.
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