I first read "84, Charing Cross Road" in 1970 when it was excerpted in Reader's Digest, which made me borrow the full copy from the library. In 1982, while visiting a friend in NYC, we went to see the Broadway stage production which had been fashioned from the book, starring Ellen Burstyn and Josef Sommer. It was very interesting to see the set, where half of the stage area was Helene Hanff's NYC apartment and the other half was the Marks & Co. bookstore.
I moved to NYC in 1985 and my first job was at the Doubleday Book Shop at 673 Fifth Avenue, at the NE corner of 53rd Street. (It is no longer there; Nelson Doubleday having sold the bookstores which bore his name to Barnes & Noble,which only kept the larger shop down, the street at 724 Fifth Avenue across from Trump Tower, but it can be seen in "The Boys in the Band", "The Owl and the Pussycat", and "The War Between Men and Women".) I worked there until 1988, my final position being one of the assistant managers. Helene Hanff loved that book store and came by regularly to see the staff and autograph copies of her famous book. I got to meet her and told her of my love of her book, play, and the David Jones film with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, and in my copy, she inscribed, "To Ron, of my favorite Doubleday bookshop - the kind of fan every author should have! Helene Hanff".
Like Helene, when I finally made it to London in 1990, the Marks & Co. bookstore was gone, but we did manage to find the spot where it had stood. Yes, there was a plaque outside and it was at that time a record shop, but copies of the books she wrote were on sale inside. So, at least for me, like Helene says in her book..."whatever you go looking for in London...it's there." It was!
I write this in tribute to a wonderfully feisty woman who will always be with us, thanks to Anne Bancroft's magnificently warm portrayal (although Ellen Burstyn was equally good). When she died April 9, 1997, I clipped the obituary from the paper and tucked it inside my copy. Bravo, Miss Hanff!
That's wonderful that you actually met Helene Hanff. Her letter to me was so warm and pleasant, I can easily imagine how much fun she must have been in person.