US President Herbert Hoover pushed a button in Washington D .C. turning on the lights of a building in New York City. On May 1, 1931, the world’s tallest building (102 stories with a total height of 1,454 feet), one of the seven wonders of the modern world, and soon to become an American icon, the Empire State Building, was open for business.
Commanding the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street, the Art Deco masterpiece had taken just over a year to complete. It remained the tallest building in the world for 40 years, and is still a celebrated symbol of American culture. It has been a featured star in over 250 movies and many other forms of entertainment for its entire existence – An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle, Elf and, probably the most famous, the one with that giant ape clinging to its spire, battling modern technology.
Although jumping (or attempting to) from the Empire State Building is a much depicted form of suicide, just 30 people have pulled it off. The most noted is the 1947 death of a young woman who landed on a United Nations limousine parked at the curb. A photo taken minutes after her death was featured in Life magazine as “The Most Beautiful Suicide” and was later used by Andy Warhol in his print Suicide (Fallen Body).
Notable failures included a woman who jumped from the 86th floor observation deck, only to be blown back onto the 85th floor by a gust of wind and left with a broken hip, and a man who jumped or fell from the 86th floor but landed alive on an 85th floor ledge from which he was rescued suffering only minor injuries.
“I’m big, and I sing, and boy, when I sing, I sing all over!” –Kate Smith (born May 1, 1907)
“Hi, ho, Steverino!” — Louis Nye ( born May 1, 1913)