Get the gossip on New York's elite

By Katina Curtis

Leighton Meester films scenes for 'Gossip Girl' near New York's Central Park. Tours of the television series' shooting locations are popular with fans of the show. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user stlphotoblogger
Leighton Meester films scenes for 'Gossip Girl' near New York's Central Park. Tours of the television series' shooting locations are popular with fans of the show. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user stlphotoblogger

Leggy blondes and glamorous brunettes - it was definitely the bus for the Gossip Girl tour.

The television series about the "scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite" has brought the world of the Upper East Side to girls around the world since 2007 and many of them want to make the pilgrimage to see it in reality.

"I can go home happy now," one of the tour participants says after sitting on the steps of the Met where the characters routinely ate lunch while still at school in the first few seasons. It was the second day of her first visit to New York.

Gossip Girl, like Sex and the City before it, uses the city as its backdrop.

About 80 per cent of it is filmed on location, with much of the action taking place not in apartment interiors in a studio somewhere but on the streets as the characters shop, eat and scheme.

On Location Tours has been running Gossip Girl-specific tours for several years, changing the various stops as new seasons air.

Our tour guide, Lindsay, actually worked on the show as a stand in for one of the main characters in the first few seasons.

As well as pointing out sites as the bus drives past - Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren, the Plaza Hotel - she fills us in on how the TV industry works.

Several of the sites we see are museums and churches, popular with shows that need grand but fictional buildings because they're cheap.

Constance Billard and St Jude's, the schools our upper East siders attend at the start of the show, turn out to be a museum, a church, and a courtyard in a studio - none of which are within easy walking distance of the Met.

Lindsay throws in questions to get the fans talking.

"Who likes Chuck?" she asks.

"What do we think of Serena and Dan? Blair and Nate? What's up with Dan's hair?"

And for those less familiar with the show (there are a few dads accompanying teenage daughters who've not watched a single episode) there are video clips of scenes shot in the locations we're driving past.

One of them makes me laugh - Blair and Chuck are discussing why his hotel, the Empire, accepts Groupon bookings. Blair wants Chuck to make it more elite in order to "turn away the tasteless tourists with the fanny-packs".

On Location Tours encourages participants to dress up as their favourite character when joining the bus. To my surprise, only about a third have approximated the elegant styling with most of the others in standard-issue tasteless-tourist shorts and t-shirts - although I didn't spot any "fanny-packs".

Lindsay also gives us some idea of just how rich the show's characters are.

For instance, private girls' school Marymount, that is opposite the Met, costs almost US$23,000 (NZ$28,460) a year in tuition - for nursery or pre-school aged students. An apartment in the building where Blair lives would set you back about US$22 million.

The bus stops for photo ops at a few key spots - the Met, the school, the Empire Hotel where, unfortunately, Chuck was not lounging in the bar - as well as two longer shopping stops.

"The Gossip Girls are here!" the doorman at Henri Bendel exclaims as the fancy department store is suddenly swamped.

Many head straight up to the second floor where the headbands are.

Costume designer Eric Daman bought all headbands for Blair and her minions from the store after needing a quick fix to hide a wig-line during the pilot.

Although Blair has since abandoned the girlish Alice-bands, the look is still synonymous with the show.

It's then on to the meatpacking district, which has gentrified since becoming popular after Samantha moved there in the third season of Sex and the City, which aired in 2000.united states

The tour ends at designer Diane von Furstenberg's home and Eleanor Waldorf's fictional boutique but not before Lindsay has pointed out a great pizza bar where "Chuck had to tell the others that his mum was involved in the business deal".

IF YOU GO

On Location Tours runs a Gossip Girl site tour on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 12 noon. The tour costs US$44. I'd also recommend paying an extra US$8 for priority boarding to get a seat up the front.

- AAP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 01 Aug 2014 19:35:35 Processing Time: 546ms