Talk about being an independent contractor
and Martha Lanzillotti relates. Her boutique business, as she calls
it, is Explore New York, and she is one of New Yorks 1,300 licensed
A step-on guide
for tour groups and a private guide for customized sightseeing
plans, Lanzillotti has been in this business since 1992, but like
many of her counterparts in the Big Apple, she had a first career
as an actress. More precisely, she was a singer-actress with the
stage name Martha Danielle (the latter is her middle
She was in a few
Broadway shows in the 1960s and 1970s (once sharing a dressing room
with Glenn Close before Close became a star), traveled for months
at a time with road shows, appeared in advertising (she is a former
Tupperware girl and a former Lotto girl) and, for 13 years,
performed in the industrial theater. In that world, she sometimes
shared the bill with the likes of Chita Rivera and Gwen
sponsored industrial events used familiar shows and music to convey
their own messages and sell products, and Lanzillottis assignments
could range from a car show in Detroit (she once did one of those
dressed in car upholstery fabrics) to fashion week in New
From 1987 to
1992, Lanzillotti worked on cruise ships, mostly Ocean Cruise
Lines, doubling as an entertainer and hostess, summering in
Scandinavia and wintering in South America.
She said these
experiences were great background for a tour guide, particularly
for someone in New York, Americas theater central, because she can
name-drop to her clients content and she is once again on stage
reading her audience.
all, are not just books on legs, she said. Information is very
important, but its also about your personality and about being
spontaneous, she said.
by-the-book obligation is to provide what was promised in printed
itineraries or prepare custom itineraries to the customers
specifications. Beyond that is her chance to be creative with each
client or group. She offers options for add-ons or alternatives,
depending on customer interest.
Part of her job,
too, is helping out-of-town coach drivers navigate the city, do
drop-offs where permissible and locate parking. The drivers can be
quite nervous, literally with shaking hands, she said.
A New Yorker from
birth, Lanzillotti was thrilled to study (using the recommended
Michelin guidebook) for her 1992 licensing test because she learned
a great deal about her hometown and took herself all over town for
a month. But she is constantly updating her material. For example,
some teens want to know where certain basketball courts (seen in
movies) are located.
Or, she has to be
ready to talk about the most obscure things when a coach is stuck
in traffic. Thats why Lanzillotti knows that the Church of St. Mary
the Virgin, an Anglo-Catholic church in the theater district, is
the first church in the world to be built on a steel frame. Who
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin
at [email protected].