Go Away With … Larry Harris

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
December 8, 2009

For a good chunk of the ’70s, disco was synonymous with Casablanca Records, thanks to its roster of artists such as Donna Summer and the Village People. Label co-founder Larry Harris, 62, writes about the wild and crazy times in his book And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records (Backbeat, $24.99). Currently residing in Port Angeles, Wash., Harris talks about his love of New York and why he really wants to get to Italy.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. New York City is a breath of fresh air to me. Also, I grew up in the New York area, so I have fond childhood memories whenever I go back. The energy from just walking on the streets, the incredible shops and sounds of a big city make me feel alive. Having unlimited cultural opportunities such as the museums and entertainment options makes the city a wonderland.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. They include Portland and Seattle. Both offer great restaurants and are just beautiful cities to roam around in. Seattle is just a few hours away and since I have to take a ferry to get there it makes the trip even more enjoyable, especially if I get lucky enough to see a pod of Orcas from the ferry. Portland is about five hours away and is very eclectic in food and entertainment options.

Q. What are your favorite hotels and restaurants?
A. Hotels that I love would have to include any Four Seasons (www.fourseasons.com), just because they are so well kept and luxurious. When I feel that I can’t afford a Four Seasons or it just does not exist where I am going, I will opt for a boutique hotel such as the Hotel Max (www.hotelmaxseattle.com) in Seattle. If I am looking for more of a resort experience, I love the Carmel Valley Ranch (www.carmelvalleyranch.com) in Carmel, Calif. All the rooms are very well equipped bungalows and the resort has a very beautiful golf course. Restaurants are always a main focus of my attention whenever I travel. In New York City I enjoy the Old Homestead Steakhouse (www.theoldhomesteadsteakhouse.com) and Katz’s Delicatessen (www.katzdeli.com). In Seattle I will go to any restaurant Tom Douglas (www.tomdouglas.com) is involved with. And I always keep an eye open for out-of-the-way dives that offer real down-home cooking.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. I must have my buckwheat pillow, my Sonicare toothbrush and soft comfortable lounging pants.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. Before I go anywhere I carefully check out my options online. If I know someone in the area, I will check with them when it comes to restaurants and attractions that they recommend. The online experience is usually tied in with reviews from other people. If a destination has too many negative reviews, I tend to steer away from them. If I am going to spend an extended time in any destination, I may go as far as to pick up a book dealing with that particular city or town just so I have a complete lay of the land.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. I would love to go to Italy. Just the thought of the great food and the historic sites get my juices flowing. Imagine pasta dishes done the way they should be and the fresh ingredients associated with true Italian cooking. If I ever went, I would do both southern and northern Italy just to experience what I have heard is the difference in the culture and food of both regions.

Q. What is your worst vacation memory?
A. When I was a kid I had the worst time on a weeklong vacation at my aunt’s bungalow in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. I was the youngest of all the kids and the bungalow, a two-bedroom affair, was jammed with about 15 relatives. It was a hot, humid summer — no air conditioning in those days — and the mosquitoes were just terrible. But the worst thing was that my uncle thought I should know how to swim, so he just picked me up and threw me in the lake and said, “Swim.” As I was going down for the third time, I figured out how to swim. But it was a horrifying experience that could have been handled in a more compassionate manner.

© 2009 JAE-HA KIM


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