The favourite places of Albert Imperato
A native New Yorker, Albert Imperato is a graduate of Stanford University and has worked for more than 30 years in the music and recording industry. In close collaboration with many of the world’s leading artists, he worked passionately to promote classical music to the broadest possible public. Albert is a long-time supporter of Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS, a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and is a special media consultant to Athlete Ally, an organisation working to end the structural and systemic oppression that isolates, excludes and endangers LGBTQ people in sports. He is an honoree of the 2018 OUT 100, an annual list of 100 “compelling people who have had a hand in moving forward LGBTQ rights.” A busy reader and writer, he recently completed a memoir about his family. He talks to Mr Hudson about The Hudson Valley, his love for travel, and some of his favourite places.
Besides my music promotion work, I love to read, write, jog, take bubble baths, and mix and serve cocktails, especially martinis and Manhattans
Tell us about yourself
I am originally from the Bronx, attended Stanford University, where I fell madly in love with everything California and worked for a major record company before co-founding my own arts promotion company, 21C Media Group. During my sophomore year in college, I lived and studied in Vienna, where I discovered my love of Old-World cafes and classical music. I travelled widely that year, including to Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and many cities in Eastern Europe long before the collapse of the Soviet Union. My work keeps in me in New York City during the week, but I spend most weekends in the country. In 2001 I bought a house in the Hudson Valley, two hours north of the city, with the man who later became my husband. Each season brings its own joys and rewards, with nature putting on a show that no human could capture in a painting. We have countless memories of good times alone together and with friends who come to visit. Besides my music promotion work, I love to read, write, jog, take bubble baths, and mix and serve cocktails, especially martinis and Manhattans. I also have an Instagram feed focusing on my passions for the Hudson Valley and rugged-style clothing: Upstate Guy Style.
What destination has lived up to the hype?
For years I heard from many artists that I work with that Tokyo, was simply the best city on earth. I only visited once, about five years ago, but it lived up to its hype and then some. The subways and streets are as clean as people said, the people are as courteous as humanly possible, the food is superb, the shops breathtakingly organised. When I asked someone at a cash register where the closest subway stop was, he left his position behind the counter and walked me to the entrance of the subway. I will never forget that! A runner up would perhaps be Berlin, which I visited several times over the decades. It has never disappointed me. The first in the early 80s when it was still a divided city. The feeling in the air was electric! It seemed like everyone was an artist, or talking about art, and I met so many fascinating people every time I went. After the wall fell, the city may have lost a little of its edge, but it remains a place that feels international in the way that New York does. My husband likes to dance more than anyone I know, and for him, dancing at Berghain in Berlin is pretty much the greatest thing to do in the solar system.
What destination hasn’t?
I am so fascinated by watching human beings doing their thing that I can’t really say I have ever been profoundly disappointed by a visit anywhere. If there are people to watch, anywhere, I will probably find a way to enjoy being there in some way.
What is your favourite place in the world?
I fell in love with cafe culture while studying in Vienna, but nothing brings more pleasure to me than sitting at Cafe Einstein in Berlin with my husband, a good book, a rich coffee, and an apple strudel smothered in whipped cream. A close second and third would be a hammock in the front yard of our home in the Hudson Valley, or on a lounge with a drink at a favourite hotel in Miami Beach.
For me, being on a beach with nothing scheduled is heaven on earth
What is it about travel that you enjoy most?
Creating vivid memories of people, moments and places that show you the very best human beings can experience just being alive. My travel memories are chock-filled with visual images, feelings, smells and sensations that feel as real to me now as when I experienced them. I can never forget the exhilaration of beholding the bright red rocks of Bryce Canyon, Utah, or the awe of standing in Moscow’s Red Square pondering the wonders of St. Basil Cathedral’s spires, or, a half a world away, the haystacks off of the Oregon coast, or just yielding to the pleasure of the tequila in my drink at a beach hotel in the Dominican Republic. The list of inspiring memories goes on and on and on.
What is the best hotel you’ve stayed at?
My most generous friend invited me to visit Tokyo with his family and showed me one of the best times of my life. His mother was born in Japan, and he has long, deep ties to the country. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, and the room, service, food, spa and so much more were absolutely top notch. That’s also where I discovered the incomparable pleasure of a high-tech Japanese toilet. I also have a special affection for the Ojai Valley Inn, in Ojai, California, 70 miles north of Los Angeles. It has that mixture of stunning natural beauty and easy, California elegance that I adore, and the area’s reputation for having healing qualities was revealed to me in real time. The last time I was there was just six months after my mother passed away, and I think my stay in that beautiful place was the beginning of my finding my way back from profound grief. The smell of the desert flowers there still lingers in my memory.
What does your ideal trip look like?
I love unstructured time and don’t like to take trips that are heavily planned. For me, being on a beach with nothing scheduled is heaven on earth, so various places in the Caribbean have a magic hold on me. I mostly hate the experience of passing through airports, so any time I can travel by train instead of plane is vastly preferred.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while travelling?
While in college I met a young artist from Montreal while touring Venice in Italy. He was French Canadian of Irish descent, and he was an extraordinary story-teller and illustrator. We became friends and corresponded for years. He would send me letters that arrived in envelopes that bore his colourful, incredibly stylish illustrations. Definite works of art! When they arrived, all of my friends wanted to know who this guy was, and it was always an opportunity to tell people the story of my year abroad and the fascinating people I met along the way.
I refuse to go anywhere where I would feel self-conscious holding my husband’s hand
What are your favourite places in The Hudson Valley that people need to know about?
Probably the most famous destination in the Hudson Valley is Woodstock. You may have heard of a concert they had there back in 1969! Woodstock is west, across the Hudson River and about 90 minutes from our house in Columbia County. In our own county, the city of Hudson has become a major tourist destination. It’s two hours north of NYC and reachable by Amtrak train. From the Amtrak stop in Hudson, you can quickly reach Warren Street, which is effectively the town’s main street. There you will find countless antique shops, perhaps the biggest draw for Hudson, as well as cafes, gourmet food shops and restaurants. It’s a very welcoming, gay-friendly place; plenty of windows have Rainbow flags in them. The Spotty Dog is a terrific stop to have a beer and browse some books. Fifteen minutes outside of Hudson, perched on a magnificent hill, is Olana, the home of the late Frederic Church, the founder of the Hudson River School of painting. Its architecture is influenced by Church’s travels to the Mideast, and the house, now a museum, has some of the very best views of the Hudson Valley. In neighbouring Dutchess County, you will find the village of Rhinebeck, which has some great restaurants and shops. The Beekman Arms, one of the most famous hotels in the area, has a tavern with a definitive Hudson Valley vibe. For high culture, visiting the Hudson Valley in the summer provides an opportunity to visit a place that draws people from around the world: the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, also in Dutchess County. My company promotes their annual SummerScape festival, which focuses on the life and times of a composer with seven weeks of arts offerings including dance, theatre, film, opera and orchestral music. The Hudson Valley is supremely glorious at this time of year, and attending this festival is one of the highlights of the season for me, even if it’s also work.
What is your best-kept travel secret?
I can’t live without music, so travelling with a portable speaker is critically important. The first thing I do when I arrive in a hotel anywhere is bust out my little Jambox speaker. Nothing enhances the feeling of being somewhere special more than having the right music in the background. Listening to Handel and Elgar when you are vacationing in London, for example, is surely an excellent way to heighten your sense of that city’s profound history and gives an extra depth to your experience of being there.
Any recommendations for gay travellers?
Much as I loved my experience going to Moscow many years ago, I will not go to Russia again, or to any country that discriminates against gay people. I refuse to go anywhere where I would feel self-conscious holding my husband’s hand. I actually had a guy who wrote to me through Instagram tell me that if I came to his village in Indonesia, I might be beaten if people found out I was gay. Yikes! Thankfully, there are not that many places I want to go to that being gay would be a problem.
Portrait courtesy of Gage Allen.