As a Partnerships Marketing Manager, Zach Aaronson enjoys getting the word out about Broadway shows in creative non-traditional ways. Originally from Baltimore, Hell’s Kitchen has been home “my entire adult life” — here’s Zach’s West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I always start by qualifying that my dad grew up in Jamaica, Queens and my grandfather (who was not a nice man) lived in the San Remo on Central Park West until he passed in 2015. So I have a fair amount of claim to New York origins! My great grandparents on both sides came through Ellis Island around the turn of the 20th century. I’ve been obsessed with Broadway and musical theater since I was a kid, so as a teenager in Baltimore, Maryland, I took a coach bus up to see matinees as often as I could. Once I was 18 and looking at colleges, I was determined to be in Manhattan. I started school studying to be a theater director at Fordham Lincoln Center. Eventually, I changed my major to communications and geared myself towards a career in the business side of Broadway. I’ve lived in Hell’s Kitchen for nearly 15 years now!
What was your first job? What do you do now?
My first job as a teenager was at a local family grocery store in suburban Ruxton, Maryland. In college, I had some internships with theater companies. My first real Broadway industry opportunity was an internship at AKA (Broadway Ad Agency) in 2013. I very recently started as the new Partnerships Marketing Manager at RPM, working on getting the word out about Broadway shows in creative non-traditional ways!
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
So many amazing memories come to mind! Even last week, I was at the opening night of Bad Cinderella on Broadway, and I interacted with so many exciting icons. I’ve had a lot of magical experiences at Pride Marches, drag shows. One time I was in the audience at The Drew Barrymore Show and I talked to her! That was fun! I’ve been on the news with my former cheerleading team. Winning karaoke competitions has been an epic validation and joy. OMIGOD I KNOW!!! It has to be The Las Culturistas Culture Awards at Lincoln Center last summer. I met Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers, met so many nice people waiting in line for the show including Molly, who has become one of my dearest friends!
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
What’s not to love?!? It’s been my home my entire adult life. I feel safe and known here. I walk down the streets every day with blue mascara and gold glitter, belting out songs playing in my airpods, and nobody bats an eyelash. I go to drag shows and Broadway shows nearly every night, and I’m home in a matter of minutes! It’s all a dream come true. I’ve met so many amazing people over the years. There’s always something exciting happening.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
I am an encyclopedia of Pop Culture trivia and celebrity names. I’m decent at playing around with makeup and “cosmeceuticals!” ! I used to be a cheerleader! I do nail art and paint hand fans. I’m currently on the Queer Big Apple Corps Marching Band Color Guard! And Big Apple Kickball League! I know hundreds of drag queens lol. I’m pretty great at making fun instastories. But mostly I’m a singer. I love to sing. It fills my soul.
What else should we know about you?
I have the world’s most perfect sweet calm and adorable toy poodle named Scuttle! He’s such a star. I’m obsessed with The Color Purple. The musical, the movie, the UPCOMING MOVIE MUSICAL, but at this point, mostly the color itself! I’ve seen nearly 300 different Broadway shows in my life (not including off-Broadway, student shows, etc). I know every word of Beyonce’s discography and her documentaries. I have her signature tattooed on my arm, lol. I’m an awards show junkie. Social media addict. I’m down 160 lbs from my heaviest weight! But I gotta lose more again.
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Zach’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
Pier 84 — 555 12th Avenue
I love being by the water, the dog park is great for Scuttle. It’s peaceful and beautiful on a nice day. I love that fountain in the summer.
Hardware — 697 10th Avenue (bw W47/48th) but also Vers, The Spot/Rise, Industry, Hush and The Ritz!
Every time I walk in, if Hans Then is working there, he says, “Welcome home!” I used to live across the street from there, and I’ve probably seen hundreds of drag shows there. I belt along while they lip sync and film every moment on my phone. I love every drag bar and every drag show in HK, but Hardware has a special place in my heart.
Peachy Keen — 325 W44th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
It’s so damn cute! The staff has always been lovely, food’s good. But it’s all about the atmosphere and design. I love an over the top theme. See also: Friki Tiki.
Delphinium Home — 353 W47th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Best place to buy gifts! So much adorable gay stuff. My heart sings. I wish I could buy it all!
TMPL — 355 W49th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
It’s mostly my incredible trainer Sam Massey that I’ve been working with there for years! He makes me love this place where I’ve worked out so many times that helped me lose the weight!
Al Hirschfeld Theatre — 302 W45th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
It’s west of 8th Avenue, so technically Hell’s Kitchen! I now work on the marketing team for Moulin Rouge, but it’s a gorgeous theater and such a dream to have one of my closest neighbors be a fabulous over-the-top spectacle musical! And I LOVE Hirschfeld’s art!! Find the NINAs!!!
One Shubert Alley — 222 W45th Street (bw 7th/8th Ave)
Arguably not in HK, but so iconic, so special. So many events there. I kind of still can’t believe I get to live so close to it.
Tito Murphy’s — 346 W46th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
They’ve been a good friend to me! I can hear the cheering from their weekend brunch drag shows *eeever so slightly* from my apartment. The manager there, Amadeo, has become a friend. And I don’t have to worry about the noise if I run down and join them!
DeWitt Clinton Park — W52nd to W54th Street (bw 11th/12th Ave)
Another excellent dog run for Scuttle, with a separate area for small dogs! And now my Big Apple kickball leagues are about to start there!
Viv Thai — 717 9th Avenue (bw W48/49th St)
I love heavy, glamorous theming! It’s so decadent, opulent, luxe. But affordable! I love Thai food. and the outdoor dining with the rainbow flowers always makes me happy when I walk past.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Omigoodness! I LOVE W42ST!! I’m so happy Phil is home! I read your emails every day, always on your insta. I also love Amish Market! Thank god for FreshDirect! I volunteer for Broadway Cares and Backpacks for the Street. 15 years later, I still stare up at skyscrapers in awe, wonder and disbelief. The world can be a beautiful place if you choose to see the beauty in it. I think it pisses God off if you walk past the color purple in a field and don’t notice it. He’s saying “look what I made for ya.”
You can follow Zach on Instagram @zachaaronson. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself) please fill in this form — w42st.info/WSSnominations
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.