The Art of Doing

The Tour Guide: How Curt Found His Road

Curt Upton of Foods of NY Tours
Tour Guide Curt Upton (center) from Foods of NY Tours explores the heart of Greenwich Village with a flock of out-of-town foodies. Photo by Josh Gosfield

“My first tour was nerve-wracking. I was at Cornelia and Bleecker, looking at all these people as I tried to memorize all the facts and scripts in my head. I just came out and told them, ‘I’m feeling very nervous.’ They were very welcoming to that. Now, I can go up to a group and have them giggling in 3 minutes. They deserve it. They’ve spent good money on the experience, and for many of them, coming to New York is the trip of a lifetime. How did I get here? My father died in a car accident before I was born. My mother was very difficult to live with, so at 16, I left home. When I was 17, I quit high school. I wanted to be a comedian or an actor so I bought a 1-way ticket to London. The plan was, become a model and get an agent. I modeled in London and Milano. I was only 20 and I had no family support so I had to keep swimming or I’d drown.

I moved back to Vancouver, took acting classes, did some film work, theater, improv, and stand-up. But unless you want to do children’s theater, the ceiling for actors in Vancouver is very low. Quentin Crisp, an old British writer I met, convinced me to move to NYC when he said, ‘The streets are paved with happiness.’ I got a job at Lola’s restaurant and was suddenly making $1500 a week. But I’m Canadian and I had horrible problems with my papers. My casting director couldn’t cast me in anything. By then I was working in a restaurant run by psycho freaks. I was drinking bourbon in the morning thinking, ‘This couldn’t get any worse.’ That’s when these local tours started coming by. Being a tour guide isn’t something you go to school for but I thought, ‘I’d be very good at this.’ The people on these tours want to feel special. And I’m looking for a genuine connection, too. Unless the person’s a horrible jerk. It’s important that people are nice to each other. That’s all we got.”

You’ll find Curt leading highly entertaining tours @foodsofnytours & plotting his dream TV series “On the Water” where he sails along the Hudson River, stopping in towns for local food adventures.

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