When we were brainstorming options for this issue’s Celebrated Weekend, American Way’s signature cover feature, our publisher pointed us to the Big Apple. Her suggestion makes sense: The holiday season is upon us, New York is magical this time of year, and now more than ever it’s important to promote tourism there.

Lots of celebrities call New York home, and the decision of who best represents the city is a tough one. But then the star-studded telethon that raised relief funds aired, and the choice became clear: Hearing Billy Joel sing “New York State of Mind” gave viewers a collective case of goose bumps.

Joel seemed to relish the opportunity to give American Way readers a tour of his hometown. “New York isn’t just about restaurants, parks, and Broadway shows,” Joel says. “It’s about people. In New York you see the whole world in one place. If you go to Paris, you see mostly French people. When you go to Rome, you see mostly Italians. In New York, you see everybody, and they’re from all over the world. But once they become New Yorkers, you can tell. They walk fast, and you better get out of their way.”

Joel brought that same passion to our recent photo shoot, shot on location at The Carlyle hotel. Design director Scott Jackson worked with celebrity photographer Nigel Parry under incredible time constraints — our pictures of Joel were taken long after the rest of this issue was shipped out the door. What’s more, they only had about 40 minutes with Joel to work their magic. Despite the pressure, Joel became animated the minute he walked out onto the hotel room balcony.

“You could tell he was right at home there, overlooking the city,” says Scott. “He kept pointing out different landmarks and identifying buildings around us.”

But time, or lack thereof, wasn’t Scott and Nigel’s only challenge. “Just when we had everything set to go, debris started raining down off the roof and the side of the balcony,” Scott says. “We looked up to see a construction crew starting some kind of repair that made our location look like a sandbox.” Armed with a broom, they were able to keep the set debris-free and get their shots. The result was worth it. Though our covers typically feature a studio shot of a celebrity in front of a simple background, New York made the obvious backdrop for Billy Joel’s Celebrated Weekend. As he sings so powerfully in his ode to the city, “Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood. Hop a flight to Miami Beach, or to Hollywood. But I’m taking a Greyhound, on the Hudson River Line. I’m in a New York state of mind … .”

There’s much more. Let us know what you think.