from The New York Times:

Photo

A plaque honoring the comedian Rodney Dangerfield, a Queens native, being installed in a garden next to the Kew Gardens station on the Long Island Rail Road. Its official unveiling is scheduled for Friday during the opening events of the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema. Credit Will Glaser/The New York Times

As a boy growing up in Kew Gardens, Queens, Jacob Cohen got no respect.

His many menial jobs included delivering groceries to wealthy neighbors. He

endured anti-Semitism. He played baseball for a shabbily outfitted team against a team from against a team from the more celebrated Forest Hills neighborhood next door, said Carl Ballenas, a local historian.

That disadvantaged boy became Rodney Dangerfield, a stand-up comedian with a self-deprecating style based on his woeful upbringing in Kew Gardens.

Go ahead now, reader, and fidget with your imaginary necktie, mop your beleaguered brow and stammer it, the way Rodney did: No respect, no respect at all, all right?

“The whole ‘no respect’ theme came from his environment,” Mr. Ballenas said. “Kew Gardens was the birthplace, the formation of his themed monologues and catchphrase.”

Eager to confer a measure of respect upon Mr. Dangerfield and upon Kew Gardens, Mr. Ballenas and some of the students at the school where he teaches helped get a memorial plaque made to honor Mr. Dangerfield, who died in 2004 at 82.

Mr. Ballenas watched it being installed last Friday in a small green space next to the Kew Gardens station for the Long Island Rail Road. Mr. Dangerfield lived in the neighborhood with his mother and sister in an apartment above what is now Austin’s Ale House, one of the best-known bars in Queens.

As workers installed the memorial in anticipation of its formal unveiling this Friday, onlookers were eager to recall one-liners from the King of No Respect, often zingers based on uncaring parents, a poor upbringing and other aspects of a troubled life.

The plaque, which bore the comic’s youthful image from his 1939 yearbook from Richmond Hill High School, lists three of his top film appearances: “Caddyshack,” “Easy Money” and “Back to School.”

Also listed are his 1981 Grammy-winning comedy record, “No Respect,” and his 1983 hip-hop single, “Rappin’ Rodney,” which, the plaque noted, reached No. 83 on the Billboard charts.

Mr. Dangerfield was born on Long Island and lived in several New York City neighborhoods before moving with his mother and sister to Kew Gardens in the early 1930s when he was 10. He remained there throughout his teens.

His father abandoned the family and Mr. Dangerfield grew up “unloved and unwanted,” with a mother who withheld affection and kindness, said his widow, Joan Dangerfield.

“His mother convinced him to open a saving account one summer so he could save up for a football uniform,” she said, sounding like a Dangerfield joke setup. “Then she stole his money.”

Ms. Dangerfield, who lives in Los Angeles, said in an interview that her husband’s routines were certainly inspired by the hardship of his boyhood, which included juggling jobs such as working at a snack bar, delivering eggs, selling magazines, delivering groceries, selling ice cream, setting bowling pins and as a barker at a theater.

Ms. Dangerfield recalled that her husband used to joke about “‘the time I was kidnapped and they sent back a piece of my finger to my father — he said he wanted more proof.’”

Mr. Dangerfield occasionally came back to visit the old neighborhood, especially Bailey’s, the bar that preceded Austin’s Ale House in the same space.“He would come in and break up the place for a few minutes” with an impromptu bit of comedy, said John Ryan, an owner of Austin’s.

The plaque will be unveiled Friday evening during the opening events for the 10-day Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema, which includes screenings at Kew Gardens Cinemas, a popular theater for independent and foreign films.

There are no Dangerfield films in the festival, said its founder, Jayson Simba. There will, however, be a screening of “The Witness,” a documentary about Kitty Genovese, who was murdered outside her Kew Gardens apartment in 1964 in one of the city’s most infamous crimes.

As it happens, the Dangerfields’ old apartment is adjacent to where Ms. Genovese lived — an example of both “tragedy and comedy” residing above Austin’s Ale House, as Mark Boccia, another owner of the bar, observed.

The Kitty Genovese case became famous after The New York Times reported that the prolonged, brutal attack of Ms. Genovese was ignored by dozens of her neighbors. Some local shame over the attack lingers, along with resentment that the Times article itself has been criticized as having reported exaggerated aspects of the attack.

In any case, Ms. Genovese has never been honored with a plaque.

Other local attempts to honor Mr. Dangerfield have had complications, including the Ale House’s recent attempt to get a local street renamed Rodney Dangerfield Way. This failed after getting no respect — er, support — from the Kew Gardens Civic Association or the local city councilwoman.

And a mural painted nearby last year by an Italian artist became contentious after Ms. Dangerfield expressed her disappointment that it did not match a photo she had provided. After her suggested revisions were not made, she had a lawyer send a cease-and-desist letter demanding that the artwork be removed. For now, the mural remains.

Ms. Dangerfield said she would like to see the wall painted over periodically with new renditions of Mr. Dangerfield by other local artists.

Mr. Ballenas said he had assigned a group of middle school honor students to research the comic’s history in Kew Gardens. The students, members of the Acquinas Honor Society at Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Jamaica Estates, held a bake sale to raise money and enlisted Ms. Dangerfield’s support in getting the plaque made and installed.

She conferred with the students by email on the plaque’s details and wording and even donated one of his red ties and a pair of shoes to the collection of memorabilia the students were amassing for a display in Austin’s Ale House.

Mr. Ballenas acknowledged that choosing Rodney Dangerfield as middle school curriculum might seem odd. But since many of the school’s students are immigrants or children of immigrants, he decided that studying a Queens kid who learned the survival skills to triumph over his boyhood obstacles might prove useful for adapting to American culture.

“Rodney Dangerfield turned to humor,” Mr. Ballenas said, “and got people to laugh with him, not at him.”

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