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New York in the 1950s

from The New York Times:

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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.…

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From The New York Times:
Love and Black Lives, in Pictures Found on a Brooklyn Street
A discarded photo album reveals a rich history of black lives, from the
segregated South to Harlem dance halls to a pretty block in Crown Heights.
By ANNIE CORREAL
JAN. 27, 2017

One night six years ago, on a quiet side street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, I came across a photo album that had been put out with the trash. I lived around the corner, and I was walking home when I saw it sitting beneath a streetlamp on Lincoln Place.
It looked handmade, with a wooden cover bound with a shoelace. But it had been tied up with twine, like a bunch of old newspapers, and left atop a pile of recycling.
After hesitating a moment, I picked it up and took it home.
The pages were fragile, and they cracked when I turned them, as if the album hadn’t been opened in a long time, but the photos were perfectly preserved. They seemed to chronicle the life of a black couple at midcentury: a beautiful woman with a big smile and a man who looked serious, or was maybe just camera-shy, and had served in World War II.
As I turned the pages, the scenery changed from country picnics to city streets and crowded dance halls in what appeared to be Harlem, and the couple went from youth to middle age. Looking at the album, I was struck by how joyful the photos were — and by the fact that as fabled as this era was, I had never seen a black family’s own account of that time.
I wondered who these neighbors were, and who had thrown the album out.
For decades, this part of Crown Heights had been mostly black. When I arrived in the neighborhood, several years before, I was one of the few nonblack residents on the block. The neighborhood was changing, though; newcomers were arriving and longtime residents were moving out.
I went back to Lincoln Place, hoping to find the album’s owner; it had surely been thrown out by mistake. Lincoln Place was the very image of old Brooklyn promoted by real estate agents. On other blocks, the houses were carved up or crumbling. Or they had been torn down and replaced by big buildings with spotlights and no-loitering signs. But on Lincoln Place, the stately rowhouses were still intact and well loved. The block was preserved in amber.
I knocked on doors and left my number, but I never heard from anyone. So I put the album on my bookshelf. A few years later, my landlords got an offer they couldn’t refuse, and my short time in Crown Heights was up. I stumbled upon the album while packing and pulled it off the shelf. Now I really had to reckon with it.
Gentrification was transforming the neighborhood — soon there might be no one left who recognized the world in these pictures. And the album was literally falling apart in my hands.…

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