In a previous piece I described how Mae West funded her scandalous 1927 play sex through her romance with the rich, handsome, but very dangerous gangster Owney Madden. However, it was the poor, but handsome bag man of the gangster who made West an American icon.
In 1927 the Acting Mayor of New York Joe McKee, scandalized by the drama’s frank sexual portrayals, had West and the rest of the cast arrested. The arrest was a publicity gold mine and sex and West were the words on the lips of all New Yorkers. When the cops jailed Mae the gangster’s connections with Blackwell’s Island warden earned Mae a private cell and silk underwear. She even dined with the warden every night and left after six days being let out early for good behavior. Upon her release she quipped, “It was the first time I ever got anything for good behavior.”Continue reading →
The other day, I gave a talk on the Irish history of Greenpoint, and a long-time Greenpointer offered me a new twist on a famous old Greenpoint legend.
Before diving into the story, lets get acquainted with the story’s protagonists. The legendary scandalista Eva Tanguay was a Vaudeville legend who came to perform at the B.F. Keith’s Theater at Manhattan Avenue and Calyer Street sometime around the turn of the century. Notorious as the “I Don’t Care Girl”—the title of her signature song—Tanguay established herself as the queen of Vaudeville in 1901 with the New York City premiere of her controversial show “My Lady.” The Lady Gaga of her day, Tanguay was brazen, impudent, and shameless in the eyes of the Prudish. Some of her hit songs like “It’s All Been Done Before But Not the Way I Do It” and “Go As Far As You Like” boldly suggested illicit pleasures. She wore a shockingly revealing dress made entirely of pennies and filled her act with racy double entendres. Greenpoint’s Mae West, who later became equally notorious, was an early admirer who later incorporated many elements of Tanguay’s act into her own suggestive performances. Continue reading →
The Bedi-Makky building at 227 India Street looks like any other ordinary industrial Greenpoint building. However, it was here that the one of the largest bronze sculpture ever cast in human history was made; the famous Iwo Jima Memorial from Arlington National Cemetery was cast at the foundry, but it was no simple job.
Working six days a week for three years, seven local men constructed what was then the world’s largest bronze sculpture. This sculpture was huge: 78 feet high and over 100 tons, but the story of the birth of the iconic statue began many years before because of a legendary picture. Continue reading →
Is one of Greenpoint’s most unexpected features—a stretch of historic wooden block paving on West Street near the Greenpoint Terminal Market—in imminent danger? Many say that this is the last place where original wooden paving exists in New York City. These blocks are so rare that one from this section of sidewalk is included in the collection at The City Reliquary. But a new bike path down West Street could mean this final vestige of obscure New York City history will be put on the chopping block. Continue reading →
For anyone interested in exploring the history of Brooklyn, TheWooden House Project offers fantastic tours for lovers of Brooklyn’s wood-frame row houses. The walking tour I took through the streets of Greenpoint was an hour and a half long and was led by Elizabeth Finkelstein and Chelcey Berryhill. Continue reading →
You may have noticed that the facade of Black Rabbit (91 Greenpoint Ave) was repainted from black to a muddy maroon in order to comply with NYC Landmark Commission. What do you think of the new look?
Recently Improv Everywhere transformed Black Rabbit in Greenpoint into an 1860s bar for the ultimate time travel prank! They “worked with accomplices to invite unsuspecting friends …The bar was completely lit by candles and kerosene lanterns and was filled with actors in period dress. Beer cost pennies, and music was provided by a live band. By the end of the night, our surprised guests found themselves in the middle of an old-fashioned bar fight.
Did you know that Greenpoint has a museum? Yes we do and at this time it serves as a traveling museum visiting local schools. Motiva Enterprises has donated waterfront property at the launch site of the USS Monitor so a museum could be built in the future. They are now working toward fixing the site to make it open to the public. Please visit their site for more information. www.greenpointmonitormuseum.org
¿Sabías que Greenpoint cuenta con un Museo? Sí tenemos uno y en este momento sirve como un museo itinerante visitando las escuelas locales. Motiva Enterprises ha donado propiedad frente al mar en el sitio de lanzamiento del USS Monitor para que un museo podría construirse en el futuro. Ahora están trabajando hacia la fijación del sitio para que sea abierta al público. Visite su sitio para obtener más información. www.greenpointmonitormuseum.org