Monday, January 28, 2008

Obscure Brooklyn Rock Venues: Loews/Universal 46th Street Theatre

Sure, you knew about the famed Fox and Paramount theaters downtown, where lots of early rock and pop acts performed. Even 9th Street's Prospect Theatre (now a C-town between 5th and 6th avenues) hosted the Dave Clark Five, among other groovies.

But did psychedelia ever make its way Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn? Sure enough, it did.

From November 11 through November 14, 1970, a fantastic double bill featured Hot Tuna with the Grateful Dead as an opening act at the "46th St. Rock Palace - Brooklyn, NY". This shows the early prominence of the Airplane and its personnel (Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady), while the Dead were still relatively less known, before becoming the enormous cultural phenomena (and pop cash machine) that it did in larter decades until guitarist Jerry Garcia's death in 1993.

I vaguely remember seeing a later version of Garcia's bluegrass spin-off, Old and in the Way, only with another musician substituting for Jerry Garcia on banjo, along with Peter Rowan and David Grisman, at Brooklyn College's Student Union (SUBO), in the early 70s, but my details are hazy.

But the idea of a Tuna/Dead show in Bensonhurst is fabulous. The 46th street theatre was located at 4515 New Utrecht Avenue. According to,
Loew's 46th Street Theatre, now closed, seated 2,675 with a single screen, and an atmospheric theatre style. Architect: John Eberson. Closed in 1973, the Universal Theatre, better known as the 46th Street Theatre, was converted into retail space.

Theater photo courtesy of The John Chappell Collection

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bnote Mitzvah Time

Not to presume that this blog has been missed, but if it was, the reason has been that our family has been involved in Heavy Readiness Mode for the past few weeks as we prepared for the Bat Mitzvahs of our twin daughters, Ilana Miriam and Gabrielle, this past weekend. It has been a remarkable time. For my wife Judy (Jehudit) and myself, it is our third time through this incredible Gate of Life (previously with our slightly older 2 kids Danielle and Benjamin). The service, led by Rabbi Andy Bachman and Cantor Janet Leuchter, at Congregation Beth Elohim, and the service the previous night led by Rabbi Dan Bronstein, created a beautiful connection with the roots of our Jewish faith. Although I was not born into Judaism, for the past 20+ years it has become central to my life and my values, and the emotions and pure joy that welled up over me as the Rabbi and the Cantor consulted as to the extent of each of our daughters completion of their recitation of the parsha was profound and deep. Rabbi Bachman, who within the last 2 years, also presided over the funeral of Judy's late mother, promised us a meaningful service and it certainly was. The presence and support of many of our non-Jewish family, friends and colleagues at the service was also so joyful and gratifying. We also would like to acknowledge the preparation provided to the girls by Cantor Leuchter, the previous preparation provided by CBE president Jules (baby) Hirsch who has played a role in the preparation of all 4 of our children. The Dvar Torah preparation provided by Rabbi Dan Bronstein, CBE congregational scholar was likewise so much appreciated,as was the help of Executive Director Nancy Rubinger. We have been long-time members of Congregation Beth Elohim, sometimes more involved, sometimes less, but we are grateful to have completed this circle of growth and connection, through CBE.

--Brooklyn Beat/Tony Napoli

Friday, January 18, 2008

Brooklyn-Raised Chess Icon Bobby Fischer Dead at Age 64

Brooklyn-raised, Chicago-born chess icon Bobby Fischer, who became a Cold War symbol when he defeated Soviet Union's Boris Spassky as world champion in 1972, has died at age 64.

In May 1949, the six-year-old Fischer learned how to play chess from instructions found in a chess set that his sister had bought at a candy store below their Brooklyn apartment. He saw his first chess book a month later. For over a year he played chess on his own. At age seven, he joined the Brooklyn Chess Club and was taught by its president, Carmine Nigro.

Bobby Fischer attended Erasmus Hall High School together with Barbra Streisand, though he later dropped out in 1959 when he turned 16. Many teachers remembered him as difficult. When his chess feats mounted, the student council of Erasmus Hall awarded him a gold medal for his chess achievements.

Icon or avatar of a complex game, Bobby Fischer, perhaps like Ezra Pound, Charles Lindbergh, or other artists, geniuses, or heroes whose talent and exploits were overshadowed by their public and political views, leaves behind an enormous reputation in the annals of modern chess.

--Brooklyn Beat

Fischer died Thursday in a Reykjavik, Iceland, hospital, according to spokesman Gardar Sverrisson. There was no immediate word on the cause of death.

Born in Chicago and raised in Brooklyn, Robert James Fischer was a U.S. chess champion at age 14, becoming a grand master at 15. When he beat Spassky in a series of games in Reykjavik, he claimed the U.S.A.'s first world chess championship in more than a century.

The event was given tremendous symbolic importance, pitting the intensely individualistic young American against Spassky who ws presented at home as a product of the grim and soulless Soviet Union.

The match also was marked by Bobby Fischer's somewhat peculiar behavior - possibly calculated psychological warfare against Spassky - including Fischer's arriving two days late to complaining about the lighting, TV cameras, the spectators, even the shine on the table.

Spassky said in a brief phone call from France, where he lives, that he was "very sorry" to hear of Fischer's death.

Fischer's reputation as a genius of chess soon was eclipsed by his idiosyncrasies.

Fischer was world champion until 1975, when he forfeited the title and withdrew from competition because conditions he demanded proved unacceptable to the International Chess Federation.

After that, he lived in secret outside the United States. He emerged in 1992 to confront Spassky again, in a highly publicized match in Yugoslavia. Fischer beat Spassky 10-5 to win $3.35 million.

The U.S. government said Fischer's playing the match violated U.N. sanctions against Yugoslavia, imposed for Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic's role in fomenting war in the Balkans.

Former Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov said Fischer's ascent of the chess world in the 1960s was "a revolutionary breakthrough" for the game.

"The tragedy is that he [Fischer] left this world too early, and his extravagant life and scandalous statements did not contribute to the popularity of chess," Kasparov told The Associated Press.

Over the years, Fischer gave occasional interviews with a radio station in the Philippines, often digressing into anti-Semitic rants and accusing American officials of hounding him.

He praised the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying America should be "wiped out," and described Jews as "thieving, lying bastards." Fischer's mother was Jewish.

He also announced he had abandoned chess in 1996 and launched a new version in Argentina, "Fischerandom," a computerized shuffler that randomly distributes chess pieces on the back row of the board at the start of each game.

Fischer claimed it would bring the fun back into the game and rid it of cheats.

He renounced his American citizenship and moved in 2005 to Iceland, accepting an offer of citizenship from the country still grateful for its role as the site of his most famous match.

Fischer had been detained for nine months detention in Japan for trying to leave the country using an invalid U.S. passport. Japan agreed to release him after he accepted Iceland's offer of citizenship.

Fischer told reporters that year that he was finished with a chess world he regarded as corrupt, and sparred with U.S. journalists who asked about his anti-American tirades.

"The United States is evil. There's this axis of evil. What about the allies of evil - the United States, England, Japan, Australia? These are the evildoers," Fischer said. --Various news sources

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ditmas Grafitti War

Every day, or at least every day that I have taken my younger kids to school or gone downtown to my office, I pass a building near the corner of Cortelyou Road and East 17th Street that seems to reflect the pains to which people will go to dialogue without actually talking to each other.

At first, the building had a friendly environmental type painting, the kind of thing that a building owner will commission kids or neighborhood artists to paint. Then something happened to it because someone painted over that "Don't Let Me Catch You Fucking Up This Wall" or something to that effect. Then that was mysteriously painted over. Then it was replaced by what seemed a cry of frustration - "Human Beings don't want other human being to be happy"..but whether that was by the building owner or the artist, I don't know. Then that was whitewashed over.

Next, a free-for-all seems to have ensued -- "DAMN!" WORLD WE LIVE IN!" RACIAL" "WORD IS BORN", drawings of figures, in a wide array of colors with a scattering of "LAME" LAME" LAME" painted overall, like a flock of pigeons that wait until what seem like two inches before you approach before flying away.

I looked forward to passing it out of curiosity as to what I would see next, like checking your email or links. Anyway, since I am usually passing by this display in the early morning, I haven't had a chance to stop by the building to try to quiz the owner on what exactly is going on. That is, who started what and who did what to whom. But maybe, like a lot of things in life, a little positive mystery is a good thing. I am sure the owner of the building would in fact exact a price should he catch someone in the act.

But it is very interesting to see that not only the Blogosphere is a first amendment free-for-all, and that even Flatbush real estate can serve as a palett and a place to post.

--Brooklyn Beat

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Isaac Asimov (January 2, 1920 - April 6, 1992) remains one of the most prolific authors of the twentieth century. Dr. Asimov is widely known as a preeminent science fiction writer, having created the Foundation Series of novels and "I, Robot." In addition to devising the Three Laws of Robotics, Asimov published books on every topic imaginable; according to the Asimov online website, a treasure trove of information about the author, his life, and his books,
( ) Asimov has published books in nearly every category of the Dewey Decimal System except philosophy( )

When the Asimov family came to the United States in 1923, they moved into their first apartment at 425 Van Siclen Avenue, in the East New York section of Brooklyn. In the summer of 1925 they moved one block away to an apartment at 434 Miller Avenue. They moved half a mile eastward in December 1928 to another apartment at 651 Essex Street, above the second candy store bought by his father. In early 1933, they moved to an apartment on Church Avenue, and after a brief stay there they moved to an apartment above yet another family candy store, at 1312 Decatur Street, in the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn. In December of 1936, Asimov's father sold his third candy store and bought his fourth, at 174 Windsor Place, (between Fuller Place and 10th Avenue), and the family moved to a house across the street. At various times, Asimov helped out in the family business.

After completing military service and his work as a chemist with the government during WW 2, he returned to the states in May, and after his discharge from the army in July, he and his wife Gertrude moved into a small apartment in Brooklyn on 213 Dean Street in September 1946. In September of 1947 they moved to the downstairs apartment of his parents' house on Windsor Place. He later lived in Manhattan, Philadelphia, and Boston.

Asimov was educated in the NYC public schools, including Boys High, and at Columbia University.

As a kid, I grew up in Windsor Terrace (17th Street between 9th & 10th avenues) and I went through a phase of writing fan letters to collect autographs. I always loved writing and admired Asimov's remarkable prolificacy. I still can recall my excitement, receiving a meticulously typed USPS postcard from the Great One that said "Thank you for your letter. Once, many years ago, I lived in your neighborhood.. .. "

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

American Change, American Hope

What an amazing contest this is shaping up to be. Hlilary Rodham Clinton pulled the primary victory in New Hampshire from the jaws of defeat. Although we are exhausted and spent from 2 Bush terms, even John McCain's strong,passionate speech suggested that we are in for a hotly contested campaign but with the chance for a new vision, and real change, whether it is a resurgent Clinton, a populist Edwards, the passionate Obama; even the Republicans are speaking to the need for change and new direction after 8 years of greed and incompetence.

Beyond the personalities, time to get down with the issues:

American Roulette

Ron Paul as Libertarian as Bigot ? The New Republic has it:

What's the News Across the Nation ? The Drudge Report :

CNN: Ex-President Clinton says media not tough enough on Sen. Barack Obama:

NY TIMES: Gloria Steinem: "Women are never front runners" ;

Obama, McCain Expand Lead in New Hampshire:


Monday, January 7, 2008

After the Holidays in Park Slope

From his early 20s, Devlin had a complicated view of Christmas. In his first apartment on PPW (aka, “the Parkside”), $175 a month for a one bedroom, he bought his first own Christmas tree but somehow never got around to taking it down until around Washington’s birthday. For weeks and weeks, his friends would drop by, convinced that, in his depth and creativity (if not depravity), Devlin had created some kind of Fluxus-style art work. Others thought it was a statement on Christmas and commercialism. His girlfriend played with his cat, Nova (so named because he found her the weekend of the Nova Convention, celebrating William S. Burroughs), and just shook her head in bewilderment. But in fact, it was largely sloth. The way inaction has a way of piling up on itself until, despite all good intentions, if you haven’t done it already, by the time you realize it, it is by then just Too Damn Late. As a result, being new to the building, Devlin was just so self-conscious about leaving a trail of fir needles and tinsel from his apartment, down the stairs, through the lobby, to the street, that he quickly realized that a plan was necessary. Therefore, in the dead of night, Devlin sawed the 6 foot tree apart with a serrated steak knife, like Raymond Burr did with his victim in REAR WINDOW, while fir needles scattered all about him like green-gray snowflakes, before putting it in a few black garbage bags and dumping it on the street on garbage day. He never bought a Christmas tree again after that.

--Brooklyn Beat

Friday, January 4, 2008


Wasn't it just Y2K ? Tempis fugit in Brooklyn. Here we are in the future of our own making.

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo