It was the night before my birthday and a little more than a month after 9/11. The air was still thick in NYC with shock and despair. I headed to a benefit at "The Park" on Tenth Avenue to help raise money for the families of the brave men and women who had recently lost their lives. As soon as I walked through the door, I stopped in my tracks. Then did a double-take. On his way out and saying goodbye to a couple of firemen, was none other than Robert DeNiro. Many New Yorkers have their DeNiro story, but not only didn’t I have one, I had never seen him live and in person until this very moment. I remember vividly the first time I "saw" him. I went to the movie theater to see "Mean Streets" for my 15th birthday. The film was rated 'R' and I couldn't get in without a guardian until I was 17. Some kids needed adults to buy beer for them. My vice was film. I trolled the parking lot and found a couple who were willing to bring me in with them. I went inside, separated from my "guardians," sat down, and began to watch one of the most intense films and the most amazing performances I had ever seen. The film started out raw, and didn't let up. "You don't make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it." Well here I was all these years later. At this famous Chelsea hotspot. And there in front of me on October 15th, 2001, 28 years TO THE DAY the film was released, stood Johnny Boy. Robert DeNiro. He started to walk past me to leave the club, and instinctively, I gave him a head nod. He looked at me for a moment, and then all of a sudden, he grabbed me and gave me the strongest and best hug I have ever gotten in my life. Robert Fucking DeNiro. And he didn't let go for a long time. It appeared that I was getting the cathartic brunt of his super-charged passion from the events that he and the whole world were going through. Or, maybe he thinks I was Danny Aiello! Either way, the embrace felt good, and I was glad to be part of it. At one point during the hug, I looked up and noticed that my two best friends in the world, Chris Phillips and Adam Roth, who had gotten to the event earlier, were staring at me. Like Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, their eyes were bugged out and their jaws had hit the floor. They, like me, couldn't believe that I was in a hammer lock with Rupert Pupkin. After what seemed like an eternity, Travis Bickle finally let go, and wished me a good night and I stood there for a moment, trying to understand what had just happened. The venue was huge, and the event was star-studded, yet everyone in the joint stopped to witness this huge embrace. I walked briskly past through the crowd to where my friends were standing, and they asked me how I knew “Bobby,” and I said I didn't. After a long beat, we broke the silence with a huge laugh. All throughout the night, people stared at me, wondering who the hell I was. I heard a lot of whispering as I would pass. It was killing them trying to figure out who this guy was that practically made love on the dance floor with one of the greatest actors of all time. At one point, I went up to the bar to get a cocktail and the fellow next to me asked if he could buy me a drink. Time for another double-take. It was Clarence Williams III. Link, from "Mod Squad." "One white, one black, one blonde!" One of the most memorable shows from my childhood. We hit it off immediately. We were chatting and sipping on some beers, and I could see it in his face. Despite our fun and funny small talk, he had a question he wanted so desperately to ask me. Finally after a few minutes of chit chat, he blurted out, “SOOOO, how do you know DeNiro?” I still hadn't processed it all and didn't really know how to explain it. So, I looked at him and I said… I knew him from "Mean Streets." ...
Neil deGrasse Tyson explains to his Guest Co-Host, comedian Eddie Brill, what the distinct difference is between a scientist and a charlatan. Want to hear Neil's entire discussion with Eddie? "StarTalk Radio" airs on Saturday, May 27th & Sunday, May 28th at 5 & 10 PM EST...only on SiriusXM Insight, Channel 121. ...
I once went nearly seven years without seeing snow. In a row! Now I know that some folks have lived a whole lifetime without seeing snow. Without throwing a snowball. Without sledding. Without Jack Frost nipping at who knows.
For me, six plus years seemed like a lifetime. I moved to Florida with my mom, my stepfather and my sister in August of 1970. My sis and I would make trips up north to NYC to visit our “real” father, but those ventures were always in the summer, when school was on a break.
Summers weren’t kind in Hollywood, Florida. Hot and sticky and humid. Yet it wasn’t as blistering as it was in NYC. Stifling heat. The stench of urine. Winds out of the north northwest at zero miles per hour. Gusting to zero by later that day.
I loved growing up in NYC in the sixties. Great schools. Fun friends Playing sports on the streets and in the playgrounds. Music blaring from the radio. If you timed it right, you’d hear Frankie Valli. The wonderment of having all four seasons.
Winter was a blast. Bundled up in warm love, and outerwear. Gloves and mittens and snowballs. Oh my! It was magical. And if the world was tuned in at the right time, we’d get treated to a snowfall on Christmas Eve.
There was no snow in South Florida. Ok once. Not while I lived there.
January 19, 1977. 28 degrees and snowing in Ft Lauderdale. 27 degrees and snowing in Palm Beach. I was in Boston that day, a freshman at Emerson College.
In college is where I first saw snow again. I was in psychology class. One of the best teachers I ever had. The Reverend, Doctor Peter Vincent Corea. We called him Chick. And not behind his back.
He was an amazing instructor. Took 9 credits with him. Nearly minored in Chick.
He was a very wealthy man who was rumored to have only been paid a dollar a year to teach. He also was purported to have owned one of the dorms, The Fensgate, on Beacon Street near Mass Avenue. He was a one-of-a-kind man. He taught psychology for 37 years at Emerson.
Corea loved to teach, and I loved his classes. He was very small in stature and had a high-pitched voice that would get higher as he got to the end of his familiarly run-on sentences. On days when the weather was beautiful he would take our class to the Public Gardens and we’d have our lessons outdoors amongst nature. One day he took our Abnormal Psychology class to the Ritz Hotel for breakfast. Totally unexpected and the first lavish meal I’d ever had. He was a very effective preceptor who caught my full attention. Except for one day.
It was a late fall/early winter day in 1976. Chick was weaving his high octane, high octave magic. I looked out the window for a moment. I saw the white flurries cascading down. There it was!!! My very first snowfall since early 1970.
I knew I would experience the white flakes again while in Boston, and I was prepared to do so, yet it still caught me full on. I was mesmerized by the swirling white just outside the window. I got caught up in it. The rhythm and the syncopated beat of it all. I was hypnotized.
I rose up out of my chair and walked outside. There was a smell in the air that was sparkly crisp like wintergreen. It had called to me and I was taking myself to it’s leader. I was outside dancing in it, without my coat. Spinning like a top and so enthralled by it all.
I walked back inside, into Chick’s class, yet I never took my gaze off of the beautiful sight out of the glorious picture window at 150 Beacon Street between Berkeley and Clarendon streets.
I wasn’t ready for the winter. I didn’t have boots, yet survived with my sneakers. I remember bragging to some friends on my way to dinner one night, that here I was a Floridian, and ill-equipped for the snow, and had yet to fall on the ice. Just as I said that, I slipped and fell. We all laughed hard, the timing was too good not to. As I got up and brushed myself off, I said, “Big deal! So I only fell once…” And, BOOM!!! I slipped and fell again. Harder fall. Harder laughs. Hearty chuckles from me and my friends. The mates who didn’t help me up off of the ground, because they couldn’t control their laughter.
As the cold of my 1977 Winter started to recede, something else happened that I hadn’t felt in ages. The wonderment of Spring. The glory, the freedom and the rebirth that came along with the change of seasons. Something I missed completely while living in Florida.
One day in early May of 1977, well into a beautiful season in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, along the Charles River, I left my dorm room. As I walked, I smelled something familiar in the air. I couldn’t quite make it out at first. Then it hit me. That wintergreen. I told a friend of mine that it smelled like snow. He looked at me as if I was crazy. He said it never snows in May.
I was confused as well. I don’t know why, but because I hadn’t witnessed snow in so long, I was more acute to it’s effect on my senses. I was sure of what I smelled. I told others. I got the same crazy look.
And then it happened. SNOW!!!!!!! Up the east coast, from Pennsylvania, all the way to New England. 20 inches of it in Norwalk, Connecticut. May 9th, 1977, for the first time in 107 years, SNOW in Boston. In May!
My friends never questioned my big schnoz again. Little did we know it was the precursor to something bigger. The devastating Blizzard of 1978. A record 27.1 inches of snow. The army helping to dig us out.
As soon as the roads cleared, we got in our friend’s cherry red Mustang and headed south. Flanked by unusually high snowbanks. On our way to a reprieve. Sunny Hollywood, Florida. Where it only snowed once. EVER! ...