If you lived in Manhattan in the ’70s and ’80s, or if you commuted to the area around 57th Street and Broadway, you’re apt to remember the guy who used to station himself by Lee’s arts supply store, and, canteen in one hand, a cup in the other, would belt out ‘O Sole Mio and other operatic classics in a voice so strained and off-key that it would peel the remaining paint off the sides of the nearby buildings. Really, he’d be screeching out those songs, and my vocal chords would hurt. Nonetheless, he would be out there day after day for years before he disappeared. Then, at some point in the mid-90s, I was walking down the block, and there he was singing again, and suddenly it was like old times: The Upper West Side was no longer gentrified (My favorite line about that neighborhood, “I remember Columbus Avenue when it was on the West Side”), Tom Seaver was on the mound for the Mets and Richard Nixon was still thought of as a national disgrace. Alas, the poor fellow’s voice was even worse than it was before. Barely, a whisper, he could hardly even screech. Even the pigeons took pity on him and refrained from shitting on his head. Homeless people dropped quarters into his cap.
Anyway, he’s no longer there, and neither am I. Manhattan is now a playground for tourists and the wealthy, and there are actually two or three hundred people who think that Richard Nixon was a great guy.
All this bloviation is an introduction to the photo below of Harry doing another great acting job, singing his own version of ‘O Sole Mio (I’m sure much better than the poor guy on 57th Street) in a borrowed green sport jacket and pants that are either his rolled-up or the other fellow’s that are too short. I think I recognize his loafers though. The only thing missing is the monkey. Harry told me he was very proud of this shoot, because several people did put coins in his cap. They probably felt sorry for him, he admitted. Click on the photo to supersize it. For those new to this series of photos of New York in the 1940s and 1950s, click on the tag at the right to read all about it and follow it from the beginning.