January 05, 2004

Johnny Lend-Me-Thirty and udder Nooyawkahs.

The Times today made this Runyonesque contribution to the lore of New York and the mob:

Everyone on Pleasant Avenue had a nickname that usually stuck till death. (Except for Johnny Lend-Me-Twenty, whose nickname changed over the decades with inflation. Now he's Johnny Lend-Me-Thirty.)

Some guys were named after body parts: Alfred Ears, Gary High-Eye, Vinnie and Frankie Head (no relation), Frankie Nose and Danny Legs, for example. Others were named for food: Charlie Cream Cheese, Freddy Eggs, Tommy Salami (currently a busboy at Rao's), Joe Olive and Mary Knish. Still others were named for animals: Jimmy the Cat, Vito the Bat, Johnny Fox and Gary the Lamb. Rats? They never lasted long on Pleasant Avenue.

And sometimes the nickname was all there was. An elderly guy named Waffles was taken one day to the hospital, but when his lifelong friends tried visiting, they could not find his room because none of them knew his real name. "If you didn't have a nickname, no one knew who you were," said Joseph Camerlingo, 77, a retired doorman.

Everyone knew Angelo Cheesecake, a mob soldier. He is dead now, however, and his son, Joey Cupcake, is in prison.

Kinda makes me hungry. Anyway, for those from out of town, Pleasant Avenue is a timewarp zone between 114th and 120th on the far east side of Manhattan. Rao's makes our favorite spaghetti sauce.

Posted by campbell at January 5, 2004 11:33 PM | TrackBack