Famous Boys and Girls Outa Brooklyn

Al Capone
Al Capone became notorious in Chicago where he was really just a bagman for Meyer Lansky. He got his start breaking legs in Red Hook, South Brooklyn

Brooklyn has 2.6 million people. Were it an independent city (which it was until the late 19th century), Brooklyn would be the third largest city in America after L.A. and Chicago! So, it’s not surprising that a lot of famous folk in all walks of life come from Brooklyn.

You can see a more complete list of notable Brooklynites elsewhere. When I read those lists I wonder if there’s anyone who isn’t from Brooklyn. In fact, it’s said that 25% of Americans have roots in Brooklyn.

Anyway, in no particular order, here’s my list of, “Gee, I didn’t know he/she was from Brooklyn.”


Carl Sagan, Bugsy Siegel, Joe Paterno, Vince Lombardy, Sandy Koufax, Joe Torre, Wolfman Jack, Arlo Guthrie, Michael Jordan, Mickey Rooney, Harry Nilsson, Chuck Connors, Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, Bobby Fischer, Bob Guccione, Edward Everett Horton, Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Moe, Curly and Shemp Howard aka The 3 Stooges (Larry Fine was from Philly but I hearby pronounce him an Honorary Brooklyn Boy.)

Mae West
Mae West – the Queen of Quips
She and Henry Miller – two of America’s greatest sexual-taboo breakers were contemporaries in Brooklyn.


Clara Bow – the It Girl of silent films. They say her thick Brooklyn accent made her move into talking pictures impossible. But, I’ve seen one of her talkies and she was terrific. Go know.

Margaret Dumont – the very un-Brooklyn seeming society matron in the Marx Brothers films. She and Edward Everett Horton are excellent examples of early 20th century posh-New York speech. They almost sound British.

Jennie Jerome – Winston Churchill’s mother. She lived in Cobble Hill.

Other Queens of Kings County include – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Debbie Gibson, Rita Hayworth, Barbara Stanwyck, Lena Horne, Priscilla Presley and Mary Tyler Moore.

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as an ebook and paperback
And as an eBook here

Tropic of Éclair

Parisian street walkers
Parisian “Ladies of the Evening” and afternoon and morning and…

1984. I’m in Paris for the first time and having coffee with an American ex-pat lawyer. I timidly begin to ask him if he knows how…

“Stop,” he says, pulling out his yellow legal pad. “You wanna know how to approach a French prostitute. You guys are all the same. Don’t tell me, you read Henry Miller.” 

“Uh, yes, but I not only read him, I feel a deep and abiding…”

“Yeah, right, so here’s what you do…” 

And, he writes down the appropriate phrases that will signal to a “working girl” that I’m not a diaper-wearing, ax-murderer. Great. With legal paper folded in my pocket, I set off for the Rue St. Denis. It’s where the girls hang out and I do mean, “hang out.” They have so few clothes on there’s nothin’ left to hang in. They drift about the Rue lounging in doorways and smoking in that French way that makes all other smokers look like sissies. If you can’t find what you want on the Rue St. Denis you must be blind. In fact, I see a blind hooker with her guide dog. Who knows? Maybe Rover turns tricks, too. The Rue is the set of Irma La Douce in Technicolor and Smell-O-Vision – more kinds of prostitutes than Heinz has beans. Black. White. Yellow. Red. Fat. Skinny. Short. Tall. Nurse. Nanny. Housewife. Harlot. Granny. Girl Scout. Honest to God, I see a Granny-Girl Scout in handcuffs! The variety makes me dizzy. The ambiance scares the merde out of me. 

Sex workers in Paris
Girls trying to earn an honest crust.
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: The smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook amazon.com
And as an eBook here

The Viking Giant

Johann K. Petursson, The Icelandic Giant.
Johann K. Petursson and his lunch.

That same year, I see the freak show at Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus held in the old Madison Square Garden where Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Graziano and Rocky Marciano fight. It’s where Emile Griffith from the Virgin Islands kills the Cuban Benny “Kid” Paret. At the weigh-in, Benny calls Emile a “maricon” – that’s spic-talk for faggot. In Round 12, Paret is out on his feet but trapped in a corner and held up by the ropes. The homosexual Griffith shows no mercy. Remember what I told you about our dusky brothers not liking each other? Remember what I told you about boxing promoters feasting on that hatred? The Garden reeks of that bloody history. And, with the circus in town, it reeks of lion piss and elephant dung. (Henry Miller, like me a Brooklyn boy, wanted an English language that reeked of lion piss and elephant dung. I doubt Henry ever smelled them in combination. The stench stung my eyeballs and melted the enamel from my teeth!) 

The Ringling freak show features sword-swallowers, snake-handlers, fire-eaters, bullwhip-crackers, knife-throwers, fat men, skinny men, rubber men, a family of albino midgets and the star of the show – Johann K. Petursson, the Icelandic Giant – the Tallest Man in the World. Johann is no sissy giant, no puny, pituitary-gland pussy he. Johann is a true giant – 8’ 8” tall and brawny with a bear pelt draped over his shoulder. 

Johann wears a tall Viking helmet with horns as tribute to his forebears and to make himself look even taller. My father buys me one of Johann’s green plastic rings as souvenir.  The giant places it on his finger for a moment as consecration. I can fit all five of my five-year-old fingers inside it. I still have that ring.

Johann K. Petursson souvenir ring as sold at Coney Island and Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The Sacred Relic
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
And as an eBook here