Here are 10 things you should know about the inimitable Mickey Rooney, born 98 years ago today. He enjoyed a truly memorable career in show business and was, as the saying goes, a piece of work.
Here are 10 things you should know about Cole Porter, born 127 years ago today. Porter is among the greatest American composers and songwriters and a favorite here at Cladrite Radio.
Just weeks after finally calling it a career after 96 years of cutting hair, Anythony Mancinelli passed away in his Newburgh, New York, home on September 19, 2019. We will miss him.
It’s been said that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
If that’s so, Anthony Mancinelli, recognized as the world’s oldest barber by the Guinness Book of World Records, has been not-working for the past 95 years.
That’s right, Mancinelli, who turned 107 on March 2, 2018, has been barbering since 1923, when he was just 12 years old. Calvin Coolidge was president, and barbers still offered such services as bloodletting (with leeches), wart removal and cupping. There’s no longer a demand for those services, but Mancinelli still has the tools he used back in the day and he is happy to show them to the curious.
“I used to have a bottle of leeches on my counter, and I would put them on people’s skin to drain blood,” Mancinelli told The New York Times in 2010. “In those days, while giving a haircut, I would put a leech over a black eye to bring down the swelling, or on the arm of someone who had high blood pressure because the thinking was their pressure might drop.”
Mancinelli was born in 1911 near Naples, Italy, and eight years later sailed to the United States with his family, arriving in New York on September 11, 1919. Because an aunt lived there, the Mancinellis settled in Newburgh, New York, just eight miles from New Windsor, where Anthony currently resides.
“This country gave me an opportunity to do everything in life,” said Mancinelli. “It’s up to the [individual] to take up something, to do something to make things better for themselves as well as the country. This country gave me all the opportunities in the world to do it.”
So how did he get into barbering at such a young age?
With his father, a felt worker, supporting a wife, seven sons and a daughter on just $25 a week, young Mancinelli announced that he was going to go out and get a job.
“My father said, ‘What kind of a job are you going to get?’,” said Mancinelli. “‘Well, I’m going to deliver morning papers, then I’ll deliver afternoon papers, then after that, I’ll see if I can get a job to learn the barber business.’
“I went to the one of the barbershops here, and I asked ‘[the owner] if he would teach me the barber business. He said yes, so I stood with him and I learned the barber business… His name was Joseph Turi.
“I don’t know why I chose the barber business, but I thought it was a good profession, so I said, ‘I’ll try it out and see how I like it.'”
In those days, Mancinelli arose at 4 a.m. to deliver the morning paper and then came home for breakfast before heading off to school. After school, he delivered the afternoon paper, after which he would spend a few hours at the barber shop. Finally, at 8 p.m., he would head home, where his mother had an evening meal waiting for him, after which, he said, “I would go right to bed!”
That’s a pretty grueling schedule for anyone, but considering Mancinelli was 12 years old at the time, it’s especially impressive.
Having served an apprenticeship and learned his trade, Mancinelli opened his own shop in 1930; he was just 19 years old.
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There’s an oft-quoted passage from a Joan Didion essay entitled Goodbye To All That that reads, “I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.”
Ms. Didion may have stopped feeling that way about New York somewhere along the way, but we haven’t. In fact, the enduring sense that something extraordinary (and/or strange, serendipitous, surprising, wonderful) could happen at any time is one of things that hooked us but good on this city more than 35 years ago and keeps us engaged with New York even today.
One can live here for 34 years (as we have) and still step out your front door and encounter something you’ve never seen before.
Our day’s tasks on a recent Saturday found us at the corner of 38th street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, less than a mile north of Cladrite HQ, when we spotted, to our surprised delight, a painted ad on the side of a brick office building just east of the avenue.
These hand-painted signs are sometimes called “ghost signs,” in part because they are virtually all painted many decades ago, they often advertise products and establishments that no longer exist and they are frequently only discovered—uncovered, really—when another building, built more recently, is razed, revealing the long-forgotten advert. The newer, now-demolished building had hidden (and thereby preserved) the ghost sign all those years.
That wasn’t the case with the sign we spotted on Saturday. It peeks over the roof of a four-story commercial parking garage, so while it might once have been concealed by another building, it has been, for at least as long as the parking garage has been there, hiding in plain sight.
That the sign was for an Automat once in operation on the building’s ground floor made all the difference. We love all these old signs and always get a kick out of spotting examples we’ve never noticed before, but an advertisement for an Automat? For our money, it gets no better than that.