Thanks to John Lee, who was part of the superb technical crew that worked on the movie, I’ve learned that “Toxic Zombies,” a.k.a. “Bloodeaters,” a.k.a. “Forest of Fear,” a.k.a. Il ritorno degli zombi,, in which I play a small part, is one of 2,700 movies on VHS tape acquired by Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, according to this Yale Daily News story. The story mentions “Toxic Zombies” at the outset, evidently because of its gory title–also mentioned are “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and “Buried Alive”–but without mention (until my comment below the story) that its writer, producer, director, and star was a Yale Law School alumnus, my late friend (he was in his office on the 100th floor of One World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001) Charlie McCrann. You can read more about the making of “Toxic Zombies,” and find links to a trailer and some reviews, here.
We recently went on a trip back in time at some of the restaurants in the North Heights. Now it’s time to start doing the same down on Montague Street. What was there before today’s eateries? What do the owners want you to order if you stop by? Let’s find out!
Our first stop will be Teresa’s Restaurant (80 Montague Street – Yelp! profile).
According to owner Teresa Brzozowska (yes, there is a Teresa!), it was a dry cleaners before she opened the restaurant in 1989.
Brzozowska is originally from Gdansk, Poland. She came to America in 1980 and settled in Williamsburg, where she has lived ever since. She had what she described as “life experience in the food business.” She worked in delis (German, Jewish, Polish, French, and American) and, in 1985, she opened Teresa’s in the East Village (on 1st Avenue between 6th and 7th). She had some customers and friends who lived in Brooklyn Heights and she found Montague to be a “nice street” and opened the second location. The original bit the dust in 2007, but the second incarnation is still going strong 25 years on. Brzozowska loves the support of the public and said being a “neighborhood place makes business very stable.”
What The Owner Says To Order:
Appetizer: Chicken soup
Entrée: Cheese and blueberry blintzes
Up next, we don’t have to go far. It’s on to Heights Café (84 Montague Street – website).
Buildings Department records from 1930 list the first floor as simply “stores.” As of 1940, the second floor was being used as a school. A 1976 document called the “Montague Street Revitalization” listed a York School, as well as an antique store. As of 1967m it was the Plymouth Pharmacy. For the 27 years prior to 1995, the first floor was the Promenade Restaurant, a staple of the area. It even had its own postcards!
Eventually it closed and the space became available. That caught the eye of Greg Markman, who opened Caffe Buon Gusto up the block in 1992 (he sold his interest in it over a decade ago). Markman teamed up with Joe Secondino, who was an accountant at ABC and with whom he’s been friends with since they were seventh graders at JHS 281 (now IS 281) in Bensonhurst, and, on May 15, 1995, opened Heights Café on the corner of Montague and Hicks.
Joe Secondino and Greg Markman. Photo by Evan Bindelglass
While they run the day-to-day, Markman’s father Martin and brother Glenn (the real estate brains) are also partners in the restaurant. Greg Markman always loved the corner and said it needed “something special.” Since then (with the exception of a closure from this January to April for a remodeling and menu sprucing up), they’ve been serving “something for everyone.” “We love our customers,” he said. “[Some of them see the restaurant as] an extension of their living room.” Secondino called them “friends.”
They have had some celebrity customers. Paul Giamatti stops in sometimes, as do Jennifer Connelly and her husband, Paul Bettany. Also spotted have been Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Willem Dafoe, and Susan Sarandon. Markman even got a photo with “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” star and Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
Greg Markman with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Photo courtesy Greg Markman.
What The Owners Say To Order:
Fried Chicken at Heights Cafe. Photo by Evan Bindelglass
The Southern Boneless Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, and coleslaw. If you are worried about boneless chicken being dry, stop. It isn’t dry and it is full of flavor, as are the mashed potatoes. It is so easy to go wrong with coleslaw, but this was very well-balanced. If you want a little extra creaminess, it’s on the bottom. The gravy is wonderful, but everything else is so great already that you might forget to make use of it. Try to remember.
Markman and Secondino also own Dellarocco’s Pizza around the corner (214 Hicks Street – website). They opened that in 2012. In 1976, it was listed as a hair stylist and from 1981 to 2011 it was home to the gift shop Overtures.
From the Web
As most, if not all, of you know by now, Robin Williams died today. The photo at left, by Photographer’s Mate Airman Milosz Reterski (Navy NewsStand) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, was taken while he was “entertain[ing] the crew of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during a holiday special hosted by the United Service Organization (USO).” His shirt says “I [heart] New York” in Arabic.
I’m late on this sad news, but my friend, fellow Brooklynite, fellow Episcopalian, and fellow blogger John Wirenius has a very good post, with two superb videos. You can read it here.
Addendum: my friend and erstwhile LeBoeuf, Lamb colleague Richard Cole kindly sent me his personal reminiscence of Robin Williams, originally written for his siblings, which he has generously allowed me to share:
In the late ’70s or so, Mom came down to NYC, where Doug and I took her to the Improv comedy club on her birthday, December 28. After a few comics, a sudden roar greeted the surprise appearance of Robin Williams, and I believe that during his hilarious set while riffing on birthdays, I pointed to Mom and he acknowledged it.
During the last few years, I had numerous private as well as small group discussions and laughs with Robin, mostly at/near 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, where he often did sets and improv for fun, allowing and encouraging others to shine too. He often sat in back, spurring younger stand ups with his barking laugh. On one such occasion, a couple shyly interrupted our conversation near backstage for a joint photo on their wedding night. Happy to oblige, he told them each: “Pretend to be surprised tonight!”. Only a few months ago, Robin and I walked yakking alone for two blocks to a restaurant after the Tuesday Night comedy show, discussing his Broadway show, NYC apartment and so forth. He headed the table of comics and others, and asked me to sit down next to him. For 45 minutes or an hour, we had coffee, a bite to eat and conversation. He had grown up and lived nearby, and had struggled with everything from heart surgery, depression, substance abuse and domestic challenges, usually working frenetically while remaining accessible and friendly. I saw him do a very edgy, riotous set recently and a couple of generous improv sets with rookies; when asked how he would like to be greeted in heaven, he said he hoped that he would have a front row seat and God would say “Two Jews walk into a bar . . .”. Etc., etc. Many if not most comics seem to have depressive personalities, from which paradoxically the humor explodes — think of Jewish comics in the shadow of the Holocaust. He always leapt easily among standup, improv, comic and dramatic, serious acting, with some great movies that were not meant to evoke any mirth. It may be silly to reminisce through my little lens when he knew thousands of more important people better (everybody knew him and vice versa) but he knew my name and always said hello, and it is a good indication of the manner in which Robin affected so many.
From the Web
The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival returns for a week of “Brooklyn‐born, Brooklyn-based and Brooklyn-centric films,” with many screened at Brooklyn Heights Cinema and St Francis College’s Founder’s Hall. Highlights include Bodies in Irreversible Detriment, starring Breaking Bad‘s Mark Margolis, and New York Dolls’ David Johansen; Balance, starring Stephen Baldwin; and Spoke: A Short Film About NYC Bikes by BHB’s Heather Quinlan. There will also be midnight screenings at Brooklyn Heights Cinema of PAN, described as “a sexy take on Peter Pan,” and Lapsus, “a creepy psychological thriller set in a Brooklyn laundromat.”
From the Web
It’s the 15th year for Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Movies with a View which will kick off with the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup on July 10 on the Harbor View Lawn.
All films this year have an “animal” theme…sorta…
7/10 – Duck Soup
“I’m in a hurry! To the House of Representatives! Ride like fury! If you run out of gas, get ethyl. If Ethel runs out, get Mabel! Now step on it!”
The Marx Brothers take fictional Europe in this Depression-era classic. To stay afloat, the small, bankrupt country of Freedonia must borrow a huge sum of cash from wealthy widow Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont). But there are strings attached to her loan: she insists on replacing the current president with crazy Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) and mayhem erupts. [G] Short: Silo by David Soll
7/17 – Sharknado
Description TBD. [NR]
Short: Phoebe’s Birthday Cheeseburger by Will Lennon
7/24- Fantastic Mr. Fox
“One of those slovenly farmers is probably wearing my tail for a necktie.”
One of Roald Dahl’s classics hits the big screen in Wes Anderson’s quirky, stop-motion animated film. Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) and his thieving ways are threatened by three mean farmers, but his friends, family and neighbors come to his aid. [G] Short: Font Men by Dress Code
7/31 – Beetlejuice
“I’ve seen The Exorcist about a hundred and sixty-seven times, and it keeps gettin’ funnier every time I see it!”
A young couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) lead an idyllic country life until they accidentally drown and become trapped in their old house as ghosts. This ghost couple attempts to scare off a family of cosmopolitan New Yorkers that move into their home, eventually enlisting the help of an insane poltergeist, Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton). A darkly funny vision of the afterlife that made director Tim Burton a household name. [PG] Short: Passer Passer by Louis Morton
8/7 – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
“Careful Maggie, your claws are showing.”
The Tennessee Williams play comes to life as Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor) and Brick (Paul Newman) duke it out while celebrating his the 65th birthday of his father, Big Daddy (Burl Ives). The temperatures are high, but the tensions are higher in this classic. [PG] Short: Unlocking the Truth by Luke Meyer
8/14 – Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
“All the rappers, they got names like that: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ice Cube, Q-Tip, Method Man. My favorite was always Flavor Flav from Public Enemy. He got the funky fresh fly flavor.”
Hip hop, samurai culture, and italian gangsters come together in this oddly quiet action movie by independent spirit Jim Jarmusch. Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is a reclusive hitman who lives by a strict samurai code. When his mafia employers turn against him, Ghost Dog must go to war against an gang of old-school Italians that simply do not understand his ways. [R] Short: The Roper by Ewan McNicol, Anna Sandilands
8/21 – The Birds
“The very concept is unimaginable. Why, if that happened, we wouldn’t stand a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?”
Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of horror, mystery, and slow-burning suspense. A beautiful socialite (Tippi Hedren) visits the sunny town of Bodega Bay, where the weekend’s peace is shattered by a series of inexplicable bird attacks, one more violent than the next. These attacks grow increasingly bigger and more gruesome until the entire town finds itself under siege from above. [PG] Short: Woodhouse by Fred Rowson
8/28 – Public Vote!
As is tradition, Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy and Syfy invite the public to vote on the last film of the summer. Stay tuned to www.brooklynbridgepark.org for details throughout the summer.
From the Web
Brooklyn Heights Cinema’s Kenn Lowy has set up an Indiegogo campaign to help save the theater. No, it’s not to buy the building, it’s to help the theater convert from 35mm film projection to digital. “If we don’t make the transition to digital,” Lowy warns, “we lose the opportunity to show some exciting films. In fact, every new film.” The upgrade in technology is juxtaposed against the Mom and Pop-ness of the cinema. “I’m at the theater almost every day, and if someone has a problem with the temperature … or maybe even the sound, all they have to do is come out and talk to me or a member of my staff, and we’ll have it fixed right away. Try that at your neighborhood multiplex.”
Lowy hopes to raise $30,000 by the end of March, and has perks/rewards set up for donations starting at $25. $150 gets you a date night package; and $1,000 gets you a private screening for you and 150 of your closest friends. But any amount is appreciated. “We hope you’ll donate whatever you can, so we can keep showing great films digitally.”
From the Web
FOX 5 10:00 News spent time in the Heights last night interviewing BHB’s Heather Quinlan about her New York accent documentary, If These Knishes Could Talk. They also did a little man-on-the street action—see if you can spot the locals.
From the Web
Kenn Lowy, owner of the Brooklyn Heights Cinema, 70 Henry Street (corner of Orange) says he is offering a discount for furloughed federal government employees for the duration of the present government shutdown. If you show your federal employee ID, admission is $10. (The discount doesn’t apply to Friday afternoon matinee showings, for which the regular admission price is $7.)
From the Web
The film’s roots go back to director Amy Nicholson’s love of Coney Island, as it reminded her of her childhood spent near Ocean City, MD—a shore community full of people watchers, Def Leppard blaring from boom boxes, and ride operators calling, “You want to go … faster?!” But it was an article about the end of the Zipper ride that turned her from observer to investigator, delving into the politics behind the changing Coney Island. “I originally wanted to make a film that was an homage to Zipper,” Nicholson said. “But it bothered me that I didn’t understand why the ride was being taken away.” The film then grew into an exploration of the tug-of-war between those who wanted to turn Coney Island into what resembled a seaside Times Square—namely, Joe Sitt, CEO of Thor Equities—and those who strove to retain the park and community, good and bad … with both sides doing what they felt was best.
And while Sitt—a Brooklyn boy who grew up near Coney Island and who named Thor Equities after the Marvel Comics character—might be an easy target as the film’s villain, Nicholson says it’s not that easy. “I guess the villain is the process and the politics. But I don’t point to him as the bad guy. I don’t think he did Coney Island any favors, but I promised to treat him fairly, and I did. He doesn’t see anything wrong in what he did,” as shown in the scene where Sitt happily listed all retailers that he wanted to add, from a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, to a Coldstone Creamery.
Zipper also stars a cast of characters from the neighborhood, including the ride operators themselves. According to Nicholson, “The guys who ran it could tell by the sound whether it was working well or not. It’s a contraption! And it was invented to make people scream. I interviewed the ride’s inventor, who said, ‘If people scream, it’s a good thing.’” Zipper the ride now resides in Honduras; to see Zipper the film, visit IFC Center’s site for screening dates and times.
From the Web
Local filmmaker Andy Arrow recently completed a documentary called Mettle, about people who earn their living by collecting recyclables, and how they are “cited, or even arrested, for picking up trash from the sidewalk.” Arrow has a Kickstarter campaign underway to “raise awareness and to fund a premiere event.” Drop a couple bucks if you’d like to help, and let us know here where you come down on the issue.