Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Two Generations Recall Barton’s Bonbonniere in Rego Park

Barton's Bonbonniere during the Blizzard of 1969

Barton's Bonbonniere's Art Deco interior circa late 1960s
By Michael Perlman

Decades ago, Rego Park was known for its Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern mom and pop shops with attractive window displays. Among them was a branch of Barton’s Bonbonniere at 97-19 Queens Boulevard, which opened around 1958, offered a mom and pop ambiance, and was part of a chain that carved a market for quality kosher gourmet chocolates.

Stephen Klein, a Jewish chocolatier, immigrated from Austria in 1938, and founded the Barton’s Candy Corporation with the help of his brothers and partners, drawing from his family’s experience. In a 1952 issue of Commentary magazine, Klein said the goal was “to make each piece of candy attractive. You should keep wanting to eat more and not get tired.” 

Cy Glickman & his son Bobby circa 1964
Between 1962 and 1970, Cy Glickman was one of the owners of the Rego Park shop, which operated into the late 1980s. When Cy and his wife Gail moved from Forest Hills in 1962, they leased an apartment at Walden Terrace in Rego Park and purchased the store. Their son Bobby Glickman was born that same year, and worked at the shop when he was four years old, acquiring a first-hand experience in customer service, inventory, and operating the register. The salary was originally one dollar per hour. “It was a family affair with my dad’s mom, his sister, and my mom, as well as a few employees,” said Bobby.

However, Barton’s history in Rego Park dates as far back as 1950, when it was located a block west at 97-01 Queens Boulevard. Two other branches in operation were adjacent to the Forest Hills Theatre on Continental Avenue and on Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike in Kew Gardens. Cy explained, “The chocolate was from Switzerland and was top grade. Barton’s had two factories on DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn.”

Patrons were welcomed to Cy’s shop by a sleek Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern storefront with a steel neon sign, and a large candy cane door handle, which was a popular feature for Barton’s storefronts. Facade panels were designed to resemble candy. The aesthetics carried into the interior, offering creatively decorated displays, terrazzo floors, and colorful illustrated wall art. Bobby said, “This was a place to buy special treats for special occasions. The store was fancy, and dad improved it with shelving, mirrors, and polish.”

Bobby referred to his father as young and enthusiastic, opening the shop at 8 AM and closing at 10 PM. Cy reminisced, “The public went out each night to stroll, and in the early 1960s, evening business was brisk. For an evening social visit, customers would pick up a box of candy at $1.98 for a pound of chocolate, plus 6 cents sales tax.”

Patrons’ favorites included Almond Bark Bar in dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate, as well as solid chocolate in small blocks, Almond Kisses, and mint chocolate buttons, to name a few. A popular slogan remains “The best kiss you ever had.” “I often shipped candy boxes upstate to neighborhood kids at camp, or even to soldiers in Korea, Japan, and Germany,” said Cy. In addition, Barton’s sold collectibles such as menorahs, goblets, decorative plates, and dolls.

Barton’s even produced their own ice cream, which was available in pints for 65 cents and as sandwiches for 15 cents. “The fanciest candy in the store was the marzipan from Switzerland, which was shaped like fruits and other foods, and sold at $3.98 per pound. It was strictly for the older folks,” said Cy.

“It wasn't a drugstore, but a place where the product was pure heaven, like selling Coca-Cola,” said Bobby, who recalled his favorite job as cleaning the abundant glass with Windex, and winding the outside awning to shade the chocolate in the afternoon, when sunshine was at its peak. Barton’s allowed Cy to meet everyone from patrons to shop owners and operators. He said, “We shared the task of snow removal and had coffee, when the neighborhood was bustling and peaceful.”

Bobby said, “I liked the unlimited handfuls of chocolate that you could grab from behind the counter. The chocolates tasted and smelled like nothing you can imagine. My dad was a sweetheart to all, and that is why everyone in the family wanted to work for him. Walking around the neighborhood where everyone knew and liked your dad was a warmhearted feeling for a kid. It was a good time.”

Changes in demographics and personal preferences later transpired. Cy explained, “Barton’s broke the franchising contract by marketing their candy at Alexander’s, and changing styles spelled the end of high-end chocolates in a new immigrant community.”

After the Glickman family sold Barton’s, it changed ownership before turning into a food shop, followed by Blimpie and most recently Ariel’s Cafe. While Barton’s no longer operates independent shops, their products are sold countrywide and even on Amazon. 

Barton's collectible tin cans, Photo by Michael Perlman

Barton’s whimsical and colorful tin cans feature geometrical patterns, hearts, birds, and flowers, and are now regarded as collectibles. Among them is perhaps the most memorable design which features a cartoon-like illustration that captures street life, which Bobby retained in his collection among Barton’s Judaica and vintage photos of the Rego Park shop and the neighborhood. Cy left the store with a giant roll of wrapping paper, which wrapped gifts for decades. Today, he enjoys his retirement in Florida by spending quality time with Gail and playing pickleball.

A similar version of this feature was published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column: www.foresthillstimes.com/view/full_story/27514049/article-Two-Generation-Recall-Barton-s-in-Rego-Park


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Legendary Rock Photographer Neal Preston Returns To Forest Hills After Releasing New Book


Neal Preston & Cameron Crowe at book launch at Rizzoli, Photo by Michael Perlman
Neal Preston poses outside Forest Hills High School, Photo by Michael Perlman

By Michael Perlman

 Led Zeppelin, Queen, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, and The Who at Forest Hills Stadium… That is a minute fraction of subjects that Neal Preston, a Forest Hills native considered the “greatest rock photographer alive today,” has captured throughout his over four-decade career. Last week, he flew in from Los Angeles for his talk and signing of his new book, “Neal Preston: Exhilarated and Exhausted” at Manhattan’s Rizzoli Bookstore.  

During his 3 days in town, Preston also led this columnist on a tour of his old stomping grounds. In a spin, he became the subject of photos in front of sites that were close to his childhood and teen years, where some were steppingstones en route to his career. In his 1970 Forest Hills High School yearbook, “Forester,” he writes under his headshot “Professional Photography.” He moved out west the following year, and the rest was history. 

At Rizzoli was his best friend, Oscar winner Cameron Crowe, who he met long ago at a rock concert, and would later write his foreword. Crowe interviewed him about his memories, talents, and was an ideal fit for an up close and personal experience.   

“Flipping through the book last night was like listening to a lot of great music,” said Crowe. He then asked, “In a world where all of these bands are now splintering and some people say rock is the new jazz, I’d like to know while great music is still out there,  why is it that some of these photos have lasted longer than the actual bands?” While Preston said “there was no easy answer,” he responded, “If any photographer thinks that you shot a picture at 8:00 and at 8:02 you look at it and think that’s iconic, I guarantee that you’re wrong, since you need the benefit of hindsight to know that it’s iconic.” He also acknowledged “timing” and “all kinds of people who let me do what I do the way I do it.”

“I wanted the book to be about how it is when you have a job like I have,” Preston said. A few days earlier, someone asked him, “Is it as crazy on a Zeppelin tour as we all heard?” and he responded, “If you’re using ‘crazy’ as a metaphor for sex and drugs, I will tell you it’s crazier on a REO Speedwagon tour,” which generated a chuckle from attendees.

Writing a book can usher in surprises. He said, “I thought writing the book would be the hard part and the picture selection would be the easiest, but had a complete 100 percent turnaround.” Nevertheless, he ensured his readers that his book relates to his “snarky sense of humor, but it’s all honest.” “It’s a trip through my brain,” Preston said. He also revealed that he has enjoyed photographing some musicians more, such as Pete Townshend and John Lennon, his idols.

This 336-page hard cover book largely consists of personal stories and single and double page captioned photos from concerts and behind-the-scenes.  He writes, “Shooting live music is something few photographers do really well. I just discovered one day I was good at this because it felt natural to me. You can’t teach it, you can’t learn it, you just do it.” He explained his recipe as “One part photography, one part love of music, one part a love of theatre and theatrical lighting, one part hero worship, one part timing and 95 parts instinct.”

It also features stills relating to music videos such as Rod Stewart preparing for and filming “If We Fall In Love Tonight” and R.E.M. filming “E-Bow The Letter” in 1996. The Jackson Five in 1974 and Bruce Springsteen in 1994 are among the photos where Preston references recording studios as a “strange fascination” and musicians in that setting as “rare jewels.” Readers can even view his Kodak negatives of Bob Dylan with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ rehearsals in 1986.

As for his goals, he said, “At some point next year, we will be releasing a special edition of ‘Exhilarated and Exhausted’ that will be limited to - at most - 100 copies. No other photographer has ever released anything like what I’m planning to do. And no, it’s not going to contain a print in it. That’s been done too many times.” Beyond that, he envisions more shooting, exhibitions, and projects with Cameron. “I’d like to write a lot more,” he added.

Michael Perlman with a signed copy of Neal Preston's new book outside the Midway Theatre
In front of the Midway Theatre, he called his visit to his hometown “surreal.” He remembered a candy store (now CVS) adjacent to Sterling National Bank. “When I was a teen, I worked there putting the Sunday New York Times together. I would take all of the money that I made, go to the T-Bone, and get a cheeseburger.”

Forest Hills Photo Center was once located on the west side of Continental Avenue. “That was a real camera store. I used to stand in front of the window and stare at the cameras; none of which I could afford.” When he was 14, he recalled, “The German couple that owned it got so sick of me, they thought we might as well hire him.” Around age 12, his brother-in-law gave him his first camera, an Ansco Speedex 4.5, but later on, he was finally able to afford his first pro camera, a Leica M3.

Addie Vallins was a soda and burger shop on the opposite side. “They had the best milkshakes in the world,” he said. Pointing to the former Continental Theatre on Austin Street, he reminisced, “That was where ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ opened, and I must have seen it 17 times in the summer of 1964. I hid under the seats until the next showing.” At 71-20 Austin Street was Revelation, the first hip clothing store. “Me and my buddies would hang out and buy our bell bottom jeans.”

Where Neal Preston met Gary Kurfirst at 71-11 Austin Street
Among the most important spots was at 71-11 Austin Street. “We thought that it was the ticket office for the local concert series, the Singer Bowl, and we took prints up to try to get free tickets. “ He met Gary Kurfirst, a music promoter, sitting on the second story fire escape, and it proved to be a step forward for his career.  At 108-42 Queens Boulevard was Forest Hills Music Shop. “This is where I would look through every British Invasion record, which came out on Tuesdays.”

Neal Preston in front of his childhood home at The Fairfax, Photos by Michael Perlman



During the tour, he also posed in front of his second story window of The Fairfax at 110-15 71st Road. On the corner, a mailbox also made him reminisce. “I used to sit on this mailbox with my little Panasonic transistor radio and listen to ‘The Good Guys’ on WMCA. I remember hearing ‘We Could Work It Out’ by The Beatles.”


Last stop was Forest Hills High School, where he reminisced being a member of Play Pro, a theatrical club. “We had keys to every room backstage. It was great! By the time I was a junior and senior, I was already working in the business.”
    
He also recalled helping The Knickerbockers, a rock band carrying road cases into the school, prior to a concert that evening. “It could have been the first show I was ever at.”


“This is all my neighborhood. It is as Neal as you can get,” he emotionally concluded. 

A similar version of this feature was published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column: www.foresthillstimes.com/view/full_story/27501161/article-Legendary-rock-photographer-returns-to-Forest-Hills



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Forest Hills History Mural Embraced By Community


Street artists Praxis & Crisp with Coordinator Michael Perlman, A Tribute To Ascan Avenue & The Forest Hills Gardens Mural
Adding Forest Hills alongside the Ascan Backus Homestead & Mr. & Mrs. Sage, Photo by Michael Perlman
By Michael Perlman

On April 2 to April 4, Forest Hills residents and commuters witnessed the transformation of a blank canvas into a work of art at a long-neglected underpass on Ascan Avenue. With the title “A Tribute To Ascan Avenue & The Forest Hills Gardens,” Forest Hills’ newest mural was born. 


After observing the community’s positive response last summer to the Ramones mural on Continental Avenue by the internationally-known street artists “Crisp” and “Praxis,” natives of Australia and Columbia, this columnist appointed them. The new mural bears homage to influential founding parties of the Forest Hills Gardens, set alongside a Gardens’ street lantern which depicts the neighborhood’s classic two trees and a fountain motif, and also sheds light on a flourishing community. Also resurrected is the Backus family homestead, better known today as Walgreens on Queens Boulevard at 69th Road. 


The underpass now features profiles of financier and railroad executive Russell Sage and philanthropist Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who amassed her husband’s fortune and helped establish the Russell Sage Foundation, which purchased 142 acres for the Forest Hills Gardens in 1909. Adjacently profiled is “King Farmer” Ascan Backus, regarded as the most successful 19th century commercial farmer in the northeast, when Forest Hills was known as Whitepot prior to 1906. Also honored are Forest Hills Gardens’ principal architect Grosvenor Atterbury and urban planner and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Among the mural’s goals is to establish a face behind the names of frequented destinations including Russell Sage JHS 190, Olivia Park, and Ascan Avenue.

“The support and positive feedback from the local community that passed by while we were painting was overwhelming,” said Crisp. “It was lovely seeing its impact on all ages, from toddlers pointing things out to their parents, all the way up to a 96-year-old reflecting on his time in the area.” One fan stopped his car and later returned to share a photo of Ascan Backus II, Ascan Backus’ grandson. A young child felt passionate enough to ask questions, relay praise, and recommend highlighting the underpass’ “1909” marker, which has been pursued in the mural. Crisp added, “History is easily forgotten, so we educated people about their contributions to the area, and many loved learning about local history visually through the mural.” 



Keeping "King Farmer" Ascan Backus' memory alive!

Local residents and businesses helped shape the content of the mural and contributed nearly $4,000 since December 2016. Organization sponsors were the West Side Tennis Club, Ridgewood Savings Bank, Trylon Vet Care, Exo Café, Ripe, Knish Nosh, London Lennie’s, Belle Arti Center for the Arts, Oliloli Studio, Aigner Chocolates, Banter, Portofino, and Cipollina Gourmet. Fundraisers were held at Knish Nosh, Roast n Co, and La Boulangerie; the latter two restaurants where Marvel and DC Comics artist John Stanisci sold prints of his work and sketched characters upon request to raise funds. Additionally, Century 21 Department Store provided gift cards and wreaths for donors during the holiday season.

“The West Side Tennis Club is proud to have supported this project, particularly during our 125th anniversary,” said Bea Hunt, WSTC, Co-chair, 125th Anniversary Committee. “The mural is a brilliant combination of the people instrumental in creating this community and unique historic architectural elements, and it will raise appreciation of these great pioneers and our rich history.”

Fan Susan Weinstein, a Forest Hills resident, who is an avid walker and history buff said, “It’s a pleasure to learn new things and keep an eye on our quality of life. Now people will learn more about why the Forest Hills Gardens was founded and what it was founded as.”

Another Forest Hills resident, Waice Shah said, “At Russell Sage JHS, I never realized who Russell Sage was, but I always knew that if my school or any street is named after someone, 9 out of 10 times you can do your research and be wowed by their accomplishments.”

Mickey Leigh, brother of the late Joey Ramone, even stopped by. He chuckled and said, “I much prefer a mural than an abstract design of bird droppings.” As a notable himself, he pointed to the wall and said, “I am working my way towards obtaining the status of these accomplished people.”

Nearby residents also praised the mural. Kew Gardens resident Seth Welins said, “The Forest Hills Gardens is gorgeous and leads into an interesting shopping area. I would often walk through the underpass very quickly, but the finished product will encourage me to slow down a bit and admire the artwork. It’s also an educational resource and a win-win for everyone.”

Richmond Hill resident Shamim Arman views the mural from an artistic perspective and as a representation of a diverse community linking yesterday to today. “If we have the space, art is the best way of providing information to many people. You really have to think in detail that not anyone can do this, and I don’t think any other group features as much about a diverse community than artists.”

Fundraising hosts emphasized the importance of collaborating and contributing. La Boulangerie co-owner François Danielo explained, “As I like to say, Forest Hills is a small village, and part of it is to interact and help each other. Those responsible are creating a soul for our village, and it’s important to differentiate ourselves from the rest of NYC.” Hichem Ammous, co-owner of Roast n Co said, “Partnerships are a great tool to make the community stronger and well known, and we feel proud that we participated.” 

Multi-generational fans come together

Recreating a Forest Hills Gardens historic streetlamp, shedding light on Forest Hills' past & future
A similar version of this feature appears in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times/Queens Ledger column: www.queensledger.com/view/full_story/27396817/article-Community-embraces-Forest-Hills-history-mural- 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Forest Hills History Mural On The Rise!


Crisp & Praxis painting the Forest Hills History Mural, Apr 2, 2017, Ascan Ave underpass, Photo by project coordinator Michael Perlman
Project coordinator Michael Perlman posing at Crisp & Praxis Forest Hills History Mural, Apr 2, 2017, Ascan Ave underpass

"A Tribute To Ascan Avenue & The Forest Hills Gardens" mural rendering by Crisp & Praxis

"A Tribute To Ascan Avenue & The Forest Hills Gardens" mural rendering by Crisp & Praxis

"A Tribute To Ascan Avenue & The Forest Hills Gardens" mural rendering by Crisp & Praxis

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2/12 Art Sale To Benefit Forest Hills History Mural



Special Community Event: On Sun, Feb 12 from 4:30 PM – 9:30 PM, meet best-selling artist John Stanisci at RoastNco, a unique café/restaurant at 100-12 Queens Blvd. This Marvel & DC Comics artist will sell & sign prints of his great works including Spiderman, Batman, Star Wars, & Captain America. Character sketches upon request. Proceeds to benefit the Forest Hills History Mural Fundraiser. Now's your chance to own something special, give a gift for Valentine’s Day, & help beautify Forest Hills, while paying tribute to historic influential figures & scenes. This will benefit our local arts, culture, & education.

Questions? Contact Michael Perlman at unlockthevault@hotmail.com

Please spread the word & invite friends through our Facebook event page: www.facebook.com/events/598707950319836

NY1 News coverage of our recent fundraiser:
www.ny1.com/nyc/queens/news/2017/01/22/comic-book-artist-helping-to-bring-mural-to-queens-.html

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

1/22 Art Sale To Benefit Forest Hills History Mural



Special Community Event! On Sun, Jan 22nd from 3:30 PM - 8 PM, meet best-selling artist John Stanisci at La Boulangerie, a unique bakery cafe at 109-01 72nd Rd. This Marvel & DC Comics artist will sell & sign prints of his great works including Spiderman, Batman, Star Wars, & Captain America. Character sketches upon request. Proceeds to benefit the Forest Hills History Mural Fundraiser. Now's your chance to own something special, give a gift, & help beautify Forest Hills, while paying tribute to historic influential figures. 

Questions? Contact Michael Perlman at unlockthevault@hotmail.com Please spread the word!

RSVP & Invite Your Friends: www.facebook.com/events/1301631239875875 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

12/21 Art Sale with Best-Selling Comic Artist John Stanisci To Help Benefit Forest Hills History Mural Fundraiser


Marvel & DC Comics Artist John Stanisci to sell & sign prints of his great works including Spiderman, Batman, & Star Wars. On December 21 from 6 PM - 10 PM at RoastNco, a unique cafe at 100-12 Queens Blvd, meet a best-seller & Forest Hills' own "Legendary Local."

You will also get a free wreath & Century 21 gift card. Proceeds to help benefit the Forest Hills History Mural Fundraiser. The holidays are here & now's your chance to own something special or give a gift. More info: Michael Perlman at unlockthevault@hotmail.com Please spread the word!

Those who are interested can share the event page link, as well as RSVP & invite friends: www.facebook.com/events/668201913340058

Interview with mural project coordinator Michael Perlman on NY1 News: www.ny1.com/nyc/queens/news/2016/12/13/forest-hills-resident-raises-money-for-mural-.html