By Jon Cronin, Editor
He may have long complained of getting “no respect,” but Kew Gardens native and comedian Rodney Dangerfield was honored with a memorial plaque at Austin’s Ale House on Friday as part of the inaugural Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema’s launch party.
Dangerfield, who once lived above Austin’s Ale House and wrote about his childhood there in his memoirs, was spotted by locals in 2004 when he visited the area just before his death. Carle Bellanas, president of the Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery and a teacher at the Immaculate Conception School, presented the plaque on Aug. 4 along with his honor students from Aquinas Honor Society of the Immaculate Conception School in Jamaica Estates. Ballenas said that his students worked for more than a year on the research that went into the plaque.
“This project went way beyond classroom curriculum,” said Jayson Simba, a Glendale native who founded the movie festival. “[Dangerfield] was a stand-up comic, author, screenwriter, producer and actor.”
Simba said that the students communicated with Dangerfield’s widow, Joan, and she endeared herself to them. She told them that when she and Dangerfield visited before her husband’s death, they were happy to see that Kew Gardens had kept much of its charm.
“He would have been honored to have a plaque raised in Kew Gardens for him,” Joan Dangerfield told Simba.
The installation and cost of the plaque was provided by the Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery.
Simba said that Dangerfield moved to Kew Gardens with his parents when he was 10 years old and attended PS 99. He graduated from Richmond Hill High School in 1939. Joan Dangerfield and the students decided to use his 1939 yearbook photo since it reflected what he looked like when he lived in the neighborhood.
Dangerfield worked as an usher at the Austin Movie Theater—which Simba said is now the Kew Gardens Cinema. He also delivered groceries for a storefront that is at the top of the stairs near Austin’s Ale House and made deliveries for the Little Fish Market, which is now Dani’s Pizzeria on Lefferts Boulevard.
Simba said that Dangerfield began writing for stand-up comics and performing in the Catskills at age 15, while he was attending high school. He didn’t receive attention until the 1960s, when he developed his classic catch phrase, “I don’t get no respect.”
He was a Las Vegas headliner for 35 years and starred in such popular comedies as “Easy Money,” “Caddyshack” and “Back to School.” The beloved comic died in 2004 in Los Angles at 83.
“It is because of his illustrious movie career that we are here this night to unveil a plaque dedicated to Rodney Dangerfield in his hometown of Kew Gardens at the opening of the first ever Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema,” said Simba.
The festival will run through Aug. 13 at Kew Gardens Cinemas with feature films from local, national and international filmmakers. There will be free presentations at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit http://www.kewgardensfestivalofcinema.com/movie-schedule/.
Respect Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org, @JonathanSCronin.