Comedian finally “gets respect” in Kew Gardens
by Michael Perlman
Oct 18, 2016 | 8952 views | 0 0 comments | 194 194 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The new mural of Rodney Dangerfield in Kew Gardens.
The new mural of Rodney Dangerfield in Kew Gardens.
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A new mural on the back wall of the Kew Gardens Cinema commemorates the legacy of comedian and actor Rodney Dangerfield. Dangerfield, who was born Jacob Cohen and died in 2004, once called Kew Gardens home.

It was painted by Francesca Tosca Robicci, a Rome-based museologist who has studied art history, literature, and contemporary history.

A Google search led her to 501 See Streets, a nonprofit that recently created three other public murals in central Queens, and founder Noah Sheroff agreed to collaborate with Robicci.

“As an artist, I was looking for a chance to share my art and my world and be part of this amazing community,” said Robicci. “Dangerfield passed away on October 5, 2004, and this gave us the opportunity to celebrate his life in time for the anniversary.”

Dangerfield attended P.S. 99, graduated in 1939 from Richmond Hill High School, and lived in a two-story Tudor building that is currently home to Austin’s Ale House.

In 1969, he opened the highly successful Dangerfield's comedy club on 1st Avenue in Manhattan. On his HBO shows, he introduced comedians to television audiences, influencing the careers of everyone from Bob Saget and Jerry Seinfeld to Rita Rudner and Jeff Foxworthy.

Some of his notable cinematic roles include Caddyshack (1980), Easy Money (1983) and Back To School (1986). In 1994, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The mural features Dangerfield's signature “I don’t get no respect” phrase alongside his face.

“Dangerfield always retained his trademark, outer-borough sense of being on the outs, and this was for sure the best way to tell his story,” Robicci said. “As an Italian, I am not as familiar with Dangerfield as Americans are, but it was funny that I knew many of his jokes, since they were translated and imported by Italian comedians.”

When Robicci paints frescoes she is usually alone in an empty house, but painting the Dangerfield mural opened new doors.

“Having people stop by to talk about the mural was actually the best part,” she said. “One lady asked ‘what did he do to deserve such a tribute,’ and I answered, ‘He made people laugh.’

“Most people found it great to beautify the neighborhood with street art,” Robicci added.

Robicci faced several challenges as she completed the mural over a three-day period.

“The wall absorbs a lot of paint and the ups and downs on the surface make a brush very difficult to use,” she explained. “Therefore, I used spray-paint to trace the portrait and fill the areas, and then added details with a brush.”

Robicci has other murals in Rome, Florence, and New York, and is open to more street art opportunities after her initial experience working in Queens.

“Everybody welcomed me and supported my work, and my week in Kew Gardens felt like home,” she said.

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