Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Hobby Shops: Park Slope Hobby Center

In 1960 they were located on 7th Avenue, across the street from Methodist Hospital, and next door to All Saint’s Episcopal Church (although I believe that at one time, probably in the late fifties, they were located a little further north on 7th Avenue), but it’s difficult to say what the exact number was, as all of the small shops on that block were thrown together when the Bohack supermarket opened there in 1962 or 1963. It was a small shop, but they had a nice stock of plastic kits and perhaps even some model trains. Rockets and missiles were very big back then, and the shop window had a display of the various Revell, Aurora, and Adams kits, nicely assembled and neatly painted. At that time, this was the only shop in Brooklyn that stocked the Airfix HO-OO plastic figures, including the ‘Civilians’ (most of the others in the line were soldiers), which were quite difficult to find. Yes, Bobbies really did look like that then-a-days.






The Birth of El Eggo

All throughout the 1970s there was an intriguing pseudo-surrealist mural painted on the façade of a ground floor shop at 281 West Broadway (today part of a restaurant) betwixt Canal Street and Lispenard Street, entitled ‘The Birth of El Eggo’. It depicted a Daliesque gentleman gazing sardonically at a perfectly shaped, perfectly white egg, floating mysteriously before him. There were other elements as well, but these were the primary ones. Does anyone remember this besides me, and perhaps even have a photograph of it?

Nomar Records

‘All in My Mind’ was recorded in September of 1960, at the Allegro Sound Studio in the basement of 1650 Broadway.  Maxine Brown had met an enterprising charmer named Mal Williams (whom she later married) at a club on Linden Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens, and whatever faults he may have had (and there were reportedly many), he was a man who recognized talent when he saw it, and arranged for Maxine to record a demo during a shared session at Allegro.  Having accomplished this, he was unable to interest anyone in it, until one bright afternoon in October, when Maxine and Mal where standing outside of the Brill Building on Broadway at quitting time, and Tony Bruno of Nomar Records came walking out.  Bruno had a slight acquaintance with Mal, and when he learned that he was trying to promote Maxine and her song, he asked them to come by the next day and play it for him.  He loved the song and it was released later that month.  This was quite a brave thing for Tony Bruno to do, because Nomar Records was nothing more than a front for a New Jersey bookmaker, or ‘bookie’, as we say in America, and the attendant publicity of releasing a big hit like ‘All in My Mind’ was probably the last thing that bookie wanted.  The office was there for the convenience of gentlemen placing wagers on horse races and sporting events, and Bruno was the man who collected the money and handed out the betting slips.  If the guys from the Plainclothes Division didn’t get their envelope, or if the P.C.C.I.U. was breathing down the precinct Captain’s neck and someone had to be thrown to the wolves for appearance’s sake, Bruno would have been the one to get locked up.  The bookie has been identified by Bruno on various occasions as one ‘Joe Romano’, but the real name is distinctively Central European.

† Police Commissioner’s Confidential Investigations Unit

All in My Mind

Maxine Brown’s immortal ‘All in My Mind’ was released by Nomar Records in late October of 1960, but this week, fifty years ago, it was first reviewed in Billboard’s This Week’s Singles (7 November 1960), where it received three stars (‘Good Sales Potential’) and the description ‘gets a good feeling and could stir some action’.  It sure did; by 20 February 1961 it had reached number 19 on the Billboard Music Week ‘Hot 100’ Pop chart, and number 2 on the R&B charts, eventually selling some 800,000 copies.  It also ‘could stir some action’ whenever it was played at a record party in someone’s basement, and usually did. Maxine’s voice and performance was grown-up and sexy in an immensely powerful way that even now, half a century later, after all we’ve seen and heard, can still raise goose-bumps. Perhaps not everyone will agree, but if we were to look about for the first song that can be described as ‘Soul’ (the term wouldn’t come into widespread use until 1963), ‘All in My Mind’, written by Maxine, would have to be the one.