Saturday, March 2, 2024

Quote of the Day (Richard Lewis, on Childhood Memories of Palisades Amusement Park)

“In Brooklyn, where I was born, they had Coney Island. But in Englewood, where I lived from before I was a year old, we didn’t need Coney Island, because we had Palisades Amusement Park. When I got to be about 10 years old, I would walk down the hill from my house and take the bus to Cliffside Park that would stop right in front of the amusement park. I must have done that hundreds of times in my childhood. The roller coaster was my favorite. That and the Wild Mouse. I would go on them over and over and over. It didn’t matter that I was nauseated for, like, 30 days. I was under the spell.”—Stand-up comedian and actor Richard Lewis (1947-2024), as told to Eric Levin, “Richard Lewis: Safe at Home,” New Jersey Monthly, Nov. 15, 2010

I have to tell you right now that over the years, despite his prominence as an entertainer (it’s not every one whose obituary runs on the front page of The New York Times), I had followed Richard Lewis only minimally.

Yes, I knew he was from Bergen County and had even graduated from public school in my hometown of Englewood, NJ. But I had never caught his act, in person or on TV, and only knew, in the most general way, about the neuroses that fed his art.

Then, several months ago, I read that he was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. As my late mother had also been afflicted with this, I knew what he must be experiencing, and my heart went out to him.

Then, earlier this week—as much out of the need for laughs as curiosity—I rented from my local library Curb Your Enthusiasm, and was delighted to watch Lewis act as a foil to longtime friend Larry David.

Then came the news that he had passed away on Tuesday.  

Since then, I have been reading about his memories of growing up in Bergen County—not just the kind of idyllic memory of Palisades Amusement Park that fellow baby boomers have had, but also of seeing on his street Mickey Mantle (still in his Yankee days, and none too pleased about encountering a kid with a Brooklyn Dodgers shirt!), or coming back to his hometown for a stand-up appearance in 1989. 

(These and other rueful reminiscences can be found here.)

Lewis might have moved out to the West Coast years ago, but you couldn’t take the Jersey boy out of him. Maybe that was an indelible part of the guy who Anything But Love co-star Jamie Lee Curtis hailed as “a sweet and funny man.”

(The image accompanying this post was taken of Lewis on Sept. 26, 2013, by Joeyjojo86.)

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