Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Something Special

Lenny Cecere runs a Greenwich Village institution called Something Special. Here, amid the bric-a-brac, percolating coffee and candy for sale, the 82-year old Matt Lauer look-alike rents mailboxes, performs notary services and distributes sage wisdom and sly humor to the many folks who use Something Special as both local watering (or caffeine) hole and hangout. The store sits on the street level floor of Lenny's landmark-designated building (at Houston and MacDougal), and is popular among SoHo's rich and famous who regard Lenny's mailboxes as their personal address away from home. The Beastie Boys, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Patti Smith, Famke Janssen and other showbiz notables can regularly be seen picking up their mail at Lenny's. Sarah Jessica Parker even served coffee in years past when her schedule in the city was less than sexy. A typical day at Something Special finds Lenny holding court and serving coffee as fellow seniors -- like 'Philly' DeCicco and his brother Jimmy, who in the '70s were on a first name basis with Sullivan Street mobster Vinnie 'The Chin' Gigante and Frank Sinatra -- shoot the breeze, argue about the Mets and Yankees or pass a summer day watching the endless people parade that courses down Houston Street.

After completing his army tour of duty in '45 and marrying Lucy Iannattone, Lenny trained at RCA's school for radio electronics at West 4th and 8th Avenue. He worked for Kodak as an electronics and machine maintenance technician for some 25 years during which time he began collecting radios. One day Lenny surprised me with a beautiful old Zenith tube radio from the '50s. Returning from the basement he unearthed more goodies: a crusty 1970s era Audiovox AM/FM tabletop, a nondescript '80s shortwave, a nifty looking RCA solid state and a truly space-age low profile WestClox model. All of Lenny's radios work wonderfully, you can almost hear broadcasts from decades past emitting from their ancient facades. Lenny still holds court, so when you visit the Village, walk down to 51 MacDougal.

14 comments:

Blognote said...

Lenny is a great institution!!
Thanks for the story!

EV Grieve said...

Beautiful.

Laurie said...

WHat a great story! I would love to check out Lenny's establishment, grab a cup of coffee and talk old radios. (A passion of mine, too.) Thanks for this great post today! And what a wonderful portrait.

ken mac said...

When I got my mail today the place was full with a German movie crew. I couldnt' get to my mail. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR....:)

Wayne said...

Thanks Ken.

Virginia said...

KM, This "takes the cake". This is my favorite kind of post. Getting to meet all of the wonderful characters from everyone's hometown. This is what makes CDP so special. Lenny, here's lookin at ya. I wish I could get to NYC and pay you a visit with our crazy friend Ken Mac!

• Eliane • said...

Oh this is fantastic! Love Lenny story. I am noting the address, I'd love to see this character in person. And also that mailbox system, which I admit I don't quite understand. So you get your mail delivered in his store, like a PO Box system?

CoyoteFe said...

I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog. Lenny is great. Masybe I'll stroll by one day.

annulla said...

Matt Lauer? Sorry, but I think Lenny is a dead ringer for George Clooney.

Blather From Brooklyn

Lily Hydrangea said...

I LOVE this story! Now I have to go look for this place. I love finding new places in Manhattan.

babooshka said...

This is the kind of post I'd love to do, but only managed once. A real life person from the area, with a story to tell. Here's to ya Lenny and thansk for the look at that radio. What a piece of kit that is.

Kirby Carnegie said...

Great story - good to know a few originals are still around.

Lydia said...

Lenny and his wife Lucy are the BEST!!! Lucy has some beautiful jewelry. And Something Special is warm in the winter, and warmhearted the whole year 'round. Just don't ask Lenny about the red model airplaine!

generic viagra said...

that vintage radio is true collector's piece ! congratulations guy, don't sell it, pass it to your nephews.