Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Finding Something Special

Lenny Cecere runs a small 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 all-around hangout. The store sits on the street level floor of Lenny's landmark-designated building, and is particularly 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. Get Lenny talking and eventually he'll tell you about the huge cache of NOS tubes down in his basement. I have heard about this tube stash for years with no physical proof to back up the story. You see, 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. You own old radios, you gotta stock NOS tubes. I figured that the rumored tubes were all smashed and swept away but 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. Radio nut that I am, I grabbed the Windex and polished up these beauties, all of which worked wonderful, to the point where I almost expected to hear broadcasts from decades past emitting from the radios' ancient facades. Lenny still holds court, when you visit the Village, walk down to 51 MacDougal.


Unknown said...

If I ever were to visit New York, I'd try and seek him out as he sounds quite a character.

Stefan Jansson said...

This is a great post, and photo. Something Special seems to be something rally special. I'm guessing Lenny could talk for hours about interesting meetings and goings on.