If you’ve been following my blog (thank you, thank you, thank you) you’ve realized that I’m a proud New Yorker and an even prouder Brooklynite. I’m “crushing” on this place; big time. At times, my enthusiasm for my hometown can reach the level of a frenzied groupie. In fact, I’ve been known to squeal with delight when I make a new discovery or have an ancient mystery demystified or confirmed.
Brooklyn encompasses 71 square miles. It is made up of a series of interesting neighborhoods and enclaves; each deserving of exploration; and while I’ve seen a lot of Brooklyn and know a lot about Brooklyn, I know that there is so much more to see and appreciate about the place.
Recently, I ran an errand in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn. I’ve not spent any time in this area, so imagine how giddy I was when, from the bus window, I spied an artifact that embodies the fact and fiction of Brooklyn; the Jackie Gleason Depot . The depot is located on Fifth Avenue near 36th street.
I grabbed my camera and managed to take this picture of it; before the bus I was traveling on pulled off.
Jackie Gleason was a brilliant comedian and actor. In the early days of television, he created a big (both in appearance and personality) boisterous and beleaguered, blue-collar, Brooklynite character, named Ralph Kramden; on the television show The Honeymooners.
It’s hard for me to imagine that there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t seen an episode of the Honeymooners. The sitcom is a national treasure and a Brooklyn point of pride. Originally filmed and broadcast in the mid-1950’s, the program has been in syndication for years and can be seen all over the world on a regular basis. Also, the series can be seen in its entirety as part of the New Year’s Eve/ New Year’s Day marathon broadcasts; a holiday tradition for many.
Stumbling upon the Jackie Gleason Depot sparked my curiosity about the show and the actor. Here’s what I learned.
Jackie Gleason was born in Brooklyn. As a native son of the borough, his name is inscribed on a stepping-stone along the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Celebrity Path.
The “classic 39” episodes of The Honeymooners were filmed in New York City. Alas, the filming didn’t take place in the borough of Brooklyn, but occurred, just over the bridge, in Manhattan.
The show was filmed in front of a live audience at the Adelphi Theatre. That theatre was torn down and an office building now stands on the spot. The office building has a connection to another classic television show – Seinfeld. The office building was used for the exterior shots of Elaine’s office.
The Kramdens lived in an apartment house at 328 Chauncey Street in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, NY. The show was set there because the scriptwriters felt that this area had greater recognition than other Brooklyn neighborhoods. In actuality, the Chauncey Street address sited on the show is located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Click here to see the house that sits on that spot.
Jackie Gleason couldn’t read or write music, yet he was a successful composer and conductor. He wrote the theme songs for the Jackie Gleason Show (“Melancholy Serenade”) and The Honeymooners (“You’re My Greatest Love”). Additionally, he released a series of romantic albums with such titles as Music to Remember, Music, Martinis and Memories, Music to Make You Misty, and Melancholy Serenade. How’d it do it?….he worked with an arranger. The arranger would transcribe the notes as Mr. Gleason played the piano.
The Honeymooners was ranked #3 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. Interestingly, 4 of the top 5 shows, on the list, are set in New York City – #1 Seinfeld (Manhattan), #2 I Love Lucy (Manhattan), #3 The Honeymooners (Brooklyn), #4 All in the Family (Queens), and the exception – #5 The Sopranos (New Jersey).
In several publicity still photographs, Jackie Gleason (in character as Ralph Kramden) is seen with a New York City Bus . On the television show, the character didn’t work for the New York City Transit Authority; rather, he worked for, the fictitious, Gotham Bus Company.
The inscription on Jackie Gleason’s headstone is his trademark phrase, “And Away We Go!”
Before I go, I’m leaving you with this clip I found posted on YouTube. It is called “The $99,000 Answer”. In 1997, TV Guide ranked the episode number 6 on its 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time list.
- Video: Almanac: Jackie Gleason (cbsnews.com)