Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who's Almost Who In Knickerbocker Village History: Mel Brooks

Another stretch? Though Mel grew up in Williamsburgh, as he describes in the above video,
his grandfather and father lived at 202 Henry Street, now Gouverneur Hospital.
One biography states:
Born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn, New York, USA, to Russian-Jewish parents Maximillian Kaminsky and Kate "Kittie" Brookman. Brooks' grandfather, Abraham Kaminsky, was a herring dealer who immigrated in 1893. He and his wife Bertha raised their ten children on Henry Street on the Lower East Side of New York City.
When Brooks was two years old, his father died of kidney disease at age 34. A year later, in 1930, Kittie Kaminsky and her sons Irving, Leonard, Bernard and Melvin were living at 365 S. 3rd St. in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.
As a child, Mel was a small and sickly boy. He was bullied and picked on by his peers. By taking on the comically aggressive job of "Toomler" in various Catskills resorts, he overcame his childhood of bullying and name calling.
He went to school in New York. For elementary, he went to Public School 19 . For middle school, he went to Francis Scott Key, Jr. High. Brooks graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School.

Another biography:
Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky at 515 Powell Street in Brownsville, June 28, 1926. He was always funny whether standing on a street corner in Brownsville or hanging out in Feingold’s Candy Store, eternally searching for the “bestest” egg creme. His “wise” remarks often got him in trouble, especially with the P.S. 19 teachers. When he was a little older the family moved to Brighton Beach where they lived a few doors away from famed drummer Buddy Rich, who taught Mel to play drums. Then the family moved to 111 Lee Street in Williamsburg where Mel attended Eastern District High School. Brooks served as a corporal in the U.S. army in North Africa during World War II. Part of his duties was defusing landmines in areas before the infantry moved in. Mel changed his name to Brooks (taken from his mother’s family name of Brookman) and went into show business, starting out as a stand-up comic. He switched to comedy writing.

Despite the conflicting biographies, I know the part about his father on Henry Street is true because I found the census records online.

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