By Mark Hallum
Artist Francesca Tosca Robicci put the finishing touches on a mural dedicated to comedy great Rodney Dangerfield in Kew Gardens Tuesday, a project organized by Queens-based non-profit 501(See)(Streets). The street art is a visual tribute to Dangerfield’s roots in the neighborhood, where he grew up above Austin’s Ale House, went to PS 99 and worked in a nearby candy shop on Lefferts Boulevard.
The completion of the mural marked a special occasion: Wednesday was the 12th anniversary of Dangerfield’s death at 82.
Robicci is an Italian-born artist who now lives in Queens. Her work tends to be a little more on the classical side, but she stepped out of her usual style to depict the funny man whose popular catchphrase was “I can’t get no respect.” It fact, those words are included in the mural now up at Kew Gardens Cinemas Park on a wall of the building at 81-05 Austin St.
According to Robicci, residents and pedestrians voiced their support for the project and complimented her on her work.
Noah Sheroff, founder of 501(See)(Streets), has contributed to bringing art to urban spaces, which represents the character and history of their neighborhoods. In June, two murals near Forest Hills Stadium were painted depicting The Ramones, who grew up in the area, and professional tennis players who had played at the stadium across the decades.
A recent 501(See)(Streets) project in Astoria paid homage to the neighborhood’s Italian and Greek communities and brightened what had been a dingy railroad overpass.
The positive response from the community for the murals at Forest Hills Stadium prompted Sheroff to bring more street art to the adjacent neighborhoods.
Sheroff made contact with Dangerfield’s widow, Joan, who was very receptive to the project.
Sheroff commissions artists from every kind of background and funding comes from private donors and public officials. Robicci, however, volunteered to do the work for free.
Dangerfield was born Jacob Cohen in Deer Park, L.I., but his mother moved the family to Kew Gardens when he was 10 years old after his father abandoned his family. He graduated from Richmond Hill High School in 1939 and peaked in popularity in the ‘80s.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall