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The Encyclopedia of Superlatives

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Jim Jensen, 1977; Joe Gallo, 1959.  

LOCAL ANCHOR
By Pat Kiernan
Jim Jensen was an authoritative presence on WCBS for three decades—in a no-nonsense era of TV news. New Yorkers paid attention when Jensen was on the set, not like today where audiences have been watered down by busier schedules, cable, and the Internet. No, Jim “owned” the chair.



Washington Market, circa 1910.  

MARKET
By Jason Epstein
The old Washington Market at Washington and Fulton Streets was a vast culinary world trade center: It had hundreds of stalls staffed by purveyors in white coats and straw hats. I remember racks of pheasant, partridge, quail, and grouse in their feathers, sides of beef from Scotland as well as the Midwest, Belon oysters from France, baskets of crabs, turtles, entire swordfish, sides of tuna, smelts, stripers, hundreds of cheeses domestic and imported, live and dressed poultry. Imagine Russ & Daughters, Di Palo’s great cheese store, Citarella, Lobel’s, Zabar’s, all the city’s Greenmarkets, the Indian spice shops, Chinatown, under a great cast-iron roof, and you will begin to get the picture.


MISTAKE
By Kenneth Jackson
Editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City
The greatest streetcar system on Earth is probably gone forever. Starting with Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s administration, the city assumed that the internal-combustion engine would be the solution to all urban transit problems, and it encouraged the ripping up of 1,344 miles of trolley tracks. Losing Penn Station was bad enough, but choosing roads over rails was catastrophic and essentially irrevocable.


MOBSTER
By Arthur Nash
author, New York City Gangland
Joe Gallo was a street hood who eventually went on to challenge the most powerful mafia dons for control of the underworld in the sixties. As early as 1957 he was one of the assassins of Albert Anastasia, boss of the Gambino crime family. And he only moved up from there. He testified in the McClellan Hearings and famously pleaded the Fifth. Then he did a ten-year stretch for attempted extortion. When he was released, he declared himself the head of a sixth mob family and waged war on the old ways of doing things. Who knows how far he would have gone if he hadn’t been killed. If you ask ten people, eight of them would award the infamy crown to Al Capone or Lucky Luciano, each of whom created more work for the undertaker than Gallo. But Joey Gallo, with his habit of bucking the prescribed order of things, resonates more loudly today than those dead bootleggers.


NEW YORK ‘TIMES’ CORRECTION
Paul Tough, writer, co-founder of Paris in the 20s: The corrections that are the most entertaining are the ones that snowball: “A film review on September 5 about ‘Save Me’ confused some characters and actors. It is Mark, not Chad, who is sent to the Genesis House retreat for converting gay men to heterosexuality. (Mark is played by Chad Allen; there is no character named Chad.) A hunky fellow resident is Scott (played by Robert Gant) not Ted (Stephen Lang). And it is Mark and Scott—not Chad and Ted—who partake of cigarettes and ‘furtive man-on-man action.’ ” It’s also nice when a particularly awesome phrase is included in quotes, like “furtive man-on-man action.”

Stephen Sherrill, writer, co-founder of Paris in the 20s: Here’s another one. The mistake itself is actually just a preposition. “An article on Tuesday about DreamWorks Studios’ completion of a round of financing and its announcement of some film projects include an incorrect title for one of the movies. It will be called ‘Dinner for ********,’ a Yiddish vulgarism meaning ‘jerks’... The film is not ‘Dinner with ********.’ ” The asterisks force you to think through every possible vulgarism. And there’s one asterisk per letter. They weren’t going to get that wrong.

PT: They made sure to be really precise with that.

SS: And then there are the ones that are funny not because of the mistake made, but because of the description of the article the mistake was made in: “Because of a transmission error, the Personal Computers column in Science Times yesterday about a program called a browser that is used to find information on the world wide web misstated the electronic address for information on a program called Slipknot. It also misstated the address for a treatise on how to cause grapes to explode in flames in a microwave oven.”



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