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New York's Power Siblings

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Field of Dreams: Max Wiseman (a cousin), Doc Pomus, and Raoul Felder in Depression-era Williamsburg.  

Raoul Felder & Doc Pomus

Growing up in working-class Williamsburg, a teenage Raoul Felder would help his older brother, Jerome, who was crippled from polio, in and out of cabs to get to gigs in Bedford-Stuyvesant. "They didn't want to pick up handicapped people," he remembers. Though Felder, now 67, was nine years younger, the two shared a room. "I can't play any instrument, and he had a hell of a time getting me piano teachers," Felder says. "They'd be there all night long, sessions in the kitchen. I remember there was one guy who virtually lived with us, and it took a neighbor saying something pejorative for me to realize that this guy was black." Jerome, who died from lung cancer in 1991, took the name Doc Pomus and went on to write "Viva Las Vegas," "Little Sister," and "This Magic Moment"; Raoul found his voice representing the city's powerful and rich in their divorces. The brothers' paths crossed often, usually at night: "When I was in the U.S. attorney's office, he was living opposite the Brill Building," Felder remembers. "He would hold court in the lobby, and a steady string of characters would come in and out. I was an insomniac, so I would go over and stay till the morning. He was friendly with criminals. He was the same person whoever he spoke to. He could be talking to Bob Dylan or the messenger boy." Felder's favorite Doc Pomus song? " 'This Magic Moment' I thought was very good," he says, his eyes glistening. "But my favorite is 'Save the Last Dance for Me' -- here was a person who could not dance!"



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Identity Politics (June 2001)


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