The Retired Stagehand Who Sold Newspapers as a Kid

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“I like to work out, put my muscle shirt on, and walk down to Times Square.”
“I like to work out, put my muscle shirt on, and walk down to Times Square.”Photo: Bobby Doherty

Jerry Urcivoli, Retired Stagehand

Where were you a stagehand?
I worked at Radio City Music Hall, but I had to quit. I had heart trouble, and the dust was so heavy you could cut it with a knife.

Where are you from?
I moved to New York when I was 6. My sisters and I were living in Philly with my mother, and one day she said, “We’re going to New York City.” I said, “Mom, what’s in New York City?” And she said, “That’s where the movie stars are.” We stayed in a hotel on Lexington and 47th Street for a week, and then my mom ran out of money; they took our luggage because we couldn’t pay our bills. We were walking the streets. One day, we were in Central Park, and my mother started eating out of the garbage can, and I remember saying, “Gee, this is terrible. I gotta do something about this.”

So what did you do?
I shined shoes outside of Roseland Ballroom. But I was only making $3 a day, so I started selling newspapers on Eighth Avenue between 42nd and 57th. I’d buy the paper for a nickel and go into bars and sell it for a quarter — I sold the Daily Mirror and the Daily News. I would make between $25 to $30 a night and give it all to my mother, except for $2 to buy the next day’s papers. I didn’t work on Sundays because the Sunday paper was too heavy for me to carry.

Lightning Round
Neighborhood
: Upper West Side.
Age: 68.
Favorite thing to do: “I like to work out, put my muscle shirt on, and walk down to Times Square and have dinner at my favorite chicken restaurant on 44th and Eighth.”
Marital status: Single. “I got married when I was 17 to an Irish girl from Hell’s Kitchen, but we’re divorced now.”
Favorite park: Riverside.
Favorite TV show: The channel 2 local news.

*This article appears in the May 2, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.