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Ron Radosh

You have to read this to believe it, and of course, it comes from the pages of The New York Times, forever seeking to establish itself as the paper of the American Left.  The moral of this story is clear: be careful to what panhandler you give your money to in New York City, especially if it’s a 97 year old seemingly homeless and bedraggled old guy working his craft on the tony Murray Hill area on the east side of the city.

Writer Cory Kilgannon calls him “a familiar sight, the old man who solicits change from drivers stopped at a red light on East 35th Street in Midtown Manhattan every day near Third Avenue.” The guy, it seems, has been doing it for 17 years, seven days a week, working “with the help of a walker.”

Now the average motorist might stop and take pity on this poor guy, who looks like what you expect a white male of his age might look, possibly having worked all his life at a job he lost, or one in which he lost his pension and is down on his luck. But read on. He lives, Mr. Kilgannon tells us, “in a cozy 1840 carriage house on East 36th Street that he estimates he could sell for $3.5 million.”  His domicile is in something named “Sniffen Court,” whose other residents include Lenny Kravitz and Claudia Schiffer. He bought it in 1974 for $175,000.00, and the home next door just sold for $5 million.

Yet he stands at his beat from 11 am, six hours or so a day, asking passing drivers: “Help a guy out?” They assume, as you would if you came across this man, that the money is for himself. It isn’t, and as readers are told, “I don’t tell them where the money’s going, and I’m sure they don’t care.”

So here is the answer. If you are wondering what motivates this man to stand out day in and day out, through summer and winter, panhandling for the $100 to $250 he brings in each day—it is the grand and glorious cause of Cuban Communism and Fidel Castro! Yes, the money he collects, which he carefully counts and puts on a list of his daily take, is all for Comrade Fidel, as he proudly informs Kilgannon, “pointing to the photographs on his wall of him with Fidel Castro,” one of them autographed, with the message from Castro “with admiration, gratitude and affection.”

The man, it turns out, is someone known as Professor Irwin Corey, “The World’s Foremost Authority,” or “The Professor of Double-talk,” as some call him. Since the 1940’s, he has performed his comedy routines, sometimes working alongside people like Jackie Gleason and Woody Allen. But he is hardly “legendary,” as Kilgannon and others say. If he was, undoubtedly some if not many of the motorists who stop to give him money would recognize him.

The last time I saw him, indeed when I had a run-in with Corey, was at the famous Town Hall debate on the Rosenberg case in which Joyce Milton, Sol Stern and I opposed Walter and Miriam Schneir at New York City’s Town Hall in 1983. As I was speaking, Corey- a rabid supporter of the Rosenbergs’ innocence- stood up on his chair and started screaming at me, “How much did the FBI pay you to say they were guilty?” and  “traitor” and other such epithets. I recall his face turning red with rage and looking like he was about to either explode from anger or have a heart attack.

Corey now claims that his “left-wing advocacy” interrupted his career and hence he was blacklisted from TV networks, the old claim of those who in fact, were never very funny—something which many who have heard Corey can well attest to.

So, if you happen to be driving into Manhattan from the Queens-Midtown Bridge, and you see old Irwin Corey panhandling and approaching your car, tell him what you think of Cuba’s phony heralded health care system (by those like Michael Moore and Corey,) and what you think of a free U.S. citizen raising dough for Castro’s tyranny. Maybe, at least, you and some others can give him something other than a dollar that is much more effective- a good piece of your mind.

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