When Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, visited the real Costanza house in Astoria last year, part 1/part 2 it was a nice moment for Stiller as it no doubt brought back memories of the many years of discord and disharmony within its walls. But it was also nice to see a Queens place remembered for its role on Seinfeld. Manhattan seems to get most of the attention when it comes to Seinfeld remembrances. Queens and Long Island figured prominently in the show too.
With that thought in mind, Daily News reporter Ben Yakas, who was covering the Stiller story, asked Seinfeld reality tour guru Kenny Kramer (the real Kramer) if he would be interested in doing a Queens version of his famous Manhattan Seinfeld reality tour. Kramer replied that he was interested, but added he would require funding from Queens borough hall in order to get the tour going. This is probably where the idea hit a road block. Nothing else has been heard or seen of the Queens Seinfeld tour since this was mentioned.
Nevertheless I think the tour should be set up. I think it would be fantastic, and could be made even better with the addition of some notable movie filming locations, particularly from Goodfellas. Here is an itinerary of a Queens tour I threw together.
The Queens Seinfield and More Reality Bus Tour
Stop #1 – Orientation and Food at the Air Line Diner, 69-35 Astoria Blvd (Goodfellas)
Since it has immediate recognition and is a good place to get started, why not meet first for a meal at the Air Line diner in Astoria. The Air Line was built in 1957 and became part of the Jackson Hole chain of diners in 1990. It still retains the look and feel from its true Air Line days.
The diner appears in the movie Goodfellas just before main characters Henry Hill and Tommy DeVito hijack a truck near JFK (then Idlewild) airport. Although the scene is at JFK, the diner is near LaGuardia, and the airports are at least 25 minutes from each other, nobody seems to have objected. Either way, you can hijack a good sandwich anytime at the diner before going to either airport.
Stop #2 – The Costanza House, 22-37 37th St
Just a few blocks north of the diner is the ‘real’ Costanza house which Jerry Stiller visited above. This would be where Festivus was first celebrated, where Kramer and Frank played pool with a baton, and where the manzeer (or bro) was tried on for the first time.
The real Costanza house was built in the mid 1920’s, Bessie and Jack Lopipero have resided there for over 25 years. Jack actually bears a striking resemblance to Art Carney of the Honeymooners. Maybe if they allow us in the house we can get Jack to say “Helloooo Ball”, or even maybe “Hellllo , La La La”.
Stop #3 -Goodfellas Billy Batts Murder Scene, 73-20 Grand Ave
Today, its the Mazal Palace and serves Kosher food, and although it never really was the Suite Lounge, it was made to look like it for the 1990 film.
The murder of Billy Batts is a pivotal scene in Goodfellas. Up until that scene, mobsters Henry Hill, Tommy DeVito, and Jimmy Conway have gotten in some trouble, but they really haven’t hurt anybody or done any serious damage.
That all changes here. Billy Batts, a made gangster who is just out of jail after six years is drinking, loud, obnoxious, right in Henry’s bar and right in Tommy D’s face. He is trying to remind everyone how big he once was and how small they used to be. When he goes right after Tommy, who is about to graduate from angry foot soldier to cold blooded killer, it is a fatal mistake and a gruesome end for Billy Batts.
The most telling line in the scene is when Tommy, who instigated the murder, turns to Henry remorsefully and says “I’m sorry Henry, I didn’t want to get blood on your floor.” It’s still a line I still listen for after countless watchings. Maybe if we can get the chance to look inside the Mazal Palace and see if there are really any blood stains still on the floor.
The true actual murder of Billy Batts in real life may have been committed by Jimmy Burke, who Deniro’s character is based on, not Tommy D. The truth is that during Batts’ six years in jail Jimmy had moved in on his money lending business and needed to het him out of the way.
Stop #4 – A Kiss at a Dante’s Catering Hall, 75-07 31st Street (Seinfeld)
Mr. Lippman’s son takes advantage of his new found manhood by french kissing Elaine at the reception of his Bar Mitzvah here. He certainly wouldn’t be the first boy to French kiss a girl on his Bar-Mitvah, but Elaine is a nice catch.
Dante’s has been serving wedding and bar Mitvah guests since 1961. There have no doubt been thousands of french kisses delivered within its walls.
#5 – A Conversion at a Brooklyn Orthodox Church, 228 N. 12th Street, Brooklyn (Seinfeld)
It’s the only major Seinfeld landmark in all of Brooklyn, and it’s just south of the Queens border. This is where George decides to convert to Latvian Orthodox in order to be able to continue dating his girl friend Sasha.
Latvian Orthodox is an actual religion, but only a few hundred thousand practice it. Even most Latvians are not Latvian Orthodox, they’re Lutheran. Episode writer Bruce Kirschbaum didn’t know Latvian Orthodox was a real religion, he thought he made it up. The church in Brooklyn is really called the Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord and it is Russian Orthodox. Russian Orthodox is a different story, it’s a huge world religion, second only to the Roman catholic church among Christian churches worldwide.
The word ‘Kavorka’ used in the episode to describe Kramer’s animal magnetism may or may not be a real word, we are not sure. The site urban dictionary is unsure too. At the top the definition page it says the word is made up, and at the bottom of the same page it says it’s real.
#6 – Archie Bunker’s House, 89-70 Cooper Avenue
The house exterior was featured in the opening and closing credits of All In The Family. Archie, Edith, Meathead, and the rest of the gang never actually set foot in the house. So far as we know Carroll O’Connor never went back and rang on the doorbell to meet the real residents either. Maybe when we stop by we can try knocking on the door and ask them.
In the All In The Family show it seems that the Bunker house stands alone, but the house shown is a two family. (The same seems true of the Costanza house). The house was built in 1925.
#7 – The Unisphere and Flushing Meadow Park, Avenue of The States, Queens, NY
This might be the singlemost recognizable symbol in all of Queens. Originally commissioned by Robert Moses and manufactured by US Steel as the centerpiece for his 1964 World’s Fair. It was intended to be a representation of peace through understanding. The globe has stood the test of time very well and remains beautiful to this day. Robert Moses was a prolific builder of New York city roads, bridges, and parks. Ironically peace and understanding were not considered to be among his virtues. The unisphere was used in the opening of King of Queens, at the end of Men In Black, during a battle in Iron Man 2, among other times.
#8 The Clinton Diner, 56-26 Maspeth Avenue (Goodfellas)
Jimmy Conway and Henry Hill meet twice in Goodfellas at the Clinton diner. The first time they meet they find out their best friend Tommy DeVito has been whacked instead of being made (quite a letdown). Part of the reason he is whacked was for payback for what he did to Billy Batts, which was stop 3 on our tour. DeNiro, gets so angry that in his rage he knocks down a phone booth used for the scene.
The second time they meet here is the last they spend time together in the film. Henry is about to go to trial for narcotics possession and trafficking and is beginning to think Jimmy is going to try to kill him. Jimmy’s is worried Tommy is going to rat him out to save himself. Tommy’s fears are well founded; Henry does rat him out and spends the rest of his life in jail. The real Jimmy died in jail from lung cancer in 1996.
When we get to the diner, first we can go out on the street and look to see if there are any marks left from when Jimmy knocked over that phone booth. Then we can hopefully go inside and look for the booth that Jimmy and Henry sat in that scene, regardless we could get a tasty gyro or anything else we want to eat as the tour winds down.
Thanks For Coming
Overall I think we could make this a great day tour. Maybe Mr. Kramer will choose to take it up, or maybe someone else will think about organizing it. Maybe someone on our growing fan page would like to help arrange it. If all else fails, and you have some extra time and you are in northwest Queens, you can make it a self tour and have one of the most interesting days of your life.