Place in History

The Bowery Hall of Fame

Years: 2001-2002
Project: A modular mini-museum set up on the Bowery.
Summary: The Bowery Hall of Fame is a museum in miniature, assembled from the remains of a Palace Hotel lodging house cubicle, pilfered cultural artifacts, local propaganda, and bits of historical documentation. Inside this tiny dwelling you will discover strange and wonderful facts about the Bowery, its inhabitants, its structures, its apocryphal history and its unknowable future. From the nineteenth century slumming expeditions of George Washington Chuck Connors, the Mayor of Chinatown, to the modern-day exploits of urban professionals, this museum offers the visitor an explicit view of the world's most famous down-and-out boulevard. Built at a moment of profound physical, social and economic change along the Bowery, the Hall of Fame represents a portal into twenty-first century New York, a place defined by its past yet persistently unfettered by it.

  Page 7: Chuck Connors, "the Mayor Of Chinatown"  

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CHUCK CONNORS, “THE MAYOR OF CHINATOWN”

Chuck Connors, born George Washington Connors, had a trait that made him very popular in the press: a willingness to be quoted saying anything.  As a result, Connors is credited with inventing the phrases, “the real thing,” “oh, good night,” “oh, forget it,” and “under the table.”  Connors’ primary claim to fame is his autobiography Bowery Life, ghostwritten by reporter and editor Richard K. Fox of The Police Gazette.

Connors was most likely born in Providence, RI, although he claimed to be born on Mott Street. As a child in New York City he worked odd jobs, including a gig as a clog dancer in the Gaiety Museum. He grew up tormenting the Chinese by pulling their pigtails, but eventually learned some Mandarin--earning him his nickname, the Mayor of Chinatown. 

As an adult Connors worked as a bouncer in a variety of dive bars. He married, in a brief stint at an “upstanding life,” but it ended when his wife passed away. Connors traveled to London to recover, and returned with a new outfit: bell bottomed trousers, a blue-striped shirt, a bright silk scarf, a pea coat, and big pearl buttons. This was known as the Connors look. He even had a song to describe his outfit:

Pearlies on my shirt front
Pearlies on my coat
Little bitta dicer, stuck up on my nut
If you don’t think I’m de real t’ing
Why, tut, tut

Connors also became well known as a tour guide for celebrities, prominent authors and royalty. Connors’ reputation as a friend of the Chinese made him a convincing guide to his danger-seeking clientele, who believed him when he identified innocent passers-by as hatchet men.  Connors also created bogus opium dens, where the “fiends” paid no attention to the tour groups passing through. He also capitalized on his fame by throwing galas for the Chuck Connors Association, a charity benefiting Connors himself.

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