Magazine article The New Yorker

Brooklyn Boy

Magazine article The New Yorker

Brooklyn Boy

Article excerpt

BROOKLYN BOY

Larry David, back in New York to headline his first play, recently visited his childhood apartment, in Sheepshead Bay, to see whence his "no hugging, no learning" viewpoint had sprung. Standing in a cement courtyard just off the Belt Parkway, the co-creator of "Seinfeld" and the creator and star of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" said, "This was my little world." Four identical red brick buildings framed the winter sky. "When you wanted your friends to come out, you'd just scream at the windows."

Wearing a charcoal scarf and striding backward, tour-guide style, David noted, "We used to play skelly here , and I had a fistfight there ." He laughed so joyously, recalling the ancient triumph, that his bat wings of hair bounced. Unlike his crabbed screen persona, David is lithe and friendly, with perfect teeth. But he's not sentimental. "I'm not really flooded with memories here," he said, winding up the nostalgia tour in four minutes. "And I'm hungry."

As his hired S.U.V. sped off, he said that arriving onstage at the age of sixty-seven wasn't the culmination of a lifelong dream: "I never gave Broadway a thought, growing up--I didn't really have ambitions. My parents wanted me to be a mailman." He pondered that missed opportunity. "They did get out of work early, and there was also a rumor--a rumor! --that there were sexual encounters." He took so many odd jobs after college, he went on, that "my mom sent me to a psychiatrist." The default to kvetch was set. "In terms of writing, family is the gift that keeps on giving."

David's play, "Fish in the Dark," is a farce about a contentious Jewish family whose secrets erupt in the hospital room of a dying patriarch. "I didn't want to be in it," he explained. "Unfortunately, the older-brother character sounded way too much like me. I can't stop it."

At the Kouros Bay Diner, David hefted his bound volume of a menu: "This is one of these Greek menus that are extensive. This is crazy! This is the biggest menu I've ever seen in my life!"

The waitress came by. "Do you have fresh grapefruit juice?" David inquired. She shook her head. "O.K., I'll have a Pellegrino." Her pencil didn't move. "A sparkling water? …

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