By JESSE McKINLEY
Published: October 15, 1995
Q. I recently saw a movie review by Ed Koch in which he wrote: "The two uncles are Collyer Brothers types, living in an apartment packed with old newspapers." My question: Who were the Collyer Brothers?
A. In the first half of this century, the Collyer brothers, Homer and Langley, were perhaps the most famous eccentrics in New York, a pair of recluses who lived in a booby-trapped, junk-stuffed, and yes, Mr. Koch, newspaper-packed brownstone until their mysterious demise in 1947, according to "Manhattan '45" by Jan Morris (Oxford University Press, 1987).
The Collyers moved into 2078 Fifth Avenue (at 128th Street) in 1909. Homer, the older brother, worked as a lawyer, and Langley was a concert pianist. Throughout their lives, though, their residence was off limits to anybody but themselves. (They forswore gas, electricity or any other modern convenience.) Homer was rendered blind and bedridden by a stroke in 1932, and the Collyers withdrew further. Langley left the house only to buy groceries for his brothe, but he sometimes went on daylong runs to Williamsburg for whole wheat bread.
Though the tabloid press speculated about their worth, the Collyers managed to remain safely sheltered.
Until they died.
On March 21, 1947, The New York Times reported, the police received a strange phone call from someone saying Homer was no more. Police tried to break into the house. No luck. They tried axes. Something still blocked the way. Finally, they managed to force a second-floor shutter open. Inside they found the late Homer, sitting straight up in a gray bathrobe.
Downstairs, firemen made it through the front door to find their way blocked by thousands of neatly bundled stacks of newspapers. What they did not find was Langley.
The mystery persisted for more than two weeks, as the authorities cleaned out an estimated 120 tons of debris, including 14 grand pianos. The house was labyrinthine, with tiny passages between towers of stacked books, boxes, papers, periodically rigged with wire and bucket booby traps.
Ah, those booby traps.
It was on April 8 that they finally found Langley, dead about a month, decomposing under a crushing stack of newspapers, apparently a trap gone wrong. He lay about 10 feet from where his brother, left without his caretaker, had died.
Thus, the Collyers, front-page news in the spring of 1947, became part of the lexicon, and the very papers that they knew so well.
A Cup of Inspiration
Q. What inspired the Greek design on so many takeout coffee cups? A. You're not talking about just any cup. That's the legendary Anthora, perhaps the most successful cup in history.
Thirty years ago, the Sherri Cup Company of Kensington, Conn., had just started and was trying to break into New York, the caffeine capital of the East Coast. "New York City was the theater we were playing," said Frank Fonteyn, marketing manager for the company.
The design team came up with Anthora, a cup aimed at Greek-Americans who ran many diners and delis in the city: Greek lettering, Greek bordering, Greek vase and the colors of the Greek flag -- blue and white.
Apparently, it worked. Last year, the company sold 500 million Anthoras, by far its most popular design. The cup's New York appeal, however, may be limiting. "We don't sell any in Boston," Mr. Fonteyn said.
What a Pig!
Q. What is the significance of the statue of the boar in Sutton Place Park? A. "Generations of children and nannies have pawed the wild boar," said Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern. "It's one of our most noticed sculptures, and it's a fierce example of animal art."
The statue, which is in the vest-pocket park where 57th Street dead-ends at Sutton Place, is a replica of the bronze "Wild Boar," completed in 1634 by the Renaissance sculptor Pietro Tacca, and which adorns a fountain in the Mercato Nuovo in Florence. Commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo II, Tacca modeled his bronze on an antique marble work, as was customary.
Tacca's bronze, fondly known as "Porcellino," is a favorite in Florence for its striking realism. To capture all of the animal's details, he kept a recently killed boar by his side while he worked, copying the texture of its fur, snout and tusks. JESSE McKINLEY