23 September 2007

Stars at Your Feet

I always find a stroll along the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's "Celebrity Path" an amusingly surreal experience. The path is a stone walkway that leads you up and down a hill to one side of the Japanese Garden. At random intervals along the walk are gray stones with the outline of a leaf and the names of famous Brooklynites carved in the center.

Taking in the 100 or so personalities, your mind boggles at the wide variety of figures who came out of this borough. Betty Comden, Floyd Patterson, the Ritz Brothers, Elaine de Kooning, Gene Tierney, Harry Houdini, Lee Krasner, Carole King, Joe Torre and Joe Papp (listed, interestingly enough, under his birth name, Joseph Papirofsky). Some surprise you that they were born in Brooklyn at all. Woody Guthrie, who sang of the plains? Vince Lombardi, who coached the Green Bay Packers to greatness? Others plaques surprise you because the person is still alive and has been honored so early for his or her achievements. I mean, I like Leonard Lopate, but has he earned his Celebrity Walk leaf already? And then there are those stones that you wish were never laid. Judge Judy, for instance.

The most recently laid stone was for someone named Judith D. Zuk. I drew a blank on that one, so I looked it up at home. Turns out she ran the Garden from 1990 to 2005, and was responsible for its resurgence in recent years. She died of breast cancer in early September, meaning she was added to the path very soon after her death. The Garden takes care of its own, it seems. Nice job.

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