25 August 2008

The Mystery of Magic Touch, (Partially) Revealed


The wonderful and mysterious "Magic Touch" neon sign on the northeast corner of Hoyt Street and Third Street in Carroll Gardens has long driven me mad with curiosity. ("Italian Cuisine," "Cocktail Lounge") For a long time all I could learn about it was that my former longshoreman landlord could remember going there (proof that is was once an actual restaurant!); that it had closed in the '70s sometime (proof that it had been an Olde Brooklyn kinda joint); and that the space was now an artist's studio.

Not much to go on. But I never stopped asking questions, and lately I've felt that I've gathered enough information to deliver a report of not-altogether-specious quality. Much of what I learned came from a chance conversation with the owner of the equally mysterious M. Poggi Wholesale Confectionery at No. 293 Smith. That's right. I actually met him! And he's a nice, talkative guy! I was walking by, the door was open, and this stout, bald, bespectacled man jingling coins in his pocket was standing on the sidewalk passing the time of day. We talked for 15 minutes, and he was willing to answer questions about anything. Turns out he provides most of the delis and corner stores in the area with their supply of candy and gum. Whaddaya know.

Anyway, I digress. He remembered the Magic Touch. It was a "shady club," he said. He was pretty sure racketeering went on inside. And "girls" could be found there. Mr. Poggi himself never stepped foot inside the place. He's a clean-living kinda guy.

Other remembrances came from the folks on the South Brooklyn Network, who recalled Cadillacs and Lincolns parked outside all the time. Magic Touch reportedly opened in the '40s. It was owned by a guy named Mike, had a bartender named Timmy and a waitress named Ruthie. It was apparently the kind of place where you saw nothing and said nothing. What I wouldn't give to have a first-hand account of the interior and the goings-on on a typical night.

That sign, though. That sign casts a magical spell. I've met many people who talk about it in rhapsodic terms. There's something about it that makes you want to believe the Magic Touch was a special place.

7 comments:

Carol Gardens said...

Thanks for this. It is by far my favorite sign in the neighborhood. And the South Brooklyn board is great. One of these days I'm going to read the extensive back posts and make a walking tour of things that "used to be" with their reminiscences as a guide.

Lidian said...

It's a good thing that the sign has survived - it's absolutely terrific. What a name for a shady club, too - perfect.

JackSzwergold said...

Nice info! But you do know that up on Smith Street closer to 9th Street is where they filmed the famous scene from Goodfellas where Robert DeNiro's character eggs Lorraine Bracco on to go into a storefront down the block to pick up some cabinets... And she freaks and leaves...

I can't wait to hear what they dig up when they start developing that lot (Public Space?) across the street. A lot of tales will be told.

Anonymous said...

The Magic Touch was an Italian restaurant and bar owend by a man named Mike Maluso. The establishment featured live music nightly, and pretty good veal and pasta. While it was very popular with the boys, as was Montes Venetian Room on Carroll Street and the Diplomat on 3rd Avenue, it was in no way a place where prostitutes could be found or any nonsense like that would be tolerated.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

You interest me greatly, Anonymous. I have never heard of The Diplomat. Tell me more.

goo goo said...

wow, going back to yesteryear and memory lane is great . and stumbling apon someone from the old neighborhood is even better. my grandmother used to live on Carroll st. , 2 doors down from 3rd ave. along with my aunt on 3rd and my other aunt on the opposite corner of 3rd , but another aunt and uncle lived above the Diplomat Lounge .they have 5 kids and one of the sons was in the Godfather movie . my grandmother had 7 brothers so they were well known and were always there . as a kid my uncle used to prop us up on a bar stool and serve us egg creams . the men back then were always well dressed and my uncle would always iron his own shirts . as us kids , countless cousins played in the den , we could hear the stories being told over a poker game in the kitchen . who owed who money , fights , etc... omg , i can smell the gravy being stirred right now . ahhh , the memories . we spent a lot of time on that fire escape with our pea-shooters and got yelled at and threatened with 'the belt' . an occasional shoe would fly right out the window . but yes , I remember the Diplomat well and wish it were still there .

Frank Anthony said...

WoW! My grand mother Sophia O'Donnell lived on the 2nd fl of that building for many years. I was in 1980 and have a lot of memories of that apt and on that block in general. Even for me as a child I found that sign to have a certain allure. The magic and mystique of that sign is still captivating people to this day. That was truly a jog down memory lane. You should research the Pub on 2nd and Hoyt, I believe that was owned by my family years ago. As a child I recall it to have been a butcher shop ran by the infamous "Johnny Bird", inside joke. I think my cousin Eddie O worked there as an adolescent. However from what I can recall, there was a Pub on 1st & Bond st. now that place had some history, "finger quotes".