“I could have moved many times, but I can’t find another Sunnyside.”
Leonore Lanzillotti, who was born and raised in Sunnyside, has more stories about the neighborhood than this website can hold. An actress and singer, Leonore’s first performance took place at P.S. 125, where she starred in the play Little Women. Back then she had no acting aspirations; she wanted to become either a police woman or join the Navy. “I loved uniforms,” she said.Leonore knows about every famous and infamous personality who has ever lived in Sunnyside. (Plagues confirm that jazz legend Bix Beiderbecker and actress Judy Holliday, who also attended P.S. 125, lived just north of Queens Boulevard; but the rumor that Gary Cooper and Fidel Castro resided in Sunnyside could not be confirmed.)Leonore remembers Sunnyside’s farms housing horses and even camels. On 41st Street Sunnyside residents picked up fresh eggs and three blocks West on 44th Street—where Wendy’s is today—they cheered and boo’ed at the Golden Gloves boxing competitions.Asked what she considers special about Sunnyside, Leonore responds, “Everything. I could have moved many times, but I can’t find another Sunnyside.”
In the interview, conducted by Paula Hostetter, Leonore talks about the romantic Saturday night dances at the park on 43rd Street and Greenpoint Avenue. After the war, men and women would dress up in gowns and tuxedos to listen and dance to the music of big bands. Children would dance in Hawaiian and Scottish costumes, competing with children from other parks.