THROWBACK THURSDAY: A LOCAL KID MAKES IT TO BROADWAY BUT NEVER FORGETS HIS ROOTS

elizondo
Hector Elizondo at a protest in the Theater District. Photo credit: (c) Allen Urkowitz 1977.

This week, we have a special Throwback Thursday post, with a photo from longtime Upper West Side photographer Allen Urkowitz. The shot above shows actor Hector Elizondo, who grew up on the Upper West Side, at a rally protesting the impact of the porn theaters on the theater district. Allen relayed a story about Hector below.

By Allen Urkowitz

Back in the 70’s I was an UWS educator and one of my student’s had a famous actor for his father, Hector Elizondo, Hector was raised near 107th Street and continued to often talk about his UWS roots in interviews. He has appeared in numerous films and on Broadway, where he won a Tony for his portrayal of “God” in Bruce Jay Friedman’s “Steambath.

Hector related this wonderful story to me. He’s appearing on Broadway, receiving fantastic reviews and standing ovations, and during one of these ovations he’s bowing to the audience and he sees his former 7th grade shop teacher, Abe Greenspan ( who has verified this story), sitting in the second or third row applauding. When the curtain goes up a second time,Hector motions to Abe to come backstage to see him.

Abe tells me he has no idea why he was singled out from the audience to go back stage, but he
goes to meet this starring actor.  When Abe arrives back stage, a very excited Hector says,

“Mr. Greenspan, it’s me Hector. You remember me right?”

Greenspan tells me he has no idea who Hector is, and what he’s talking about.

“Mr. Greenspan, remember I was in your shop class in the 7th grade.? It’s me Hector?

Greenspan, tells me he figures it out and says to Hector:

“Of course I remember you! How are you? So nice to see you.”

Hector Elizondo, smiling tells me that despite all of his successes, films, Broadway shows, numerous awards and award nominations, the only thing that mattered to him, while receiving thunderous applause on a Broadway stage, was the validation from his 7th grade shop teacher that he remembered little Hector Elizondo.

The incredible significance of the teacher student bond and a child’s validation from “a significant other’ overrides  all material and celebrity value.

A great story!

Here’s Elizondo’s IMDB page with information on his film career.

To participate in Throwback Thursday, please send us a photo, preferably by email to westsiderag@gmail.com. The subject line of the email should be “Throwback Thursday.” In the email include the photo and a brief description of who is in it and where it’s taken and when.

Check out our other Throwback Thursday posts here.

HISTORY | 10 comments | permalink
    1. manhattan mark says:

      I remember the beginning of the assent to stardom for
      Hector. In 1948 our 6th grade graduated, on our way to
      Junior High School, all the 6th grade classes and their parents, grand parents and neighbors were gathered in the
      Assembly. The festivities began with Hector singing the Star
      Spangled Banner while I carried the American Flag down the
      center isle to the applause of everyone. All the kids went
      back to their home room at the end of the ceremony, one
      of our friends, Willy Handy’s grandfather, W.C. HANDY came
      up to our classroom looking for the boy who sang the national anthem . The teacher introduced Mr. Handy to us
      and told us who he was (a prolific song writer best know for
      The Saint Louis Blues). We were all excited and the enthusiasm generated a request to hear him play the ST. LouisBlues on his trumpet, a member of his family went out
      to his car and came back upstairs with the trumpet. W.C.
      HANDY played just for us, it was magical. He then signed
      a check for Hector to start his singing lessons… all of this
      magic was ours to remember just because Hector had great
      talent. Thank you again Hector…your friend from Kindergarten thru High School….Mark

    2. Martha says:

      Great story, Manhattan Mark. And I’m sure that thousands of us, maybe many more, who love Hector Elizondo and appreciate your reminiscence. I’m younger than you are, and my first memory is in The Flamingo Kid. Did I get that right, fellow UWSiders? He is such a wonderful actor, and I feel happy every time I see him.

    3. ann says:

      this is just too cool. I posted it for all the teachers I know and social workers. We matter and are remembered.

    4. jezbel says:

      Lovely story. And touching remembrance by maanhattan mark. I love Hector Elizondo. He’s a fine actor. Never too heavy handed, always understated and subtle. Fond memories from Pretty Woman where he took a small part and made it memorable to other fine rolls in major films.

    5. Lrahip says:

      Did you notice that it was a shop class? These teachers, the ones who taught shop, has a huge impact on kids who eventually went on to careers in places other then ones that required college. What a HUGE shame that there are no more shop classes.

    6. AC says:

      Proud to call this actor a product of the UWS.

    7. Robin10023 says:

      As a transplanted native UWSer born in the early 50s, (W. 67th), Mr. Elzando is living testimony why UWSers are truly in a class all their own. Mr. Elzando bears the heart and soul of this precious community still, when an individual’s net worth was by definition determined by who the person was on the inside. Bravo Mr. Elzando.

    8. JIMBO G says:

      Robert—what aves on 67 St ???

    9. Robin10023 says:

      Bt CPW and Columbus. (BTW, my name is Robin!).