Ellie Kelly

To make up for the two-year break in between posts: a new batch of timeless photographs.

The main character here is my grandmother’s mother, Ellie Kelly, as a little girl in the 1920s and early 1930s.  She’s easy to pick out of the crowd in most shots, as she had an affinity for wearing enormous bows in her hair.  She also loved scrap booking, cutting photos into weird shapes, and creating playful collages.  Not the best for archival purposes.  But the oddities are what help shape my idea of who Ellie was, much more so than any set of mint-condition photos would.

You can learn a lot about someone from looking through their photographs.  The images below provide just a small glimpse into my great-grandmother’s childhood.  But, like all of the other pictures I’ve dug up over the years, these will leave their mark.  It’s a valuable thing to know where you came from and to have the opportunity to look back.

Whether it’s every day or every two years.

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road trips.

b&w_fig 001

b&w_fig 002

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b&w_fig 005

b&w_fig 004

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black and white photos from may

taken with an olympus om-4 35mm and 135mm.





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though it doesn’t feel like summer…

I wanted to post some beach-related photos that I found – not in the garbage, but under my old bed at my parent’s house in NJ.


“Edward [Halligan]’s wife Helen & son”

The actual size of this photo is so small, that I initially thought it was a rifle on the baby’s lap.  Nope – it’s a little acoustic guitar instead.  I would’ve preferred the rifle, but the photo is still great.  There is something brilliant about the tradition of discreetly placing random items in baby’s laps, then taking a photo of them – everyone has one of those that they can thank their parents for.


“Mabel & Bella on log, Front Row: Edward Halligan, Rita and Joseph McDermott”


“Bella with Edward, Mabel with Rita”


“Mabel & Joseph McDermott, Bella Halligan, Edward Halligan, and Rita McDermott”

The actual dimensions of this photo are probably something like 1″x 1.5″ — smaller than the wallet sized school photos — so I’m glad to see that the quality is there after scanning and enlarging.  The woman all the way to the right, with the bathing cap on, is my great-grandmother Bella.  Looking at this photo, I realize that my mom really resembles her… same eyes, same nose, same mouth… same Irish stoicism!


Labeled “Rita, extreme right in tree.”  This is a great group shot — any family members reading this recognize the others?

The following photo is great, but it’s the caption on the back that really makes it…



“This is what happens to people after they indulge in a quarter of ale from Andre’s.  June, 1934”


Bella looking sassy with her hand on her hip.

oldbeach_0008This is one of the oldest photos I found.  Taken in Atlantic City, April 16, 1916.  The back of it has a stamp from a photo lab in Hoboken, NJ.

I really love this one – the blurry image of the little boy against the sea is really haunting and beautiful.


No labels on this one…


I like the way everyone is arranged in this photo, well proportioned, and the two old shops in the background.

oldbeach_0003“Annie, Bella, Jimmy, Eddie G, Marge, Edward”


Jimmy Halligan, my great-grandfather, and Eddie G.

Looks like this was taken on Barley Point, but I can’t be sure..


No label on this one.


One last group shot.


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found next to garbage

Walked around the West Village on Saturday and found these VHS tapes scattered on the sidewalk.  A decent collection, including When Harry Met Sally, Married to the Mob, and Jaws 2.  My grandfather definitely worked on the original Jaws or one of the many installments of the series, just not sure which one(s).

Any family members reading this know?



Fajitas Camarones were the lunch special that day. The plates are knock-off Fiestaware - my parents have a huge collection of the authentic stuff. I love their Fiestaware salt & pepper shakers, tea cups and saucers, and any of the chartruese and jade green pieces in their collection.


A busful of bachelorettes barreled down Washington Street.


This adorable little person was dutifully pushing her stroller across the lawn at Riverside Park.

I spotted these PEZ dispensers lined up along the top of someone’s door-frame. My friend Jason Polan visited my blog later and told me that this is the home of one of his good friends! Jason is a really talented artist that I met while working one weekend at Partners & Spade gallery. He draws people in New York (see: http://everypersoninnewyork.blogspot.com/).
Jason also sat in the front window of the gallery for 7+ hours one day and drew on demand almost anything that people requested. All they had to do was fork over $20 and fill out a form. Here’s what we sent out to everyone on our mailing list. We had so many requests and the shop was so busy that day that Jason had to finish a bunch of his drawings at home that night.  Two of my favorite drawings that day were: the contents of a man’s dob kit and a toy car (requested by Stacy Wall’s son, who couldn’t have been a sweeter kid).


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what did the deep sea say?

My grandfather won the Bahr’s shark tournament by catching an enormous hammerhead shark on July 8, 1984 – the day I was born.  If it had been a Mako shark my mom would have named me after it.  Instead, I acquired the nickname ‘Hammerhead’ among my family, and my mom decided to name me after a Fleetwood Mac song.

Here are some boating-related photos I dug up.  The first few taken in the Bimini Islands, the rest were taken in or near Monmouth County, NJ.


Flying into Bimini.


That belt.


Red Snapper.


Captain’s chair.


Hammerhead – but not the one I’m named after.


Just some casual shark hunting.


The Sea Bright bridge, NJ.  The Bait/Tackle shop is a Dunkin’ Donuts now.


Jimmy and John Hal.


Atlantic Highlands Marina.


Barak – Rumson, NJ.  John’s get-up IS the late 70s.  Hope I don’t get in trouble for this one.


Photo op in front of 33 Center St.  The Pine tree is long gone.

njboating_0009You can just tell the weather was perfect that day.


BARAK II, the second Bertram.


Side view.


Hammerhead.  Raising hell on the Bertram at a young age.


Another top 10 photo.

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the 30s.

Bella Halligan, my great grandmother.

Photos from the 1930s.


Bella in middle.


Dr Seuss inspired.


Looks like she’s about to take a hit out for the Jersey mob.

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poppy on set.

The following photos were seized from boxes hidden in the basement of 33 Center Street, where my mom and aunt Kelly and uncle John grew up, and where John and his family now live.  Since I was a kid, I’ve heard hundreds of stories from behind the scenes of the films that my grandfather worked on — the time my mom flew to Bimini to visit him on set, landing in the water in a 2 seater plane, scared shitless.  Stories about Dustin Hoffman’s antics on set of Tootsie – how he would stay in drag and go out for beers with the crew, grabbing guys asses while walking around some dive in Manhattan in heels and a full-face of make-up.  The family in Prague that would invite Poppy’s crew over for dinner in their one-room apartment — using a stool as the base of a dinner table and the back of a framed painting as the top.  There are too many to remember, but these photos help.  One of these days I’ll organize all of them, but for now here are some of my favorites.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
my grandfather - james halligan aka poppy - swinging on a crane over the east river, during the filming of god knows what.  circa 1970s.

My grandfather, James Halligan, swinging on a crane over the East River

during the filming of Legal Eagles with Robert Redford.

circa 1985.

poppy_crew1There’s Poppy, in the middle of the back row, with his crew.

I see another Halligan a couple of guys to the right, wearing a light green shirt.  Paul?

poppy_crew2I love this photo – everyone’s looking towards the boss, and I’m sure he’s cracking a joke.

I used to have a third photo to this sequence – where everyone’s mouth is wide open and laughing.

poppy_walkietalkieI love the lines and angles in this photo – everything from the beams and wires, to the buildings, to poppy’s flannel.

And that’s one hell of a wireless device.

uncleharold_bridgeOne of my favorite photos of ALL time.

My great uncle, Harold Kelly – my grandmother’s brother – taking a piss off of the Manhattan Bridge.

I can’t remember the exact story – I’ll have to get it from Poppy later.  But I guess my grandfather, uncle Harold, and a couple of other guys were the only ones who would volunteer to climb up the bridge, to set up for a shoot during the filming of Wolfen.  They brought a cooler full of beer, of course, and it was only a matter of time before Poppy smelled some pot and looked over to see Harold and a couple of other guys on his crew smoking a joint inside of the metal spheres on top of the bridge.  I wish I could write it like he tells it.



A couple of photos that my grandfather snapped in Prague, where he was the best boy on the crew of Amadeus.

The next batch of photos are from a scene in Legal Eagles, during which Robert Redford and the leading lady are locked in a warehouse that is about to explode.  The crew actually built the structure, wired it with explosives, and shut down all traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge and BQE for a half hour while they shot this scene.

I wish I could find the photos that were taken of the surrounding buildings, after the explosion had occured.  You can see that half of the windows are blown out, and there is debris falling all over the place.  Pretty radical.

legaleagles1the crew shooting from atop a building in Brooklyn.




In the forefront of this photo you can see a silhouette of the vehicle (no idea what it’s called, but it’s one of those things people use to lift and move heavy boxes) that Robert Redford, or in this case the stunt guy, used to break through the doors of the warehouse as it exploded, then drove straight into the East River.

My grandmother and uncle, Patsy and John Halligan, were on set for this and I have a copy of a home video that a crew member took that day.  I’ll try to upload it but I’m not making any promises.

Here are some more explosion photos – this time from Woody Allen’s A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy, c. 1981.





My grandfather said Woody Allen was really strange (surprise?) — instead of doing a face-to-face screening of the actors, he sat up in a tree on the hill and watched them through a telescope.

Polaroids taken during the location scout:


















That’s all for now.



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when you think you’re too old, too young, too smart or too dumb…


Something about the 75 degree weather in NYC coupled with Bob Dylan’s recital of his ‘Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie’ fills me with overwhelming happiness.  Download, press play, and read through the words:

Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie

When yer head gets twisted and yer mind grows numb
When you think you’re too old, too young, too smart or too dumb
When yer laggin’ behind an’ losin’ yer pace
In a slow-motion crawl of life’s busy race
No matter what yer doing if you start givin’ up
If the wine don’t come to the top of yer cup
If the wind’s got you sideways with with one hand holdin’ on
And the other starts slipping and the feeling is gone
And yer train engine fire needs a new spark to catch it
And the wood’s easy findin’ but yer lazy to fetch it
And yer sidewalk starts curlin’ and the street gets too long
And you start walkin’ backwards though you know its wrong
And lonesome comes up as down goes the day
And tomorrow’s mornin’ seems so far away
And you feel the reins from yer pony are slippin’
And yer rope is a-slidin’ ’cause yer hands are a-drippin’
And yer sun-decked desert and evergreen valleys
Turn to broken down slums and trash-can alleys
And yer sky cries water and yer drain pipe’s a-pourin’
And the lightnin’s a-flashing and the thunder’s a-crashin’
And the windows are rattlin’ and breakin’ and the roof tops a-shakin’
And yer whole world’s a-slammin’ and bangin’
And yer minutes of sun turn to hours of storm
And to yourself you sometimes say
“I never knew it was gonna be this way
Why didn’t they tell me the day I was born”
And you start gettin’ chills and yer jumping from sweat
And you’re lookin’ for somethin’ you ain’t quite found yet
And yer knee-deep in the dark water with yer hands in the air
And the whole world’s a-watchin’ with a window peek stare
And yer good gal leaves and she’s long gone a-flying
And yer heart feels sick like fish when they’re fryin’
And yer jackhammer falls from yer hand to yer feet
And you need it badly but it lays on the street
And yer bell’s bangin’ loudly but you can’t hear its beat
And you think yer ears might a been hurt
Or yer eyes’ve turned filthy from the sight-blindin’ dirt
And you figured you failed in yesterdays rush
When you were faked out an’ fooled white facing a four flush
And all the time you were holdin’ three queens
And it’s makin you mad, it’s makin’ you mean
Like in the middle of Life magazine
Bouncin’ around a pinball machine
And there’s something on yer mind you wanna be saying
That somebody someplace oughta be hearin’
But it’s trapped on yer tongue and sealed in yer head
And it bothers you badly when your layin’ in bed
And no matter how you try you just can’t say it
And yer scared to yer soul you just might forget it
And yer eyes get swimmy from the tears in yer head
And yer pillows of feathers turn to blankets of lead
And the lion’s mouth opens and yer staring at his teeth
And his jaws start closin with you underneath
And yer flat on your belly with yer hands tied behind
And you wish you’d never taken that last detour sign
And you say to yourself just what am I doin’
On this road I’m walkin’, on this trail I’m turnin’
On this curve I’m hanging
On this pathway I’m strolling, in the space I’m taking
In this air I’m inhaling
Am I mixed up too much, am I mixed up too hard
Why am I walking, where am I running
What am I saying, what am I knowing
On this guitar I’m playing, on this banjo I’m frailin’
On this mandolin I’m strummin’, in the song I’m singin’
In the tune I’m hummin’, in the words I’m writin’
In the words that I’m thinkin’
In this ocean of hours I’m all the time drinkin’
Who am I helping, what am I breaking
What am I giving, what am I taking
But you try with your whole soul best
Never to think these thoughts and never to let
Them kind of thoughts gain ground
Or make yer heart pound
But then again you know why they’re around
Just waiting for a chance to slip and drop down
“Cause sometimes you hear’em when the night times comes creeping
And you fear that they might catch you a-sleeping
And you jump from yer bed, from yer last chapter of dreamin’
And you can’t remember for the best of yer thinking
If that was you in the dream that was screaming
And you know that it’s something special you’re needin’
And you know that there’s no drug that’ll do for the healin’
And no liquor in the land to stop yer brain from bleeding
And you need something special
Yeah, you need something special all right
You need a fast flyin’ train on a tornado track
To shoot you someplace and shoot you back
You need a cyclone wind on a stream engine howler
That’s been banging and booming and blowing forever
That knows yer troubles a hundred times over
You need a Greyhound bus that don’t bar no race
That won’t laugh at yer looks
Your voice or your face
And by any number of bets in the book
Will be rollin’ long after the bubblegum craze
You need something to open up a new door
To show you something you seen before
But overlooked a hundred times or more
You need something to open your eyes
You need something to make it known
That it’s you and no one else that owns
That spot that yer standing, that space that you’re sitting
That the world ain’t got you beat
That it ain’t got you licked
It can’t get you crazy no matter how many
Times you might get kicked
You need something special all right
You need something special to give you hope
But hope’s just a word
That maybe you said or maybe you heard
On some windy corner ’round a wide-angled curve

But that’s what you need man, and you need it bad
And yer trouble is you know it too good
“Cause you look an’ you start getting the chills

“Cause you can’t find it on a dollar bill
And it ain’t on Macy’s window sill
And it ain’t on no rich kid’s road map
And it ain’t in no fat kid’s fraternity house
And it ain’t made in no Hollywood wheat germ
And it ain’t on that dimlit stage
With that half-wit comedian on it
Ranting and raving and taking yer money
And you thinks it’s funny
No you can’t find it in no night club or no yacht club
And it ain’t in the seats of a supper club
And sure as hell you’re bound to tell
That no matter how hard you rub
You just ain’t a-gonna find it on yer ticket stub
No, and it ain’t in the rumors people’re tellin’ you
And it ain’t in the pimple-lotion people are sellin’ you
And it ain’t in no cardboard-box house
Or down any movie star’s blouse
And you can’t find it on the golf course
And Uncle Remus can’t tell you and neither can Santa Claus
And it ain’t in the cream puff hair-do or cotton candy clothes
And it ain’t in the dime store dummies or bubblegum goons
And it ain’t in the marshmallow noises of the chocolate cake voices
That come knockin’ and tappin’ in Christmas wrappin’
Sayin’ ain’t I pretty and ain’t I cute and look at my skin
Look at my skin shine, look at my skin glow
Look at my skin laugh, look at my skin cry
When you can’t even sense if they got any insides
These people so pretty in their ribbons and bows
No you’ll not now or no other day
Find it on the doorsteps made out-a paper mache¥
And inside it the people made of molasses
That every other day buy a new pair of sunglasses
And it ain’t in the fifty-star generals and flipped-out phonies
Who’d turn yuh in for a tenth of a penny
Who breathe and burp and bend and crack
And before you can count from one to ten
Do it all over again but this time behind yer back
My friend
The ones that wheel and deal and whirl and twirl
And play games with each other in their sand-box world
And you can’t find it either in the no-talent fools
That run around gallant
And make all rules for the ones that got talent
And it ain’t in the ones that ain’t got any talent but think they do
And think they’re foolin’ you
The ones who jump on the wagon
Just for a while ’cause they know it’s in style
To get their kicks, get out of it quick
And make all kinds of money and chicks
And you yell to yourself and you throw down yer hat
Sayin’, “Christ do I gotta be like that
Ain’t there no one here that knows where I’m at
Ain’t there no one here that knows how I feel
Good God Almighty

No but that ain’t yer game, it ain’t even yer race
You can’t hear yer name, you can’t see yer face
You gotta look some other place
And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin’
Where do you look for this lamp that’s a-burnin’
Where do you look for this oil well gushin’
Where do you look for this candle that’s glowin’
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there
And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist
And turn two kinds of doorknobs
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You’ll find God in the church of your choice
You’ll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital

And though it’s only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You’ll find them both
In the Grand Canyon
At sundown

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