April 23, 2009


I purchased this classic Bang Gun during my one and only visit to the M. Gordon Novelty shop in Manhattan. Sadly, it is now among the many dearly departed retailers of its kind.

Photo by Runs With Scissors

When I first approached the building a black and white Wolfman poster hanging in a window high above the entrance assured me that I had arrived at the best possible place.

The feeling I got when I walked in is difficult to put into words. The air inside was different. The sense of history and mystery was intensely palpable. Beyond the front door there was a vinyl rope blocking the passage to the cramped shop floor. I stood behind it confused until the clerk nodded me in. I still don't get it. Is this some big city technique? Does it deter shoplifting? Or does it simply contain the mystical forces inside the shop?

One of the walls was lined with hinged panels that you could flip through, you know, like the ones that display posters. Only these were smaller and ancient, and they were brimming with gags that had been stapled on haphazardly. And they were really old ones. I immediately inquired about a couple of the most exciting items- a rubber monster and a pack of fake cigarettes.

"We don't sell those anymore."

"What about the giant squirting flower?"


Again I was confused, yet quite thankful that they were doing the world the service of publicly displaying these joke relics. However, my gratitude couldn't cover the pain I felt in my gut as I perused the unobtainable items.

"Do you sell the gun with the flag?"

"Um, yeah. I think I've got some of those."

Forever later the guy emerged from the back with my pistol.

Ah, "the back." The mere thought of the back of M. Gordon Novelty sends bittersweet waves over me. It really existed. With a front like that, what must the back have been like? There must have been corners and crevices and buried boxes that hadn't been cracked open for decades. Judging from the layout of the building, it had to be ten times the size of the front. It must have been a wonderland.

As I continued to browse it became obvious that the clerk was in the process of doing inventory. He was not the glimmer-eyed little old man I might have hoped for, rather he was an oafish, no-nonsense loudmouth who didn't seem too keen on offering his service to the customers.

"Ya got any more monocles back there?!"
he yelled to an invisible co-worker.

he shouted as he left his perch annoyed. He returned with a huge box of costume monocles. He plopped them down, picked up a clipboard and seemed to struggle to incorporate the find into his existing monocle calculation.

I will always savor the moment when he finally looked up from his note pad. His face was flushed and he appeared genuinely perplexed as he calmly spoke with his heavy Brooklyn accent to nobody in particular,

"Jeeeeeeez. We showa do have a LOT of monocles."


Pearl Berries said...

God bless New York. I can only imagine how magical this place was. I wish I could add it to my ever expanding list of Wonderful Things Found Only in NYC. Because next time I go there, I am ignoring Lady Liberty and perusing the real joys of the city.

Also, the black and white wolfman looks an awful lot like the stalker from my teenage years. Of course, the stalker was in color.

Steven Finch, Attorney At Law said...

Ah, I used to pass that storefront a couple of times a week and wonder what it must have been like inside when it was still open.


Great story....

Yeah, I would love to be able to see "the back" of a place like that. Imagine how much fun you could have, even just *looking* at stuff!

Megan said...

I love the way Kirk tells his stories!
You really have a way with words!

Kirk D. said...

Thanks Megan!

Anthony said...

Your writing is quite enjoyable to read, Kirk! Very evocative, and funny, too! I will have to check out your 'Life of the Party' book.
It's sad that this novelty shop no longer exists. I wonder where all of that priceless inventory wound up?

Kirk D. said...

Thanks so much Anthony! Glad you enjoyed it. And that's a GREAT question. It's out there... somewhere.