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Comedian David Brenner Gives NY1 A Tour Of The Upper East Side

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"New York City is the greatest city in the world," says funnyman David Brenner. "It's the capitol of the world, and you have to support the city. It's the lifeline of America. I came back here in December and I spent a week here just to spend my money here rather than go home."

Now Brenner is back performing in New York for the first time in 20 years, and he's showing NY1 his old haunts on the Upper East Side. The tour began with his first place of employment in the late 1960's: Channel 5.

"I ended up working on documentaries - I want that known - but I started out being the producer of the Wonderama show," Brenner says. "I was the one who introduced disco dancing with these little kids wearing boots and dancing with smoke coming out."

And when he met the superintendent of a building on East 69th Street he got a great deal on an apartment.

According to Brenner, "So I said, 'Oh, this is great.' He said, 'Well, before you take it I gotta' tell you something. The reason it became available today is the guy who was here jumped.' So I said, 'Well, is he gonna' jump back in? He's not jumping back in right?' So I said, 'I'll take it.'"

It became Brenner's tiny first apartment. But even after he entered comedy and appeared on The Tonight Show in 1971, he didn't move out right away. He had promises to keep.

"When I hit it, I made sure my parents got a house, they got a car, my brother got a car, my sister got a house, my sister got a car," he says. "And in order to do that I waited. I didn't move into anything great until I could take care of that childhood promise. Then when everybody was taken care of I moved out of here."

And into a townhouse on East 62nd Street. This was the Brenner bachelor pad, and in the 70's this was the right neighborhood for it, especially along First Avenue.

"This was a 'singles row,'" he says. "I mean, down here you had Maxwell's Plum, which was a hot restaurant. It was gorgeous and I don't know why that ever closed. And then there was the original Thank God It's Fridays."

On 61st Street and First Avenue was the disco Magique.

According to Brenner, "You know, it's so funny because now it's Bed, Bath and Beyond, but actually that would've been apropos for what that place was like. You could get bedding, you could get a bath, and you could get beyond in those days! So it's an apropos change of name. It was a wild disco."

But the wild years calmed down with the arrival of his first child in the 80's. A reminder remains in the cement he re-paved in 1985.

"We planted ourselves with our sneakers in the cement and initialed it, and you can still see it there where it says, 'C.J.B. - Cole Jay Brenner,' and 'D.N.B. - David Norris Brenner.' Those footprints are still there," Brenner says.

Brenner was born and raised in Philadelphia, and he now lives in Las Vegas. But for so many years, he was as much a New Yorker as anyone ever was.

"My heart always - always - will belong to Philadelphia, but I had the soul of a New Yorker. My soul belongs to New Yorker," he says.

David Brenner will be appearing at The Comedy Garden Forum in Madison Square Garden this week; Wednesday night through Saturday night. Some tickets are still available.

- Paul Messina
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