The Double Life of Don Francione

I didn’t mean to imply anything sinister by the title of this post about Don Francione. I’m just pointing out that he was able to do something in life that many of us only dream about–to spend our lives doing the things that we love to do.¬† We all know how hard it is to work a full time job and pursue other interests. In New York, it’s even more of a challenge because there’s always so much to do here; your own creative energy often gets stymied by merely going-out-on-the-town– ’cause this is one “helluva town.” Photographer Don Francione figured out how to do it. Through the small but immensely interesting photograph collection¬† he donated to the Brooklyn Historical Society in 1989, a part of Brooklyn is captured forever. (see the Don Francione photograph collection – V1989.019)

Don Francione being presented with a plaque by former Light Heavyweight champion boxer, Paul Berlenbach, in 1969. Francione was receiving recognition for his support, via his writing and photography, by the Veteran Boxers Association, Ring 21. Photograph taken by Charles Binkins. From the Don Francione photograph collection (Object ID # V1989.19.3)


For 40 years, Francione worked during the day as a laborer at Bush Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. At night, he chronicled Brooklyn–from boxing to Scott Baio, from theater and Tex Ritter–via working as a photographer and writer for the Bay Ridge-based Home Reporter and Sunset News, as well as for some other Brooklyn-based newspapers. In 1984, Francione was even able to (unwittingly, I’m presuming) help the NYPD’s Organized Crime Strike Force identify Carmine “the Doctor” Lombardozzi, a purported Gambino crime family bigwig, at the Kings Plaza Kiwanis Club in Brooklyn where they suspected he was running a loansharking operation and using the Kiwanis Club as a front. Francione shot the photograph of Lombardozzi while covering a story for the Home Reporter and Sunset News. Luckily, the cops read newspapers! New York Magazine wrote about it in their February 13, 1984 issue. Francione is credited with the photograph on the bottom of the page. (Just a note: Regarding Lombardozzi and the Kiwanis Club connection, I don’t know how this case turned out or if it was true. If anyone does know, or takes offense at the implications, let us all know by replying to this post.)

I’m just going to present a few of the photographs from the collection, based solely on my personal favorites from the collection (click on the photos for larger views). Of course, to see all of them, come in to the library where you can view them all via our image database. And one last parting thought. In an article written about Francione in 1979 by Angela Canade for the Home Reporter and Sunset News (“The Face Behind the Camera,” March 30, 1979), Francione discloses that it was his mother that bought him his first camera when still a child. He then went on to teach himself how develop and print film and eventually bought himself a professional 35mm camera. Cheers to his mum!

Taken at Griswold's Pub in Brooklyn, 1969. The photo shows Merv Griffin (right) and Jim Mullens, the manager of the pub, dancing on the bar. Francione asked them to stand on the bar for the photo. Photo by Don Francione. (Object ID # V1989.19.4)

Taken at Club 802 in Brooklyn, 1969. In the photo are singer Lennie Welch (left), a fan (center), and Charlie Rusinak, co-owner of the club. Photo by Don Francione. (Object ID # V1989.19.5)

Taken at the Walker Theater in Brooklyn, 1979. From left to right: Alex Kalaf (P.R. man for the Home Reporter and Sunset News), comic Pat Cooper, Disco Annie ("a dancing star in Brooklyn clubs"), and singer Don Cornell. Photo by Don Francione. (Object ID # V1989.19.19)

Taken at the Golden Dove in Brooklyn, circa 1970s. Second from the left is Middleweight boxing champion Vito Antuofermo at a victory party thrown by his friends. Photo by Don Francione. (Object ID # V1989.19.35)

Taken on September 15, 1968 at the 69th Street Pier in Brooklyn where the Greek Orthodox Church held the blessing of the throwing of the Holy Cross. The swimmer who retrieved the Holy Cross is being blessed. Photo by Don Francione. (Object ID # V1989.19.8)

Related to the photo above, this shows the swimmers retrieving the Holy Cross. Photo by Don Francione. (Object ID # V1989.19.9)

Taken on May 17, 1969. From left to right: NYC Mayor John Lindsay, NY Senator William Conklin, an unidentified man in sunglasses, and Miss Norway of Greater New York 1969. Photo by Don Francione. (Object ID # V1989.19.6)

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge taken from the Officers' Club at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, circa 1988. Photo by Don Francione. (Object ID # V1989.19.29)

About Patricia Glowinski

Trained as both a librarian and archivist (MLIS from Pratt Institute), I've had the pleasure of working at some great NYC institutions. When not working on the CLIR survey project, you'll find me hoofing it around the city, looking above store windows, gazing at the city I love.
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3 Responses to The Double Life of Don Francione

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  2. Katie Otey says:

    Thanks for this! I love the images you chose. My parents, Charles Otey and Sara Otey, both held the position of Managing Editor at HRSN at different times, and my father’s column Focus appeared there for 25 years. We have many of Don’s photos mixed in with our home collection. My Mom was there in 1984 so I’ll see if she has anything juicy to say!

  3. McCarthy says:

    Wish I could have hung out at the Golden Dove while Don Francione snapped shots for the Home Reporter and Sunset News. Awesome collection and great post.

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