After 65 years in Williamsburg, Leonora Russo can still remember the time when her rent was $125 and there were movie theaters on Manhattan Avenue (one of them is now a Starbucks). But just how did she come to be known as the Queen of Williamsburg?
“College girls made me famous, ya know?” she told us with a smile. “One day I’m walkin’ down the street and they say to me, ‘Miss, oh my gosh, miss, can we take a photo with you?’ And I say, ‘Yeah! Sure!’ Next thing I know I’m in L magazine. They chose me out of thousands of girls. It’s cause they like my style.”
The 88-year-old New York native typically spends her days on one of the many benches that line Bedford Avenue, or inside Kasia’s, the Eastern European spot where she’s been a customer for 40 years.
Next time you see her, ask her to sing one of her two famous songs — “Matches” or “Peaches” — and she’ll finish them off with a little dance and a hearty laugh. In the meantime, play the video to hear why she’s a Williamsburger for life.