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Coca Crystal, a Wild Child Turned ‘Unconventional’ Mother

Coca Crystal from her Facebook pageRalph Ginsburg Coca Crystal

The first thing on Jackie Diamond’s to-do list: “2008 – Publish book.”

“You see I’m behind schedule,” the 64-year-old said of the unfinished work, her chest purring with laughter. “I got busy with cancer.”

Ms. Diamond is better known to students of the underground as Coca Crystal – a secretary, writer, and “Slum Goddess” for The East Village Other who went on to host a cult cable-access television show for nearly two decades.

In 2006, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Since then, she’s had three operations to remove over a third of her lungs, undergone chemotherapy, and become a patient at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. The last time her cancer returned, her doctor told her it had spread to a part of her lung that was inoperable.

Her to-do list continues: “2010 – Movie based on my life released. Drew Barrymore stars as Coca Crystal.”

“And then the dignitaries and the party,” Ms. Crystal imagined. “And then I’ll live happily ever after. Finally.”

But the real reason she wants to publish her book isn’t the dream of a movie deal – it’s Gus. Read more…

Anthony Amato, Founder of Amato Opera, Dead at 91

Tony Amato MemoirsHarold Schrader Anthony Amato

Anthony Amato, who founded the Amato Opera and trained generations of opera singers at his small theater on the Bowery, died yesterday morning on City Island. He was 91.

Rochelle Mancini, a former singer at the Amato Opera who helped Mr. Amato write his recently published memoir, said the cause was cancer.

From its founding in 1948, the Amato Opera served as a training grounds for young singers with grand ambitions. Mr. Amato was said to have a keen eye for talent, and the likes of Neil Shicoff, Mignon Dunn and George Shirley performed there before going on to play famous venues like the Metropolitan Opera and City Opera.

After stints in theaters around the city, the opera opened on the Bowery at East Second Street in 1964; a location that harkened back to the thoroughfare’s history as a poor man’s Broadway. Less than 10 years after its opening it would share the block with C.B.G.B.; a vivid example of the eclectic arts scene in the neighborhood. Read more…