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Rodney Dangerfield Mural Is 'Unacceptable,' Says Widow Who Helped Fund It

 Italian artist Francesca Tosca Robicci painted the mural depicting late stand-up comedian and actor Rodney Dangerfield in Kew Gardens last year.
Italian artist Francesca Tosca Robicci painted the mural depicting late stand-up comedian and actor Rodney Dangerfield in Kew Gardens last year.
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Courtesy of Francesca Tosca Robicci

Rodney Dangerfield's widow thinks he got no respect.

Joan Dangerfield thinks that a mural of her late husband painted last year in Kew Gardens Cinemas Park, near where he grew up, is “unacceptable” and “less than flattering,” according to NY1, which first reported on the controversy.

The mural was painted last October by Italian artist Francesca Tosca Robicci on a wall in the park behind the movie theater on the corner of Lefferts Boulevard and Austin Street.

The mural depicts a portrait of the comedian, who as a boy lived above what is now Austin's Ale House across the street from the movie theater, as well as his signature catchphrase “I don't get no respect.” 

The idea to paint the mural was the brainchild of Noah Sheroff, the founder of 501(See)(Streets), a Queens-based nonprofit which works to revitalize and beautify New York City neighborhoods with murals.

Sheroff approached the owner of Kew Gardens Cinemas who supported the project.

The mural, which was painted using a photo provided by Joan Dangerfield, was well received by the local community, Sheroff said.

But the widow, who donated $1,000 for the project, did not like it.

Last month, her lawyer sent a letter to Robicci and Sheroff threatening legal action and demanding the mural to be painted over, Sheroff said.

“I put this project together hoping it would be beneficial to the community and to honor Rodney Dangerfield who grew up above Austin's Ale House and went to Richmond Hill High School,” Sheroff said.

He said he had offered through Joan Dangerfield's attorney to have a different artist fix the mural, but he said she wasn't interested. 

“This was supposed to be something positive and it turned into a total nonsensical ordeal," he said.

“[The widow] wants it removed,” Harvey Elgart, the owner of the movie theater said in an email. “It will most likely be painted over.”

Robicci, who lives in Italy, told DNAinfo New York in an email that she was very "sad to hear" that the widow did not like how the mural turned out. She also said that she sent a letter to Joan Dangerfield offering to fly back from Italy and make any necessary changes.

"As an artist and a person who came to New York from abroad, it was a great honor for me to have had the opportunity to engage in the story of this amazing comedian and actor, and to celebrate his life and legacy in the place he grew up," she wrote in the letter. "Given my intense feelings about this work, I am sure you can understand that I cannot and will not authorize its destruction."

Robicci said that both sides are currently trying to figure out if a compromise is possible.

Local residents said they hope that if the mural is removed, something else will replace it.

“The neighborhood likes the mural and I thought that it was terrific that they did it,” said Carol Lacks, a Kew Gardens resident and activist.

“I love public art and I feel strongly that we are going to get another [mural] in that spot,” Lacks added.

Joan Dangerfield’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.