Mazie Phillips spent most of her adult life helping the homeless in the Bowery. She did it in her own fashion and without any fanfare. Below is Mazie’s obituary from the New York Times.
BOWERY MOURNS MAZIE PHILLIPS
JUNE 11, 1964
Mazie Phillips, known as the “Queen of the Bowery,” died Monday in Lenox Hill Hospital after a long illness. She lived at 18 Monroe Street on the Lower East Side with her sister, Mrs. Jean Hallen, a widow, and always gave her age as “over 21.”
For more than 65 years, Mazie, a platinum blonde with a husky voice, passed out advice (“Go take a bath, you bum”), money (“That’s a real quarter now”) and sympathy (“You got the makins of a great man”) to every Bowery derelict who would pause to listen.
Mazie dispensed the advice, money and cheer day and night on the streets of the Bowery, and most particularly from behind a cashier’s cage at a theater on Park Row.
She was known and liked in the Bowery and yesterday, Harry Baronian of The Bowery News said there were men sitting on doorsteps, ignoring their tattered clothes and other discomforts and lamenting her death. Some drank to her memory, he added, as she had often done for others.
The ‘Gentlest Heart’
The children of the Bowery will miss her, too, in their own way. They looked for the lollipops she carried in her pockets and she looked for the children, enjoying the jest of first saying she had no more.
But why did she help those in the Bowery? Her sister said yesterday that there was no real reason, “she just had the gentlest, kindest heart of anyone.”
Mazie did not believe, however, that the lost men of the Bowery could be helped by organized charity.
“I’m not out to knock missions or such,” she once said, “but you aint goin’ to get a bum in a mission if there’s a gutter to sleep in.’ But she denied a report that she had once lured some men out of a mission by waving a bottle of whisky outside.
Mazie Was Buying
“All I did,” she remarked, “was to go in the King Kong Saloon and pass out word that the drinks was on me.”
It is not clear just when Mazie arrived in New York, but it was probably about 1890. She was born in Boston, and her sister recalled that Mazie was a “quiet, very demure little girl” when she left for New York.
Shortly after, she became a familiar, friendly face in the ticket‐seller’s cage in front of the old Venice Theater at 207 Park Row, where the Bowery and Chinatown meet. The theater has since been replaced by apartment buildings.
Mazie’s sister, Rose, and her brother‐in-law, Louis Gordon, owned the theater. She worked there until the early 1940’s, when the theater was sold. The source of her income had been something of a mystery since then, but her assistance to derelicts never wavered.
Private Night Patrol
Mazie would often walk the streets of the Bowery on late winter nights, a. collection of bracelets dangling on her arms, a big floppy hat on her head, and a stick in her hand to poke the derelicts sleeping in the streets. She would tell them to get out of the cold.
She was credited with pro‐ longing the lives of a great number of men, many of whom cared less than she had.
Mazie woke them up in the theater, too, although she was less kindly therd, using a vocabulary that was familiar to the Bowery. She often mitigated her harsh remarks with a coin and an admonition to “go take a bath and then come back.”
About 20 years ago she had to cut down on her drinking and to become more selective in her food. She did not enjoy the restrictions and noted that they had “complicated my life a lot.”
Mazie will be buried today in Worden, Mass., after a funeral service at 10 A.M. at Riverside Memorial Chapel.
There were a few mourners yesterday at the chapel, Amsterdam Avenue and 76th Street, as word of her death circulated. But the many in the Bowery who knew her expressed their sorrow to each other, in their own way, in their own haven.
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