Recorder News Staff
Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa described Kirk Douglas Day in 1985 as a day with "probably the most people that were ever assembled in the city."
Villa had just begun his career as a police officer and was on traffic detail for the event. Now, as mayor, he's sending Douglas well-wishes on his 100th birthday. A proclamation will be made by the Common Council in his honor.
Douglas, born as Issur "Izzy" Danielovitch Demsky on Dec. 9, 1916, was raised on Eagle Street by poor Russian immigrants. His father, Harry, worked in a factory and sold rags for a living in a horse-drawn cart. While attending Wilbur H. Lynch High School, he was in the drama club and wrote a column for the school's newspaper titled "Backstage with Izzy." Before becoming a film star and producer, Douglas served in the Navy. Once making it to Hollywood, he made over 70 appearances as a movie actor. Douglas starred in "Spartacus" and won an Academy Award in 1949 for "Champion."
In 1985, former Mayor Mario Villa and the city's Common Council dedicated a park in Douglas's honor. "Kirk Douglas Park" near the police station on Guy Park Avenue Extension has a plaque with the actor's picture and the words: "Kirk Douglas Park, named in honor of our native son, distinguished actor, and recipient of U.S. Medal of Freedom for his example of excellence to the people of Amsterdam."
Douglas attended the city's Centennial Celebration in 1985 and led the parade with some of his close friends. He also revisited his home on 46 Eagle St., addressing the crowd with a nostalgic speech:
"Today, you've showered me with adulation, which is almost overpowering if it wasn't for the affection I feel for the people of Amsterdam. Obviously, it's not a tribute to me, but our way of life. It's a tribute to the fact that it can happen here in America."
Mario Villa said he wishes Douglas "the best of everything" and hopes "he lives for another 10 years."
Douglas has collaborated with Stanley Kubrick, met with several presidents and annually donates to the Amsterdam Public Library in honor of his friend Sonya Jacobson Seigal.
"It's kind of remarkable in the small city that we are from some of the people who have come out of here," Mayor Michael Villa said. "We wish him him well on his 100th birthday and it's unfortunate that we haven't seen him since that event in 1985."