With apologies to Joe Causi, Cousin “Brucie” Morrow is the original “Brooklyn’s own.” The legendary air personality is remembered fondly by the last generation (or two) for his years at WINS, WABC, WNBC and WCBS-FM. Today, Morrow maintains a radio presence with his Saturday night show on SiriusXM.
But it all began in Brooklyn. And with the Nets now calling the borough home, FishbowlNY brings you a special week-long “Back to Brooklyn” series commemorating the borough’s first major league franchise in 55 years.
It was Oct. 13, 1935 when Bruce Meyerowitz was born. He lived in Sheepshead Bay, on East 26th Street between Avenues V and W, when stickball and egg creams were all the rage. “Then my dad got rich, and we moved to East 29th,” Morrow jokes.
After attending grade school just a few blocks north at P.S. 206, Morrow was zoned for James Madison High School in Midwood. The shy Brucie Meyerowitz was not the extrovert that Cousin Brucie became with performing his radio, TV, and movie work. It was an elementary school teacher who encouraged Brucie to act. His first foray into the performing arts was in a hygiene play as a cavity. While a star wasn’t born, Morrow knew he found his calling.
“That day when I sang my tooth song about eating chocolate and sugar, something happened to me on the stage,” Morrow reflects. “This is a feeling that I’ll retain for the rest of my life. I felt a warmth from the audience.”
Knowing his career would somehow involve entertaining, when Morrow attended Madison High School, he was fortunate to participate in the All-City Radio Workshop at Brooklyn Tech. He calls it a “pre-college,” where he spent almost four years learning everything about broadcasting.
Now a Manhattanite, Morrow is never one to dismiss his Brooklyn origins. “Every once in awhile I get pangs to go visit my neighborhood,” Morrow says. He was surprised by the size of his childhood home in his first time back.
“It can’t be. It’s too small,” Morrow thought. “It’s where we played punchball, grew up, learned about sex, made out, had fun on the street with our friends, and watched our neighbors grow older … It was our entire life laboratory.”
With it’s close-knit communities, friendship and rivals grew quickly. On the streets, the kids played a Brooklyn favorite–stickball. “I was a two and a half sewer man,” Morrow reflects, a reference to how far he’d hit the ball in the street.
Along with the bouncing Spaudling, standard “equipment” was the unscrewed handle of mom’s broom, used as a bat. But the tight spaces meant being creative. “The East 26th Street Gang would [take on] the East 29th Street Gang,” Morrow remembers. “We’d all line up on the opposite sides of the lots and we’d run to see if we could capture land from the opposing team.”
To match the melting pot of Brooklyn, the borough had a diversity of restaurants. That led to another of Bruce’s staple of his upbringing. “If I didn’t have potato knishes and Chinese food every week, I do not believe my blood would have run properly,” Morrow jokes.
Although Jewish, Morrow says he wasn’t brought up religious. Not anti-religion by any means, Morrow is clear in his views, which he also credits to Brooklyn. “I just don’t want to follow anyone’s laws. I just don’t want it,” Morrow says. “I’m a good person. I know right from wrong. I have morality and my ethics, and I think I owe that more to the bubble of Brooklyn, rather than to a synagogue.”
It was a calmer time in 1940s Brooklyn, Morrow contends, before the unfortunate explosion of racial hatred. “If was safe, and it was fun,” Morrow says in recalling his childhood. “It was diverse. Nobody cared about what you were, but how you could hit the ball or throw a dirt bomb. That’s all that mattered.”
Of course, it wouldn’t take long before the Cousin would drop his stick for a microphone. Before that would happen, Morrow was hearing the sounds of teenagers’ singing Doo Wop reverberating through the neighborhood. “I think that’s due to the water and air in Brooklyn,” Morrow jokes.
When Morrow was a child, the Brooklyn Dodgers were the center of the borough’s universe until their departure for Los Angeles after the 1957 season. Brucie did visit Ebbets Field several times with his dad. But one time, at about age eight, there was an incident that “scared” him away from baseball. A young Brucie was literally lost amongst the Dodger faithful.
“[My dad] went to the bathroom or maybe to get a hot dog, and I panicked,” Morrow recalls. “He was gone so I got out of my seat.” The young Morrow toured the ballpark searching for his father while freaking out and vowing never to return to Ebbets Field. Ultimately, police found his dad, but Brucie refused to speak to him for several days.
To this day, if he’s driving past the former Ebbets Field, now a housing complex, the memories come rushing back. “I get a strange feeling. I got lost and I’m going to get lost.” Morrow, may have an instilled ill-will toward baseball, but he’s excited about Brooklyn’s new sports path.
“I’m very pleased and very happy for them,” Morrow says. “It’s going to be a game changer for them.” Morrow’s roots run deep. Another example, he only refers to the team, formerly from Bedford and Flatbush Avenues, by its original moniker.
“I always say, ‘Los Angeles cousins forgive me, but it’s the Brooklyn Dodgers.'” Being stubborn, Morrow adds, is a cornerstone trait of Brooklynites. In the end, or should we the beginning, Morrow credits his character development from those days on East 26th Street.
“Growing up in Brooklyn really helped me become the person that I guess I am today,” Morrow says. The radio great says decades later, meeting someone from the borough initiates an immediate bond with his “cousins.”
“There’s a hug and sometimes a kiss depending upon who it is,” Morrow says.