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This article was prepared for the April 13, 2005
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Storefront Curator: Robert Landau
In 1994 Robert Landau, right, and his brother Henry opened a "museum"
in their Nassau Street clothing store to attract the crowds expected
to show up for the filming of the movie "IQ." "As it turned out we
created our own little magnet," Robert Landau says, "a collection
point for Einstein kitsch." Gillett Griffin was the major contributor
of items for a four-month exhibition that included Einstein’s
treasured compass and valuable papers.
"At some point we became the common man’s Einstein consulting
service," says Landau, telling how he gets calls from researchers and
even from an auction house that needed to confirm the provenance of
Einstein’s crystal desk set.
"When we took it down," says Landau, "the Historical Society took
everything and curated a year-long exhibit, and we were out of the
museum business until 1999." When Griffin offered to contribute more
of his Einstein memorabilia, Landau once again opened an Einstein
Landau freely admits he started out with commercial motives but says
he has not generated any revenue from the museum, other than
attracting people to the store. "But it is one of the few things we
have done in business that will have a longlasting effect," says
Landau. "We see a tremendous interest in Einstein, across all social
strata, ages, and cultures. Kids five years old look at the picture
and name Einstein. People are looking for some way to make contact."
"People generally start here, but it is not what it should be," says
Landau. International visitors simply assume that the town will have
an Einstein museum and get befuddled when they see Landau’s low tech
effort. "Some people come here and say, ‘This is it?’ I tell them, ‘We
are supposed to be selling products.’"
Landau’s favorite story, illustrating how Einstein’s brain never
stopped working, was relayed by a former plumber for the Institute.
"He was called to the Einstein house more often than any other house,
and he didn’t understand why. The ball in the toilet tank was wearing
out much more quickly than it should. On this visit, he repaired it,
and told the professor it was finished. But on his way out, he heard
the toilet flushing and flushing again, multiple times. So he went
back up to the bathroom and inquired. The great man said he was trying
to figure out why, when you flush the toilet, the ball doesn’t drop
immediately. He apparently had been flushing the toilet hundreds of
times to solve that problem."
The well-known photo of a gleeful Einstein sticking out his tongue,
when asked for a birthday pose on his 72nd birthday, has special
resonance for 86-year-old cellist Alvin Goldblatt, who played a series
of chamber music sessions with Einstein and, alone among the people
who were interviewed for this story, refers to the professor as
"Albert." Goldblatt says that, when concentrating on his violin,
Einstein did stick out his tongue. "I cautioned him to be careful,
that if he played a sforzando he might bite his tongue." Goldblatt
says Einstein was a "very talented, a fairly good violinist who liked
Mozart and Bach."
"After the first session, he said, ‘Will you ever play with me again,
because you play so beautifully and I play so poorly.’ No, you don’t
play poorly, I said," relates Goldblatt, but he did suggest some
changes in his bowing technique.
Goldblatt will be among the speakers at a celebratory dinner following
the statue’s dedication. Now a Lawrenceville resident, Goldblatt was a
student at Dover High School when Einstein judged the state debating
team finals. The questions were whether to recognize Russia and
whether Nature or Nurture was more important. Goldblatt’s team won.
"Afterwards he asked me my real opinion on the subject, and I said I
opposed recognizing Russia and thought Nature was more important,"
says Goldblatt. "You are very smart, I agree with you," he reports
Goldblatt tells of Einstein’s affection for children. "After our
second Saturday session, I walked him home past Hulit’s shoe store,"
relates Goldblatt, now 86 years old. "There were a bunch of children
sitting on the curb. Albert had a real affinity for children. He
stopped and sat on the curb and talked to him. One little boy said he
had a lot of trouble with arithmetic. Albert said, ‘Have you learned
your times tables?’ The boy could not multiply two times eight. Albert
took out a big piece of paper and wrote out several of the times
tables and told the boy that, if he would learn those times tables, he
would have less trouble with arithmetic. He never passed children by
without stopping and saying hello."
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