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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

museum.

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."

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Music Partner

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

Einstein saying.

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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