Cathy Gigante-Brown…

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I’m a Bay Ridge girl, born and bred in Brooklyn. I was born at a hospital called Brooklyn Doctors which isn’t there anymore but I believe it was located at 45th Street and 15th Avenue. I grew up in Bay Ridge, on Gelston Avenue, and went to St. Patrick’s. For high school, I “escaped” Catholic school and attended Fort Hamilton, where I had great teachers who encouraged my love of writing. I was a shy kid who could write much better than I could talk and that’s how it all started. I’m also grateful to Mildred McVay, my third grade teacher at St. Pat’s, who instilled in me of a love of reading. (I thank her in the “Acknowledgements” section of THE EL.) I set a number of scenes in the book in places familiar to me growing up–a noteworthy accident takes place on the corner of Gelston, for example.

The EL

In Chapter 24, a scene in your book takes place in Farrell’s.  What was the reason for using Farrell’s?

I’ve lived in Windsor Terrace since 1994, just a couple of blocks away from Farrell’s. Even though I’m not much of a beer drinker, I’ve always loved the sense of camaraderie of Farrell’s. People celebrate there, mourn there, get jobs there…I’ve never seen another place like it. So, when I needed a place for a clandestine family pow-wow, the back tables of Farrell’s seemed perfect. The characters lived in Borough Park and in a sense, Farrell’s was a world away for them. Few people knew them there, so they could speak frankly, plot and bond. I even put Houlie into the scene (but changed his first name) even though he probably wasn’t even born yet. I wanted to pay homage to Farrell’s, to its spirit, and it seemed to fit perfectly into the plot. I hope it worked!

If you can sit down tonight and have dinner with any three people, who would they be and where would it be? (Don’t worry, you’re not picking up the check…)

I guess I should say something noble like Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln but I think I’ll be selfish and say my mom and dad Teresa and Francis Gigante, and my great-grandmother Marguerite Cirigliano who inspired the “Bridget” character in THE EL. Both of my parents have passed away (my dad almost 2 years ago and my mom 19 years ago) and I would love to have one last dinner where I could ask them things I didn’t and tell them things I should have. I’ve always wanted to meet my great-grandmother who died about 7 years before I was born. And dinner would be a home-cooked meal! To cook with Marguerite and my mom would be amazing, and to share all of the things women talk about when they cook together would be a gift.

Your three favorite books of all-time?

That’s a tough one. Let’s see. In no particular order: Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude and Pete Hamill’s Forever.

Are you working on a new book?

Yes, I am. The working title is “Society’s Child” and it’s set in 1979 Brooklyn, mostly the Sheepshead Bay area. It’s about a female drummer in the club-date business (aka “society music”)…you know, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc…who’s trying to “make it” and get a recording contract. It’s very different than “The El,” written in journalistic style from the drummer’s POV, and also from the POVs of various people close to her. I’m a little more than halfway through. I wish I had more time to work on it. For “The El,” I took off six months and managed to write it. I’ve been working on my second novel a lot longer but I love being able to squirrel away any time I can to work on it. I love writing about Brooklyn and the colorful characters in it.

Cathy Gigante-Brown lives in Windsor Terrace and is the author of “The EL.”

Click here for more information on her book.



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27 Responses to SITTIN’ ON THE STOOP WITH…

  1. bob terry says:

    Congratulations on your book & good luck on your next. Brooklyn has a million stories; thanks for telling a few of them.

  2. Thanks for a great, insightful interview, Steve!

  3. Pat Fenton says:

    I love the way she captures the mood of Farrell’s bar in your interview, Steve. Dead on! And that a good thing, to see new people understand the importance of Farrell’s to the neighborhood, along with all the good things Jimmy Houlihan brings to it. It’s important to get the word out that the stories you sometime here about Farrell’s being cold to newcomers is simply not true.

    It’s more of an old time, bar manners thing. Rosie Schapp, a wonderful writer who wrote “Drinking with Men”, and who also writes the “drink” column for the New York Times understands that very well. She has told me that she has been to Farrell’s several times, and always enjoys it. She also commented on all the good the bar has done for Windsor Terrace over the years.

    You sort of have to hang around quietly for awhile, before the regulars find themselves comfortable with you, and you with them. It’s a mystery to some, but it happens. After awhile they will be making fun of something you say or do, and they will be paying you the highest complement a regular in Farrell’s can pay. In my case, it’s usually something like, “you still writing all that s… that you write, Pat. “

    Here’s to you, Cathy. Good luck with your book.

  4. Maureen Rice (Flanagan) says:

    This sounds intriguing, I will have to look for it in Terrace Books on 9th Ave..

    • hoopscoach says:


      If they don’t have it, have them order it.

      Maybe they can get Cathy to have a reading one night.


    • Right now, THE EL is only available as an ebook, (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.) so that’s the only way to get it. But even if you don’t have an e-reader, you can download the Kindle program to read it on your computer or Android device. I think you’ll like it, Maureen! And I like Steve’s idea about doing a reading in Farrell’s. Maybe I’ll ask Houlie.

  5. tony fasano says:

    Steve I Know a guy who owes me a book swap WINK,WINK mabe i can get it that way. LOL

  6. tony fasano says:

    You owe me nothing, but hopefull we will share a pint or two. maybe over the holidays if you come to town.

  7. Maureen Rice (Flanagan) says:

    Oh, for sure, I have already had them order me Artie Lange’s Crash and Burn, lol..and a reading sounds great, but it is a really tiny space…I just buy there because I believe in supporting local business..I work a few blocks from Barnes & Noble, but I just prefer small, local stores, I was so happy when Community took over that space…

    • Good for you, Maureen. I also prefer patronizing “the little guy” rather than a big franchise like B&N. I’d love to do a reading at Community or Terrace Books but I don’t think it would happen because they don’t “carry” Kobo ebooks on their site. Maybe in the future, though.

  8. Pat Fenton says:

    I don’t know if Farrell’s would go for it, Steve, but I would love to do a scene from my play “Stoopdreamer” there,. and bring my actor friend Jack O’Connell along to help me. Or to just simply read “The Ghosts of Coney Island”, which is part of a short story collection that the play evolved from. (I recently had it published in Galway Ireland on line,which is a place mentioned in the story.) We could get Cathy and Kevin McPartland to be part of it. Or maybe just put it up in the school basement. I would try to get Pete and Denis Hamill to come by.

    I would certainly do it as a fund raiser to help Holy Name Church, which was always a part of my life. Can you just see asking Ed Mills if it would be alright to do a reading on a Sunday afternoon when the football games are on. “You want to do what?” Or we could just say to him, “Ed, would you guys please try to keep the football stuff down, we’re trying to create a mood here for God’s sake.”

  9. Pat and Steve, I like the way you guys think!

  10. Maureeen Rice (Flanagan) says:

    The neighborhood reunion is scheduled for April 12- it is not strictly a Holy Name reunion, it is for anybody with ties to the neighborhood..hell, I guess it is for anyone who buys a ticket, lol..I am only making the distinction because I don’t want the public school people, or IHM, or people that moved here after school, but have been here for years to think it is not for is for anyone with ties to the neighborhood…

    • bob terry says:

      Maureen: Where will it be & how do I get details? I’d be coming from Los Angeles. Are you a member of the Rice family from 15th Street?

  11. Maureeen Rice (Flanagan) says:

    damn, when will I learn to proofread BEFORE I hit enter??? too repetitive 🙂

  12. Maureen Rice (Flanagan) says:

    Yes, it is at Ford..I am sure there will be flyers and all closer to the date..but, as of now, April 12th..and, Bob, I don’t know the Rices from 15th St, I married into the Rice family that lived on Jackson Place..

    • bob terry says:

      Jackson Place was just below 7th Avenue off of 16th Street if I remember correctly. I did know 2 Rice brothers from there: one was older & married to a girl on 16th Street (her mother’s name was Virginia) & the other brother was about a year younger than me (I’m 63). I lived @ 336 16th Street from 1954 to 1972. Are you married to the younger brother? Also, thanks for the info.

  13. Maureen Rice says:

    No, Bob, you are thinking of Dennis..he has lived in New Mexico for many years now.I was married to the second-oldest brother, Junior..There were 5 brothers, 3 have passed..the two you knew (oldest and youngest) are still with us.

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