Larry Selman, Star of Oscar-Nominated Documentary, Dies

Disabled N.Y. Man Was Subject of 'Collector of Bedford Street'

By Jon Kalish

Published January 23, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

They sat shiva for Larry Selman on Monday night on Bedford Street. Selman, 70, died Sunday morning in a Manhattan hospital from heart failure.

Alice Elliot’s Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Collector of Bedford Street,” chronicled the developmentally disabled man who collected donations for charity in his Greenwich Village neighborhood for decades. Elliot and her neighbors established a trust fund to help support him when the elderly uncle who had been looking after Selman passed away.

Elliot’s apartment was packed with neighbors for three hours for the shiva. Among those who stopped by to mourn Selman’s passing were two separate contingents from Ladder Company 5, the local firehouse where Selman often stopped to sell raffles.

“I miss him terribly and I now have realized that I will never turn the corner of my street without looking for him,” Elliot told the Forward, fighting back tears. “We feel that Larry actually created this community and that we are all beneficiaries of that. I hope we can pass it forward.”

Selman had what is known as a supplemental needs trust established with the help of UJA. Such trusts provide an enhanced quality of life for people living on government entitlements, said Stacy Ferber, community trust administrator at UJA Federation of New York.

“I think he may be one of the only individuals who really had a community come [together] in this type of situation and support him. Usually it’s a family member or a close friend of the family,” said Ferber.

For close to 40 years Selman was a neighborhood fixture, collecting charity for everyone from cancer victims to disabled firefighters. Neighbor Sally Dill said that just prior to his hospitalization on Friday Selman had been collecting donations for a Jewish Association Serving the Aging project that provides pets for seniors. Selman continued to collect for charity after a stroke in 2007 left him in a wheelchair with slurred speech that made it difficult for passersby to understand him. But he was nothing if not persistent when it came to soliciting donations. In Alice Elliot’s film he is seen hitting up a doctor who is examining him for a contribution. And at the party for his 70th birthday in April thrown by neighbors Selman greeted a reporter from the Forward who stopped to extend birthday greeting with a request for money “to help animals.”

Selman was the recipient of The Caring Award in 2009 along with Colin Powell for outstanding contributions as a volunteer. At the awards ceremony in Los Angeles, people were crowded around Powell to have their picture taken with the former Secretary of State. Selman was part of the throng.

“The very first thing Larry said to him was, ‘Would you give a donation to cancer?’” Sally Dill recalled. “And Powell said, ‘Yes, I’ll see you a short time later.’ Sure enough, when he was finished with the photo op, over he came and he handed Larry a folded up bill and Larry put it in his envelope. After the affair we were sitting at the bar at the hotel and Larry said, ‘Let’s count the money.’ And there’s the folded up bill and we open it up and it’s a hundred dollar bill. That was a great moment.”

Selman shared a tiny studio apartment on Bedford Street with his beloved dog Penny at the time of his death. Dill said Selman’s neighbors are looking for someone to adopt the dog. A celebration of Selman’s life will take place April 2nd on what would have been his 71st birthday. The gathering will be held at the Greenwich House Music School in Greenwich Village.

Listen to a podcast about Larry Selman in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Find us on Facebook!
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.