The Woman Who Paints Faces (and Bellies)

Six-year-old Abby wants to be a catterfly, a creature of her imagination that is at once cat and butterfly, and her less articulate 3-year-old brother, Andy, can’t wait to turn himself into a snake monster. Photo by Nancy A. RuhlingLenore drew from her childhood to create her career. That’s why they’re visiting Lenore Koppelman, who is going to make their fantasies come true with nothing more than a little face paint and a lot of creativity. “This is all about making sure you have fun,” Lenore says as she sits Abby then Andy at her kitchen table, …

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The Guy at the Uke Hut

It’s really easy to play the ukulele. To show you, Masafumi Sakai starts strumming the small four-stringer. A high-strung, high-strutting cartoon tune emerges. Photo by Nancy A. RuhlingMasafumi plays guitar, ukulele and drums. “I can teach anyone the basics in an hour,” he declares. This is no boast. Masafumi has done so countless times. It’s part of his part-time job at the Uke Hut, New York City’s only ukulele-only store. With its grass-skirt trim, dancing hula dolls and Zen vibes, the Uke Hut is as close to (and as far away from) Hawaii as Astoria will ever …

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The Upstaging Performer

It doesn’t take much persuading to get Kevin David Thomas to do some goofy poses. Photo by Nancy A. RuhlingKevin’s an actor, singer and music director. He is, after all, an actor, so this nonsense stuff comes naturally. It’s like doing an audition. Once he gets going, he doesn’t want to stop. So it has been since his boyhood. Photo by Nancy A. RuhlingHe’s a most happy fellow. Cherub-cheeked Kevin takes his face-making seriously whether he’s bulging his eyes like golf balls and sticking out his tongue like a serpent. Invariably, he arranges his …

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The Immigrants’ Advocate

There are two things you notice when you walk into Antonio Meloni’s office: American Bald Eagle statues and graffiti art. This may seem an odd combination unless you know what Antonio does for a living: He runs Immigration Advocacy Services and the New York Anti-Crime Agency out of the flag-draped building on Astoria Boulevard two blocks from the 114th Police Precinct. Photo by Nancy A. RuhlingAntonio runs two nonprofits — the New York Anti-Crime Agency and Immigration Advocacy Services. He’s been doing his nonprofit work so long – he founded the anti-crime agency 34 years ago and added the immigration…

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