Fran Lee is the most famous New Yorker I never heard of--until today. And now she's gone.
Only time will tell if Margalit Fox's obituary in today's NYT will enter the obituary Hall of Fame like Robert McG. Thomas Jr.'s one on Edward Lowe, the inventor of kitty litter, but it should certainly clear the nominating committee and get on the ballot. Election should be assured.
Ms. Fox takes us through the adult life of Ms. Lee (Frances Lederman Weiss) in which she first gains a foot-hold to some fame as an actress, to what it seems even she herself would confess to be most proud of--being the catalytic agent that brought a pooper-scooper law to New York City.
Ms. Lee comes to acting in the 1940s when she appears on stage and as an understudy, to a small part in the 1947 film "Miracle On 34th Street" where she has a bit of dialogue and hand gestures that come about when someone at Macy's tells her to try Gimbel's.
This leads to many things, but basically culminates in getting New York City to adopt a pooper-scooper law in 1978 that requires dog owners to pick up after their pet's use of the gutter, sidewalk, or whatever part of the outside domain they seem to choose to do their thing on.
I don't remember any of Ms. Lee's apparent antics in getting this local law in front of the legislative body, but that may be due to the fact that I never owned a dog past the time I was 12.
I do remember the uproar surrounding the proposed law, and I do remember what seemed to be ever increasing mounds of solid waste that seemed to sit in the street--and elsewhere. There were signs that said, "Curb Your Dog. It's the Law." Well, even when the law was obeyed, that didn't make anything go away without street sweeping or a heavy rain. A lovely sight things were not.
Ms. Lee passed away at 99, in Jersusalem. She had to be what the Yiddish word word nudge means. And then some. But you will have to say this:
If the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday, or Alexander Haig hadn't passed away at the same time, Fran Lee would, I think, be immortalized in those pages as well as the Times.
After all, business picked up after her.