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John Roleke

They Came From Queens - Christopher Walken From Astoria

By May 17, 2006

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Christopher Walken "I need more cowbell!" From Saturday Night Live to The Deer Hunter to an award-winning dance in a Fatboy Slim video, Christopher Walken has done it all to entertain us. His face is known and loved around the world, as one of the hardest-working, memorable actors to grace the silver screen, but he started here in Queens. Walken grew up in Astoria, born in 1943, the son of immigrants, a German baker and a Scottish mom with show-biz aspirations.

Originally named Ronald, Walken lived in the neighborhood, but was raised in front of the camera. He along with his brothers was a child actor in 1950s TV shows, even performing scenes with Milton Berle and Sid Caesar. In Astoria, his father owned and ran Walken Bakery (where TV chef Lidia Bastianich once worked). It's amazing to think that the Walken family's American dream brought them from overseas to owning a local bakery to Hollywood stardom.

As an adult Walken's breakthrough came as the disturbed brother in Annie Hall and one year later as suicidal Nick in The Deer Hunter, for which he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Though often playing characters who "fit" his trademark spooky looks and unusual diction, Walken has proven his versatility many times over in comedies, dramas, and action films, and has danced his way through much of it. He has also hosted SNL five times with a standing invite to return to the show once a year.

One more bit, and you can't make this stuff up. As a teen, Walken took a summer job performing in a one-ring traveling circus as a lion tamer's son. Classic Walken, classic Queens character.

Photo Credit: © New Line Cinema - Walken in The Wedding Crashers

Comments

December 9, 2011 at 10:46 am
(1) Janice Mahon says:

I was born in Flushing General in 1943, and we lived at 31-10 33rd Street in Astoria until I was seven, when we moved to West Hempstead. My mother shopped at Walken’s Bakery. I went to the PS in Astoria through the second grade. Maybe Ronnie Walken was my classmate. His stage name is Christopher Walken. I wish I could shake his hand and tell him “well done.”

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