RIP Joe Ades, The $5 vegetable peeler of Union Sq
His was a particular kind of street theater in a city that delights in in-your-face characters who are, and are not, what they seem. For he was the sidewalk pitchman with the Upper East Side apartment. The sidewalk pitchman who was a regular at expensive East Side restaurants, where no one believed his answer to the “So what do you do?” question: “I sell potato peelers on the street.” Mr. Ades (pronounced AH-dess) died on Sunday at 75, said his daughter, Ruth Ades Laurent of Manhattan. She said he never talked about how many peelers he sold in a year, or how many carrots he had sliced up during demonstrations. She said he stashed his inventory in what had been the maid’s room of the apartment.
There were those at the Greenmarket who had heard the spiel, and heard the whispers. “Supposedly his wife is mega-mega-rich — we’ve done fashion shoots in that building,” said Rose-Marie Swift, a makeup artist, as she shopped at the Greenmarket on Monday.
The facts? He was a widower. The apartment had been his wife’s — his fourth wife’s. And besides Ms. Laurent, he is survived by two sons, Sam, of Sydney, Australia, and David, of Byron Bay, Australia; two brothers, Dennis, of Toronto, and Andre, of Sydney; a sister, Vida, of Toronto; and three granddaughters.
He had been selling things during his fourth marriage, and his third, his second and his first. David Hughes, the operations manager at the Greenmarket, said that Mr. Ades had been a fixture on the edges of the market for years. (He stayed on the fringes because he never obtained a permit to do business there, and if he staked out a spot too close to the vendors, someone would complain and security guards would be alerted.)
First he sold children’s books, Mr. Hughes said. “Then he moved into potato peelers,” he said. “He told me books were too heavy to carry around.” The Greenmarket was not his only open-air stage; he had places near Radio City Music Hall and in Brooklyn that he liked, Ms. Laurent said.
Rest in peace.....