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City salutes Cadillac Man

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The City Council honored Astoria street laureate Cadillac Man last week with a proclamation following the release of the formerly homeless author’s book “Land of Lost Souls: My Life on the Streets” earlier this year.

Cadillac, 59, who lived on the streets of four of the city’s five boroughs between 1994 and 2006, said he was moved the Council honored his accomplishments July 29.

“It’s overwhelmi­ng,” he said. “I never expected to get this much attention. I want to inspire people. I feel it’s the right thing to do. By helping one person, they might, in turn, help another.”

In 2002, Cadillac moved to Astoria after having lived in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, where he was born and raised, as well as the Bronx and Brooklyn. He met his girlfriend, Carol, in 2006 and moved into her East Elmhurst apartment from his spot under the 33rd Street viaduct in Astoria.

During his years on the street, Cadillac filled seven spiral-bound notebooks with his writing and drew national attention when his writing was featured in monthly men’s magazine Esquire in 2005. Bloomsbury USA released his first book in March.

“We are honoring him for the message he sends to everyone — that it’s possible to struggle through adversity and be a success and that every member of our community is valuable and can make a contributi­on,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), who put forth Cadillac’s name for the proclamation.

Vallone said he had originally asked Cadillac whether his office could provide help during his time on the streets, but the author refused. But he ended up aiding the councilman’s office by providing information on which Astoria homeless residents needed help, Vallone said.

Cadillac earned his nickname after he claimed he was struck by a series of Cadillacs within a six-week period. He originally took to the streets after his relationship with his former wife fell apart. He has three daughters, but not all from his ex-wife.

Years of living outdoors had left Cadillac in frail health, resulting in several heart attacks. He said he began writing to leave behind a chronicle of his life on the streets and eventually completed 16 notebooks full of prose, eight of which were used in his book.

“I started writing a journal because I expected to die on the streets,” he said. “In the event something happened to me, I’d hoped that someone would convey them to my daughters.”

Cadillac has never met his oldest daughter and hopes to reconnect with his two younger children in the near future.

In the meantime, he is writing a second book that will act as a handbook on how to survive on the streets as well as a screenplay.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 6:32 pm, October 10, 2011
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