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Robert Shapiro lived on Mermaid Avenue until his marriage in 1965. He and his wife both grew up in Coney Island and remember neighborhood restaurants, stores and social clubs. Local celebrities like Neil Diamond, Woody Guthrie and Louis Gossett, Jr. lived nearby and musicians used to play on the corners. The Coney Island of Shapiro's youth was a place where children slept out on fire escapes in the summers and a local wine seller would cook food customers brought to his store so long as they bought a bottle of wine to drink with it.