Note: Movie legend and Amsterdam native Kirk Douglas passed away Wednesday at the age of 103. This recounting of Kirk Douglas’ June 1, 1985 Amsterdam parade was published April 4, 2016.
Kirk Douglas talked about Amsterdam. But he talked about America, too.
“My coming here today is not so much a tribute to me but a tribute to the American way of life,” he told residents of his hometown on Saturday, June 1, 1985.
Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch in Amsterdam in 1916, had plenty of company. Amsterdam police estimated that 28,000 people wanted a look at the city’s most famous native son. The party was part of Amsterdam’s centennial celebration, and Douglas was the giant parade’s grand marshal.
Gov. Mario M. Cuomo was also in the cast, appearing for dedication ceremonies at a park named in Douglas’ honor. The former Chuctanunda Creek Park was now Kirk’s place.
“I can’t tell you how touched I am that you in Amsterdam named this lovely park for me,” said the actor, who starred in “Young Man With a Horn,” “Detective Story,” “Lust for Life” and “Spartacus,” among others.
“Our most famous son has come home to receive the accolades he so richly deserves,” said Mayor Mario H. Villa. Four of Douglas’ five sisters attended; later, taped messages from Douglas’ sons Eric, Peter, Joe and Michael were presented to the actor during a brunch at the Amsterdam Holiday Inn.
The 68-year-old actor, whose film career began in 1946, received the key to the city and a plaque during the brunch. “I want to wish a happy birthday to Amsterdam,” Douglas said. “I’m a little overwhelmed at this wonderful feeling.”
Douglas still had some triumphs ahead. His popular buddy movie “Tough Guys,” which co-starred pal Burt Lancaster, came out in 1986. And in 1988, Douglas published his autobiography, “The Ragman’s Son.”
Douglas retired from feature films after the 2004 “Illusion.” Often described as one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, he will turn 100 on Dec. 9.