ON TURNING SIXTY
I'm not the first person to write about hitting a certain age, won't be the last either. For those of us lucky enough to compile a few decades under our belts, suspenders or girdles etc., I suppose there are certain years that resonate more than others. That resonance for me in 2007 hit me differently than any that came before it. And for many reasons, not the least which was it "was not supposed to happen".
Funny thing about that phrase, I first recall hearing it when I was either nine or ten, while sitting in the dark of the Rialto theatre in Patchogue in the summer of either '56 or '57 with my father, brother Butch, my summer pals the Denning Boys and their cousin Spike. It was a double feature horror show (there were always two films at the Rialto & cartoons too) I'm not sure if the main film that WE JUST HAD TO SEE that week (we were teased for a week or two prior with promo ads in the Daily News & NY Mirror) was "The Curse Of Frankenstein" with Christopher Lee playing the monster or not, but I recall that exact group seeing that one there. The week it opened, I drove my old man nuts, till he took the gang of us one summer night in our three seat '50 Ford Country Squire wagon to see it. But it was a second billed film, one called "X The Unknown" where after frying the hell out of some Radio Active mud that was oozing out of the ground causing world wide havoc, with a pre Back To Future 50 MILLION JIG A WATTS, that a small explosion and fire ensues and Dean Jagger playing Dr. Adam Royston calmly says "that was NOT.... supposed to happen" the music came up and THE END came across the screen and Dean's words are still resonating as I write this.
I suppose crazy half assed historian that I am, I could check the newspaper micro film someday to verify what was the main feature playing with X The Unknown, if I ever get back to the Patchogue Library for other "important" research stuff, but don't hold your breath and I won't hold mine. I saw a lot of movies of all types there on South Ocean Avenue, just a few doors south of the church I would get married in for the first time in 1969. Movies like The Lone Ranger (just some of the TV show episodes BUT in Color!) Disney's Song Of The South which combined animation and live actors like Bobby Driscoll, John Paul Jones with Robert Stack, Westward Ho The Wagons and Old Yeller with Fess Parker, King Creole based on the novel A Stone For Danny Fisher, with Elvis as Danny ( Dean Jagger played Mr. Fisher BTW, in that one and it was also the first film I saw there with just "the guys" ... no parents needed ....Doug Percoco, my big brother Butchie and me took the Fuoco bus from the 5 corners in Mastic Beach in the summer of '58 . I think the fare was 10 or 15 cents! ) In the stone cold winter of 1959 when Robert Stack was on the small screen as the Untouchable G - Man Elliot Ness, it was a double feature of Al Capone with Rod Steiger, and The Purple Gang with Robert Blake. Around '61 Jules Verne's "Journey To The Center Of The Earth" with Pat Boone. Also in the '60's it was Red Line 7000 ( a Stock Car Racing flick with an unknown James Cann in the lead and a bunch of Holmon-Moody Fords as the real stars) and musicals like The T.A.M.I. Show with the Beach Boys, James Brown, The Supremes and more. I even saw some US Calvary - western film with Grant Williams, our Mastic Beach neighbor's son in it. The title of that one escapes me, but Grant's BIGGEST roll was ironically playing "The Incredible Shrinking Man!" I know from around '56 - '65 I saw too many B movie HORROR -IBLE pics that seemed to show up at the Rialto with great frequency, but chalk that up to being young and having 50 - 75 cents to blow on a ticket.
THE RIALTO WAS TRULY UNIQUE
And that's how it started out in the 1920's
BUT THE END CAME SOME 50 YEARS LATER ON FEB 16, 1978
IT WAS MOSTLY ASHES INSIDE......
I was already living in Florida when this happened and starting a new life if you will. Because the one that had started by getting married in that church on the right was already in ashes too.
WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME GOES?
That was a great song written by the late Sandy Denny of the Fairport Convention and I first heard it on a Judy Collins album of the same title back around 1968. It would partly inspire me to write an answer song "The Time Went Sailing By", some twenty years later for an anniversary gift for my wife Anne. As side note I heard Judy Collins recently performed at the restored Regent Theatre in Bay Shore, a town about 15 miles west of Patchogue. The Rialto & Regent were probably built at the same time and most likely from the same plans. I know in the '50's and '60's they showed the same films at the same time.
Suite Judy Blue Eyes
Singing at the Flight 800 Memorial at Smith Point, Long Island this past year.
I missed this performance but did get to visit the memorial several times this past November as
WE STILL GOT A LONG TRIP HERE .....MAY I SUGGEST ..... YOU PULL OVER, PAUSE & PONDER
AND THE ANSWER TO THAT MUSICAL QUESTION
Anyway moving right along here, a whole bunch of old friends hit # 60 this year. In January it was Marty "Defender of The Dunes" Van Lith, In February it was Larry "The Sidekick" Schulz (who I've been friends with the longest..... 57 years !!!! ) In March it was former bandmates from the early 1960's, Adolph "King of The Stomach Steinway" Almasy and Kenny "Rust Never Sleeps" Vitellaro aka "Stewball". All of whom I am still in touch with. So as each one did hit this mythical number and we would banter a bit about it, they would say "Well your times coming." And I would counter with "Ya Wanna Make GOD Laugh? .... Tell Him Your Plans For Tomorrow" It's a phrase I've kept handy and have used many times ever since I first heard TV newsman the late John Chancelor say it the night he signed off the air. 1947 ..... it was quite a year for all of us characters, not to mention David Bowie, David Letterman, or David Pfeiffer
On the months leading up to it I wasn't dreading it or anything like that, I just found it stunning that it was almost here and was being reminded fairly frequently by my "OLDER" friends hitting the mark. Sixty when we were kids seemed REALLY REALLY OLD.... With a great trip to Europe ending on April 11, just a month prior to my turn at bat, it seemed that the trip was excitement enough for this old guy, but others seemed to have other plans.
The ball started rolling when I almost went ass over tea kettle by tripping over a box left on my stoop by the postman about two or three days before May 11th. It was from fairly new friend and now my official big brother Phil " Back To The Future" Van Tassel in Minne - Soda . Phil is originally from Mastic Beach and William Floyd School. Officially Phil and I have been real tight since August of 2004, meeting via my websight right after my 40th High School Reunion. But truth be known I have known Phil since September of 1956, he just didn't know me. So we got some history and some uncanny life experiences we have shared since. I called him to let him know the box had arrived and I almost broke my neck on it .... feeling sorry for this old codger...he gave me permission to open it, but I told him I was mature enough now and could wait until the proper day. And I did.....opening it at exactly 8 AM eastern standard time or my time of arrival at Brooklyn Hospital in 1947 (or 7 AM Nashville on Friday) In it was an almost carbon copy 1 /18th "a big un" Die Cast of my '56 Chevy that I drove in 64- 65. Only difference was a slight variation in color, this one was Blue & White and mine was two tone blue. I wonder what Earl Scheib would charge to paint half of it? This one had "THE HOT ONE" a power packV8 in it to boot! I only had a six in my $225.00 Bel Air. He told me he was trying to find a '60 Chevy because he had seen pictures of my black Impala, but they did not exist in hardtops. I told him I knew that, as I had looked for one also several years ago. He only had heard me briefly mention the fact that I once had a '56 Chevy and it now sits proudly by my 1/18th '48 Buick, which looks almost identical to the '40 something Olds Convertible we moved to Mastic Beach in back in 1950. I just look up from my computer seat at either one of them and I'm Right Back There. TRANSPORTED!!!!
UH OH CAR TROUBLE & WORSE ...... THESE OLD CARS ARE BALKY YOU KNOW
But Any IDIOT knows you can't jump a Negative Ground 12 volt & a Positive Ground 6 Volt Battery without Blowing Them UP!
not to mention having Dean Jagger saying "that wasn't supposed to happen". Or WORSE Mr. Masucci, our Auto Shop teacher saying
"If you numb nuts don't shape up !...you'll be selling frozen custards for the rest of your lives"
BIG SUPRISES FROM THE LITTLE WOMAN
Anne and I never have gone overboard with birthdays and this year with the expense of the BIG Trip was certainly to be no exception, but if I might wax sentimental with the song Little Things Mean A Lot .... the truth is don't they always.
I got up to make the coffee and sitting on the counter was a card and a bowl of candy. Before she headed out to work she said here and I could tell she had something behind her back. I said save it for tonight as I knew she had to run, but she said no this is just for starters. It was a CD of singer Amos Lee who she knew had grabbed my attention a few weeks prior when we saw him on Austin City Limits. Very few performers do that anymore but this guy did and I now had some music to eat candy for breakfast by !
That evening after dinner she really surprised me with something I had only briefly mentioned a long, long time ago. I was reminiscing once about a birthday, when I was probably about 5 or 6. My brother and I (Butchie & Me)have birthdays that are only a week apart. We celebrated them together that year for some parental expiditive reason I'm sure, and we both got a set of tin litho boats. I didn't think they existed outside of high dollar collectable toys anymore ... but Lo & Behold she found a very authentic repro and it is an absolute delight to look at. Not to mention it has a unique power system via a candle!
TOP SHELF STUFF & THUMBS UP FROM STAN LAUREL TOO
It puts just as big a grin on my face
If That Wasn't Enough about boats, a new movie came out in April called DIGGERS It is about Clam Diggers on Long Island in the 1970's. It's something I know more than a little about, as I was one during that very era. Not to mention it was partly filmed there, don't you know she got me DVD of this neat little film.
AND FROM ACROSS THE POND IN GERMANY
A BASKET OF TASTY TREATS SAILED UP TO MY DOOR FOR THE OLD MAN
THANK YOU ERIK... SEE YOU SOON
OLD FRIENDS & KNEW KNAPPSTERS
Kenny & Pam sent a Gift Card to OutBack Steakhouse that Anne & I are going to take advantage very soon. Marty & Anita sent a pile of scratch off NYS Lottery Tickets and after the I held my breath as I closed in on a MILLION BUCKAROOS several times don't you know the last one of them came in for a nice amount. Not a million ...... but a million thanks go back out to all my friends on Long Island
NEW FRIENDS & KNAPPSTEROO'S
A CERTAIN RASCALIANETTE (WHO KNOWS OF HER CRIME) SENDS ME A CARD LOADED WITH HUNDREDS OF TINY METALLIC CARDBOARD NUMBER 60's IN IT. UPON MY OPENING THE ENVELOPE THEY PROCEEDED TO SPILL OUT LIKE CONFETTI ON A 5TH AVENUE PARADE IN NYC........ EXCEPT IT WAS ALL OVER ME & THE LIVING ROOM!!!!!
The card read "BUFOONERY .... Aging Is Inevitable .... Maturing Is Optional"
I have made quite a few friends with the website over the years and one of the newer ones (since 2005) who prefers to remain anonymous sent me a beautiful Art Deco Mahogany Radio Speaker Grille circa 1920. I added in a little 1800's mahogany from the likes of Peppridge Hall and WALLAH .... I now have a very nice extension speaker cabinet to listen to the old radio shows with.
AND SPEAKER OF MAHOGANY !..... NOT TO BE CORN FUSED WITH THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
Even though I do most of my furniture building with pine. I love the look of mahogony. Mainly because of my Jones for Old or New Mahogany Boats though even most new ones are old ones now. That has been with me since I first laid eyes on them back in the '50's . I have several pictoral books of nothing but Mahogany Boats. I wrote once about a plastic replica of one I got for a promotion gift in 1956 going from 3rd to 5th grade. I had a small heart attack over it when it got away from me on Knapp's Secret Pond which wasn't a secret when Knapp had it. It was just very private and sitting on his estate golf course. Anyway I got an e mail from my nephew who has just astonished me on no special occasions these last few years with some very rare antique automotive toys. Well the e mail said "Don't You Have A Big Birthday coming up soon?" I wrote back "I don't know how big but I turned 60 today." He wrote back "well your going to need a big new shelf in your room in about a week or two about 40 inches long by a foot wide. I said to my self GEEZ where am I going to fit it in and what the heck kind of wheels has he dug up now?
NO WHEELS BUT THE STEERING WHEEL
It wasn't a day or two later that a delivery man knocked on my door with a very long cardboard box. It was pretty disturbing because it was crushed at one end . So after photographing the damage I opened it very cautiously and when I got to see what was in there I damn near fainted. Thankfully only the styro foam protection took a hit and it was unscathed. It wound up sitting on a table in my hallway as I could not really properly display it in my room and do justice to the sheer beauty of it.
A 1920's Triple Cockpit Mahogany Speed Boat Made From
THE REAL ONE WAS 40 FOOT LONG AND CUSTOM BUILT FOR EDSEL FORD TO COMMUTE FROM HIS ESTATE
TO THE OFFICE IN. TO SEE SOME GREAT CLOSE UP DETAIL SHOTS OF HER JUST
And The Shows Not Over Folks
A VERY MEMORABLE MEMORIAL DAY
LIFE IS LIKE A MOVIE
On Memorial Day weekend I was at home surfing through the umpteen hundred cable channels and not finding anything to really grab me. I did come up on the movie American Graffiti, already in progress, but kept on going, as I had seen it originally in the theatres and probably at least two more times since. Finding nothing else to hold a candle to it , I switched back and got to see probably 3/4s of it uninterrupted. That movie has always had very special meaning for me mainly because of the Yellow Hot Rod in it that is very reminiscent of one I drove over 40 years ago. When I first saw the film in 1972, I went on a quest to find whatever happened to my personal version of Milner's Coupe. I wrote about that last year when the website reconnected me with another old friend John Rutigliano who I went through school with and I had not seen since the days that I had that car in 1965. There are lots of surprises and that's all here in an entry titled My Old Yellow Car
After the movie was over, I was checking my e mail and wouldn't you know it!.... Another person from the distant past found me. This time it was Steve Murphy, a bandmate I haven't seen or heard from since 1977. He found me by Googling my original name and coming up on the webpage about My Old Yellow Car. It seemed American Graffiti had struck again. With that in mind I went to the closet and dug out an old model I had made of the car over twenty years ago. It got put away because the paint had faded from being in a window for too long, not to mention that some parts had fallen off and when I moved here in 2002 it just never got unpacked. So I got it out and thought about restoring it even though I knew when I did. it would still be close to what the real car was but no real cigar. You see it was made from a 1932 Ford model and my real car was a 1933 Ford and there is quite a difference in the body shape. But I thought Gee Old Steve finding me on the day I watch the film, not to mention because of the car its got to be an omen of some kind. Steve also rode in the real one and mentioned it in his e -mail ....."I remember riding down 112 in that Yellow beast! Cheap gas, big blocks, no computer chips--it doesn't get any better than that..."
The Original Memorial Day aka Decoration Day was on May 30th which also happens to be my fathers birthday. He used to say when he was a kid, he got a charge out of the parades held on his birthday. Birthday or not I always got a charge out of the Memorial Day parades in Mastic Beach when I was a kid too. My old man would of been 95 this year, but he passed away in 1991 at the pretty ripe old age of 79. Even though we had many a falling out and were estranged for the last decade he was around, I still remember May 30th and now the day after it too. For it was on May 31, 1994 that a doctor told me to get my affairs in order. A second opinion, only confirmed it with a diagnosis of perhaps two years left . ......Well it goes without saying and I'm not trying to be flip but I did pass my expiration date! and like Old Doc Royston said at The Rialto, That Shouldn't Of Happened..... but it has. But I also know all too well this past decade or so that if You Wanna Make God Laugh..... Go Ahead ..... I DARE YA....Tell Him Your Plans For Tomorrow. As I passed the 60 mark I kind of had the end of the month in mind as I hit Lucky Year # 13 of I'm Still Here. That said it was on last day of May that a total surprise package turned up on my stoop and when I saw what was inside, I thought This Shouldn't Of Happened to me!!!! but golly gee it has !!!!!!! and I'll Take It Thank You
The model came from Jack "Rut" Rutigliano , the same guy who nearly killed me when he showed me the photo of the real car he held onto for 40 years (He took it when he returned from Vietnam) for the first time last year. It only took a glance or two for me to start to realize this model was scratch built, and accurate as all hell. A phone call out to California during his work hours to say thanks a million revealed that it he started on it back in November of 2006 and although he tried to get it finished in time for the big SIX 0H ... it was just impossible. What to me was impossible was how he pulled it off. The few sly questions he would slip into our conversations over the winter gave me a hint that he might be up to something, but I never gave it a thought after the 11th had passed. As kids we both spent almost every dime we had on model cars, but Jack has taken model making to a true art form. Learning and seeing the construction photos of what it took to make this piece of art is almost as much fun and meaningful as looking at the finished product. I have them located HERE. You won't believe your eyes.
THE FINISHING TOUCH WAS THIS LIGHTED DISPLAY CASE WITH LIGHTED GAS PUMP!
And a photo of Pat & Mike's Texaco in the background. That was the home town station where I got my first tank of gas for the real car in April of 1965. The gas tank BTW is right where the real one was behind the drivers seat. The interior is just the way I remembered it. The engine detailing is downright scary! Like I said make sure you look at the construction pics.