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In 1949, as an aspiring singer, I was fortunate enough to perform with some of the great stars of the day (including Frank Sinatra)at a benefit performance. I still have the newspaper clippings of that remarkable night!

I had had some notoriety as a singer in my hometown of Jersey City, N.J. and was called upon to perform whenever there was a special occasion, to represent the City.

There was a large Italian representation in the city, some of whom, including my father, had been appointed to serve in various political positions by the newly elected and highly controversial Mayor, John V. Kenny.

Many famous celebrities of that day had their roots in Jersey City and Hudson County and never failed to respond to a call from City Hall, to "bring their pals" and perform for worthy causes. As we lived just across the river from New York City, we were only a short ride from where they were performing in the hot nightclubs of the day.

In 1949, The Mayor, with an eye to consolidating his hold on the city (and insuring the Italian vote in future elections) responded to a call from the Mayor of an obscure little town in Italy...Capricotta...to see if we could provide a snowplow for the town as their previous one had been blown up in the war. Their roads became impassable every winter, due to the above average snowfall every year.

The Mayor responded by appointing a committee to oversee a huge benefit concert to be held in November of that year, not only to provide said snowplow, but to send someone to accompany it to instruct them on how to use it. He also called in favors owed from his showbiz pals, including Dolly Sinatra...Frank's mom...to head the entertainment division. What followed was sheer pandemonium and the biggest success the city had ever had. I was recruited to open the program with the National Anthem and another selection later on in the program. At the time the plans were first formulated, I was seven months pregnant and expected my baby to be born in plenty of time for me to recover. However, Nature didn't cooperate, and I gave birth just 10 days before the big event.

The afternoon of the concert, I was a guest on the television show "OK MOTHER," which was hosted by Dennis James...a hometown boy who had made good hosting game shows and his own afternoon talk show. He would be the host of this evening's festivities. His introduction of me was priceless. My mother was one of the first women Funeral Directors in New Jersey at that time, and my Father was a Detective Sargeant. He greeted me warmly on stage and said of me: "Her father shoots them...her mother buries them...and she sings at the funeral!" The audience laughed uproariously while I sat there wanting to hide.

He reminisced about growing up in Jersey City and being told by my father, to "move along...don't loiter on the street corner...and don't be late for school!" For which, he now admitted, he was grateful because he could never get into trouble, as he had my father's eyes upon him all the time.

I hurried home to my baby, who was being taken care of by assorted relatives, fed him and rushed to get ready for the big night. (Ah youth...what stamina!)

The event was being held in the Armory, the largest venue available at the time, and I arrived to find thousands of people, clutching autograph books, lining up to get into the cavernous hall. Photographers lights were popping everywhere, and as each celebrity alighted from their limousine, the cries would go up from the crowds.

Inching my way backstage escorted by security police who, by the way, were just as curious as the rest of us, I ran into (literally) Frank Sinatra who, surrounded by police and his entourage, had fought his way through the crowd just ahead of me. Here is the roster for that evening...some of these names may not be familiar to you today, but I think you might know some of them for sure:

Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Milton Berle. Joey Adams, Perry Como, Dennis James, Richard Conte Joe Louis, Jean Darling, Phil Rizzuto, Rocky Graziano, Gus Lesnevich (prize fighter)Toni Arden, (singer) and many more, whose names escape me at the moment. A veritable who's who in the entertainment world at that time. And here I was, just a young girl, starry eyed...shaking hands with most of them...it was like a dream that was not to be believed.

One of the highlights of the evening (besides the obvious...Frank Sinatra) was the performance by Jimmy Durante, who brought the audience to its feet with his ridiculous antics, by tearing up the music and flinging it to the audience, which was his trademark, as he sang "Inky Dinky Doo." Much to my embarrassment, he commandeered me and a young man to participate in this madness with him! For you young 'uns, he was a poplular comedian...a star of stage, movies and his own television show.

I was never overly nervous whenever I performed...I rather enjoyed the tension, but that evening was an exception...I had never entertained in such illustrious company before, and I dreaded going on stage...sure that I would make a fool of myself. However, that old adage "the bigger they are...the nicer they are...proved to be valid. Dolly Sinatra, Frank's mother, who was on the committee, had heard me sing before and assured me I would be able to hold my own and to this day, I'm convinced she passed the word along, because when I came off stage after my first number, she and Richard Conte (the actor) who were waiting in the wings to make speeches,, gave me a big hug and shoved me back out there!

As expected, when Frank Sinatra took the stage, pandemonium erupted and all the women in the audience, some not so young by the way, rushed toward the stage and had to be restrained by the security guards. Imediately after his performance, he was spirited away through the back door before the concert ended.

Needless to say, the event was a huge success and raised over $20,000, (a large amount of money in those days) and two weeks later, the Plow cum driver, was on its way to Italy, just before the bad weather set in for the winter.

Everyone was happy...the town got its plow, the entertainers reveled in the publicity it generated for them, the Mayor's Italian vote was assured...and as for me...it was the most memorable night of my life!



Copyright2004 Beatrice Boyle
(All rights reserved)


------
Grandma Bea


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Comments

The following comments are for "A Night to Remember"
by Beatrice Boyle

snow plows and songs
Beatrice:

What a fantastic story! I would have loved to have been there, except I would have been minus 8 years old. I do remember all the stars you named though.

With a life-long memory like that I can imagine when you get the blues all you need do is close your eyes and think back to that day.

A couple of things really stand out to me: first, that the cops used to look out for the people -- now they are so busy they can't afford the time to be personal. Second, that show biz folks were closer to the crowd, always took time to give a hug to someone, or just be real. Now it seems the entertainment industry pays too much attention to the 'bling' thing and so wrapped up with sensationalism. There are still a lot of them who can be real, and who have real talent, but far too many who live off of the music video culture that they've lost contact.

Now I feel like listening to Sinatra.

Great story, thanks for sharing it.

BW

( Posted by: bwoz [Member] On: March 4, 2009 )

A fantastic night!!
Brian...long time no read! Are you and your muse so cozily coupled that you don't have time to post? We miss you!

Thanks for reading my memories of a fantastic night!

There aren't many of us left that remember the "good ole days" before the sixties engulfed us and Vietnam changed our world here as we know it! Civility among our public servents has long disappeared...and patriotism has become a dirty word!

As for the entertainers...They want our money, but not our hand shake or request for an autograph! Poetry has become street rap...music has become shouting (the louder the better) and school has become a shooting gallery!

You can have your Ipod..cell phone and botox...I'd rather have cops I can trust, neighbors who look out for everybody's children and a job that GUARANTEES that your pension woun't disappear when the company goes belly up (which as I recall...they never did!)

Call me old fashioned!

Bea

( Posted by: Beatrice Boyle [Member] On: March 5, 2009 )

Bea
Thanks for sharing this . It is such a joy to read. I sometimes wish ( futilely ) that many more would write honestly and straightforwardly . Instead of falling back on arcane and arty styles - that few can comprehend. If ever. Those like us ,it's clear, are a fast-vanishing breed.

Depending on when it happened ,i was either to be born -or just born.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: March 7, 2009 )

Thanks Jacob...It WAS fantastic night!
I always love reading personal, REAL bios of the people I read here and elsewhere...to get to know them better.

This occurred in 1949 when I was 21! Even if you were born a couple of years later, you could possible remember some of these names. You grew up in the 50's...perhaps spent your teens in the 60's and didn't trust people like me (over 30!) perhaps even wore a t-shirt proclaming that fact!
lol!

Welcome to senior citizenship baby boomer!

Bea

( Posted by: Beatrice Boyle [Member] On: March 7, 2009 )

Bea
I was born towards the end of that year. Looking back one was just too caught up in other more enticing things . So ,in my own ethos to trust or not was simply not an issue . One simply didn't even think about such things.

One thing i'll say though ( again in retrospect) : we were truly fortunate in having an older generation that ( despite being quite stern in laying down the law) were really good to us , and genuinely cared about us and our well being.

Today's younger generation are pampered (materially) and molly coddled far more than is really good for them.In contrast many in our generation were thrown into the deep end - to sink or swim .

But it's not as if all this happened overnight. In fact this particular syndrome has been getting worse and worse with each passing year : in tandem with ever increasing levels of prosperity.

(And we thought Benjamin Spock was 'bad' in making softies out of the lot of us !)

Final thought : our 'senior citizenship' is hardly the walk through Elysian fields that we'd have expected it to be . On the contrary it's more like being trapped between Scylla and Charybdis.

( Posted by: RJKT [Member] On: March 7, 2009 )

A Night to Remember
Thanks for sharing this insight into the way it was. It seems the community spirit was so strong back then that people could really make it with the positive influences surrounding them. I am age 60 and have moved to the neighborhood of my husband's childhood. It is friendly and has a back then friendly, safe feeling about it Some people on our street have lived in their homes for 50 years. Its true that the great ones in the arts can be the most open to newcomers since their positions are secure they are not competitive and more likely to be supportive. Much joy to you as you share your reminiscences with we who read about you. Stephanie

( Posted by: EchoMarm [Member] On: April 2, 2009 )

I remember some
Dennis James comes to mind on a show with the dancing cigarette pack. Old Golds I think. And of course Jimmy Durante, Joe Louis and lots of the others. You were truly amony the bright stars. What a wonderful talent you had to have been like you still are. We rub elbows with true greatness. James

( Posted by: jamesgooch [Member] On: July 30, 2011 )

You made my day James!
Thanks James for your effusive compliments...but my children would double over in laughter to read them!

Thanks for the ego trip!

Bea

( Posted by: Beatrice Boyle [Member] On: July 30, 2011 )





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