Friday, May 22, 2015

T-Bone and Jilly

I am turning over this space to one Timothy "T-Bone" Stone.He is my go-to man on the 88s. He can make a Hammond B-3 beg for mercy ... and he tells some great war stories. Sure, all musicians have them. But this is one of my all-time favorites. Here we go, gang.

Late 80s... Atlantic City Trump Plaza... The Lounge Therein...

As the Jay Stollman Orchestra wound up their set in the lounge, a rather burly but well dressed gent approached the stage, adjusted his tie and cleared his throat, then announced brusquely "Mr Jilly Rizzo has invited Jay and his band to Memories in Margate directly following their performance at Trump Lounge for drinks and bracciole."

Puzzled looks ricocheted off the band members faces: Who in hell was Jilly Rizzo? And was Luca Brasi inviting us to dine or die? This was Jersey after all. Little Nicky Scarfa, bodies in Brigantine, the real deal!! Jay filled us in with the vital 411: He got the casino gig thru an AC cop who did security for Ol Blue Eyes when he rolled thru town. And Jilly was Franks valet/go-to guy for a gazillion years. If the Old Man wanted Eggs Benny at 4:30 in the morning in Duluth, Jilly made it so. Guessing Jilly was lonely that night, heard about the band thru the cop, and needed a party, hence the invite.

So off we go to Memories in Margate. We arrive to see a replica of the 2001 Odyssey from Saturday Night Fever and a line of perfectly coiffed and garbed Tonys and Darlenes wrapping around the block like a polyester python. Remember this was the LATE 80s; these kids obviously hadn't heard...

Now by this time the band had reverted to their street dress after the gig: jeans, tees, etc. which drew jeers and withering Mansonesque stares from those awaiting entrance. A particularly ominous character sporting a lime green rayon jumpsuit and Big Boy Burger hair jabbed me on the arm and growled: "Backadaline, Jerry!" As in Garcia. Hoots and cackling ensued from his equally synthetic posse.

But wait: a massive arm shot out from behind the velvet rope, jabbed Lime Green in the sternum and a stern warning rolled over the crowd: "Shut yer pie hole, Gino, dissis Mr Rizzos party!" The velvet rope goes up and in we go, waved in by the same arm that shut Gino's pie hole. How exciting!! Much grumbling from the line, but hey, we're in with the Jillster. You folks will just have to wait your turn... It's out to the VIP pergola for Jay and the boys!

So here is our host dressed more like us than "them": blue satin Frank jacket with Jilly stitched on left breast, Yankees cap, black v-neck tee, sensible khakis and red Nikes, a cigar larger than his head wedged comfortably in his jaw. Big smiles, hugs to Jay, pats on shoulders to the band, sit, eat, drink!! Gotta admit Jilly was a gracious and generous host, to a bunch of Connecticut hairbillies he never met before. The Blue Label flowed like Toms River, and although the bracciole got stuck in traffic, a grand time was had by all.

Best moment: Mr Rizzo pulls me aside (he spoke to every single band member in turn) and regales me with some saucy road tales, Ratpack and Vegas, showgirls et al. Suddenly, his face veiled in melancholy, the man turns to me and speaks softly...

"Y'know sumpin, T-Bird (he never once got my nickname right).... Nobody swings anymore..."

The words hung on the summer night air like the industrial discharge emanating from the business end of his Macanudo, and a little tear creeped out of the corner of his eye. I don't think truer words had ever been offered before or since.

RIP Jilly. Thanks for a great night! It was a privilege and an honor to hang with you and hear the tales of the elders. An era died when you and Frank passed on... You were right; NOBODY swings anymore...

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