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August 28, 2015

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POST-GAZETTE, AUGUST 28, 2015 Page 13 j a/2ntl Babb nonno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance Labor Day will be with us before we know it, but other than it being the practical end of summer, it has another significance for me. I met someone during the Labor Day weekend 40 years ago and we've been hangin' around together ever since. Babbononno always used to say, "You can't pick your relatives; you're stuck with them. But, you can pick your friends, so do it wisely." Over the years, I discovered his visions were right on tar- get. My story begins around July 4, 1973. I had been in Hollywood doing some extra work at Paramount Studios and, with the summer com- ing in, most of the produc- tion companies housed on the Paramount lot were shutting down for July and August. As a result, I decided to head home. The folks greeted me with open arms and, after settling in, I headed to East Boston to visit Babbononno. He was now in a nursing home and ready to turn 98. When I arrived at the Columbus Nursing Home on Saratoga Street, Uncle Nick was there visiting his father. The three of us chatted and, when it was time to leave, Uncle Nick said, "Oh, by the way, there's a Motown group passing through Boston minus a bass player ... you interested?" I said yes and let it go at that. A day or so later, I received a call from one of the leaders of the Uniques, a Motown group that was heading north for the summer. Eddie Jackson called at the sug- gestion of Uncle Nick. He said that the band was head- ing to Maine and needed a bass player. Knowing from what Uncle Nick had said, I told Eddie that I wasn't African-American. His com- ment was, "What color's your talent?" I replied, "What do you mean, it's colorless." He then asked, "What color's your bass guitar?" I replied, "Black." Eddie's comment was, "Close enough." So, I joined the Uniques for the summer. I did let the guys know that I would be leaving around Labor Day as I had decided to return to teach- ing in the Boston schools and playing music locally. They had no problem with my decision, and so I headed to the Portsmouth Circle, met the band at the then Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge and followed the cara- van northward to Caribou, Maine. When we arrived at the location, we brought our equipment into a supper club that was part of a motel complex. The room was large, decorated like a Vegas nightclub, and the people already in attendance having dinner were well dressed, multi-racial and many of them were in Air Force uniforms. It did not compute. As far as I knew, that part of Maine had only white people or Indians, and most were involved in Maine's potato industry. What I discovered later that evening was that there was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base in Caribou, the Loring Air Force Base, and the east coast's most strate- gic missile site. The patrons I saw were employees and servicemen and women from the base. There was nothing else in the way of entertain- ment for them except the performers at the hotel. Things went well. I fitted in and learned their tunes and routines rather quickly. The man I mentioned, Eddie Jackson, became my room- mate and we hit it off. The money was good, but as August pushed forward, I told everyone that I would be leaving around Labor Day. Around the beginning of the last week of August, Jerry Cobb, the other leader of the band, told me that a New York-based bass player was available and I could leave after the last show on that Friday evening. I was de- lighted. I had been invited to join a bunch of guys who were going to spend the holi- day weekend on the Cape. I called one of the guys and told him I would be able to make it and asked for the directions. I left Maine, stopped at the house in Belmont, packed some Cape Cod clothing and headed for Hyannis. I arrived in the middle of the night ex- hausted. Paul Blair, the friend who had invited me, showed me my bedroom and told me that there were some other folks coming later in the night. It seems that they all worked at a Bos- ton nightclub and were leav- ing after work. When they arrived, I was awakened and looked out the window. What I saw made me curious. A gray Jaguar XKE two-seater pulled up with about six people wedged into it. The driver got out and looked like a little kid with a mustache. My comment to myself was, "Oh, what the Hell," and I went back to sleep. The next morning, some- one yelled out brunch is ready. Everyone staying at the cottage headed for the kitchen, and I was intro- duced to all of them. The one who looked like a little kid with a mustache was named Dean Saluti. We sort of hit it off. He was a doctoral can- didate at Boston University, working his way through the program as a bartender at Lucifer's, one of three nightclubs located in a com- plex called The Kenmore Club situated in the middle of Kenmore Square. As the weekend pro- gressed, Dean and I had many conversations about our backgrounds, growing up in Italian families, both hav- ing multiple college degrees, and our likes and dislikes in women, muse and food. It seemed that ve were always on the same page. When the weekend came to an end, we swapped phone numbers and I headed back to Boston and returned to teaching drafting and engineering at Hyde Park High School by day and play- ing music at night. Within the week, I called Dean and told him I was playing at a nearby hotel that Saturday evening and might he be in- terested in getting a bite to eat afterward. We headed for Chinatown and a late night dinner. During our conver- sation, Dean talked me into applying for entrance to a doc- toral program at Boston Uni- versity, where he was study- ing. I already had two mas- ters' degrees and was busy teaching in Boston, playing music nights and periodi- cally heading for Hollywood when they had something for me in the way of acting. The conversation we had over dinner that night kept cropping up in my mind over the next few weeks and I decided to take one of the exams that would allow me entrance to a BU doctoral program. When I was sent a letter of congratulations by BU, I quickly picked my subject area, signed up for courses and contacted Dean to let him know I was now a BU graduate student. From that point on, we became closer friends, even double- dating when there was time. Over the course of that fall and winter I came to know many of his friends and introduced my friends to his crowd. Uncle Nick and I often worked together on weekend nights and he enjoyed hang- ing out with the younger guys whenever we headed for a late night restaurant after work. That friendship hit the 40-year mark this weekend. Dean Saluti was a grooms- man in my wedding party and I fulfilled the same obli- gation in his. For many years after we received our de- grees, we worked together in a company he put together. Today, in our senior years, we have the Sons of Italy and our antique cars to augment our lifestyles. But most of all we have the friendship that began 40 years ago, something that is rare and unique in today's world. He, his wife Margie, and I speak at least once every other day. That's something in this day and age. GOD BLESS AMERICA For information about adve~sing in tKe Post-Gazette, call 61"/'-227-8929. This and That (Continued Westernization, But it was doing so by increasing the power of the government and giving the emporer almost full control. Mussolini's army, however, soon established their own regime in the in- vaded country and Selassie was exiled by 1936. Selassie found that his ear- lier collaboration with the League of Nations came to good use and managed to gain support. In 1941, united with British forces, Selassie re- gained power, but he was a new man. He still had inter- est in modernization, but he had become extremely para- noid and distrustful after the invasion, allowing little communication with outside forces. This is one of the un- failing signs of trouble with a leader and Haile Selassie was no exception. His main priority was now not only in- creasing his control over Ethiopia, but also preserving it, Still, there was much to applaud Selassie for in the 1950s. He founded the Uni- versity College of Addis Ababa in 1950. By 1955, as part of a celebration of his twenty-five years in power, he devised a new constitution which resulted in the first general election in 1957. His only use of violence was in response to a failed government coup in 1960. Generally, Selassie was highly regarded on an inter- national scale, especially so in Africa where he became a symbol of the new Africa, its unity, and fight for inde- pendence. Selassie was so firmly established as the symbol of Pan-Africanism that, in 1963, the Organiza- tion of African Unity estab- lished its headquarters in Addis Ababa. By the following decade, however, Selassie's long reign (too long of a reign) be- gan taking a toll and he ei- ther gave up on moving from Page 3) Selassie in full uniform. Ethiopia forward or became more preoccupied with utiliz- ing what he perceived as unlimited power. In either case, many Ethiopians soon gave up on him as well. His international popularity gave him the opportunity to take many holidays on the nation's dime under the guise of being away on offi- cial business. But his squan- dering of the local economy was pretty apparent, espe- cially as Ethiopia entered dire financial straits. This reached a boiling point in 1973 when a drought killed off the nation's crop and sent Ethiopia into a devastating famine. With their compatri- ots dying of starvation, Ethio- pians would no longer toler- ate the king and his extrava- gances. With a revolt inevi- table, Selassie stepped down from power in 1974 and spent the final year of his life un- der house arrest, a sadly ironic end for a long-standing monarch who thought him- self invincible. But that may have been Haile Selassie's downfall. His power was not unconditional, as he and many rulers destined to the same fate tend to believe, but rather dependent on a popu- lace that, if ignored too long, sooner or later will reclaim the government. On the Aisle (Continued from Page 5) Nat Zagree as further in exploring the char- acter of the man who can arguably be credited for the birth of rock and roll. Though much poetic li- cense was taken in the cre- ation of this production (and I have no problem at all with that), I was puzzled by the fact that in the finale of the play, when each of the quar- tet was given a solo, Carl Perkins sang ~See You Later Alligator," the Bill Haley clas- sic. Perkins never recorded this song, and there were so many better choices that would have played tribute to Carl. "Honey Don't" and "All Mama's Children" are two Rock-a-Billy classics that come immediately to mind. Jerry Lee Lewis Million Dollar Quartet, de- spite its flaws, is still a fun night. I actually think young people who don't remember these pioneers of rock and roll will enjoy this show even more than their parents and grandparents. If you go into the theater expecting to relive that leg- endary afternoon when four poor southern boys with no formal musical education made history, you will be dis- appointed. If you sit back and relax, you will enjoy an evening of good old rock and roll. Million Dollar Quartet plays through September 19th at the Ogunquit Playhouse. Directed by Hunter Foster. 1