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Sinatra in Fort Lee

Sinatra in Fort Lee

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I'd like to share my column fro this week--it's also an excerpt from a book of short stories I'm working on about growing up in the late '60's/70's.
I'd like to share my column fro this week--it's also an excerpt from a book of short stories I'm working on about growing up in the late '60's/70's.

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Published by: Ann Meyers Piccirillo on Dec 03, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/02/2009

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SINATRA IN FORT LEE—Part 1
By Ann PiccirilloGrowing up in Fort Lee in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, I was weaned onstories about the mob, and stories about Frank Sinatra. It’s no secret that the mobhad a powerful presence in Fort Lee (Anastasia, Adonis…) because of, not despiteof, the fact that it was a really small town. However, not just
any
small town; atown filled with many exits--the George Washington Bridge, New JerseyTurnpike, Route 80, Palisades Interstate Parkway, and Route 46. No doubt aboutit-- Fort Lee was a great place to make a quick get-away from, which is why (I believe) many notable mobsters chose to live there.Then there was Frank Sinatra who bought a house for his mother, Dolly, onAbbott Boulevard in Fort Lee. My Uncle Joey, who had been a professional baseball player, was often invited to Dolly Sinatra’s elaborate parties. I used toeavesdrop on his stories about the eclectic group of people Dolly regularlygathered together; I particularly enjoyed hearing about the men who made a profession out of having no profession. Now, I’m not suggesting that Dolly Sinatrawas “connected” but those who
were
connected wanted to connect with her inorder to connect with her son, and that gave me access to their world vis-à-vis myUncle Joey.
 
In fact, Uncle Joey, along with a lot of the local guys and made men, used todrink with Frank’s father, Marty, down at
 Frank’s Cozy Bar 
--
 
a neighborhoodhang-out that discreetly sat on Palisade Avenue in Fort Lee just at the edge of “ThePalisades,” which was, and still is, the swankiest section of town. As bars went, Iwas never fond of 
 Frank’s,
although Gloria his barmaid was aces with me; kidsannoyed Frank and that annoyed me. Anyway, I was more of a
 Krieger’s
or 
Yellow Front Saloon
girl.Like I said, Uncle Joey was invited to many parties at the Sinatra’s houseand I loved listening to him as he unearthed the details to Grandma while sitting ather kitchen table with the plastic floral tablecloth. He spoke of mod, starch-hairedwomen with brightly painted turquoise eyes thickly outlined in black liner wearingsequined mini-dresses who would pile their furs onto Dolly’s King-sized bedmaking the bedroom look like a pile of fresh road kill, albeit, very expensive roadkill; thick-necked, scar-faced men dressed in coffin-lined silk suits doused inexpensive cologne who drank nothing but single-malt Scotch in cut-crystal bourbon glasses; the ladies’ mammoth diamond rings, necklaces, bracelets andearrings sparkling like a swarm of neurotic fireflies, their brilliant flames flickeringand leaping onto and off of the gleaming porcelain bodies of the Catholic saintsthat filled the empty spaces of Dolly’s ornate living room. These characters that
 
 peopled Uncle Joey’s stories became for me the Prince Charming’s andCinderella’s that other girls dreamed of.As I inconspicuously listened to Uncle Joey’s Johnny Walker Black-tobacco-chaffed voice tell these tales, I would close my eyes and pretend that itwas me elegantly glittering in my sequined dress sipping Asti-Spumante from adelicately carved crystal champagne flute laughing as Dolly Sinatra whisperedclosely held secrets about Frank into my ear.At the age of four-years old I knew I was living an exciting life. I mean,what other kid my age heard men tell stories that the mob
allegedly
favored thesouthern perimeter of Palisades Amusement Park because the screams from theCyclone roller coaster drowned out the sound of people getting whacked? Whatother pre-kindergartner knew from an original source, who drank 
Crown Royal 
with Ava Gardner while Frank performed at the swank 
 Riviera
nightclub in FortLee, that Ava was a first-class
come si chiama
who was prejudiced againstItalians? What other pre-kindergartner poured whiskey sours for retired World War I veterans while standing on a red plastic milk crate behind the bar at theV.F.W.???

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