Category Archives: relationships

Adopting The Better Graces of The Opposite Sex.

 

 

 

© 1/2/20    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.    Please also visit Ruth Ann Scanzillo at YouTube for more indulgent pontification.

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Paul Yoculan Younger, Epic Prince of Entertainment.

 

Pop was never my thing, back then.  But, I secretly wished it could be.

Raised on two part a capella worship music, sung by the untrained, first listening to my father croon into my ears while he fed me the bottle I always had an affinity for a grown man who could really sing.

Paul was definitely grown. His skin betrayed his age, but he still wore a shag to the shoulders as if it were the coolest, and a denim jacket same.  And I think, but I’m not sure, that the day I stepped into Larry’s basement for my keyboard “audition” he might have already been there.

The Classmates were a vocal quartet of high school friends circa 1957, which was the year I was born. Frank, Jim, Larry, and Ronnie, three out of four second generation Italian and one black American with voices to blend. But, Paul was their friend, and became a final set fixture at nearly all our gigs. The reason he was in that set was because we always closed with “Peppermint Twist”/”SHOUT” – and, these were his signatures. Paul had spent his heyday singing them with his band, The Epics, both in Vegas and at the “World Famous Peppermint Lounge” – in New York City. The Epics were the band The Beatles came to see and hear after they played New York. It’s true; look it up.

I’d always had a solo voice, of sorts, suited for weddings and funerals, a solid Debby Booner. But, when our tenor couldn’t quite carry the Frankie Valli leads, and Frank asked me if I could, these became my own semi-signature tunes from behind the keyboard for the second set. “Big Girls Don’t Cry”; “Sherry, Baby”; my choice, the Ronnie Spector “It’s My Party” and, nod to the Beatles, “Twist and Shout”.

To Paul, I was probably the furthest cry from a female singer. I didn’t dress the part and, worse, I didn’t carry it. Frank had saddled me in the shoes of the same name when I produced my own pair and, when he acquired royal blue bowling shirts with white cuffs and collar for the guys, I got one too – along with one each of the violet and pink ruffled tuxedo long sleeves to match with black pants.

Never sure if this were on consult or his own idea, but one day Paul had me come over to his house and meet him in his basement. He wanted to coach me into singing lead. Out front. Like a real girl singer.

His wife, sweet and accommodating, provided iced tea on a serving tray. I squirmed. This man sucked on a Throat Disc and wailed like his life depended on it; how could I possibly learn from him? Ah. The arrogance of youth.

I actually don’t remember all of what happened during that session. He told me stories of his days in the circuit, and we listened to some forty fives and he talked about style. I concluded that I was probably the only female singer he’d ever met who would not be groomed for the front. He must have been convinced; we never met again, over iced tea or anything else.

But, what we did do was play out. Paul got us the best work in the big bars. He’d always be our finisher, and he was so good at it – stirring the crowd into a frenzy, pushing his cords until I thought they would just splinter out every time, I was content to crank the keyboard bass until the woofers jumped from the floor and ride all the way to the end on that Roland Hammond B3 preset like a boss. I was so happy just to be part of his show.

Paul’s show kept on, too. Long after I left that band to accept my first public school teaching job, he’d still be found singing. Few of us musicians knew he also coached baseball, and well enough to do so for major high school programs in our region. But, he would not stop singing. That voice which, to my ear and experienced vocal nodes, was always on its last legs just never gave out.

I don’t know what happened, really. Something about a heart problem, requiring major surgery, and complications, and the ICU, and then death. How does that occur, in our time, anymore? Yeah. Paul was 82. But, from the first time and every time I’d seen him over the years he was always, already older than me, old – but young. Younger than all the rest. Paul Younger.

Rest in Peace, you old crooner. Or, keep on wailing. It’s your call, Paul. You were our prince of Pop.

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© 12/29/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose first hand story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Please respect this tribute, exactly as it is written. Thanks.

 

 

The Good Family.

 

The best of families live.

In denial.

They have memories of storybook clans, or those they knew from afar. In more recent years, many have taken TV sit coms as models. But, whatever the persuasion, families which remain intact enough to celebrate a holiday together know the meaning of turning a blind eye.

They look the other way when the drunkard shows up. Nobody talks openly about the homosexual, particularly if any one of them can’t see the point. The children who wreak havoc and break things are found to entertain their grandparents’ peals of laughter.

The single young adults who arrive late and forget presents are praised for their hairdos and shoes. The sloppy and overweight are given the best easy chairs, the nervous the napkins and silverware to arrange, and the most chatty the smiles and nods of oblivious disregard.

The best food gets all the praise because why bother, otherwise? Everybody flies in to eat, after all, and all those outside of strict Fundamentalism to drink. Any thoughts of hierarchy of importance, i.e. whose children are the smartest, the prettiest, or the strongest are kept quite private, to be discussed later in hotel rooms or upstairs at the homestead.

The best families tell jokes, and with very great finesse. All debate or disagreement is soundly tabled in favor of palate pleasing platitude. Hugs are felt, peculiar smells at close range tastefully ignored, chin hairs noted in stoic silence.

And, somehow, by the time the plates have been filled, the dinner consumed, and the left overs packed in take home carry ons, all are convinced that theirs was the best celebration ever. All are immensely proud of their own comportment,  their positive attitude,  their polite if pretensive compassion, their wit, personality, and enthusiasm for life.  Each one hopes to be thought of by every one present as the friendliest, warmest, most desirable relative in the room.  Each one’s wish is that theirs will be the family which endures to survive another year.

They all know this, each in their own hearts because, without a willingness to carry on, the alternative is unthinkable. They opt, in a world which breeds hatred, violence, loneliness, and isolation to pretend that, at any moment, they might all be saved from it.

Whatever it takes, theirs will be the good family.

And to this they hold on.

For dear life.

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Happy Holidays!

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© 12/15/19    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.    All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Neither copying, in whole or part, nor translation permitted. Thank you for respecting original creative material. You are the better person.

littlebarefeetblog.com