Friday, October 16, 2009

When Joe Met The Chairman Of The Board

from Joe Bruno
I owned a car service/limousine business in the late 1970's, that I ran from my lot (Bruno's Parking Lot). But I also got a lot of work from the Downtown Athletic Club.
One time I got Jackie Cooper for a few weeks. He was one of the original Young Rascals in the 1930's movies. Had a TV program in the 50's called The People Choice, with the talking basset hound.
Around 1978, Cooper (Real name was Italian) was directing a TV movie in NY city. He was staying the DAC, which had 15 floors of hotel rooms. I was a member there. Rudy Riska got me in. You had to be recommended by 2 members, and Rudy supplied them for me.
I think Cooper liked me because I was Italian. He knew I was writing part time at the time, and that I came from Little Italy.
I'd pick him up every night around 5pm, then take him to different restaurants around town. This went on for a few weeks. Wherever he went, he sent food out to me in the limo where I was waiting for him.
One night I took him to PJ Clarke's, on 3rd Ave and 55 St. There was a side entrance on 55th Street, which led right to the dinning room area. The front entrance led to the bar.
I parked on 55th street, and sat, waiting. A few minutes later, the waiter came out and told me Mr. Cooper wanted to see me inside. I said I could not leave my limo unattended. The waiter said he'd take care of it, and asked for my key's. There was a lot close by, and me parked my limo there.
I go inside and Cooper is sitting at a table, with Frank Sinatra and Jilly Rizzo. I knew Jilly from his bar Jilly's on 52nd Street and 8th Avenue. Just to say hello and goodbye.
I went to Jilly's all the time. A older woman from the neighborhood tended bar there. I forget her name. But she was beautiful. She was one of my car service customers too.
Cooper told me to sit down and introduced me to Sinatra. The waiter handed me a menu and I ate and drank soda.
Sinatra said he heard I was from Little Italy and did I know the Lime House, on the corner northeast of Mott and Bayard. Two entrances. The main on Bayard, and the other on Mott. It was like Vincents. Only shell fish, with a full bar.
I said I went there all the time. In fact, 10 years earlier I was engaged to a girl whose father Bobby was the bartender there
Sinatra said he knew Bobby.
Sinatra said used to go there late at night with Jilly. Near closing time. Jilly called in advance, and the place was always empty by the time he got there. Then they'd lock the doors and he's stay there until the wee hours of the morning, like his song.
I was there maybe 45 minutes and talked only when spoken too, which is real hard for me. I just listened to what they had to say.
When we were ready to leave, I shook hands with Sinatra and Jilly. The waiter got my limo, and I drove Cooper back to the DAC.
The Lime House closed down in the 80's. It's now a Chinese something-or-another.
Like everything else in Little Italy.