Liverpool The village welcomed the swingin’ Sixties because George Tortorelli knew how to swing.
The former boxer who lived in Liverpool on Tulip Street near the cemetery had become a musician, a bass player who excelled as a bandleader and master of ceremonies.
Using the stage name George Orelli, he worked at all of Central New York’s top nightclubs, from Andre’s Tic Toc Club down city to Three Rivers Inn north of here where he accompanied touring stars such as Connie Francis, Louis Armstrong and Jimmy Durante.
Now 80 and living in Florida, George reminisced with me over lunch a few weeks ago while he visited his old stomping grounds here. He recalled bringing Durante to the village to meet George Schreiner, the owner of Three Saints, at 105 First St., where The Great Schnozzola enjoyed a delicious dinner.
“I also bowled a few games with Peter Lawford at the Flamingo Bowl,” George told me. Lawford, the British-born film star who was a member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, was playing at Three Rivers. “Peter was looking for something to do to during the day before he did his shows in the evening.”
Burgers at Tarbe’s
George brought several stars to eat hamburgers and French fries at Tarbe’s Grill, the First Street bar owned by my father and his brothers. My dad got to meet singer Ketty Lester, whose 1962 hit, “Love Letters” was revived in the 1986 David Lynch film, “Blue Velvet.”
Dad shook hands with folksinger Leon Bibb who’d performed at the very first Newport Folk Festival in 1959 and also appeared on TV shows including “Hootenanny” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.” As a member of the group known as The Skifflers, Bibb performed songs such as “Stewball,” “Michael Rode the Boat Ashore” and “Midnight Special.”
When Marie “The Body” McDonald came to town, George took her to White Castle down city. Marie was a movie star who had appeared in films such as 1942’s “Pardon My Sarong” and 1963’s “Promises, Promises.” She was used to making promises. Marie had been married six times.