Aug 08, 2014 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
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.
George also performed regularly at Le Moyne Manor, 629 Old Liverpool Road, owned by the late Frank Montanaro. “Frank ran a world-class club and was a wonderful person to work for. He was like a brother to me.”
George remembers how Frank read the riot act to a young comedian named George Carlin, convincing him to clean up his act. Other big-name entertainers such as Della Reese and Lou Monte also booked gigs at the Manor. Monte had burst onto the music scene with his cover of an old jazz tune, “Darktown Strutters’ Ball,” but became famous in 1962 when he scored
a million-seller with “Pepino the Italian Mouse.”
Tortorelli certainly has plenty of material for the book he’s writing called “From Scars to Stars: From the Ring to the Stage.”
Cops on Top
Customers at Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 57 saw an unusual sight last Friday. Liverpool Police Chief Don Morris and new part-time Officer Tom Bingham stood on the roof of the popular donut shop.
They were there on their own time raising money for the Special Olympics as part of a program called Cops on Top. Dunkin’ Donuts offered guests a coupon for a free cup of coffee as a way to say thanks for donating.
Elks rock out Sunday
The Liverpool Elks are well-experienced at raising money. The Elks’ 26th annual Music Fest will benefit Enable and Cerebral Palsy when four fine bands — Mood Swing, Kat Tale, Dixie Dirt and Soul Mine — take the stage from noon to 6 p.m. outside the lodge at 3730 Cold Springs Road. Admission costs just $5; 622-2348.
DeSantis swings Monday
For 67 years now, pianist Mario DeSantis has been leading his orchestra to entertain Central New Yorkers everywhere from parties to parks. On Monday, Aug. 11, the swingin’ big band returns to Johnson Park in Liverpool as part of the 2014 Liverpool Is The Place Summer Concert Series.
Monday’s featured vocalists will be Maria DeSantis and Liverpool native Keith Condon along with the “DeSantis tomorrow’s stars,” singers Michael Ranalli and Brianna Condon (Keith’s daughter) and saxophonist Dunham Hall. Alto sax master Joe Riposo, the former director of Jazz Studies at Syracuse University who lives in Liverpool, will also be showcased.
Then on Wednesday, Aug. 13, Liverpool Is The Place will pay tribute to its late program director, Mike Casale, during a performance by one of his favorite classic rock bands, Smokin,’ starring vocalist Janice Wilson.
The tunes continue at Johnson Park at 7 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday through Aug. 20, and the concerts are all free; liverpoolistheplace.com.