Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.
 

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.
 

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz.  (See you.)
 

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.
 

Stratton is an occasional contributor to the New York Times, the Times of Israel, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and City Journal. He won two Hopwood Awards.


 
 

TWO GUYS FROM CLEVELAND

Italians have great names, grant them that. The best name from my old neighborhood was Bocky Boo DiPasquale.  Bocky led a band, Bocky and the Visions, a local version of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Bocky Boo was a pre-Beatles greaser with a strong regional following; he got significant air play on Cleveland radio and on Detroit’s CKLW.

Bocky Boo, second from left, early 1960s

The Bock became a Cleveland legend. I, however, was too young to grasp Bocky’s vision. I didn’t listen to his music. I just knew his name and wondered, Can Bocky Boo be real?

I knew an Alfred Mastrobuono. Real.

I knew Carmen Yafanaro. Real.

Ralph Dodero. Real.

Bocky Boo’s real name was Robert DiPasquale.

Robby Stamps — another musician from my high school — knew The Bock and all other local bands, past or present.  Stamps was a rocker, riding the first wave of psychedelia. (Robby’s sister incidentally was Penny Stamps.)

Stamps never showed up at high school reunions. He said the Italian greasers would harass him for being a radical. Stamps was a misher — a meddler — more than a radical. He was always around the action, like Zelig. Stamps was shot in the buttock at Kent State on May 4, 1970.

After graduating Kent, Stamps worked jobs as an adjunct faculty member in Hawaii, California and Florida. He majored in sociology and Spanish.  Stamps was half Jewish — an oddity in the 1960s. Back then you were generally all Jewish, or you weren’t. Robby’s father was Floyd(Not a Jew.) 

Robby Stamps, 1996, at Kent State

Stamps hung around with just about everybody in high school: racks (aka greasers, dagos), white-bread American kids (aka squids, collegiates) and Jews (aka Jews).  Stamps was an emissary between the various groups; he had a pisk (big mouth), played music and was fearless — except at reunions.

Stamps wasn’t part of the “in” crowd or the “out” crowd. Stamps was his own man. He  scribbled “pseudo-freak” on the photo of a hippie poseur in my yearbook.

In middle age, Stamps developed every kind of illness: Crohn’s, Lyme Disease and pneumonia, plus he had the May 4 bullet wound. He died in 2008 at 58.

If Stamps had come to the reunions, he probably would have shed light — some sociology — on the  cliques.  Stamps’ perspective was sarcastic, bitter and funny.  He would have said something like: “See those Jews at the bar, those guys wore penny loafers in seventh grade without pennies in them, and yelled at me because I put pennies in mine.   They threw pennies on the floor.  If you picked up the pennies, you were a ‘cheap Jew.’ I threw pennies. I worked both sides of the street.”

In 1988 Bocky Boo was shot and killed in a bar. The cops — some who had grown up with The Bock — tried hard to find Bocky’s killer. There was even a website, whokilledbocky, for a few years ago. (Now down. ) No Luck.  The Bock and Stamps didn’t stick around.

Well, that’s one thing I can say about that boy, he gotta go.
–Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “Born in Chicago,” lyrics by Nick Gravenites

Tombstone Eyes

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11 comments

1 Kenny G { 05.02.12 at 9:47 am }

Video reminds me of some of the “moves” made by male African- American groups of the ’60s and ’70s.

2 Irwin Weinberger { 05.02.12 at 1:12 pm }

Brought back memories of some of the greasers in my hometown of Euclid. Vitalis and Brylcreem really created a shine.

Stamps sounds like a great guy. I admire people who use their own road map to define their life and aren’t ruled by the particular group they identify with.

Nice writing, Bert!

3 Mark Schilling { 05.02.12 at 7:14 pm }

Stamps gave you and me a tour of the Kent State battlefield not long after the shootings. Probably the only time I ever met the guy. But I’ve dined out on that I-met-a-Kent-State-survivor story for decades.

4 Garry Kanter { 05.02.12 at 11:28 pm }

…and the award for Most Shallow Kent State Shooting comment goes to…

5 Kenny G { 05.03.12 at 10:29 am }

My Brighton H.S., suburb of Rochester, was a lot like Shaker Heights H.S. at the time and approx. 40% Jewish. Remainder some W.A.S.P., with sprinkling of Italian background and “other.”

We had the Alaimo siblings and cousins, for example, with one reputed to go out with the singer Connie Francis in CA.

My worst enemy in 6th grade was George Spinelli; his father was known as Duke Spinner, who had been a musician and ran a music store downtown near the Eastman Theatre.

My 2nd worst enemy in 6th grade was a Jack Trumbetta….

We had some “greasers” and leather-jacket types, but not too many (virtually none of the Jews), compared to the Rochester high schools, and probably several other suburbs. These individuals comprised much of the crowd who hung out on the “smoking slab” behind the school.

With the rest of us, the guys had to wear loafers (penny or otherwise – usually the latter, like Rabbi Skoff wears) every day, with white athletic socks – often if wearing a sportscoat and tie (very thin, of course), too (e.g. “Senior Dress Up Days”).

Girls typically wore the loafers and often white socks, too. Guys’ slacks usually of the Levi’s type and khaki, green, black, or maybe white. Full dyed blue jeans became big junior or senior year. All had to be on the tight side, even with sportscoat.

For the males, facial hair and longer sideburns, earrings, briefcases or backpacks – unheard of. Could never walk with books in front, either.

Starting in my 11th grade (1964 – after British Invasion), though, many started combing or letting the hair go over the forehead. Overall short, though.

6 jack { 05.03.12 at 12:39 pm }

penny stamps as in penny stamps lecture series? heavy

7 Bert Stratton { 05.03.12 at 3:01 pm }

To Jack:

I don’t know if Penny Stamps from Cleveland is the same one who donated money to start the Penny Stamps lecture series at the U. of Michigan.

I just spent five minutes Googling “Penny W. Stamps” and came up with nada interesante.

8 Mark Schilling { 05.07.12 at 6:01 am }

On another shallow note, my former hometown of Ellwood City, PA (1963-66) once boasted of having the biggest Sons of Italy chapter west of the Alleghenies (it was painted right on the side of a downtown building). That’s where I had my first decent Italian food, studied Latin with the estimable Vincent Sgro and went to classes with kids named Statti, Mazzant, Rossi, Giancola and Agostinelli. One I remember in particular was Leo “the Leopard” Leopardi — though he didn’t live up to his name, unfortunately.

BTW, no one ever actually invited me to dinner to hear that Kent State anecdote, and I haven’t told it to anyone since about 1990, since that was about the last time Kent State came up in conversation. (I have not, to my knowledge, ever told it out of the blue.) I just wanted to use “I’ve dined out on…” in a sentence. Which sounds shallow, I know…

9 Howard Zuckerman { 12.12.12 at 8:43 pm }

Robbie was in my Cub Scout Den 212. Stevie Robbin’s younger brother stapled his finger once.

He sat next to me in Chemistry and we wrote down every Little Rascal’s episode we could remember ( yum yum eaten up). I still have the list in my archives. He was a great guy. He will be missed.

10 charlene dipasquale { 03.11.13 at 3:06 pm }

I miss my uncle bocky.. he was part of my life.. cleveland mowtown was part of our lives… forever..Char

11 Mel { 12.14.14 at 2:02 pm }

Um…. African -American? NO. Bock was FULL BLOOD ITALIAN. Don’t ever disrespect that. PLEASE.

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