By Barbara Ann Zippi
Jazz pianist, singer and sometime member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, South Philadelphia-born Armando Joseph Greco, better known as Buddy Greco, died in January in Las Vegas. He lived on the 2000 block of S. Chadwick St. His mother, the former Carmela Piedimonte, and his father, Joseph, a wood finisher and freelance opera critic, had a show on the Italian-language radio station WPEN, where Buddy made his singing debut as a boy. Greco’s swinging renditions of “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Mr. Lonely” and “Around the World” were hits in the early 1960s. His lifestyle on the road 30 weeks a year with a tuxedo pressed and ready for the spotlight continued until he was 87.
Another loss in January, Mary Tyler Moore was a national icon and inspiration to many as a diabetes advocate. Baby-boomer women are in newsrooms across the country because of her. Today’s young fashion writers like Elizabeth Wellington from The Inquirer credit Moore as a style-setter from her days as Laura Petrie in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” wearing cigarette pants and ballet flats at a time when creators wanted her to wear a dress to vacuum. Her groundbreaking role as Mary Richards living life as a single woman, supporting her lifestyle moving up the ranks in the male-dominated workforce inspired many young girls along with helping women develop a fashion style in the working world. To create her look producers hired fashion designer such as Evan-Picone.
Philadelphia newscaster Pat Ciarrocchi remembers emulating Mary Tyler Moore as a young woman.
“I had almost forgotten this … when I moved into my first apartment in Hagerstown, Md., the first thing I put up on the wall was a giant ‘P’ — just like Mary’s ‘M.’ It defined that I was making my mark on the world. Thanks, Mary.”
Italian-American performers certainly make their mark, whether behind the scenes or performing at Super Bowl 51, as did Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga. She literally “blew the roof off” the football stadium. This songwriter, singer, actress, philanthropist, dancer and fashion designer, after attaining millions of young fans, went on to increase her fan base by successful collaborations with icon Tony Bennett. She was born on March 28, 1986, in Manhattan, to Cynthia Louise (Bissett) and Joseph Anthony Germanotta Jr., an internet entrepreneur. Her father is of Italian descent, and her mother is half Italian and half French-Canadian, English, German, and Scottish ancestry. For the Patriots’ amazing win, and Lady Gaga’s message, Super Bowl 51 goes down in history.
And history is where Italian-American veterans continue to shine. Delaware County Community College recently unveiled the Nazz Mariani Veterans Center at their Media campus. It was made possible by a gift from Pam Mariani to pay tribute to her father Nazz, who served in the Pacific Theater during World War II and was owner/founder of the former Edgmont Country Club, which closed in 2016. “I couldn’t think of a better way to honor my father,” Mariani said at the vet center’s grand opening. “My dad was a proud gunner in the Army in the 1940s during World War II. When he came home from the war, he worked hard in his construction business. My father loved the community and believed in education. So, I thought, what better way to honor him than to make a place that’s useful for veterans at community college. This center combines all of my father’s passions and most of mine too.”
Set in a private room on campus, located next to the cafeteria in a space that was previously occupied by a small coffee shop, the center provides a refuge for veterans and active service men and women who are studying at DCCC. Veterans sign in at a reception desk and then use the facility to do homework, socialize, enjoy a snack and beverage or relax and watch TV or use a computer.
Military veteran, SEPTA bus driver to SEPTA director of transportation upon retirement and television producer, John Ricciutti is now acting general manager of Radnor Studio 21. He credits his interviewing skills to his 42 years of interacting with employees, managers, administrators, lawyers, judges, arbitrators, and riding customers. His resume of local public television guests includes authors, chefs, restaurateurs, historians, numerous World War II, Vietnam and Middle East veterans, plus the last interview filmed of Wild Bill Guarnere, from “Band of Brothers” fame. He received an Emmy for co-producing the documentary “SEPTA in Motion.”
Down at The Philadelphia Navy Yard, bravo to the diligent work of retired U.S. Navy Capt. Louis Cavaliere and Christine Beady, executive director of the Chapel of Four Chaplains. At the recent annual Award Banquet held at the IATSE Ballroom, Cavaliere reported, “ the chapel, for the first time in many years, is now operating ‘in the black.’ ’’ Staying true to tradition, the chapel’s focus uncovers a host of archives from the Dorchester the dreadful night of the sinking on Feb. 3, 1943. Visit the chapel and museum open weekdays and often on weekends for special events. They honor ordinary people doing extraordinary things, just like the four chaplains who giving up their life-vests, united arm in arm, went down with the ship.
And, the tradition lives on thanks to State Rep. Nick Miccarelli of Ridley Park, and Trooper Matthew Belfi, an officer with the Narberth Police Department. The First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry was formed in 1774 and served as escort and bodyguard to George Washington. It is the oldest active mounted military troop in the United States and these Italian Americans were among The First Troop’s 18 riders in the Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C.
Miccarelli explains, “The tradition of the peaceful transition of power goes back to Washington and Adams, and the troop’s lineage goes back that far as well, even further. I think it’s fitting that the oldest unit still in service is part of this old tradition of showing that for a long time people have defended this country and continue to do it.” Belfi said that participating in the pageantry is a “high point” of his career.
Miccarelli serves as a sergeant in the National Guard and previously served with the United States Army in the Iraq War as a door gunner on a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. Belfi served as an Army Aviation Officer in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a pilot of the Huey and Blackhawk helicopters.
Until next month, Ciao Bella!