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Summer Goes Straight To Hull

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 30, 2013 11:49 PM
Nantasket Beach and Paragon Park, Summer 1953

You're from Dirty Old Boston. You finally got your car and you cruise to Sully's hamburger stand. You think, it's not hard, not hard to reach. You can drive this heap to Nantasket Beach. You wish that you could find yourself a Seven Day Weekend. Last call to live for the sun on the fine gray sands of the busiest beach close to Boston. Last time to take a walk in the dark, a swingin' place called Paragon Park. Last chance to get out of town. Hey, there's no surfin' in Dorchester Bay. That's okay, you don't surf anyway.

Photo by Kathy Chapman with Dorchester's Richie Parsons balancing on the surfboard.

What can we write? What can we say? How can we tell you how much we'll miss summer? The weather here has been as nice as it can be. But now it doesn't really matter much to me. As far as I'm concerned each day's a rainy day. It might as well snow 'cuz it's September.
You don't need sunny skies for things you have to do. It's raining in your heart 'cause summer is all through. For all the fun we'll have while summer's far away, it might as well snow 'cause it's September

Here we are, saying goodbye at the T station. Summer vacation is ending here today. We had a good time and remember all the danger in the summer moon above. Until next year we'll remember that the summer is the time we love. From DOB we count the days, hours and minutes. Sayonara Summer!

Thanks for all the summer cliches: Beach Boys, Ramones, U.S. Bonds, The Sunrays, Freddie Cannon, The Gremies, Carole King, The Happenings and YOU

Sailing With a Cargo Full of Love and Devotion

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 29, 2013 10:51 PM
Boston DJ's: 'Captain' Edmonds, 'Cosmo' Wyatt, Joey Carvello and Danae Jacovodis

"Mama ko mama sa maka makoosa" ... Soul Makossa by Manu Dibango

Joey Carvello isn't a name that you'll likely recognize. But since the 70's, he's helped to reshape the local music landscape in a number of ways. Carvello got his start as a DJ in Boston where, along with jocks like John Luongo, Captain Edmonds, Cosmo Wyatt, Danae Jacovodis and Jimmy Stuard, he put the city on the map as one of the most important disco centers outside of New York City. Becoming Program Director on Kiss-108 in 1980, he gave the station a decidedly danceable sound that would last well over a decade. His book will tell the whole story. More on that later.

"The hair. Will you watch the hair?" ... Tony Manero

"I want people to know that the lifestyle portrayed in Saturday Night Fever was exaggerated and gave Italian Americans a new stereotype much different – and I think much worse – than we had from mafia movies," Carvello said in a recent interview. "The crew that I grew up with in the disco scene wasn’t nearly as pedestrian and rooted in their mother's apron."

For this reason, and to set the record straight, Joey Carvello's book will be called That's Disco Before Travolta. With a facebook page of the same name, it is focused on Boston's  pivotal role in the development of the music. It's a tale founded in Dirty Old Boston.

Disco As Game Changer

"There was a certain truth to the representations – in particular the décor and atmosphere of the club scenes" (in Saturday Night Fever), Carvello said, "But there was so much more to disco than that. Disco really put the record business on its ass until the execs figured out that their bottom line had increased by millions of dollars without their participation – aside from servicing disco DJs with records. Disco changed the club business. It changed hair salons. It changed fashion. It brought people together socially while they were being split apart by busing and racism. Blacks, Gays, Latinos, Italians, Irish, all of us were there."

So how did an Italian kid from Fulkerson Street, East Cambridge come to be a citizen in  One Nation Under a Groove?

Yesterday's Beginning

"I needed a job!" Carvello said. "I was mooching off my friends, and finally they had enough of my broke ass. My friend Carl Lupo saw an ad in the newspaper for a disco DJ audition at a club called Yesterdays in Kenmore Square. It was a little dive bar in the shadow of The Green Monster. It smelled like beer, the floors were sticky. I remember when I went there for my audition some guy said, “I’ve never seen a fat waitress before,” and the waitress smashed a drink tray over his head and busted it wide open. That’s the kind of club it was. The first record I played at the audition was "Pursuit of the Pimpmobile" by Isaac Hayes. Then “Soul Makossa” and something by The Whispers. I got the job. And I was so thrilled. I was just this kid from East Cambridge. Everyone in my neighborhood was a wise guy. Now, I was a disco DJ."

Yesterdays and Today

"Today I’m a resident DJ at Mobile Mondays, this night in New York where we play only 45s," said Joey Carvello, asked what's happening now. "I can’t even explain how fun it is to break out shit from my collection. And of course, working on my book. I just finished the chapter on Zelda's. I only need about 15,000 more words!"

They Say The Neon Lights Are Bright

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 28, 2013 11:56 PM
Blinstrub's Fire1968.jpg

End of an era. The fire that destroyed Blinstrub's in 1968

On the corner of Broadway and D streets in South Boston, is a Burger King and a McDonald’s. They have fast food cheap. Stanley Blinstrub wouldn't be too upset to find out two fast food places have taken over his spot. When he opened Blinstrub's (often minpronounced charmingly as Blinstrum's) in the 1920s, he too offered fast and cheap food; a nickel for a sandwich, a quarter for supper.

Stanley Blinstrub was a 20 year old working for dad and feeling sad. The Brighton kid caught wind of a restaurant that had closed in Southie and decided to go for it. With hard fought family financial backing, the young mensch began fulfilling his dream.

The place caught on and soon there was a 350 seat night club next door to the restaurant. It got real hot real quick. A guy from Southie knew he could grab grub and a boilermaker for chump change. And the general public knew there was showcase for the greats right in Dirty Old Southie. On Broadway, the restaurant bloomed into Blinstrub's Village and became one of America's largest and finest nightclubs with seating for nearly 2000 who came to see top shelf entertainment.

This was the Golden Age of the Glittering Nightspot. New York may have boasted the Copacabana, but Boston had Blinnie's Village. Frank Sinatra, Robert Goulet, Tony Bennett and Patti Page played Blinstrub's. Johnny Mathis was sold out for two shows a night for two weeks. 160,000 had to be turned away. Jimmy Durante called it his home away from home. Wayne Newton caught his first break there. The Three Degrees, one member from Dot, premiered there before their glory years in Philly. The top entertainers got up to $20,000 a week-- in cold hard cash. Blinstrub's, it seemed, could do no wrong.

Ah, but the hottest fever cools. Those who won't face that fact are fools. Because like all things, time must overrule. The Golden Age would turn to stone when on February 7, 1968, the uninsured Blinstrub's was destroyed by fire, never to reopen in South Boston. For locals of a certain age, Blinstrub's was a name like Jordan Marsh, or Anthony's Pier 4. Even if you never went, you knew the name, You knew it was a big deal. Would today's newcomers to the city guess that Boston's leading nightclub post-World War II right up to the Viet Nam era was located in South Boston?

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BPD Protects MLK, 1965

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 28, 2013 04:39 PM
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On this day as the "I Have A Dream" speech is remembered as it turns 50, we turn to a moment over 48 years ago when MLK was visiting Boston. Thanks to this photo from Boston Police History, we witness King receiving protection on April 23, 1965 as he visits the city with whom he had more than a passing relationship.

From BU's website, "Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Boston University in 1951, searching for a multicultural community and a setting for his study of ethics and philosophy. He became “Dr. King” by earning a Ph.D. in systematic theology here in 1955.

During these years, Howard Thurman was named dean of the University’s Marsh Chapel . King not only attended sermons there but also turned to Thurman as his mentor and spiritual advisor. Among the lessons that inspired him most were Thurman’s accounts of a visit to Mohandas Gandhi in India years earlier. It was Thurman who educated King in the mahatma’s ideas of nonviolent protest. As the bridge between Gandhi and King, BU’s progressive dean helped sow the seeds of change in the U.S. and beyond.

Boston University preserves the legacy of our greatest alumnus in several ways. Our library houses thousands of King’s personal papers and correspondence. On Marsh Plaza in front of the chapel, you can see an inspiring sculptural tribute to his famous words, Free At Last. And everywhere on our campus, you can hear what we still consider to be the strongest statement of King’s life’s work: the enormous variety of voices and viewpoints that ring out on our campus."

Fellini's Basement

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 27, 2013 11:19 PM
         You could go from  the Subway to Filene's Basement without experiencing nature once.
      "That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest" ... Henry David Thoreau
     Those pleasures were usually cheapest at the legendary Filene's Basement (some called Fellini's, in honor of the Italian film maker famous for crazy crowd events).

     From their literature: "A walk through Filene's Basement is like a walk down Fifth Avenue ... because everywhere you look you'll see the same exclusive designer and prestigious store names you'd see in New York, Paris, London and Milan. But there's one big difference-at the Basement, you'll experience the thrill of unbelievable prices .

     How do we do it? Our buyers shop for the best deals at the finest design houses in Europe, choosing the latest fashion trends, fabrics and colors for the sophisticated,
price-savvy Basement customer.

     You can shop for women, men, kids, and home with all the fine accessories to complete a wardrobe always at 30-60% off their original department & specialty store prices." Filene's ad.

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My Cheri Amour

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 26, 2013 09:14 PM
The Cheri Theater in Back Bay, opening night, 1966

From Box Office magazine, 1966: "Reportedly the world's first 'drive up' theater, Ben Sack's new luxury 800-seat Cheri Theater on the ground floor of the nine story 1000 car Auditorium Garage, in Downtown Boston's Prudential Center is designed as an "in-town facility providing all the conveniences of a suburban theater." The Cheri enables patrons to drive right into the garage, park and lock their cars, and take automatic elevators directly to the theater lobby (thereby inadvertently introducing the movie going public to 50 years of murder and rape scenes in similar garages in subsequent movies) without going out of doors. The first all new theater to be built from the ground up in many years, the first run Cheri Theater has a drawing radius of 3.5 million persons. Samuel Glaser Associates was the architect."

And from Cinema Treasures, "The Cheri complex remained in operation for about 40 years; few movie theaters in Boston have had such a lengthy life span other than the old movie palaces such as the Saxon, Savoy, etc. that have been converted to other uses. The first auditorium opened in February, 1966 with Marlon Brando in “The Chase”. The second auditorium opened in November, 1966 with Jack Lemmon in “The Fortune Cookie”. The third screen (i.e., the smaller auditorium on the upper level with the separate paybox) opened in July 1967 with Walter Matthau in “A Guide to the Married Man”.

The Cheri hosted a number of roadshows during the late-1960’s, including “Funny Girl” and “Oliver!”. When “Funny Lady” premiered there in an exclusive run in 1975, one screen showed the film on a reserved seat basis and another on a general admission basis.

The larger of the two lower level auditoriums was twinned in 1989. Following the closings of the Charles, Cinema 57 and Paris in the early-1990’s, the Cheri and Nickelodeon became the top theaters in the city for major Hollywood first run releases (essentially by default; the only other theater in Boston was the widely disliked Copley Place)".

"How i wish that you were mine." ... Stevie Wonder

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Express Yourself

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 26, 2013 01:16 AM
Gas Tank 50's.png
"The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened" .. Saki, a British writer influenced by P.G.Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward

The Expressway Experience is a central component of Boston commuting. It was supposed to be quick but that didn't happen. Captured on film, however, is one shining moment long ago, when traffic appears to have flowed smoothly southbound somewhere near the Dorchester Gas Tank area. Could that have happened? Hey, a picture doesn't lie. Or does it? No matter, savor the image. It was fleeting as we know too well.

Sing along with The Beatles' "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds":  Picture yourself on the Southeast Expressway, in Dirty Old Boston when traffic was high. Reality calls you, you respond most slowly. Tempers are heavy, arrival not nigh ... Give me a ticket to an airplane.

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Lynn Lynn City Of Jazz

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 24, 2013 02:46 PM

We wrote up the First Annual Boston Jazz Festival that happened in Fenway Park on this weekend in 1959. This was news to us at Dirty Old Boston. Now along comes new news (redundancy necessary) from of a predecessor, the North Shore Jazz Festival, held at the Manning Bowl in Lynn on this very weekend in 1957. Although some of the same names from 1959 were in the lineup, other notables we would have loved to have seen included Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, George Shearing, and, representing the Left Coast, Gerry Mulligan. We will let our friends at Troy Street tell you the story. Thanks guys! Happy weekending.

                  George Shearing made Latin rhythms popular without selling out.


The Hitchhiker's Guide To Nowhere

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 24, 2013 12:11 AM
Hitchhikers line the entrance ramp to the Pike at Mass Ave and Newbury St

"Got no money in my pocket so I'm gonna have to hitch hike all the way ..."  Marvin Gaye

Back in the day, hitchhiking was a common way for the young and the broke to get around and out of DOB. It wasn't unusual to see people all over the city with their thumbs out like it was part and parcel of daily life. Around here it was called thumbing and whether it was to get from JP to Copley, Harvard to Central, Kenmore to BC or Boston to New York, it was as common then as bicyclists are today.

According to Massachusetts state law, hitchhiking is not allowed on turnpikes (the name given to highways with tolls). This included, of course, the Mass Pike which is why the picture shows groups of people lined up on the entrance ramp where it IS legal. Thumbing on other highways and streets is legal if you stand on the shoulder and obey the rules of the road.

The young lady with the guitar will be less threatening and make better company for a lonely driver, a sad fact of life for the guys, inherently dangerous by nature, and a privilege fraught with danger for the young lady. In fact the danger index rose so rapidly in the 70's, it made hitchhiking risky business that dropped pretty quickly in popularity. For a few years it was an act of freedom and a pretty cool thing to do. By the 80's it was a thing of the past.

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According to Massachusetts law, hitchhiking is not allowed on turnpikes. This includes I-90. Hitchhiking other highways is allowed if you follow the rules of the road (stay on shoulder, walk facing traffic, do not pass 'pedestrians prohibited' signs) - See more at:

According to Massachusetts law, hitchhiking is not allowed on turnpikes. This includes I-90. Hitchhiking other highways is allowed if you follow the rules of the road (stay on shoulder, walk facing traffic, do not pass 'pedestrians prohibited' signs) - See more at:

According to Massachusetts law, hitchhiking is not allowed on turnpikes. This includes I-90. Hitchhiking other highways is allowed if you follow the rules of the road (stay on shoulder, walk facing traffic, do not pass 'pedestrians prohibited' signs) - See more at:

The Rockin' Ramrods

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 23, 2013 11:47 AM
The Rockin' Ramrods in a publicity still

     Talk about Boston rock 'n' roll history and ignore the Rockin' Ramrods at your own peril. Along with The Remains and The Lost (fronted by Willie Alexander), they were arguably the ruling class of the city's early Rockistocracy. Mining the success fields of the British Invasion, a whole slew of locals picked up electric guitars, drum kits, Farfisa organs, mics, and invaded garages and basements all over the Boston area to first mimic their influences and ultimately make a sound they could call their own. The Rockin' Ramrods fell into the latter category.
     They were fortunate because their records got played on Top-40 radio locally and they were booked frequently, most notably as reliable room-fillers at the Surf Nantasket in Hull, and the Surf Salisbury. Their records, still hunted by garage record collectors, were strong: Bright Lit Blue Skies, Flowers In My Mind, Don't Fool With Fu Man Chu and She Lied were among their biggest. Find any of them at a flea market or yard sale in decent condition and you've got a good find.
     The Rockin' Ramrods most glorious moment came in 1965 when they were invited to join the Rolling Stones on tour. Like Barry & The Remains' invitation to open for the Beatles, this was a moment of glory for a bunch of guys from the home town. This was as big as it got and although they did very well for a couple of more years, pop music began changing while the Ramrods, as they became known, began splintering. All things must pass, unfortunately, but for a minute, DOB held its own in the world of rock 'n' roll in the 1960's.

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Who Knew?

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 22, 2013 06:18 PM
                                         The poster for 1959's Boston Jazz Festival
                                               Special thanks to

It was 54 years ago today George Wein brought the bands to play. The Newport Jazz Festival Godfather held the First Annual Boston Jazz Festival at Fenway Park on this and the next two days back in 59.

August 21 was a Friday night that year and Pee Wee Russell headlined the festival's maiden voyage aided and abetted by a boisterous Thelonius Monk performance. The crowd was a paltry 5000, but both the Globe and the Traveler gave the evening the thumbs up, despite disappointing shows by Dakota Staton and, unbelievably, Ray Charles.

Saturday's crowd was better at 8500; Horace Silver's new trumpeter Blue Mitchell got high marks for his solo on Silver's ballad Peace. Dave Brubeck achieved a lightness, according to critics, that lifted the crowd, only to have that lightness dashed by no-show Sarah Vaughn. Also playing that night was the Boston-based Herb Pomeroy Band with Dick Johnson on alto sax.

Sunday also drew 8500 to see Dizzy Gillespie who the Traveler said had "technique to throw away and a warmth to fill Fenway Park". The Duke Ellington Orchestra closed the show and despite expectations, the Traveler described the band's performance as "uncharacteristically unmusical".

Despite the inherent acoustic challenges presented by Fenway Park, and a disappointing turnout, the festival was critically deemed "a good first start" and 1960 was placed on the radar screen. The radar had to be adjusted to face Wakefield where a two day fest took place that year. There never was a Second Annual Boston Jazz Festival.

Off The Wall

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 22, 2013 11:28 AM
Off the wall.jpg
Photo from the Mike Peck Collection 
A pedestrian walks by Off The Wall's Pearl Street location

The Off The Wall Cinema was a Cambridge institution for over a decade. Despite its self description as a Coffeehouse of the Arts, film was their stock in trade, and if it was well known it was not seen at this cinema. Obscurities were their specialty and no format was off limits. Documentaries, silents, concert films, animation, all got their 15 plus minutes here. This is where yours truly got to first see the T.A.M.I Show (Teenage Awards Music International), the 1964 concert for teens filmed in L.A., but never seen here in DOB, featuring a wide range of artists from Lesley Gore to The Rolling Stones.

The place felt less like a cinema and more like a living room. Capacity was about 100. Bakery products and coffee were substituted for candy, popcorn and tonic. The atmosphere was relaxed and decidedly countercultural. It was the Peoples' Republic at its best.

Off The Wall Cinema was first opened in 1974 on Main Street, just below Central Square. In 79, hoping to catch the Faneuil Hall Market crowd, they jumped river and opened shop in Quincy Market, but failed to catch on. In 1980 they recrossed the Charles, landing at 15 Pearl Street, where the lefty 100 Flowers Bookstore had just closed. They remained in business until 1986.

Did video kill the cinema star? You can get the T.A.M.I. Show today on DVD. You can probably even see it on YouTube. Most classic docs and shorts are out there in some easily accessible  format. And last we checked 15 Pearl Street is a Senior Citizen Center.

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Planet of the Washingtons

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 21, 2013 05:08 PM

A sparse crowd makes its way down Washington Street in 1968

It's the longest street in town. And one of the longest in the state. Washington Street starts downtown and runs all the way to Rhode Island. Circuitously at times, but it gets there. Here we see a downtown photo of "Wash", as the cabbies call it, taken in 1968 shortly after Planet of the Apes opened. The film tells the story about a space crew who crash onto a strange planet in the future. As the story evolves, the crew, thinking it had arrived at a desolate outpost, happens upon a society in which apes have evolved into humanoids possessing both intelligence and speech. These ape-humans are running the show while subservient humans are draped in animal skins.

Is the Washington Street story much different?  Land on Washington Street today and see the beautified Boston, all cleaned up, pricy consumerism everywhere, but populated by the New Human. The males' waistlines have devolved to crotch level, and they appear disjointed and  disheveled like a pile of empty laundry bags. The females of the species are draped in clothing so revealing that all mystery has been removed. Body parts considered sacrosanct by their anatomical forbears, are fodder for studs, piercings and markings on this New Human. Tongue rings, eyelid rings and body art adorn these creatures seen today on Washington Street and elsewhere. Standards of beauty change. But that was now. This is then.

Dirty Old Boston being what it is, liked the name Washington Street so much that it called no less than three other local streets by the same name. This typically gets a guffaw from visitors and the DOB Cynical Grimace from locals.

In Dorchester, Washington Street spans a 2.8 mile range from Blue Hill Avenue near Geneva to Dot Ave near the southernmost point of the city.

In Brighton, Washington Street begins at the Brookline line and runs for about four miles to the Newton boundary line. It continues through Newton out to Wellesley. It is the main East-West Street in Brighton.

But in Charlestown, Washington Street begins at a dead end near the intersection of Austin Street and New Rutherford Avenue and runs a mere three blocks to Harvard Street.

Happy motoring!

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Posted by Jim Botticelli August 21, 2013 02:17 PM

Thumbnail image for WashingtonSt68.jpg

A sparse crowd makes its way down Washington Street in 1968

It's the longest street in town. And one of the longest in the state. Washington Street starts downtown and runs all the way to Rhode Island. Circuitously at times, but it gets there. Here we see a downtown photo of "Wash", as the cabbies call it, taken in 1968 shortly after Planet of the Apes opened. The film tells the story about a space crew who crash onto a strange planet in the future. As the story evolves, the crew, thinking it had arrived at a desolate outpost, happens upon a society in which apes have evolved into humanoids possessing both intelligence and speech. These ape-humans are running the show while subservient humans are draped in animal skins.

Is the Washington Street story much different? Crash onto Washington Street today and see the New Human, males whose waistlines have devolved to crotch level, appearing disheveled like a pile of empty laundry bags, and females draped in clothing so revealing that all mystery has been removed. Body parts considered sacrosanct by their anatomical forbears, are now fodder for studs, piercings and markings on the New Human. Tongue studs, eyelid rings and body art adorn these creatures seen today on Washington Street and elsewhere. Standards of beauty change. We get that.  But that was now. This is then.

Dirty Old Boston being what it is, liked the name Washington for a street so much that it named no less than three other local streets by the same name. This typically gets a guffaw from visitors and the DOB Cynical Grimace from locals.

In Dorchester, Washington Street spans a 2.8 mile range from Blue Hill Avenue near Geneva to Dot Ave near the southernmost point of the city.

In Brighton, Washington Street begins at the Brookline line and runs for about four miles to the Newton boundary line. It continues through Newton out to Wellesley. It is the main East-West Street in Brighton.

But in Charlestown, Washington Street begins at a dead end near the intersection of Austin Street and New Rutherford Avenue and runs a mere three blocks to Harvard Street.

Happy motoring!

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Posted by Jim Botticelli August 21, 2013 11:46 AM
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         Photo by Gino Salerno

     Mangia! Cantare! It's the Feast of Saint Agrippina di Mineo in the North End celebrated in this vintage homegrown sent to us by Gino Salerno. It's the time of the season when the chianti wells run dry and native North Enders take it to the streets to celebrate the Sicilian woman from the tip of the toe of the boot whom they consider a "significant" saint. This year her life was celebrated from August 2 - 4.

     Agrippina was a blonde princess in a noble Roman family, and allegedly was martyred. Her grave became a popular destination, and she was made a patron saint against leprosy, bacterial diseases and infections. There are only two churches in the world named for her, one in hometown Mineo, Sicily, the other one is right here in D.O.B.

     Upcoming this weekend will be the Feast of Saint Anthony.

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His Name Was Mudd Around Here

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 20, 2013 11:05 PM
His name was Mudd but he was mad popular as a local TV personality with a grasp on the times. In real life the guy was known as Ed McDonnell, but when he got dressed up in his space suit and got into the Channel 7 studios, then called WNAC, Major Mudd emerged from behind the McDonnell mask, and hosted perhaps thee most successful show the Kenmore Square based channel ever created. Premiering in 1961, The Major Mudd Show was a major cash-in on the nation's space program shortly after JFK announced Destination Moon and a futuristic outlook began to take shape. Whatever happened to that future anyway? At first, the program showcased Three Stooges episodes and cartoons. By 1963 kids were brought in, the Stooges and cartoons were cut back, and live fun and games became part of the show. The Major Mudd Show would earn top ratings well into the 1970's, and is fondly remembered by Boomers and beyond from Dirty Old Boston. Thanks Major. We'll be blasting you.

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Burning Greed

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 15, 2013 12:12 PM


Fenway in Flames

Alarms sound in the early morning. Sirens wail on Symphony Road. It’s happening again. The neighborhood is burning nightly and there’s nothing you can do but wait in fear. That is exactly what happened during the 1970s as Boston residents were under siege. Real estate businessmen were making money by burning apartment buildings to the ground, leaving the poor, elderly, and minority tenants homeless and several dead. The tenants’ cries for arson investigations were dismissed. Arson was hard to prosecute and arson for profit was business ­as ­usual across the nation. A brave group of community activists refused to be silent victims. Their hard work revealed a shocking pattern in the fires and it was enough to convince the state to prosecute and eventually convict 32 men in a conspiracy bigger than anyone suspected. The story will soon be available for public viewing in the new documentary Burning Greed.

During the mid 70's, nearly every building on the one block long Symphony Road burned in just a four year period. Located in the shadows of Symphony Hall in the Fenway neighborhood, the street was the scene of a conspiracy that took the lives of local tenants including a four year old boy. As with so many crimes, money was the motive. At the time arson was hard to convict and rarely prosecuted, making it a lucrative and low risk crime.

Tenants in the Fenway had worked hard to build their neighborhood into their home. It wasn't just people living in close proximity. It was a community. When arson for profit targeted Symphony Road, the tenants refused to sit by and become victims of the violence threatening their homes and lives. Despite being told repeatedly that they themselves were the problem and the source of the fires, the tenants were able to prove they were, in fact, victims of a large arson conspiracy.

Learn about the deep corruption and conspiracy of 1970's Dirty Old Boston at its dirtiest. Learn about the community organizing that showed the people of the Fenway were the wrong ones to mess with in the doc called Burning Greed. We have had the opportunity to view a segment and found it as compelling as Nova and Frontline.

The film is currently in post production and needs your help. The producers at Live Lobster Group in the Fenway are seeking any photos or film of the Fenway and Symphony Road area, particularly from the 70's and early 80's. Information and material can be emailed along with any questions to

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Paw! Paw!

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 14, 2013 11:29 AM
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The Rifleman, a.k.a. Chuck Connors was once a Boston Celtic

Standing 6'5" at a trim 200 lbs., the handsome square jawed Chuck Connors cut a commanding presence. Playing a single Dad and justice seeker, he is best remembered as Lucas McCain, The Rifleman, a single dad whose son Mark (Johnny Crawford) grew up to sing "Your Nose Is Gonna Grow".

Many do not know that the left handed, Brooklyn-raised Chuck Connors started out as a professional athlete after graduating Seton Hall as an elocution contest winner. Following a stint the military for which he volunteered, Connors joined the newly formed Boston Celtics where his claim to fame was shattering a glass backboard during warmups before the first ever Celtics game on November 5, 1946. As we can see, this white man could jump.

Chuck joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 playing literally only one game for them before joining the Chicago Cubs for whom he played 66 games. The Cubs sent him to play for their then minor league team, the original Los Angeles Angels. Fortuitously he was seen by a Hollywood director and landed a role in the Spencer Tracy Katherine Hepburn film Pat and Mike. In 1957 he played Burt Sanderson in Old Yeller which led to his role in The Rifleman in 1958. It came in fourth in the Nielsens lasting until 1963, longer certainly than his professional athletic career took him. But for one shining moment he was part of Dirty Old Boston.

File under Fun Facts to Know and Tell
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A Ward 8 and an Update

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 13, 2013 02:19 PM

Ward 8.jpg
The Cocktail from Boston, The Ward 8
"I have taken out of alcohol more than alcohol has taken out of me." ... Winston Churchill

Pour through the pages of any cocktail history tome and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a distinctive contribution to the art that is Boston’s and Boston’s alone. The Ward 8, however, is a cocktail that did originate in Boston at the recently shuttered Locke-Ober Restaurant. Martin Lomasney, already a mover and shaker in Boston political circles for nearly a half century, was running for state legislature and had just won the seat. Ward 8, now the South End and Roxbury, had reliably delivered for him and its namesake cocktail was said to have been given its maiden voyage at Lomasney's victory dinner. The drink became a local fixture and in 1934 earned a spot on Esquire magazine's Top Ten Cocktails of the Year.

To this day Esquire is still trying to figure out why. Let no misunderstandings arise. The Ward 8, the magazine says, is a fine drink, dry and refreshing. But it's not a cocktail that will alter your drinking habits, nor is it a shortcut to bliss. It is a drink that offers solace to a scorched palate if made properly. Which is why we have included its recipe in our DOB photo.

But wait. There's more! In 2008, local cocktail maven Brother Cleve did a "remix" of the Ward 8 and honored recent history in so doing. The Ninth Ward was created for the annual Tales of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans. The Ninth ward, you may remember, was the section of New Orleans most damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"I wanted to create a drink for the event that would have some sort of New Orleans and Boston connection," Cleve reported. "So my idea was to take the Ward 8, the best-known drink created in Boston, and turn it into a tropical cocktail for New Orleans." 

Dirty Old Boston shares Brother Cleve's original recipe for the Ninth Ward with its readers. Cheers.

1 1/2 oz Bourbon (Eagle Rare 10 Year)
3/4 oz Falernum (Velvet)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz St. Germain
2 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Original calls for Bulleit Bourbon and Fee's Falernum.

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Scrambled On Toast

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 12, 2013 02:50 PM
"There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always." ... Mahatma Gandhi

"One does not learn how to die by killing others." ... Vicomte de Chateaubriand

"Our day will come, if we just wait awhile." ... Ruby & The Romantics

"Gonna smile, I'm gonna laugh you're gonna get a blood bath.You gotta go go go go goodbye. Glad to see you go go go go goodbye." ... Ramones
Cheers! ... JB
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Posted by Jim Botticelli August 12, 2013 01:23 AM
Photo by Margaret McGrath Spencer Riley

Neighbors enjoying stoop time in East Boston, 1969

It's summertime, and the sitting is easy. There's no better place for a city dweller to sit than out on the stoop, that short stairway topped with a platform bringing one to the entrance of an apartment building. Originating from the Dutch word stoep, not the Yiddish word schtupp, the stoop was introduced to the U.S. by settlers from The Netherlands when they came to New York. The word is in general use in the Northeastern part of the country and today is spreading.

"The first (city) builders brought with them their customs of erecting buildings that were elevated as protection against the havoc wreaked by North Sea floods, and flush to the street to make up for the lack of space in a canal-dominated city like Amsterdam," says author Mario Maffi. The stoop sitter gets to greet neighbors, trade gossip, reinforce casual neighborly relationships and enjoy the theater of life common to urban existence.

In her book The Death and Life  of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs credits the stoop as a step toward neighborhood self regulation. When humans are on the street, she says, the criminals are less emboldened so there's less need for police. Another benefit is that engaged neighbors take more pride in their surroundings. Besides, it can be a great time. Sit on yours today!

Ciao for Now ... JB
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Room 714 I'll Be Waiting

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 10, 2013 02:16 PM

Kiss.jpgPhoto by Michael Rizza

"Unnnnnnnh! Love to love you baby" ... Donna Summer

Saturday night's the night I like. Get a little action in. Elton John sang all about it. It was action that night in 1978 at Faces. And photographer Michael Rizza captured it. A couple in the throws of dancefloor ecstacy gives in to the power of the moment, embracing and kissing as fellow Saturday nighters look on. Eagerly one might add. It was how they rolled during the Disco days.

Discos flourished all over the city at that time, going back to the early 70's when John 'TC' Luongo began mixing it up, first in clubs, then on WTBS-FM (now WMBR) with his show called The Right Track. The art of DJ mixing developed quickly and the public flocked to the rapidly spreading disco world to listen and dance. Places like Club Max, Zelda, 1270, Boston Boston, Cafe Felix, Club Soda, Cache, Estelles, Harbor House, Flappers, Mirage, Kix, Mad Hatter thrived. Had enough? Okay, more!  Piggy's in P-Town, Reflections in Cambridge, Scandals in Eastie, Rhinoceros, The Fan Club, The Other Side, Up & Up and Whimsy's. The DJ's here never let the beat pause.

Queen of Disco, Boston's Donna Summer

Despite the sheer number of dance clubs here, New Yorkers say Boston was only a faint blip on the Disco Meter next to them. Maybe, but how come the Queen of Disco came from here and not there? Just sayin'. Mission Hill's own Ms. Donna Summer burst on the scene in late '74 with Love To Love You Baby. More famous for moans than melody, critics compared it to the late 60's Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin breathing fest called Je T'aime. Summer herself said that she thought of how Marilyn Monroe might do it and obliged her imagination. That talented imagination took her on a 30 year career and got Boston's name into the Disco Hall of Fame. Next time you find yourself dreaming of discos, think of Donna. And do The Bump.

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From Rat To Riches

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 9, 2013 11:37 AM

PowderRoomRatDeMilo.jpgInside the Powder Room at The Rat 

Photo by David DeMilo

Another weekend in Dirty Old Boston. It's 1977. Economy's in the tank. What's up with Double Digit Inflation? No jobs for recent college grads let alone those with high school diplomas. C.E.T.A. was the government's answer. Get your frustration out without spending a night in the tank. Go to The Rat.

House & Garden it wasn't, but it was home to many on weekends

Originally called The Rathskeller, The Rat was the primo Boston spot for simple three chord  garage/punk rock. No stadium anthems. No extended soloing. No power ballads. Blasphemy was a song longer than two minutes. Barry & The Remains played there as far back as '64 and '65 lining up fans from its location in Kenmore Square to Fenway Park. But it was during the mid 70's that the club really took off, earning a rep. for hosting bands that would become huge; Ramones, The Police, The Cars, Del Fuegos. More importantly it brought in local talent-- Blackjacks, Thrills, Human Sexual Response, Jerry's Kids, Unnatural Axe, more--and became the locus for a subculture that reverberated in Greater Boston for years to come. Its after effects are felt to this day at The Middle East, TT the Bear's and others throughout clubland. WBCN held Rumbles in the place in the early days. The club thrived until the mid 90's and gentrification. Tax-exempt BU crept into Dirty Old Kenmore Square and as a limited partner--out of the limelight, that is--participated in the buying out of the block on which the Rat sat. The club closed for good in 1997 and in 2000 it was demolished to make way for the glittering Hotel Commonwealth, a 148-room luxury hotel. Where you could once get a two dollar draft and slam dance, you can now order a $12 dollar designer cocktail and listen politely to piped in music. Be sure to leave the safety pins at home.

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Happy Weekending ... JB/

Stamp Of Approval

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 8, 2013 02:17 PM
"Hey Rosita, come quick. Down at the cantina they're giving green stamps with tequila!"
 ... Pat Boone from Speedy Gonzalez.

     The S&H Green Stamp store on Boylston Street, long gone, was a local monument to an era when shoppers got rewards in stamp form, eventually redeemable for merchandise. At Casa Botticelli it was well known that a full book got you a Zippo cigarette lighter. Others may have been purer in motive. The program validated consumers by offering further consumption as a reward.

     Peaking in the 60's the program faded during the 70's as a series of recessions, inflation and stagflation made the stamps less valuable. Consumers quit saving them as their value became no better than retail prices. By 1973 S&H Green Stamps had fallen to the point where one merchant recycled a sign, using it to announce another disappearing act of the day, gasoline.

     One of the Green Stamps' legacies was unintended. Truckers used in as code in the 70's and 80's on Citizens Band radio. "Ol' Smokie just got some of my green stamps" was a way of saying that a cop had just given the driver a traffic ticket ... Anyone got a light?

Now You See It, Now You Don't

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 8, 2013 12:04 AM

64.jpg                                   The Central Artery Was Already Clogged in 1964

     It was planned as the solution but it became the problem.  The Central Artery was touted as the newer faster way through Boston upon its opening in 1959. Today it's invisible thanks to the Big Dig. But not long ago the Artery was a headache for its users seven days a week. Pictured is a photo taken when the road was only five years old and it's already jammed up. What is this "faster way" you speak of?

     The Expressway's unintended claim to fame became the way traffic would come to a grinding halt, motionless without explanation, for unpredictable periods. At least there was the Cityscape to look at as motorists idled, internal combustion forcing  pistons to pump overtime burning precious fossil fuels. But nobody wanted to look through the exhaust fumes and smog at the city below. They just wanted to get past it. So instead they filed their nails. They read books. They primped in the mirror. They ate doughnuts and drank coffee. They pointed certain fingers at the other guy, blaming him for their misery. They'd arrive at work late, blaming traffic. Unsympathetic supervisors would tell them to allow for that and set the alarm an hour earlier. They'd return home, again late, to a warmed over dinner. Oh the horror. An oil tanker tipped over; three hour delay. A woman got a flat in the passing lane; one hour delay. Two lanes would be inexplicably closed with no visible work going on; one hour delay. A minor collision could cause a two hour backup. Too many cars moved in too little space. Careful on the right. A car full of teenagers is taking the BDL Express. The 'copters and small planes flew overhead broadcasting to Bostonians what they already knew: traffic is bad and getting worse. Thanks fellas. Couldn't have done it without you!

     Today it's all behind us. The Central Artery is gone. Traffic jams have disappeared. Commuters now travel beneath in massive tunnels with mysterious ramps and exits. Out of sight, out of mind. Take a breath. The nightmare is over.

     Or is it? Now you see it. Now you don't. As Lily Tomlin said, "Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it." Feel better now?

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Ciao for Now ... JB

Higher For Hire

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 6, 2013 02:20 PM
   Man of Steel. A construction worker treads where no man hath trod before him in 1973

                  "The higher the buildings, the lower the morals".....Noel Coward

     These days our Cityscape can claim 251 high rise buildings but this is relatively new. The first building considered worthy of high rise status was the 13 story Ames Building on Court Street, which reigned from 1893 until 1915 when the Custom House was completed. Today with 18 skyscrapers, almost all over 500 tall, Boston ranks 11th in the U.S. and 40th in the world in height.

     Most of the heavy lifting began in the 60's and 70's with the Pru opening in 1965 and the Hancock Tower in 1976. Many downtown projects were launched during this period including the one pictured above (unidentified) in this homegrown photo taken while the Hancock Tower is seen under construction in the background. Safety standards in Dirty Old Boston were lacking compared to today and this guy seized the moment to perform his balancing act. Forty years later Bostonians have the chance to see this fellow in action, something not possible before the internet.

     Let's hope more daredevils lurk among us because currently on the drawing board is a proposal for the South Bay Tower planned for land reclaimed from the Big Dig off Hudson Street in Chinatown, just south of Downtown . If approved, built and opened this structure would be--at 800 feet--the tallest building in town. 

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Ciao for Now.....JB

The Tasty

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 5, 2013 01:15 AM
The TastyStephen Niccolls.jpg
                                                    Photo by Stephen Niccolls

                                                              Funky Square  

     Harvard Square has long been a durable destination with a variety of coffeehouses, bars, diners, boutiques and music venues, as well as being home to new and used book and record shops. Its noteriety grew in the later 60's as hippies, hustlers and happenings became part of the Square's milieu, and street culture spread around the area.

     Through the years, old-timers have always insisted that the Harvard Square of their day was the way it was truly meant to be. "You should have seen Harvard Square when it was a square," goes the gist of the Boomer thesis. "Today it's a corporate wasteland. It was how it was supposed be back in the 60's and 70's, back in MY day!"

      “Beginning in 1968,” Mo Lotman wrote in his 2009 book, Harvard Square: An Illustrated History Since 1950, “the Common was transformed every warm Sunday afternoon into a bohemian free-for-all, with drum circles, bead-sellers, tranced-out dancers, and a ton of pot.”

                                                              Perfect Square

     Boomers love to tell tall tales of the legendary locales of yesteryear: The Idler, the Oxford Ale House, daily double bills for a dollar at the Harvard Square Theatre, foreign films at the Galeria Theater, cool used clothes at the Pennsylvania Company, The Blue Parrot, Bailey’s Ice Cream, sandwiches at Elsie’s. And of course, the venerable Tasty, taken in 1997, turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch, and to this day peeves off many a Square vet. A perfect symbol, many say, of the perils of gentrification.

     The Tasty was a one-room diner estimated to be 30 feet long and seven feet wide. Customers ate burgers and dogs on a yellow linoleum counter. With 16 stools, The Tasty on busy nights  would be stuffed with 60-80 people at a time. On these nights between 300–400 burgers and doggies were served between the hours of midnight and 4am. Its informal atmosphere and friendly staff drew in long-time residents, college students and working people and became one of the few places where locals and visitors from different social and economic classes easily mixed.

                                                          Corporate Square

     Cambridge Savings Bank, the building's owner, eventually saw green as the chain store crawl moved quickly into Harvard Square. Higher rents and changing times forced The Tasty's hand and despite protests from the Harvard Square Defense Fund along with Click and Clack, the guys who host Car Talk on NPR, The Tasty shut it's door for good in 1997. Gone was a joint where you could fill up for cheap. In its place today sits a row of ATM's.

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Ciao for Now.....JB


You Are Not Hallucinating

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 3, 2013 11:40 AM
hallucinations.jpgPhoto from Paul Shapiro and Pia Francesca                                   
Before J. Geils, The Hallucination(s) and their publicity still

                                                 Blow Your Face Out Dickie!

     The J. Geils Band, most know well, was one of Dirty Old Boston's most widely acclaimed bands. Front man Peter Wolf's vocal gymnastics and the taut musicianship of guitarist Jay Geils, bassist Danny Klein, keyboardist Seth Justman, drummer Stephen Bladd and Magic Dick (Richard Salwitz) on the 'lickin' stick' were a force (Allman Bros. favorite) both onstage and on the radio. The band produced compelling original material and dug as deep into the Soul Music catalog as the Stones. They dug up and recorded The Showstoppers Ain't Nothin' But A House Party, Otis Rush's Homework, The Contours First I Look At The Purse, The Valentinos Looking For A Love, among others.

                                                      Hallucinations Appear

     The formation of the J. Geils band grew out of a band that came together almost by accident. An old rumor is that The Hallucinations formed at a party where some musicians were performing. The singer was imbibing heavily the story goes, and Peter Wolf jumped onstage in his place.
     "The legend is not true," says original guitarist Paul Shapiro, today a painter in Santa Fe. "The Hallucinations did not exist at that party. Steven Bladd, Doug Slade and myself were playing at this party in a very informal way, we had never played together before. Steven had just purchased a set of drums and was very new to drumming. Peter Wolf shows up and pulls out a harmonica and starts playing with us. I suggested that we form a band and a week later Doug recruits Joe Clark on bass and we are off and running. Steven Bladd came up with the name The Hallucinations. A month later Barry Tashian (Barry & The Remains) hears us and exclaims that this is America's answer to the Rolling Stones and gets us his manager and booking agent John Stucas of Music Productions where Don Law was a young employee."

                                                         Hallucinations' Trails

The Hallucinations branched and began taking trips performing around Greater Boston, notably in Lexington where one of the band members had family. Lexington teens had long held dances in the basement of Follen Church featuring various garage rock bands like The Pied Pipers, Mad Hatters and A Warm Puppy. The crowning achievement was scoring The Hallucinations, who arrived with massive underground cred in 1967, to play a well turned out gig. The band itself would go on to perform at Brighton's legendary Crosstown Bus before morphing into the J. Geils Blues Band, eventually dropping the word 'blues' from its name. Sticking with the fast talking vocalist Peter Wolf, also a DJ on the fledgling WBCN,  the J. Geils Band signed to Atlantic Records in 1970.

                                                       Mystical Hallucinations

     It has also been said that the original Hallucinations were the first complete band to be initiated by the Marharishi Makesh Yogi, mostly at the corner of Huntington and S. Huntington Ave. The same Yogi who took The Beatles on in India in 1967 after Sgt. Pepper taught The Hallucinations right here in Dirty Old Boston?
     "Yes, it was 862 Huntington Ave, a block away from South Huntington," confirms Shapiro, then an artist on Mission Hill , and a framer on Newbury Street for the Child's Gallery from 1962 - 65. "Pre Beatles."

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Anthony Gets Remixed

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 3, 2013 12:27 AM
Anthony Today!.jpg
          Photo by Chuck Sether for North End Waterfront News

     He's 56 years old now. His roots lie deep in Dirty Old Boston's North End and in the hearts of Greater Bostonians of a certain age. Forty-four years later, "Anthony" is being born again as film crews and producers came to Margaret Street, Sheafe Street, and Cleveland Place to film a remake of the locally famous Prince Spaghetti commercial.  This time, the commercial film company brought in their own actors. But that wasn't how it went down the first time around.

                                                            Finding Anthony

      In 1966 when Anthony Martignetti was nine, his family immigrated to the US  from Italy, coming directly to the North End and settling in. Three years went by.  In 1969 when he was 12, Anthony was hanging out with some pals when they were approached by a couple of obvious outsiders.

     Trying to locate Commercial Street, these 'outsiders' were escorted by Anthony to their destination. Unbeknownst to these boys, these men were working for Boston's Jerome O'Leary Advertising Agency, which represented the Prince Macaroni Company as it was known at the time. Their mission was to shoot an ad for their product.  When the time came to cast it, they remembered Anthony.


     They found him and made him an offer he could not refuse. Anthony sprinted home to announce his impending stardom to his mother. She immediately assumed that her little boy would be seen on the nightly news for God knows what. Contracts were signed and Anthony Martignetti cleared close to $25,000 for racing through the North End streets to Powers Court. He didn't actually run to his mother. Instead he ran to the one who played her on TV, fellow North Ender Mary Fiumara.

                                                             Anthony Today

     After graduating high school, Anthony worked at Polaroid before joining the family grocery business. When his parents retired in 1987 he got a job at Stop & Shop Distribution. The company today extolls the virtues of its commitment to diversity, but Anthony Martignetti's supervisor back then often called him "spaghetti bender", "meatball", and a few more stellar cliches. After complaining to Corporate with no success, he sued Stop & Shop and a settlement was reached in 2004. Today Anthony Martignetti works as a Court Officer in Dedham District and is married with a son, Anthony Jr., who is approaching adolescence. Prince Spaghetti is on the family menu several times a week, according to an article on

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Satisfaction Came in a Chain Reaction

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 2, 2013 09:00 AM
                                              Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

     K-K-K-Katy's, Lucifer's, and Yesterday. Later they were called Celebration, Narcissus, and Lipstick.  These were the clubs to go to for bust-loose dancing or when a lonely weekend was a possibility. A good time was a distinct possibility as the club's longevity attests. Here we see the possibility of a less than lonely weekend IF our guy can read body language while dancing at K-K-K-Katy's with a blonde woman seemingly projecting angst or fear.

     "K-K-K-Katy was a popular World War I-era song written by Geoffrey O'Hara in 1917 and published in 1918," reported Woody Goodbeat on as he read it straight from Wikipedia. "The sheet music advertised it as "The Sensational Stammering Song Success Sung by the Soldiers and Sailors," reflecting a time when speech impediments could be poked fun at—albeit gentle fun in this case. The song tells the story of Jimmy, a young soldier "brave and bold," who stuttered when he tried to speak to girls. Finally he managed to talk to Katy, the "maid with hair of gold."

     "I worked the floor at Lucifer's in fall '69 -'70 during my senior year at BU," Pete Smillie   recalled recently, also on "It was an eclectic and often hilarious scene then. Righteous Brother Bobby Hatfield played there without Bill Medley. Tommy Roe of "Sweet Pea" fame was laughed out of the club."

     "Worked Yesterday's in 71 when Kurt was the manager. I don't remember the bartender's name, but if you didn't put out the right glasses, in the right calling order, he would throw the glass! Too funny." reported a woman simply calling herself Katie. "I remember getting new outfits to wear. Green polyester wide leg pants (disco style) and gold knit shirts with gold satin cuffs and collars. And, of course, platforms were a must!! Good, good times."

      "Worked as Bouncer/Bartender... circa 75-77," said JM. "Henry Vara and Brian Wallace owned the place. Carl Midgette was the GM. Head Bartender was Dr (PHD) Deano Saluti. The Trammps were the big headliners with "Disco Inferno", "Hold Back The Night", and "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart". Of course there was Dick Doherty and the Majority.  The upstairs bar was a favorite for some very interesting characters like the Martarano Bros and the rest of the Winter Hill boys."

     "OMG!!", cried Faith. "I remember dancing on the bar and breaking a few glasses stacked up. It was a fun place to cut loose after a few. Great times. I wanna be a 19 year old again."

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Happy Weekending.....JB

The Square Route

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 1, 2013 10:28 PM
                        Everett  Square looks up Mass Av toward the South End, 1960

                                                               The Square

     It's not actually a square at all. It's really a fairly complex four-way intersection with a couple of stress inducing arteries and inconvenient parking lots to contend with. Drivers, often at their unhappiest as they attempt to negotiate Dorchester's Edward Everett Square, suddenly find themselves in traffic hell. Columbia Rd, Boston St, Mass Av, and East Cottage St converge quickly on the unaware motorist. A doughnut shop and a fast food place forces the more practiced and cynical drivers to lurch and screech their way through the jumbled mess while the less alert struggle just to hold their place.
     It was quieter there back in 1960 in Dirty Old Boston when this photo was taken, and it had to have been a whole lot quieter when it was an identifiable part of the Emerald Necklace, as Frederick Olmstead's city-wide landscape plan included a median park strip running down Columbia Rd from Franklin Park leading to a lovely roundabout called Five Corners, and not a square that's not a square if you catch our drift.

                                                                 The Route

     The great thing about Everett Square is where it leads. Boston St (formerly The Causeway) will take you directly into South Boston at Andrew Station and from there the entire neighborhood is accessible. East Cottage St gets you through Dorchester into Roxbury. With just a quick left onto Blue Hill Av and a quicker right onto West Cottage St, you hit Warren St. Dudley and Grove Hall are moments away, traffic permitting, with another simple right or left turn respectively. Columbia Rd ocean-bound is challenging but after clearing the Expressway and the nightmare rotary beyond, one finds oneself able to access Carson Beach, Boston Teachers Union, UMass, the JFK Library, even the Boston Globe. Columbia Rd city-bound gets you to Uphams Corner, Franklin Park, Jamaica Plain, and the hospitals. Drive up Mass Av and it's a straight shot to the river, M.I.T, and Harvard Square. Continue straight to the Lexington Lincoln line and Mass Av ends. Yes it's Edward Everett Square named after a governor, senator and Harvard president, and gamed by thousands of Boston motorists daily.

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Ciao for Now.....JB

Ellis The Rim Man

Posted by Jim Botticelli August 1, 2013 12:05 AM
                                                   Photo by Ginger Gillette Kent

                                                             He's A Rebel

     Moe Ellis might have never been any good because he never ever did what he should. At least as an adolescent. He should not have gotten into a fight with a teacher as a 16 year old high school student growing up in the South End. He should not have gotten expelled, terminating his public school education and closing himself off from other options. But life is full of shoulds and even fuller of should nots.  It was 1917 and automobiles were the device of the day. The ground floor beckoned and the kid decided to get in on the act. Dumping his newspaper hawking business, Moe Ellis began selling car parts to the public when his baby Ellis, Inc. was born on Moe Ellis' 17th birthday.

                                                            Inside The Rim

     Starting on Columbus Av in the South End, and moving to Automobile Row, Ellis eventually purchased a three-story building at 1001 Commonwealth Av, Allston. In 1962 and for nearly 40 more years he proclaimed his existence to the public with a giant sign that read "Ellis The Rim Man". Towering over 60 feet above the roof, the famous three-sided sign could be seen from all angles and caused many a Greater Bostonian to ponder the slogan's significance.
"My God! Have you seen that sign? Did he mean to say it that way? Is he nuts?" typify the reactions heard around Dirty Old Boston to Moe's marketing strategy. The sign became more widely known as it appeared on screen, first in 1968's Thomas Crown Affair, later on TV's Spenser For Hire. Out of towners could even see it from the Pike once the extension came through.

                                        Cars Drove By With The Boomin' System

      Early on radios were a big accessory, first AM, later AM/FM. Rear seat speakers, an early novelty item also held sway for a spell. AC units were hot but eventually these accessories became standard issue in most automobiles so Moe's son Edward Ellis, who had taken over in 1983, turned his attention to truckers who bought accessories like customized wheels more easily than car owners. Along came the Boomin' System and Ellis, Inc. was right there with the goods. We all know and love the sound of eardrum puncturing basslines spilling from cars piloted by oblivious young men and Ellis the Rim Man cashed in on that action big time for which DOB thanks him profusely.

                                                          The Legacy Lives

Edward Ellis retired in 2001, shuttering the shop forever, Today the Media and Technology Charter School (MATCH) occupies the space. No massive sign sits on the roof announcing the presence of the school. No gimmicks or fancy accessories are for sale. No one is laughing or gasping at the school's humdrum name. There IS one legacy of Moe Ellis that remains. Students still cannot get into fights with teachers. But even if they do, there can only be one Ellis the Rim Man.

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Ciao for Now.....JB

About the author

Jim Botticelli, a 1976 Northeastern University graduate, is a retired Boston Public Schools teacher. In college, he drove a cab and learned the city's cow paths. An avid collector of More »

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