I can't help but think of this story every year during the Christmas-New Year Holidays, and I always have this burning desire to share it. It took place just before New Year's Eve in about 1960.
Gigs for Italian singers had been terrible for a long time. But then out of nowhere came "That's Amore," "Mel Blu di Pinto di Blue," and "Al di La." And things got very good for them.
And that's when Macino Rapuchi, with his Sam Maceo-esque billing, "the International Continental Stylist," hit Galveston with his guitar and accordion, and found his way to headline at the Studio Lounge upstairs over the Turf Grill at 2214 Market Street. That very spot had headlined Peggy Lee, Myron Cohen, Sinatra, Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy, and a host of others; that is as long as the casino above it was operating.
But about five years before Macino hit town, the famed Texas Rangers had permanently closed Galveston's illegal casino gambling
So for the first time in a long time, business at the Studio Lounge got really good, and it was because Macino knew those songs, and he sang them over and over again as he paraded around the room strumming his guitar or squeezing his accordion. Macino was tall and good looking and was full of personality. He spoke broken English. The girls loved him.
When he'd finish a tune, he'd yell, "Ecco! Ecco!" That was notice for the audience to clap their hands off.
Men had no choice but to take their dates to the Studio Lounge to hear Macino Rapuchi, the International Continental Stylist. Drinks were 75 cents a piece and you had to tip Macino a buck every time he sang a line or two at your table. Macino could make it by your table with his hand out at least a dozen times a night. Be prepared for that date to cost 30 bucks.
Now you remember me telling you about wise guy Joe Pajucie with his cheap looking girls in their Frederick's of Hollywood bullet bras and Carmen Miranda wedge shoes, all piled in his two-payment past-due used red Cadillac convertible from Child's Motors, don't you?
Well, on this Friday night around New Year's Eve-time, Joe was in the mood for some loving. So he picked up his cheap looking girls from the bar at the Derrick Club, loaded them in the red Cadillac convertible and headed downtown to the Studio Lounge.
He figured he'd finally be able to hit a home run and get in some smooching with at least one of the three if he took them to see Macino Rapuchi, the International Continental Stylist.
Macino was singing "Al di La" when they walked in.
Al di la, del bene plu prezioso, ci sei tu, ci sei tu
Al di la, del sogno plu ambizoso, ci sei tu, ci sei tu
Even though the Studio Lounge's carpet was worn thin, and the black light on the murals couldn't hide the years that had past since it had last been redecorated, and the odor of Pine ‘o Pine coming from the restrooms was far from subtle, nevertheless on the way over, Joe Pajucie had convinced the girls that the Studio Lounge in its earlier days had been the place where new talent was auditioned for the chance of a future engagement at the Balinese Room.
They sat down, ordered, and the waitress brought them their drinks along with a small bowl of Goldfish crackers. Macino was on to "Volare," and he was whaling his lungs out and the accordion was huffing and puffing trying its best to accompany him.
Macino finished, and went into his ending, "Ecco! Ecco!" The audience, especially the women, started clapping their hands off.
And that's when one of Joe Pajucie's cheap looking girls, Madeleine was her name, started slowly rising like a human Phoenix out of the banquette and she looked Macino square in the eye and said for him and everyone else in the room to hear, "I love you!"
With that and without saying a word, Macino set down his accordion in front of him on the dance floor, went to the juke box, threw in a quarter, and quickly punched up six tunes, one of them the real "Al di La" by a fellow named Domenico Modugno.
Then Macino came to the banquette, took Madeleine by the hand, and they walked out of the Studio Lounge arm and arm toward the elevator as the audience, realizing what was probably going to happen soon, started laughing and chanting "Ecco! Ecco!"
Joe Pajucie and the two remaining cheap looking girls couldn't believe their eyes. In an attempt to save the night, Joe Pajucie said to them, "Let go to the Pirate Club for an Oscar steak." When they got downstairs and got into the two payment past due red Cadillac convertible, wouldn't you know that the battery was dead. The girls caught a cab back to the Derrick Club.
Joe Pajucie started walking toward the Watch Shop to see if Isadore Jansburg, Sonny Martini and Charlie Killebrew would let him play a hand or two of gin rummy that they usually had going on in the back room. When he got there, the place was dark.
Copyright 2003 - William S. Cherry
All rights reserved
BILL CHERRY, REALTORS
Selling America Since 1964