How I Got to Madison Avenue. And beyond.

As with life, this blog is developing and changing. It began with a lot of stories that occurred on my career path from Albany to Madison Avenue and back.

There were some similarities to the AMC series "Mad Men," and then I went even farther back in time with a somewhat fictionalized version of growing up in Troy's Little Italy.

And now, a new development. As my free lance advertising and marketing career winds down, I'm becoming more interested in the theatre arts that my father and his 3 brothers helped instill in me as I grew up.

As a result, I've volunteered to help promote the Theatre Institute at Sage, and now, to continue a long-interrupted desire to be behind the proscenium, I've joined the newly formed Troy Civic Theatre, and was actually fortunate enough to appear in their first production.

So, I hope you'll enjoy the new stories that will develop from this latest turn.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chapter 12: Dark October

Esther Campobasso was Esther Case now, but she found it difficult to adjust to her new role. You'd think that moving closer to her sister, Rose, who had married Eddie's older brother Joe, would have eased the transition to life as a stay-at-home housewife on Liberty Street, but it didn't.

Moving up Tory Hill to Liberty Street, literally on the other side of the railroad tracks, and across the street from “The Dumps,” seemed to Esther more like moving down. Here was a young woman who had enjoyed a taste of freedom, earning her way, rebelling against the oppressive rules of la via vecchio – the old way – finally succumbing to a traditional role, and about to become a mother.

Eddie Case had won one prize and forfeited another. His childhood sweetheart was his wife, but his dream of national and international fame was gone. He still performed in local plays and musicals with his brothers, raising money for St. Anthony's, and reveled in the attention of the community.

With the imminent arrival of a new baby, Eddie and Esther faced their growing family's budget with some trepidation. In order to supplement his wages as a pressman at the Cluett, Peabody shirt factory, Eddie and three of his friends from the neighborhood formed a band, the Music Men, and picked up some extra cash performing popular music and Italian tunes on weekends at some of the roadhouses on the outskirts of Troy.

The Music Men consisted of Eddie on fiddle, Johnnie “Helmet Head” Marano on saxophone, Rocky Agnone on drums and Lefty Bernous on piano. The sound they developed was vaguely reminiscent of the Jean Goldkette band that Eddie admired.

Besides the few extra dollars the extra-curricular activity added to the family budget, Eddie also enjoyed the attention of the crowd and the escape from the drudgery of factory work. If he were completely honest, he would have admitted that he didn't mind escaping the uneventful home life he shared with Esther, either.

Esther was seven months pregnant and “eating for two” had resulted in her gaining close to fifty pounds. The stress of daily housekeeping wore her down, although she did have whatever help her sister Rose could offer. It wasn't much, because Rose had two children to tend to.

Whenever she could find the time, Esther found solace in reading and playing pieces by her favorite composer, Chopin, on Rose and Joe's old upright piano. Occasionally, on a brisk, sunny October day, Esther would wrap herself in her cloth coat and trudge uptown to the elegant Troy Public Library, with it's glorious Tiffany windows, and return home with one of its collection of romantic novels.

As Esther lost herself in her reading and her classical music, Eddie, who craved attention, felt increasingly ignored, and on weeknights spent his evenings after supper by his mother's side. Anna was now bedridden, unable to eat, and seemed to be losing weight as fast as Esther was gaining it.

The Music Men found themselves a regular gig, out at the Country Grove in East Greenbush, and it was there that Yolanda Caputo took an interest in the handsome fiddle player. As they used to say in the 1930's, Yolanda had a reputation. Today, we might call her liberated, but her overt sexuality and obvious interest in “playing the field” back then marked her as a loose woman.

She took an active interest in Eddie, exhibiting her voluptuousness close to the bandstand during practically every up-tempo number, and stalking Eddie during the band's breaks, offering him sips from her flask, cigarettes from her case, and carnal promises from her libido.

Eddie was needy, lonely and vulnerable. Yolanda was giving, willing, and predatory. On Friday night, October 29, 1939, Eddie did not go home to Esther.

Esther would have stayed up worrying all night, but this night, she and the Case clan that Esther and her sister Rose had married into had another reason to be awake. Father Sebastiano from St. Anthony's was administering the Last Sacrament to the matriarch, Anna Caserta, who was breathing her last breaths. And with every one, she demanded to see her baby, Egidio.

But Egidio – Eddie – was in the arms of Yolanda Caputo, and they were in the middle of violating a totally different commandment.

©Copyright 2009 Frank LaPosta Visco

Next: In Chapter 13, the 1940's begin with separation, reconciliation and revelation.

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