Boardwalking, Mum Style

The 2011 Philadelphia Mummers String Band Association Show of Shows lit up Boardwalk Hall this weekend in Atlantic City.  16 String Bands entertained at two shows,  led by crowd-friendly performances from the Captains, like Thomas D’Amore to John Baron to Denny Palandro to Jack Hee to Charlie Roetz to Anthony Celenza to 2011 1st Prize winning Captain Mark Danielewicz and all the Captains and members of the bands.  Folks came from as far away as Wisconsin and North Carolina to see Mummer tradition up close and personal.  The fans are awesome at these events.  One young man there with his mother baked me a cookie. Very tasty, Kevin . I and the entire audience met the Skinners.  Mr. Skinner has been coming to the Show of Shows since 1953.

 The costumes really pop under the arena lights. The powerful sound from the bands is literally felt inside the hall.  Frederick Lahm, the III, of Ferko String Band, played an elegant sax solo. Truly beautiful. Quaker City said thanks to Buzzy Woods, retiring after 42 years as a playing member of the band. Seeing Duffy String Band’s Peg Rullo and Cheryl Crowe take a bow for being inducted next month into the Hall of Fame, the first women to be inducted, was a special moment.  Seeing the Comics, Fancies and other divisions of Mummery come on down to support the String Bands was awesome, too.  The Show of Shows has been a harbinger of spring for decades. Lots of us felt the warmth early inside Boardwalk Hall. From  Broomall who started us off to 1st Prize winning Quaker City who capped each show, it was another to remember.

After the second show, I left Atlantic City and headed to Bucks County where the Fancy Brigade Association was holding its annual banquet and Hall of Fame ceremony.  Congratulations to Mickey Adams, of the Shooting Stars, to the 1st Prize winning Jokers and to all honored at the event.  The Brigades are to be congratulated.  They are growing with a new club being added this year.  And, they know how to throw a party.

Now, a few more views of the weekend.

Tribute to a King

Luke McDermott

Many folks are looking forward to the annual Philadelphia Mummers String Band Show of Shows in Atlantic City this weekend.  The Show of Shows has always been a time that the String Bands, and, in particular, their Captains are even more up close and personal.  In one sense it is easy to honor the Captains who served for many years, but there are many fine people who served as Captains for a year or two or three.  The Show of Shows is a time to appreciate the contributions of these leaders in a tradition. There have been many over the years. Some are long retired.  Some have left us.  One of those Captains, Mr. Luke McDermott, recently passed away.  Luke will forever be one of Philadelphia’s heroes. He was a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department for 30 years. He had served in the U.S. Army and worked at Abbotts Dairy before joining the department.  Mr. McDermott was a husband and brother, a father, a grandfather and a great grandfather, and a friend to many, including Jim Driadon.  Luke was a Mummer, with friends and relatives throughout Mummery, like Buzzy Wood, of Quaker City.  But, it was Greater Overbrook String Band that loyal Luke chose as his Mummer home.  Luke marched with Greater O for 3 decades. 3 of those years he served as Captain.  To this day, he still is remembered for the unique Christmas Tree suit he wore in Greater O’s “Seasons Greetings” performance in 1979. The suit was a snowy white, glistening Christmas tree.  Luke was inside it, staying still or slowly turning until the tree opened up to reveal Luke strutting.  The year before there was the tribute to Elvis Presley, who had recently died.  That tall, wide back piece with a crown over Luke’s head was fitting.  Luke McDermott  was the tradition of Mummery.  Even before there was an official parade, firefighters were a cornerstone of Mummers groups.  Luke was devoted to the Fire Department, to his family, to Mummery and to music. Karen Specht, one of Luke’s kids, tells me, “I am very proud of my Dad. He was a quiet family man. He not only saved lives as a firefighter, but brought the joy of music to many people.” I thank Karen for sharing these photos.  She also reveals two of her father’s favorite songs:  “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum and “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang.  The man was spiritual and also knew how to party.  Yes, it is time to enjoy the Show of Shows.  But, we should pause over those 3 hours and take a good look at the ones who are in front of us and remember those who came before them.  And among those in our thoughts, we’re thinking of you, Luke McDermott.

Best B&B

The last two nights I had the pleasure of being with the best B&B as determined by the thousands of people who took part in the PHl17 Viewer’s Choice Poll.  The viewers selected Quaker City String Band and Bill McIntyre’s Shooting Stars as the finest performers on New Year’s Day.  I presented the awesome Viewer’s Choice trophy for String Band to Quaker City President Harry Brown, Jr., and the band Wednesday night at the QC clubhouse.  Thursday night, I handed over the equally powerful Viewer’s Choice trophy for Fancy Brigade to Mickey Adams and the brigade at their clubhouse.  The winners get to keep the trophies.  They are not passed around year to year.  Every form of recognition can be important, but the Viewer’s Choice Awards for Best String Band and Best Fancy Brigade are reflective of the people’s choice.   Each club earned it.   Congratulations Shooting Stars and Quaker City!  

Good ‘n Plenty

Marty Good, Sr.

As we prepare for the exciting Show of Shows at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday, February 26th, 2011, there is another development in the world of String Bands.  An orderly transition of leadership is taking place within the String Band Association.  Mr. John Pignotti, the Hall of Fame former First Prize winning Captain of Hegeman String Band, has served as President of the String Band Association for 12 years.  Thank you for your service, John.   Now, the umbrella is being passed to long-time Vice-President, Mr. Marty Good, Sr.  Marty is having a plentiful year already.  His band, Quaker City String Band, wins First Prize and the PHL17 Viewer’s Choice Award,  he will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame next month, he and Catherine have been blessed with a second grandchild, Brady, (Carly got here first) and he has been elected as President of the String Band Association.  His sons Marty, Jr.,  Scott and Jimmy are making mom and dad proud, too.  President Marty, congratulations!

Remembering Tony

The condolences continue following the passing Monday morning of Mr. Tony Bonanno. The arrangements for the viewing and funeral have been made. The viewing will take place Thursday night, February 10, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Murphy-Ruffenach Funeral Home at 3rd and Wolf in South Philadelphia.  The viewing will continue Friday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. The funeral Mass will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Church. The members of Quaker City String Band will attend the viewing and funeral. Maria and her family suggest that anyone considering a contribution in Tony’s name, please consider donating to the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital. Here’s the link: .

To say that Tony was quite a guy is about as much of an understatement as one could make. But, Tony was not alone in being wonderful. His wife, Maria, easily gives him a run for his money. There has not been a finer couple. Maria was the model of grace, dignity and friendship last night, as family, friends and members of the Quaker City String Band family filled her row home. It also has been reassuring about the goodness of people to see so many members of Quaker City and the larger Mummer community show their support in so many ways in recent weeks. When I saw Quaker President Harry Brown, Jr., at Maria and Tony’s house last night, he had already been there for 11 hours. The heartfelt loss experienced by so many people who are not technically Tony and Maria’s family shows the impact they have had and the goodness of these Mummers who live the meaning of the words friend and family. People like Susan and Bob Shannon. Susan was the matchmaker who got Maria and Tony together. You did well, Susan.  An interesting, perhaps, wonderful, maybe even necessary trait of the human condition is that in time the pain of these days will subside. Not forgotten, but the deep loss will be placed where it does not paralyze anymore. That day will come for those who mourn the passing of Tony Bonanno. But, even more wonderful than coping, is that the great memories of Tony and the love of life that flowed from him will remain, indeed, thrive in all who knew him.

With Sadness…

It is with much sadness that I report the passing this morning of Mr. Tony Bonanno.  Tony died about 7:45 a.m. at his home in South Philadelphia.  His life and his spirit through his long illness are inspirational.  To his wife, Maria, and all his family, his friends and colleagues, and his Quaker City String Band family, we extend our condolences and the full faith that Tony lives forever in the hearts and the smiles of those he touched.

One for Tony

String Band brothers and sisters and other Mummers streamed into the Quaker City Clubhouse Friday night.  They came together for Tony and Maria Bonanno.  The dollar draught and the dollar dogs were a good draw, but it was love and respect for Tony and Maria that really pulled them in.

Tony is seriously ill and Maria has been wonderful through all the stress. I saw folks from nearly a dozen string bands, possibly more.  With a jammed bar downstairs and a jazz band jammin’ upstairs, folks celebrated a fun, inspirational Mummer, an all-around great guy, and, of course, the man who put the mmmm in martini from North Wildwood to 2 Street.  We lifted a glass and lifted our thoughts for Tony Bonanno.  Here’s some of the scene at Quaker City.


Shaken or Stirred!

Like James Bond, Tony Bonanno likes martinis.  And you need to shake, stir or at least look at one this Friday night, because it’s time for us to step up in honor of Tony and his wife, Maria.  If you follow this column, you know that I have reported that Tony has been very ill.  Maria has been able to do some work from home, but as you can imagine, a serious illness can take quite a toll in many ways.  Your opportunity to help a family with Class, Pride and Commitment is here, this Friday, February 4th.  Quaker City String Band is holding a party (there’ll be martinis and beer and non-alcholic drinks) to raise money for the family.  The get together starts at 8pm.  It costs 10 dollars to get in.  Lots of businesses on or near 2 Street and on South Street have donated items to make the evening a success.  Any way you like it, it’s a call to action this Friday night at the Quaker City String Band Clubhouse to help a great couple, Maria and Tony Bonanno.  Where there’s a Mummer, there’s a Bond.