by Bob Ingram
If I’m out of town, no matter for how long, if I get back in time, I go right away for a walk on the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk just gets me; it’s almost mystical, no matter what season it is.
With Labor Day bearing down like a runaway tram car, I got to thinking about all the Boardwalk people I’ve come to know and befriend over the years of my daily walks there. And – you know what? – they’re all like celebrities to me … a little larger than life in my scheme of things. Let’s go for a blog ramble on the Boards from end to end, North Wildwood to the Crest, and I’ll give you a rundown of my own private cast of Boardwalk Celebrities.
Almost at the top off the ramp is Pompeo’s restaurant, owned and operated by John and Rhonda Klug, who are a school principal and school administrator in their parallel lives. Little Nicky’s pizzeria is next door, and the honcho there is my main man John Klug, John and Rhonda’s son, and a video artist as well as a restaurateur. Two of John’s pizzaleros are Anthony and Eddie. Anthony is an outstanding amateur boxer who trains at the Wildwood Boxing Club on Park Boulevard and Eddie is an up-and-coming pro skateboarder in California in the off-season.
My next celebs are at Adams restaurant in the Montego Bay Resort where Gus and Rula, assisted by Tula, run things, Rula and Tula out front and Gus in the kitchen. My fave waitress in all the world is at Adams — the inimitable, irrepressible, but never irresponsible Tammy Barth, who both served in the Israeli army and served as governess to the kids of actor Richard Harris in England. Harris’ widow still calls Tammy every year at Christmas to wish her happy holidays.
The Boardwalk Special Improvement District HQ is over the Doo Wop bathrooms at 25th Street and man-about-the-island Patrick Rosenello is the director there, keeping America’s Boardwalk on the stick. Patrick is also a North Wildwood councilman and an entrepreneur of note. When he, his wife, and three kids are out walking, you never saw so much blond hair.
Shirtique and its owner, Nati, is my next celeb stop. Nati and his sister Iris were in the Boardwalk documentary I co-wrote and narrated. Running into them is still a joy because they are inherently, infectiously happy and smiling, and always a pleasure to be with.
Next door to Shirtique is the first of the three cool, upscale variety stores owned and operated by the indomitable Michelle Rutkowski, another totally upbeat Boardwalk Celebrity. Michelle is very modest and doesn’t like being called the “Queen of the Boardwalk,” but, in my book, she is. I guess that makes her eight-year-old daughter, Sylvie, a Boardwalk Princess.
At the epicenter of the Wildwoods Boardwalk is Sam’s Pizza Palace and everybody there – Anthony, Ro, Tony, Manuel, Sal, and, of course, Sam himself – are Boardwalk stars, cranking out pies from mid-morning to midnight and beyond. These folks probably know more about what’s happening on this island than anybody because almost everybody on the island comes in Sam’s on a fairly regular basis. A shout-out at Sam’s goes to Alana, long-time waitress, new mother, schoolmarm, and sister to Wildwood pro boxer Chuck “The Professor” Mussachio. Oh, the motel behind Sam’s is being re-built lickety-split after being an informal parking lot since the fire.
Up the way, still heading south on the Boards, are the two stands of my pal Dave, the only Wax Hands specialist in town. Dig this: Dave is one of the few people I know who doesn’t have a television. The others are a poet and a food critic.
Under their big, fairly new Play Ball sign, Wes and Brian run three games and if you want to see Boardwalk pros in action, stop and watch them work for a few minutes. These guys are true “agents,” a carnie word for booth guys who are good at their game. And if you want to see two perfect little blond girls, take a look at Wes’ and Natasha’s two tots.
Beyond Wes and Brian, my friends Lou and Vicki have a bust-the-balloon stand and a race stand. Lou restores cars up in Pa. during the winter.
Mack’s is the other big name in Wildwood Pizza and it’s still a little strange to see Mrs. T. sitting at the end of the counter without a cigarette. Mack’s pizza man Tony is also a film-maker.
Up from Mack’s is Eleanor’s variety store, operated by Danny, and named after his mom. Danny’s also a finished carpenter.
Almost across from Eleanor’s is Lime Ricky World, a product of the imagination of Chris Pohl, who’s also a real estate broker.
On the last leg of the Boardwalk is Doo Wop Diner, all checker-floored and featuring a big Wurlitzer juke box. This place is a real cool throwback diner, and the handiwork of happy George, who’s also the nephew of Gus and Rula at Adam’s.
Okay, that’s my Boardwalk Celebrity Tour. Who’s on yours?
(Next time I’ll be blogging about the Upscaling of the Boardwalk.)
Hang tough or hang ten.