Monday, October 29, 2012

DISORGANIZED CRIME, Patini's High School Years

Sister Mary Mathias came in the boy's bathroom with a bunch of kids from the first grade just as I was writing "suck" on the bathroom wall with a mop. After going through nine years of grammar school with the same kids, that bright idea prevented me from attending the graduation ceremony with the rest of the class. Although I wasn't allowed to take part in the graduation ceremony, I did graduate, received my diploma and was accepted into Cardinal Hayes high school.

After my freshman year, I transferred to Immaculata High School on East 33rd Street because I didn't want to travel to Grand Concourse in the Bronx to attend Cardinal Hayes for my sophomore year.

There Sister Consolata was a nun everybody feared. She ruled with an iron fist and a wooden ruler. One day she was in a tirade and I raised my hand. When she called on me, I got up and started talking pure gibberish, ending with, .”.....for homework tomorrow?"

Well, I did this until she reached her boiling point, screaming, "What, what?"

I didn't want to overplay my hand so I was about to stop when I saw Eddie Schultz with his head on his desk laughing uncontrollably. This encouraged me and I went one more time, which pushed her over the edge.

She came over, grabbed me and shook me like a rag doll, screaming at the top of her lungs. Our classroom was on the third floor; outside there was a two foot wide ledge with a flagpole in the middle of it. Not being afraid of heights because of my time on the roof with the pigeons, I ran over to the window, jumped out on the ledge and made my way to the flagpole. Carefully sitting down, I inched a little ways out.

Now I negotiated with Sister Consolata, who stuck her head out the window and pleaded with me to come back in. I told her she was always picking on me, which I borrowed from the doo-wop song "Charlie Brown.” She assured me she wouldn't pick on me any more if I came back in.

True to her word, whenever I was caught talking with anybody, she would only yell at them. Starting to feel guilty, I actually started behaving.

The kids in Sister Consolata's class weren't all from the neighborhood, like grade school. There was this one kid named Carl who was a ball-buster and a real jerk-off. One morning he was bothering Eddie Schultz, and shortly thereafter Sister Consolata was called away from the classroom for something, telling us to behave while she was gone.

Yeah right; as soon as she left, Eddie, Alfrie, me and a couple of other guys grabbed Carl, gave him a "pink belly" and hit him all over with erasers until he was covered from head to toe in white chalk. He got away from us, ran into the supply closet next to Consolata's desk and locked himself in.

Just then, our "lookout" told us Sister Consolata was approaching. We all got back to our seats and tried to look studious. She comes back in, sits at her desk and a quiet hush envelops the classroom. This hush was shattered a few minutes later when the supply closet door bursts open, and Carl comes running out looking like a giant snowman. Consolata let out a scream, held her chest and the whole classroom erupted in laughter as Carl went running down the hallway.


From his memoir, DISORGANIZED CRIME, by Sonny Patini, Distribution needed.


Sunday, October 28, 2012


From Ting and I: A Memoir...

After another summer of being head camp counselor with Rhoda, who was from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, smart, attractive, athletic, and having what my mother described as a “Miss America figure,” I returned to Ithaca, to share a double room in Boldt Hall, much nicer than my freshman digs. Looked old. Had Ivy. My roommate was Miles, tall, smart, athletic, good-looking, and wealthy, quickly snapped up by the leading Jewish fraternity on campus, leaving me with a double room and without a roommate. Two plusses: more space, more privacy. My classwork went better. My mood improved.

That fall, I “pledged” and then “de-pledged” a fraternity, Phi Epsilon Pi. I return to the Phi Ep story below. I was not fully the frat type. “I wouldn’t join any club that would have me as a member,” as Groucho Marx once said about himself.

Underscoring my unsuitability for fraternity life was the series of fights I got into, one much-too-early morning, with the fraternity located across the street from Boldt Hall. It was probably a spring Friday night. I wanted to study, and they wanted to party. I was sober and tired. They were drunk and loud. I wasn’t the only one to complain. Catcalls went back and forth to and from others at Boldt Hall and the brothers at the fraternity. Campus police were called, came and went, ineffectually.

I was fed up. I dressed, marched into the frat house, went upstairs and told the guardian of the record player to turn it down. “Turn it down yourself,” he replied. As I did so, he jumped me, but I put him down. On my way down the stairs another guy grabbed me. That was a draw, broken up by the brothers. On my way out, a very big brother came after me. I got in one good punch, then down I went. He could have been a lot meaner but wasn’t, so I merely got a fat lip and a bruised cheekbone. I felt good, though. Something had needed to be done. It wasn’t just the noise, but also the demeaning catcalls from the fraternity that seemed to require my direct action.

One bright spot my sophomore year was “Great Poets,” a course I took with Professor Forrest Read. The course fulfilled an English requirement and met at a convenient time, two considerations that outweighed the import of the topic. Poets? Maybe I’d meet some girls there. Prof. Read came to English literature after having started out as an engineer, so we had a technical bent in common. The poets were great– Donne, Pope, Keats, Robert Browning, Yeats and Frost–and some of the poetry has been unforgettable for me. I do not recall finding a girlfriend there.

I was pleased by what Prof. Read did when I, uncharacteristically, disputed a grade. He had given me a poor grade on a paper, thinking I had badly misinterpreted one of Donne’s poems. In his office I made the case for my interpretation, and he graciously backed down, raising my grade from 75 to nearly 100. On another paper, he was even more generous. We talked about other topics as well, and he gave me some good, avuncular advice. He was one of the few people I have admired. That could be a theme.

My grades improved, though not uniformly.

Another bright spot: my social life improved greatly. I forget how I met Ellen: brilliant, pretty, violin-playing English major from a New York City suburb. Daughter of a far-left M.D. from New Jersey, she and I disagreed on many things, but we had somehow fallen for each other. She once said she had a “thing” for Christian guys. That matched well with my “thing” for Jewish girls, especially smart, pretty ones....

Despite some ups and downs, we went through the year as a romantic pair, and she replaced Rhoda as my co-counselor at the summer camp, my last year there. When I met Ellen again fifteen years later, she was still smart, attractive, sensitive, and still wholly at odds with me politically. A marriage would have been doomed.


Ting and I: A Memoir... is available in paperback and ebook formats from both and Published in September 2012.


Friday, October 26, 2012


Joe Bucca was the most “well-endowed” kid in the neighborhood. No, I wasn't "squattin' on the nail", we all knew that because we used to go swimming buck-naked in the Madison Square Boys Club pool. When Bucca jumped up and down on the diving board, his schlong slapped his stomach red. Sorta' like when the vacuum hose gets away from ya'.

One day, just as he got on the diving board, Lefty Antonacci walked in. As Bucca started jumping, Lefty's head started going up and down in unison to Bucca's Johnson. He looked like he was laying down sideways watchin' a ping-pong game. Lefty was a little bit beyond "bi-curious", he was on dick. The Boys Club used to have something called “sleep-outs.” In the summer you can sign up with your group of friends to pitch tents on the Boys Club roof, roast marshmallows, play games, shoot the shit and sleep out. The kids loved when it rained the day before the sleep-out because the roof would turn into a mini-lake and we’d take row boats out and act like we were “Crossing the Delaware.”

One steamy city night, most of the kids went to sleep in their assigned tents, but a few of us remained around the fireplace. Someone looked over and saw Johnny Bane sleeping with his head sticking out of the tent and his mouth wide open. Now, Johnny was a tough, macho kid and, like most of us back then, would be considered homophobic.

From the mischievous minds of miscreants materialized a plan to take one of the long forks we were using to roast marshmallows, wet the handle a little, walk over to the tent where Johnny Bane was sleeping, have Bucca stand over him with his schlong out, gently stick the wet handle in and out of Johnny’s mouth and when he woke up we would all start yellin’, “you sucked his cock, you sucked his cock!”

It took us some time to assure Bucca that nothing would happen to him because as soon as Johnny got up to attack him, we would grab him and convince him we put Bucca up to it. Well, we did just that with one exception...when Johnny woke up and saw that long fireman’s cap dangling over his head, he jumped up so fast none of us had time to react, and he started chasing Bucca around the roof. We were running behind Johnny but were laughin’ so hard we couldn’t catch up to him. He caught up to Bucca and started beatin’ the shit outta’ him before we could pull him off and calm him down. 


From Disorganized Crime, published 2012 by Mountain Lion Productions,
written by Sonny Patini, Distributors sought.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012


From Ting and I: A Memoir...

The people of Walden, NY, were generally very nice to newcomers like me, and I am grateful to them. Not all the people of Walden were delighted with me, however. I did have a sharp tongue.

I recall two fights at Walden, and again I split. On a freshman class picnic, I got into some argument with Tommy, a guy larger than I. As he rushed toward me, I grabbed his shirt, rolled backward, threw him over me with my feet, put him in a headlock, pressing my knuckle below his ear. He gave up. A dispute on the school bus my sophomore year got me into a fight with Jack, a much bigger senior, and he beat me easily; at least I hadn’t backed down. Fortunately, I do not remember the details.



Our church (First Reformed, Protestant) was less than a block away. As I did at school, I participated in most of the church activities. I “dated” several of the girls at one time or other and had a real crush on a tall, thin, lovely girl, Carol Ann. One afternoon, parked in downtown Walden to pay the telephone company their bill, her father was killed and her mother and sister injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Our romance became irrelevant. Even today I can’t pass the location of the accident without thinking of her and her poor family. I believe she married a relative not long afterward, perhaps a father figure, and when that did not work out, a state trooper. Some traumas just shape the rest of one’s life.

More foreshadowing: Our church group took a two-week vacation at a campus-like retreat area nearby. Several other church groups were there as well. I quickly developed a crush, reciprocated, on a slender, pretty Eurasian teenager. Jean was the product of an American soldier stationed in Japan and a Japanese woman. Like many a summer romance, it faded with the coming of fall.

I was in the band, in the chorus, in the plays, was junior and senior class president, yearbook editor, the whole nine yards. Kept me busy and felt like success.

There was a monthly enrichment program for the top students in Orange County, where I met Mary Lou, more accurately “Marie-Louise Veronique, etc.” Smart, pretty, a would-be Holly Golightly, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We wrote a lot of letters to each other, funny stuff, we thought, and we went together to my Senior Prom. That meant she had found some way to get to Walden from her Port Jervis home, probably borrowing her father’s car. Eventually, she married a guy with a fine sports car, then went with him (U.S. military) to Kinshasa in the Congo. That marriage failed, leaving her with a son. There may have been another marriage. A few years ago, she contacted me over the Internet, as some others have done, to see if we could meet. Nice compliment, but no way would I do anything that could cause Tina concern.


Money was in short supply for us in the 1950s. We still ran a tab at the grocer and our cars were typically one step away from the auto-parts graveyard, imminent roadkill. One evening, we drove our old car by the Municipal Building, where a heated debate was taking place over a proposed dog leash law. “Woof! Woof!” we yelled out of our car window. The local paper quoted us correctly the next day, but attributed it to “a passing truck.” You cannot believe all that you read in the paper. “Truck,” indeed.

My first two years of high school, living outside Walden, I washed dishes during some holidays and over the summer vacation at the neighboring resort-cum-boarding house, on the fringe of the Catskills “Borscht Belt,” with much the same clientele. The pay was low, the hours long, but there was a swimming pool that was a perquisite. I ate well there, except one time when I was given chicken backs and told the dish was “a delicacy.” Too refined for me.

My last year of high school I worked a bit at a shoe store then moved to the big time, bagging groceries at the Thruway Market. These days when I see the young baggers there, I am tempted to tell them how it was a step on the road to my success. Then again, the casual way I dress may not inspire them. White socks, jeans, sweaters with holes in the sleeves and fraying cuffs will never go out of style, will they?

For several months I worked as a bookkeeper of sorts for a feed and grain store. I went over the bills and the payments and put them in some master log, then tallied them up at the end of the month. It was a form of double-entry bookkeeping, indoor work, no heavy lifting, at least not much heavy lifting. Some months I got everything to match up (balanced the books) easily. Other months took many extra hours to find my mistakes. I was eased out of that position at some fortuitous time, but it was clear to the boss and to me that I was not careful enough to make bookkeeping my career. A weakness, not being careful with details, but not as bad as being told one lacked sufficient personality to be an accountant, as the old joke goes.

None of these after-school pursuits were high-status. I invited a doctor’s daughter, Fran, to the Junior Prom. She accepted. She soon revealed to a mutual friend that she really wished Ricky (more handsome and athletic) had invited her. When I found this out, I told her I wouldn’t be taking her, “freeing” her for an invitation from Ricky that never came. I was nobody’s pushover.

No sense wasting the prom expense on someone who did not appreciate it. I took a good friend from church, Jean Jansen, and we had a great time, a time remembered fondly to this day by both.


My best friends in high school were Phil and Dave.

Phil was a year older, graduated in 1959, a year ahead of me, and has kept in touch one way or another since then. He served in the U.S. Air Force, continued his education to become a teacher, taught developmentally challenged elementary school students for decades, retiring only last year. Faithfully and happily married over forty years, Phil and Ginny Nodhturft have one son, Phil III, and he has made them proud. True friends of my family and me, they visit this area from Florida almost yearly. We have a friendship that is rare indeed. (See his contribution to “Tributes” at the end of the book.)

Dave was my classmate, a key part of our threesome, but he abandoned me our senior year, once he got a car and started dating one of the cheerleaders, a bitter pill for me. Eventually, he married that girl, had three children with her, abandoned them all for a younger woman and a Hollywood career, and died relatively young.

Lesson: don’t put a lot of faith in other people. Some will let you down.

Family Complete

With the birth of my youngest brother, Chris, in 1958, our family was complete: Michael J. Cooper, lawyer; Priscilla T. Cooper, homemaker; Nick, six years younger than I; Diana, seven years younger; Cliff, nine years younger; and Chris, sixteen years younger. Soon I would be leaving the crew to go to college.

College Applications

My senior year, I applied to M.I.T., Cal Tech, and Cornell–for admission and financial aid. Money was tight. Three applications would have to be enough. I was fairly confident, being valedictorian and having both the College Board verbal and mathematical aptitude scores being in the top percentile.

M.I.T. had a deadline for applying for financial aid that was a month earlier than their general admission application deadline. I was a few days late, and they informed me I would not be eligible for support until sophomore year, although they did admit me. I was very likely to get aid for three years, not enough. Taught me the importance of meeting deadlines.

Cal Tech did not accept me. Taught me there were plenty of others who were brighter than I.


Cornell accepted me, and I received a full-tuition scholarship, based on my very high score in the NYS Regents Scholarship Exam. Cornell it would be. The classy Ivy League, I hoped. Not quite, as I will explain.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Howie Storm's dog, Shaggy, died, so Eddie Schultz and I took a walk up to the A.S.P.C.A. on 96th Street to get him a new dog, which is about 7 miles round trip. The dog was black, just like Shaggy, so Howie called him “Jet.” This was before the "pooper scooper" laws so our dogs did their business in the street.

One day I was sitting on the fender of Mr. Vincenzi's car when he came out of his building and slapped me pretty hard on my head. I thought it was an overreaction - "get off the fuckin' car" would've been sufficient.

He usually came out to go to his car around the same time so the next day I overfed my dog with meatballs and spaghetti and made sure she took a big shit, close to the curb, in between Vincenzi's building and his car. Next, I timed how long it would take to walk past the pile of dogshit on the way to the car. I tested the length of fuse it would take on a firecracker to match that time.

Acting like I was carving some writing in the asphalt street, I waited. The target appeared; I placed the firecracker in the middle of the pile and lit the fuse. I tried my best to walk away calmly, but I was nervous because he was a mean, tough bastard who would kick my ass if anything went wrong.

BOOM!!!I heard a lot of Italian curse words but I ain't never hoid dese woids before. He now was a rare sight - an Italian with freckles! Cursing all the way, he ran back to his building, while I went to sit on his fuckin' car...for a minute!


From DISORGANIZED CRIME, by Sonny Patini,


From TING AND I: A Memoir...


We moved outside of metropolitan Walden (pop. 5,000) in 1956, then moved downtown in 1958. I went to Walden High for all four years. Walden is in the north-central portion of Orange County, about 70 miles north of New York City. My parents advised me that the stereotype of kids from “the City” was of being brash and too mouthy—wiseguys. They recommended a long period of modest silence, and I took their advice. It may have been for only a few months, but the vow of silence seemed to have lasted interminably. After a while, I opened up, often making jokes in class.

We lived about five miles from town at first, so my involvement in sports my freshman and sophomore years (basketball, football, baseball) required either hitchhiking home or riding my bike to and from school. No, it was not wholly uphill in both directions. Just felt that way.

Getting a ride home was the source of another near-death experience. A football teammate gave me ride a in his peppy Chevy: “Let’s see what this baby can do.” It did 106 miles per hour. One such ride was enough.

World history class in my freshman year was taught by Mr. Decker, also the driver’s education teacher. A Renaissance man of sorts, very nice. He once had a student who got 100 percent on the Regents’ world history exam. He said he hoped I would match that. I did.

Memorable was my sophomore year biology teacher, Mr. Ross, who shared –no, exceeded –my fondness for puns. One of them involved “testes” for “test these,” and there were many more of like character and quality. Biology puzzled some of my classmates, one of whom asked about the nature of identical twins when one was a male and the other a female. Will that be on the test?

Especially memorable was a compliment paid me in front of the rest of the football team one practice. At 150 pounds, I was among the lightest on the squad, and my position was defensive end, where my modest speed and modest agility could be offset by my determination and wiry strength. “If the rest of you played with the determination of Cooper, here, we’d never lose a game,” Coach Marone told them.

My sophomore year we lost only one football game and lost that one by a single point. Later that fall, Coach selected a few players to join him in attending the Heisman Trophy presentation being made to Pete Dawkins at West Point. I was one of those he chose, which came as a big surprise to me, as I was a substitute who rarely got into our games. Thanks, Coach.

Basketball and baseball took more skill than I had, and I only participated my first two years, mostly riding the bench. I scored a total of two points in Junior Varsity basketball, bunching them together with a single shot my second year.

I did referee basketball games in the church league for younger players. Someone criticized the refs in a letter to the editor of the Walden Citizen-Herald. I replied in kind. I wrote that I did not give a “tinker’s dam” about the outcomes.

Junior and senior years, besides playing football, I ran the mile and pole-vaulted in track and was near the middle among those against whom we competed. Oh, well.

My grades were much better than my running or pole vaulting. Professional track and field was not in my future.

I was in DeMolay, a junior affiliate of the Masons. I have a trophy for being “Eastern Jurisdictional Council Order of DeMolay Oratorical Contest Winner, 1958-59.” While I do not remember the details, I fared better than Jacques DeMolay himself, who had a bad Inquisition.

The high school chorus used my speaking abilities to read introductions to our songs, sometimes, at school presentations. I read better than I sang.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Speaking about ol’ metal garbage cans, which were a common sight on every tenement street in those days: when I was about 13 or 14, one of the staff members in the Boys Club, Frank “Frank the Tank” Raucci, asked me if I wanted to be an assistant to a Bellevue counselor and get a free trip to Coney Island. He explained that the counselor was from Bellevue’s psyche ward on 30th Street and 1st Avenue and was taking a group of emotionally disturbed kids on an outing to Coney Island. The counselor called the Club to ask for an assistant. Frank said I could go on rides all day long, so I agreed.

A school bus pulled up at the designated time and I got on. Along the way the counselor showed me a bag of soda bottle caps and told me he was going to hand them out to the kids and let them pay for the rides with the caps, trying to teach them financial responsibility. We get to Coney Island, which is closed to the public, and the first ride the kids head for is the Merry-Go-Round.

As the kids are going around on the wooden horses, I start bullshittin’ with the teenager at the booth taking the tickets. While we’re talking, the counselor comes over and tells the ticket taker about giving the kids the soda bottle caps to pay for the ride and says he’ll straighten up with him after they finish the ride. The young ticket taker agrees and goes on the ride collecting the caps from the kids. He brings a bag of ‘em back to the booth and after the ride, as I’m next to him, he sees the counselor walking away with the kids. He yells to him and when the counselor comes over, the teenage ticket taker empties the bag of soda bottle caps on the counter and says, “you wanna’ straighten up with me?”

The counselor says, “Oh, yeah!” and throws a metal garbage can cover on the counter and says, “Here, ya’ got change of this?”

About 1957, in a lot strewn with rubble from a recently demolished tenement, four of us, Al LoBrutto, Eddie Schultz, Jerry “the Touch,” and I decided to call ourselves the “Four Horsemen” and along with another good  friend, Howie Storm, promised to stay friends forever...fifty-five years later, we're still keeping the promise.


From his book Disorganized Crime, by Sonny Patini, published
by Blue Mountain Productions (2012).
 Contact him at

Friday, October 19, 2012


From TING AND I: A Memoir
If you buy a second-hand iron, do not merely turn it off after use; be sure to pull the plug from the wall socket, especially if you leave on an outing for the afternoon. Having thus inadvertently burned the interior of the apartment that we were renting in Inwood, we moved to Mt. Vernon, NY, the southern, not the affluent, region of Westchester County.

At the Minnie S. Graham Junior High School, a rough, racially mixed institution, my grades continued to be good and my fight record continued to be mixed.

We did have a champ in the family, however. Duke won best in show, mixed-breed category, at the local park. When the local paper referred to Duke as a “Husky-Retriever,” a competitive young friend of mine felt slighted by the write-up: “My dog is husky, too,” he said about his Beagle. Sure.

My desk encyclopedia tells me Huskies are known for their intelligence and gentle temperament. Duke was smart and gentle, but tough on other dogs. He even chased down a milk tanker truck when we lived in the country; he was so badly injured that the vet wanted him put down. My mother refused and nursed Duke back to health. Duke learned to make do with three working legs rather than four after that.

I played baseball for the “Tom Godfrey” team in Mt. Vernon’s PONY league that summer. I did well in the try-out session and was very pleased to have been picked. I still have a picture of myself dressed to play: the team had handsome uniforms, and my fielder’s glove was carefully anointed with 3-in-1 oil, making it very dark and very flexible. I was part-time second baseman and right fielder, where I could do little harm. Batted a modest .246. Had three hits one game. In another I caught a fly ball with my bare hand when it bounced off my glove. This was before video cameras accompanied every parent to the games, so there are no highlight clips available. Memories are made of these rare moments.

No memorable romances occurred for me in Mt. Vernon. I did have a good fight, though: I heard him running up behind me, and I dropped down just before we collided, sending him sprawling over my back. Then, I outran him.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


New York City was a wonderful place to grow up in during the fifties and sixties. The different neighborhoods were like little communities and with a little imagination it became a concrete Disneyland.
Games like Johnny on the Pony, ringelevio, moonshine, hot beans and butter, manhunt, kick the can, off the point, king, punchball and stickball were played out on the Street all day long. In the summer we would turn on the pump (fire hydrant), put a hollowed-out beer can over it to direct the water spray and have our own waterfall.

The stickball games were usually weekend events, where a pitcher would pitch the Spaulding ball on one hop to the batter. Two sewers would be home plate and second base, with first and third base marked off halfway between them. A “3-sewer man” was the best hitter. The Bronx paid homage to the game by renaming an Avenue “Stickball Blvd.”

Scully was another game that was played in neighborhood’s around the city, but wasn’t too popular in ours. Johnny on the Pony was my favorite game…one kid would put his back against the wall and the rest of his team, usually about 5 or 6 more, would bend over facing him and hold on to each other. The same amount of the other team would line up across the Street, run as fast as they could and jump as far up the “pony”, closest to the kid with his back on the wall. You wanted to get the heaviest kids on your team because the idea is to cave in the “pony” (the kids on the bottom).

“Buck, Buck, all the horses are up” is the chant we’d yell when all of us were up. If the kids on the bottom didn’t cave in, they’d get a chance to get to jump on the top team by guessing the amount of kids on the team. If they were wrong, or caved in, they’d stay on the bottom. We called the punishment for losing “moonshine”, which was throwing the Spaulding ball as hard as you could at one of the losing team bent over leaning against the wall.

The girls played potsy and hopscotch.

The Manhattan neighborhood I grew up in was bordered by 23rd Street to the south, 30th Street to the north and went from 1st to 3rd Avenues. I lived on 29th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenue.

Twenty-Ninth Street was the epicenter of the neighborhood. The reason was Our Lady of the Scapular school, Carmelite church and Madison Square Boys Club were all on that block. Our Lady of the Scapular school (often called Carmelite) was taught by the Sisters of Mercy. Sometimes I thought that name was an oxymoron….during lunch recess one afternoon, I just walked out of Gus Gillis’s candy store, located in the storefront of my building, with two round pieces of red licorice you could buy for a penny called “wheels.” A female classmate, Jane King, was taunting me so I threw one of the wheels at her (I ate the other one) and hit her in the noggin.

She started crying and the principal, Sister Mary Mathias, saw her, came running over and asked what happened. Through tears, she pointed at me and said, “he hit me with a wheel!” The Sister of Mercy ran over and showed me none, slappin’ the shit outta’ me and screaming, “you hit her with a wheel!” Yeah, while coverin’ up like Muhammad Ali doin’ the “rope a’ dope”, I was trying to tell her, “not a car wheel, a piece a’ candy!” She wasn’t hearing it.

In the late fifties and early sixties they knocked down the tenements from 30th to 33rd Streets between 1st and 2nd Avenues which were across the Street from three brownstones used as the Madison Square Boys Club from 1920 thru 1940.

The new building for Madison Square Boys Club at 301 East 29th Street was dedicated on April 29, 1940. I don’t know if the club got its name from Madison Square Garden, but the first Madison Square Garden was in our neighborhood. It was then called the Great Hippodrome and took up the entire block between 26th and 27th Streets, between Fourth and Madison Avenues.

P.T. Barnum, who ran Barnum and Bailey’s circus, leased it. William Vanderbilt, who owned the property, took it over and called it “Madison Square Garden,” naming it after the park across the Street. As early as 1901, the Boys Club was operating out of a room in the Madison Square Church House at 30th Street and 3rd Avenue. In 1917 the Boys Club moved to larger quarters and officially was named the “Madison Square Boys Club.”

Demolishing those tenements and digging up three blocks of ground for the foundation of a new housing development, called “Kips Bay Plaza,” left a huge excavation hole the length of those blocks. The builders encircled the excavation with an eight-foot-high wooden fence, not nearly enough security to keep some East Side kids out. After a steady rain the excavation filled with water so when we peered over the fence and seen the "lake", to us it looked like Atlantis. We jumped down and built rafts out of any discarded wood we could find to ride the rivers of urban renewal.   

Another one of our favorite pastimes was running through the morgue at nearby Bellevue Hospital at 30th Street and 1st Avenue. You could see the dead bodies through the glass doors on the front of the drawers where the bodies were stored, but sometimes, when we were feeling brave, we’d pull out the whole drawer.

One night, we either saw, or imagined seeing, some movement on one of the bodies. This brought all the “goil” out of us and sent us screaming outta’ dere.
Recently reading an informative and nostalgic book about the history of Madison Square Boys Club by Irving Harris called “Madison Square Memoir,” I found out that our crew wasn’t the first to engage in this foolishness. Jackie Weiner writes: along with his friends, “Bunny” Catalano, Frankie Mills and Jerry Murphy, they’d slip into the basement morgue and pull out the drawers with the recently delivered dead bodies.

They decided to play a prank on some of the younger kids in the neighborhood. Jackie asked them if they had the balls to go with them on the “morgue run.” Thinking they would look like “chickens” to the older guys if they didn’t go, they agreed.

On the night of the run, Jackie told them to wait outside so he and his friends could make sure the coast was clear. Once inside, Jackie’s friend, Frankie, got in an empty drawer, laid down flat and covered himself up. Jackie then brought in the younger kids and showed them the drawers with the covered bodies in them. He then took them to the drawer with Frankie in it. Jackie opened the drawer; Frankie popped straight up and let out a piercing scream. The kids let out a louder scream and ran, maintaining the pitch. Jackie and his friends ran after them but couldn’t catch up and didn’t see them for days afterwards. I guess you could say the morbid the merrier!
We are looking for help in re-publishing this book and promoting it. Contact Sonny Patini at

Friday, October 12, 2012


By Sonny Patini [pen name]
A true story about 50’s and 60’s New York, gambling, drugs, the mafia, the witness protection program, prison and friendship.

Preface 2

1 The City 3

2 The Life 51

3 Doin’ Time 80

4 The Set-Up 88

5 The Mob 96

6 Flippin’ 98

7 The Tennessee Waltz 104

8 Death of a Partner 107

9 The Beginning of the End 128

10 The Boston Mob 137

11 The Columbo Family 153

12 New Jersey’s Lucchese Family 167

13 New Sentence, New Name 172

14 Back to the Apple 182

15 Part of the Solution 183

16 Somewhere Beyond the “See” 187

 Afterword 193


This book is dedicated to my sister and all the selfless volunteers of animal rescue.


I shot the heroin into a vein in my leg, having burnt out the veins in the rest of my body long ago. In a Pilates-like move, I lifted my leg over my head while moving from the chair to the floor, somehow thinking that would be the "express" to the place heroin goes to get you high. Looking across the sparse, cheap hotel room, I focused on the window and thought that might be my best exit - my only exit!  The mob was after me, the feds were after me, the NYPD were after me, my left arm was paralyzed and I was going bald.

Earlier that day I was in the Staten Island public health hospital being guarded by U.S. marshals around the clock. Once I realized I shared the bathroom with the patient in the next room, I went to the hall phone, escorted by the marshal, called a cab service and told them to meet me in front of the hospital in fifteen minutes. Next, I took some clothes into the shower under my robe, turned on the water, got dressed, jimmied the lock, excused myself from the shocked patient in the next room and walked down the fire stairs into the waiting cab.

It was 1977. The reason I was in the hospital with a paralyzed left arm was because I asked my wife to bring me some heroin for my 30th birthday on her weekly visit to where I was being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan. She brought it; I shot it and woke up some time later, lying on top of my left arm with the needle still in my leg. I didn't even have time for the "Pilates Express" position. I got up and started slapping my arm, which I thought was asleep and would awaken soon. After slapping the shit out of my arm for an hour and looking like I went a few rounds with Mike Tyson, I figured something was wrong.

Being the larcenous bastard I am, I quickly thought of a way to turn the O.D. (overdose) into a P.D. (payday). Having just gotten a job running an engravograph machine, I realized they didn't make me sign the mandatory safety sheet acknowledging I had read the safety rules. I got my friend, told him I'd give him ten percent to say he saw the machine lid fall on my arm. Then, I walked over to the machine and slammed down the lid so hard the loud crash woke up the sleeping, half-drunk hack who was on duty. My friend told me the subsequent performance of me writhing in "pain" on the floor, reminded him of the young teenagers break-dancing in Times Square, the only thing I didn't do was spin on my head.

My friend started yelling, "The lid fell on his arm; the lid fell on his arm!" When the hack came over and asked what happened, I said, 'You weren’t sleeping were you? You saw what happened, the lid fell on my arm. Call the P.A. (physician's assistant)!" For whatever reason, he said he did see it and later on he put it in writing.


Sonny Patini [pen name] can be contacted at

We plan to serialize much of the book at this blog, hoping to generate interest

in the book and in its author. It has been printed in a paperback version [including photos] by

Mountain Lion Productions, copyright 2012.

Sunday, October 7, 2012



My first eleven years were spent living with my mother, father, and siblings in a two-bedroom apartment in a set of five-story buildings abutting the George Washington Bridge on Riverside Drive, near the northern end of Manhattan Island. By the time I was nine, three of my four younger siblings had come along: Nick in 1948, Diana, in 1949, and Cliff in 1951. Chris was born much later, in 1959.

The neighborhood was almost exclusively Catholic, while I was Protestant, a “left-footer,” out of step. Their school, All Hallows, was parochial; mine, Hunter College Elementary School, was nondenominational.

Although I participated in all the kids’ games, I was viewed as different. “The way he talks makes me feel funny” was how one contemporary explained this to my mother. At age nine or ten I beat up one of my main antagonists and had much less trouble thereafter. I was thin, wiry. The local tailor had been asked to take in a hand-me-down jacket so it would fit me, and he replied that if he took it in any more, there wouldn’t be a jacket.

It was around 1950. We played a lot of hide-and-seek, urban type. The buildings were five stories high, without elevators. I liked to hide in the dumbwaiters, large, open wooden boxes attached to a rope on pulleys at the top of the shaft. You could bring your groceries upstairs or your trash downstairs with these devices. Each apartment had a door that opened onto this shaft, so the residents could put in or take out objects. I would get into the box at the cellar level, then pull on the rope enough to pull myself above the lowest opening. Hard for kids to find me, a good thing—but the smells were unpleasant.

We played cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, war, sword fights (sticks, rolled-up newspapers). Advanced weaponry included linoleum guns, sticks with a nail at the front end, a long rubber band, and small (one-inch) squares of cut-up linoleum to put in the stretched rubber band before releasing it toward your foe.

Televisions were rare. We did have many radio programs that included my favorite heroes: The Lone Ranger (cue up Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”); Tom Mix; Roy Rogers, his horse, Trigger, and his significant other, Dale Evans; Gene Autry; The Shadow (“Able to cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him. Who knows? The Shadow knows.”); the Green Lantern; Sgt. Preston of the Yukon; the Green Hornet (cue up Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”) and his trusty sidekick Kato (Japanese?); Detective Johnny Dollar (who organized his story around his expense account vouchers). Babysitting my younger siblings—at that point I had a sister and two brothers; went fine during the hours these shows were on, but later in the evening radio became quite boring.

Much of my social life was with the Fort Washington Collegiate Church, one of four Dutch Reformed churches in the city. Our minister, Rev. Daniel Poling, lost a brother in World War II. The brother, Clarke, had given his lifejacket to another soldier when their boat had been on the verge of sinking. Rev. Poling had a son who was stricken with cerebral palsy—pitifully, severely. The father’s faith must have been tested. He became a leading figure in the Dutch Reformed Church of America. I collected a slew of perfect or near-perfect attendance pins for Sunday school and can still quote Scripture, often on either side of an issue. Members of scout troops associated with the church, we were theoretical wilderness experts but went almost nowhere.

Whether it was with scouts or just as a small pack of urban urchins, we crossed the George Washington Bridge one day to collect wildlife samples from the wilds of New Jersey. I proudly brought back a jar of active tiny swimmers, misidentifying them as tiny tadpoles. Mom had me flush them down the toilet: they were mosquito larvae.

Hardly any girls to speak of at church. Certainly none we spoke to. I would have made an exception for blond and lovely Pamela Knight. Alas.

Decades later, when I stopped by the Riverside Drive apartments, I was amazed at how much smaller everything looked than I remembered it. Perhaps we measure things in part by their ratios to our own dimensions, such as height.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Written by Alice Conner Selfridge,
 edited by Douglas Winslow Cooper

A child of the 1930s, and the youngest of eleven children, Alice tells of growing up in a small rural community in Massachusetts. She relates the ups and downs of a large family in the hard times of the Depression and the WWII years, when “going without” was an accepted and necessary way of life. Her vignettes are sure to provide the young reader with insight and awe, while provoking fond (and not so fond) memories for the older readers.

The author tells, with humor, about being raised in the years when entertainment was “self-made” and captures the reader’s interest when relating stories about growing up in a home without a bathroom. She brings to them the childhood fantasies she experienced when making the scary trips to the “two-holer” and the “abominable cellar” where the food was stored. She tells of her fear, as she had to, reluctantly, reach her hand into “the cave” where the creepy shriveled, stringy-haired things grew.

Visit the home where the father ruled with strictness and firm discipline, and the mother made things seem better with home-baked pies. Share the joy of semi-annually receiving a new pair of shoes or discovering a “musical mousetrap” in the back room off the kitchen. Learn of the warmth, love, and squabbles that were shared with ten brothers and sisters, in spite of the hard times.

Published October 4, 2012.
Available in paperback from Outskirts Press,,

Other books our group has published or that are in press:

 by Douglas Winslow Cooper and Marie Elizabeth Foglia

 by Lenny Golino and Douglas Winslow Cooper

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


based on an excellent talk by Eric Egeland of Capacity Consulting, Inc., and my own recent unpleasant experience.


Women are increasingly ascending to management roles. They may easily be mistakenly tempted to treat their subordinates like family, one management advisor maintains. Readers of might succumb to this if they adopt traditional, non-confrontational approaches that are often very effective outside the commercial realm. Allowing others to “save face” by soft-pedaling criticism of them causes problems.

Which management philosophy is most like yours? 1. Keep your employees under your thumb. 2. Require strict adherence to your rules. 3. Teach them, and offer them direction. 4. They are adults: let them just do their jobs.

In mid-September, the head of Capacity Consulting, Inc., Eric Egeland, presented a compelling seminar in which he justified some surprising advice. For example, as nice as teaching and trusting sound, requiring strict adherence works better, as long as the rules are clear, sensible, and consistent.

Egeland is familiar with the personnel management literature, but also has extensive experience as an “undercover employee,” through multi-month gigs as “one of the team,” watching what it is that employees do when the boss is unaware. “When the cat’s away, the mice will play” is often true on the job. Egeland gave three disappointing, real-life examples, one being the sabotage of the sales performance of new hires by the “old-timers.”

Much that is important to business goes beyond the job description.

Managers go wrong when they focus simply on the performance of specified tasks, rather than on the broader issue of behavior.

Humans tend to avoid conflict, but this can cause a manager to soft-pedal a criticism that needs to be made strongly. Treating employees “like family” is often unappreciated and can backfire, as any criticism comes as a surprise, is taken personally and is resented.

We like to believe in the goodness of our fellow humans, but perhaps one in ten will disappoint us greatly, so we cannot count on their virtue. To be fair to all, we must be consistent in enforcing our rules, diligently but not militantly. A lack of enforcement favors those who break the rules over those who obey them.

When his talk was over, I congratulated Egeland on his excellent presentation, and I told him how I had lost one of my own best employees by not following a couple of his precepts. I had treated her too much like family, and I had been reluctant to express any criticism. when she performed below expectations.

Some readers will find themselves managing their family members. How to do that? Very carefully!


A fuller presentation is available in Eric Egeland’s new book, EMPLOYEES, KIDS, AND PETS: How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Be a Better Boss, Manager and Parent, available though



Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., a retired environmental physicist, is married to Tina Su Cooper, a former editor at the Encyclopedia Britannica and mother of two. Tina is the central figure in his book, Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or through their website,