Fun times with my late friend Vinnie, 1982
A few days ago I heard Eddie Van Halen died.
I was not a big Van Halen fan. But when a musician is that huge a hit or two is bound to be backdrop music for whatever is going on in your life at the time of their massive success. So, of course it hits you. Even though I never saw them in concert and never owned a Van Halen record, I have a memorable story to share.
Earlier this year a very dear friend of mine died suddenly of a heart attack, at age 56. My friend Vinnie, who I have known since I was a teenager and absolutely adored.
The stories of Vinnie can go on and on and on. He had a kind heart and a wicked sense of humor. He was the type of person who could say anything and the way he presented it, it would just make you almost die laughing. He had that power about him. And was oh so humble about it. He was the kind of friend everyone wanted to be around. Anyone who knew him was a better person because of him.
As soon as I heard Eddie Van Halen died, once again Vinnie was on my mind. During the early 1980s, Vinnie and I were both into the dance club music of the time — The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, Culture Club, Haysi Fantayzee … you get the picture.
So what does this have to do with Eddie Van Halen?
When the song “Jump” came out, Vinnie was raving about it. He was always the first to get on the bandwagon of new music. He played the song for me and it was a “wow” for me too. We were not die-hard Van Halen fans, but that was a song we could get into.
There was a bar in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, called Aldo’s Hideaway. Vin and I were regulars there. The owner’s uncle, Pete, was a bartender there and he loved us. He told us many times we were his favorite customers. If I went to Aldo’s alone and Pete looked out the window and saw my Monte Carlo pulling into the driveway, he’d have my drink ready for me at the bar — a White Russian.
One Christmas, Vinnie and I gave Pete a Christmas card and we drank for free all night. The memories we made at Aldo’s were grand ones. Especially the “Jump” night.
On our way to Aldo’s one Saturday evening, Vinnie was playing a cassette tape he made. It was songs we grooved on, by artists we were fans of — Johnny Thunders, Aerosmith … and now that new Van Halen song, “Jump.” It was a great mix.
Saturday night at Aldo’s there was a DJ named Brian. He was very much into David Bowie and Japan; two of my favorites. That’s why Saturday nights at Aldo’s were a win.
This particular evening, we arrived at Aldo’s and ordered drinks. Pete was concerned because a crowd was on the dance floor, more people were coming in the door, and Brian had not yet showed up to DJ. The place was filling up and there wasn’t any music.
“What about that great tape you have in the car?” I asked Vinnie.
“Oh, do you want me to get that?” he asked both Pete and me, as if my say had any clout. It wasn’t hard to twist Pete’s arm; he thought we were great and trusted our judgement. He said, “Sure.”
Now, for those who aren’t familiar with music of the late 1970s or early 1980s, I have to tell you, the hard rock sounds of Aerosmith and Van Halen were nothing like David Bowie, Japan, Psychedelic Furs, and other ambient dance music Brian played. So, obviously, that mix was NOT the type of music Brian played. In fact, you would NEVER hear Aerosmith or Van Halen at Aldo’s. Never, ever, ever!
Nevertheless, people were enjoying the music, and dancing! “They’re digging it,” Vinnie said, and then smiled.
By the time “Jump” came on, Brian showed up. He looked flustered, obviously concerned about what was playing on the DJ mixing board at Aldo’s. His Saturday night reputation of playing austere art rock was now tarnished.
A drop of sweat ran down Brian’s forehead as he jolted towards the dance floor. He got to the DJ booth. He looked out of breath and slightly agitated. “Jump” was still playing. It would be unprofessional to cut the song off mid-way. Plus, people were dancing and enjoying it.
Vin and I sat observing. We felt like little children who got away with something bad. We looked at each other and smirked. A Van Halen song at Aldo’s — and on a Saturday night no less. It was hilarious.
When “Jump” ended, our party was over.
I do not remember the next song Brian played after “Jump.” Most likely something by Depeche Mode or Medium Medium; who knows.
But Vin and I were easy to please music fans. We didn’t care. It was fun while it lasted. Vin went up to the DJ booth to retrieve his tape. Then we hit the dance floor, and danced the night away. Well, until our young appetites kicked in and we decided to leave and hit a diner.
Rest in peace, Vinnie. You are so very missed.
And rest in peace, Eddie Van Halen.
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: email@example.com.
She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. In addition to Love Cats, she is the author of the following books :
“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit:Be (Extra)Ordinary
“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: I Don’t Want To Be Like You
Her fiction book “Love Cats” second printing is now available, under the pen name Krystianna Mercury, from Pink Flamingo. You can purchase it here: Love Cats
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