No one lives forever, but entertainment provided by famous musicians of the past is alive and well at Sergio’s in Massapequa. The tiny Italian restaurant nestled on Merrick Road is keeping the spirit and memory of these iconic performers alive almost every weekend.
Although we were kids during the heyday of “The Rat Pack,” these guys were the heart and soul of show business in the 1950s and ’60s. They were some of the most talented performers in history, possessing a special gift that is sorely lacking in some artists today. They knew how to entertain.
They were funny and personable. Rat Pack shows included singing, dancing and banter between a group of talented friends that truly enjoyed each other’s company.
While on stage, they made the audience not only feel like they were part of the show, but also like they were in on the jokes. It was as if you were eavesdropping on a bunch of guys, having a few drinks and telling a few stories. They knew you were there, but they didn’t mind.
Some musicians today are so focused on their performance during live shows, the audience almost doesn’t matter. If you were lucky enough to see Bruce Springsteen or The Rolling Stones live, they lived on audience participation. Don’t get me wrong, all musicians want their fans to have a good time, and most are extremely talented, but not all are entertainers.
The members of The Rat Pack may be long gone, but their spirit is alive and well at Sergio’s.
We recently spent an intimate Saturday night with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. During the course of the evening, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Engelbert Humperdink and Barbara Streisand stopped by to join in the fun. Every now then, Dean Martin would channel Jerry Lewis. In between the singers, Long Island-based comedians kept things moving.
Was it hokey? Of course, but that was the whole point of it. It was a great evening of music and, more importantly, it was fun. For the price of a complete dinner (which was fantastic on its own), we got a little taste of what it might have been like to be part of a Rat Pack show. The only things missing were the Las Vegas showgirls.
After a comedian warmed up the audience, Willie Sacco, who can impersonate the sound and style of just about anyone, started the show as Sammy with an audience participation version of “Candy Man,” and we were on our way. Although Sacco doesn’t look anything like Sammy (who does?), his mannerisms and voice were all that mattered.
Next up was Larry Lombardi, who actually resembled Dean Martin. He was adorned with Dean-o’s trademark lit cigarette and half-full drink in hand, then blew us away with his voice. He was funny and charming, just like Martin. When Charlie Grange, about a foot taller than The Chairman of the Board and decked out in a tuxedo took the stage, man, could he sing. He belted out favorites, took some requests from the audience then sang an obscure Sinatra song that was one of his favorites. Frank then invited the rest of the “Pack” to join him on stage for the “New York, New York” finale.
In the end, everyone had a good time. The artists were talented and engaging and kept the evening light and pleasurable. Listening to these songs, even thought they were a little before our time, gave us a greater appreciation of a time when performers were truly entertainers.
We will probably still pay astronomical ticket prices to see our favorite musicians on their third or fourth “farewell” tour in arenas and stadiums. That’s part of our musical past. But to see shows from a bygone era, we need evenings like this at places like Sergio’s.
Coo-coo ka-choo, baby.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.