1975…..When We Were Young And Looking For Love Under The Disco Ball
By Angela Dell’Amore
I was 39, a struggling, divorced Mom of 4 children, ages 9-19, working as an educational secretary for a local school district and attending college part-time after work.
Looking for some sort of social life, I joined Parents Without Partners and enjoyed spending time and activities with single parents who shared the same burdens as myself. I was thrown back however at the current music genre` when attending dance/music programs; no more lindy. waltz, fox trot or cha cha of my past……. In early June, I happened to see an ad in a local newspaper, announcing a 4 week hustle/disco dance lesson program, including a free buffet, every Monday evening at 6 pm, for $2.00 per session! It was scheduled at a quaint café` venue called “The Stony Brook Town House”, not far from my home in Centereach.
I arrived early on the first evening, a little out of touch, but was greeted warmly by the host, Jerry, a substitute teacher I knew as a regular from my school district. As we chatted about the coincidence of meeting and his duties as host, we walked toward the bar area, where he introduced me to another early arrival teacher, who he also knew, stating “John, this is Angela, enjoy and see you both later”. He excused himself and John and I began to share stories as he ordered me a drink; a “Harvey Wallbanger”, which I had never heard of before.
John was very professorial looking, a Polytechnic/NYU and SUNY@ Stony Brook graduate, had been a Chemical Engineer before entering education as a science, physics and chemistry teacher. He was widowed with 2 grown children and a member of Parents Without Partners, also dismayed at not knowing the current dance steps. I shared that my “big 4-0” birthday was coming up and he asked what date my birthday was. I told him “August 4th” and asked when his was. His response was jokingly, “August 5th”, period. When I asked how old he was, he said, “old enough to know better”. On that note, I thought he was a wise guy and as others were arriving with the band and buffet setting up, I thanked him for the drink, started to mingle and the lessons began.
Somewhere, after mid-point and the buffet recess, he strolled over and suggested we dance together and practice what we had just learned. He was an excellent dancer and I was amazed how easily we blended on the floor; for the remainder of the 4 week program he was my dance partner, nothing more, nothing less. On the final night, we shared phone #’s and summer plans; he was taking a July trip to California with family, touring Yosemite and Big Sur and I was entering college full time during July and August.
On the morning of my 40th birthday, the phone rang and a familiar voice said “Happy Birthday”…….I was amazed he remembered. John invited me for a cocktail at his home in Ronkonkoma and said he would like to take me to dinner afterwards if it was ok……he gave me directions to his home and I visited my Mom shortly and exclaimed, “you won’t believe this but I have a date for my “40th” birthday!”; we both laughed and she agreed to watch the kids as my Dad smiled in the background.
This time, the cocktail was a vodka martini which wasn’t foreign and off we went to the BonWit Inn in Commack. Over dinner, I couldn’t resist asking him when his real birthday was; he glanced at his wrist watch and stated, “well, in about 4 hours”…….we shared a laugh at my first impressions of him and he said he was approaching age 48 at midnight…….from that evening on, our 2 birthdays were shared as one and the romance began anew at Studio 54 in Manhattan, practicing our disco talents.
It was an exciting life; we were both adventurous, first generation Italian-Americans with a mutually shared value system but very different otherwise. He was the quintessential Manhattanite, I was still that cop’s kid from Queens. In our early years, he worked for Pfizer in Brooklyn and I lived in Tokyo, working for Pan Am. He introduced me to Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera, Luciano Pavarotti, skiing, chess and French cuisine. I introduced him to the Japan Society, Kabuki, Sushi, Charles Aznavour, Caribbean islands and the NY Times crossword puzzle. He loved camping and hiking and my idea of “roughing it” was a hotel without room service. He was fluent in English, German, French and Italian. I was fluent in English, informal Japanese and colloquial Italian. He was brilliant and quirky, wearing a French beret at times, red suspenders and giving me a diamond engagement ring wrapped in a travel alarm box! I was down to earth; head in the clouds but feet firmly planted on the ground. While he was teaching oenology (the science of wine) at Cellar in the Sky at the World Trade Center and Brookhaven Lab, I was teaching the DWI course for the NY Dept. of Motor Vehicles at SUNY@Stony Brook and Amagansett School.