Peace, Tony and Many Thanks...
Last week I wrote about how music was so important to me in various stages in my life. This week, for reasons I will explain later in the article, I would like to tell you about, by far, the most important of those stages.
In 1982 my friends and I were into soccer more than anything. We had a pool for the World Cup Tournament and when Italy took the championship, I won the top prize money and invested in a "Italy... World Cup Champs '82" T-shirt with my nickname, "Wopper," on the back. Several of my friends also purchased shirts and put similar names (Greaser, Hoser, Rambler, Loser, etc.) on the back to mock me.
I had just started driving and because there wasn't much else to do, my friends and I loaded into the car on Friday night and we went to a large parish soccer tournament– all, of coarse, wearing our shirts. Well... to make a long story shorter, the shirts attracted a lot of attention, we met some attractive young girls and met them at a dance the following night.
That was defining moment in our life and, from that point on, soccer was not the thing I was most into because I had discovered music, CYC dances, attractive young girls and Tony Tocco. I was a nieve, sheltered, shy boy before that day but something came over me when I walked into that first dance at St. Sabina and I haven't been the same since.
From that September night through when I graduated High School in 1984 we averaged close to 75 dances a year. It started off slow in the beginning but quickly grew in frequency and the distance that we would travel to get our fix of The Fixx and Duran Duran, WHAM!, Dexy's Midnight Runners and many other one-hit wonders that were seen on the new MTV as well as superstars like Michael Jackson and Madonna before they were superstars and still, somewhat, cool. We would drive to a private girls' school in O'Fallon, Missouri before half of North County moved there. Although we were good catholic boys we would regularly attend dances at Lutheran and Methodist churches, shopping malls, public parks, swimming pools and community centers within a 50 or so mile radius of our homes. Most of the events were held on Saturday, or possibly Friday, nights during the school year but when Summer break rolled around, any day of the week at any time of the day, was fair game.
Bands like Fantasy, Deliverance and even the KHITS band (sponsored by a local radio station) played some of the gigs but the vast majority of the dances were DJ'd by Tony Tocco. Tocco dances were the hottest ticket in town. I know because my main source of income through my senior year was from scalping as many tics as I could get my hands on.
He did put on quite a show. There were flash pods and smoke machines for some pretty decent visual effects and the music spoke for itself. This was at the pinnacle of the MTV era, when the music video station actually played music videos. The songs that didn't have a dance that was featured in that video had one at the Tocco dances after making the regular rotation for a few weeks. I actually made up my fair share of line dances. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you step back from dancing on the gym floor to look behind you and there is a couple hundred kids following your lead.
Tocco led his fair share too. The title of this story, "Beat it, beat it, beat it..." was inspired by how my brother would mock the little Italian man, and in doing so, his biggest fan– when Tony would play Michael Jackson's big hit and join me on the floor to pace four beats left and then four beats rights through the song. Not really that complicated or fancy but 95% of the kids in that hall were doing it right along with us and the other 5%, my brother included, still showed up and paid their $5.00 to be there to make fun.
I could go on and on... I had my first slow dance at a Tocco dance, met (and broke up) my first girlfriend at a dance. Hell, one of my best friend is still married to a girl he met at one. The nickname that I am still called by today, Skeetz, evolved from events surrounding Tocco and the song that he always ended the night with was the last song played at my wedding reception.
Last week on casual day at work a young lady was wearing a T-shirt that immediately caught my eye. It was very similar to the Tony Tocco Entertainment tees that he would toss into the crowds to let the teenagers to wrestle over, but it had a pink ribbon on the sleeve and I website address on the front: www.tonytocco.net. I was sad to hear that Tony is fighting a rare form of pancreatic cancer and the T-shirts were being sold as a benefit to raise money for his treatment.
I really didn't know him personally so I don't know what kind of man Tony Tocco was or is now. All I know is that he was a (or the) major player in a two-year period of my life that defined much of the kind of man that I was and am now.
I am usually pleading for readers (if there are any) to buy T-shirts at: http://www.cafepress.com/skeetzteez but today I am going take this time at lunch to buy a shirt at: http://www.tonytocco.net. I don't really expect anyone else to do the same... except maybe my brother if he is reading.