Friends The Story of how i met Sal Bernardi
was working at Nyro's Nook in downtown.
There is a statue
of Sal's grandfather in a park in New Orleans. I know this because
late one night in 1981 we stumbled upon it and he told me so. I think
it was his grandfather. It looked more like Yoda than Louis Armstrong,
I thought, but that night in the dark we saluted the ghost of Sal's
I met Sal Bernardi
at The Comeback Inn in Venice, California in 1975 or so. He was playing
piano for a couple of comedians who played there on the weekend. I
came and sat in sometimes on Tuesdays, singing 'My Funny Valentine'
and 'Since I Fell'. Rags Baker was a big draw there back then, so
charismatic and what a singer. His real name was Becker and he was
from Ohio, legend had it. Of all of us I thought he would be the big
star. But he was oh so James Dean, and rejected
Sal knew some
west side story, and so one night we were all out there on the patio
with the African Queen, Rags, Duke McVinney, and even Sam Provensano
the drummer, and Sal and I began singing some of the better known
qualities of that score, and soon we were looking at each other on
rather friendly terms. I invited him down to Santa Monica College,
where I was a
He had to move
downtown to stay on welfare, and they got him a job at Nyro's Nook
porno book store, with adult acoutrements, down near the bus station.
One night Mark Vaughan and I drove down there to visit him. I had
never been downtown before. It was pretty seedy, and there was Sal
behind the counter, a hunky dory in the sky kind of guy, offering
dildos and blow up dolls to the
Needless to say, he didn't stay in LA long, and went back up to San Francisco for many adventures of his own before we hooked up again. I got a job working as an operator at the school, and placed a call to him at a number I traced him at in New Jersey through his friends in San Francisco. I called him up and he said, wow, I was just telling my friend about you and the way you sing My Funny Valentine.
A couple years later, then, when I was sitting pretty up in an expensive hotel room, the St. Regis I think, trying to figure out if I was supposed to tip the bellboy every time he came up, and how much, and I called Sal to come and see me in New York. "I wrote a song about you," I said, with some trepidation, knowing that it wasn't the most flattering refrain, a weasle in a white boys cool, you know. He listened. when it was over he said "I like it, you know, but....a weasle? "
We drove around that night in his car, which had cardboard where the windows use to be. He still had on his long johns under his clothes, and he drove like Mr. Ed, which is ten times worse than Mr. Magoo, since Mr. Ed is a horse, and the cab drivers were honking and yelling, and he didn't even know he was cutting people off. It was funny if it wasn't dangerous, not so much from hitting someone but from someone getting out of their car and beating us up.
Sal doesn't drive anymore. He lives in Paris, the good life, the hunky dory in the sky. Surrounded by the syntax of a people he is not one of, the percussive and soothing sounds of language he does not have to recognize, and the soothing river and wind of the lovely cultured Parisians. He visited New Jersey last year or so, and I was worried that it had sucked him back into it's black vinyl vortex. But he got out. He works sometimes in Paris, and I often ask him to play with me when I tour Europe in the summers.
We wrote beautiful songs together, Traces of the Western Slopes, where he sings and plays harmonica through some effects Buzzy Feiton concocted. He deeply influenced the whole language of Pirates, with his stories about his friends, Cunt-Finger Louie, and lines like 'sad-eyed Sinatra" and remarks like 'there we were with glue all over our faces'. He is rich in language and humor, and no one meets him that is not on the floor laughing from the great story he tells. He brings much joy to a tired routine. He doesn't spell very well, but who does these days, ahead of his time as usual.
So this is Sal Bernardi, from Lodi New Jersey, pardner and friend, a cowboy in red-tinted glasses and a beret. well, a flying cowboy. A great harmonica player and guitar player full of lovely melodies. He's kind of a kinks/zombies singer. Liked the rollling stones more than the Beatles. He's co-written with Willie DeVIlle, and Buzz, and others I think. Women, beautiful women love him. He never gets angry. Except that one time when a certain tour manager lost his passport on the way to Spain...but that's another story.
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