By Carmine Santa Maria
I’m madder than a Canada goose watching its team sit out the World Cup while outside the State of New York harasses its friends with a border collie over the fact that my trusty steed Tornado has gone lame thanks to some bum electronics and a loose ball bearing.
But today I can announce that, after a week of haggling, screaming, and waiting for replacement parts, I put the old horse out to pasture and replaced it with a brand-new Tornado, painted blue to match the logo accompanying this fine column.
So far I haven’t taken the new mare out for a gallop — the battery is still charging, but that should be finished by this afternoon, and when it is, I am setting out in the general direction of where the buffalo roam.
In the meantime, allow me to spin a few yarns about life in and around my beloved Bensonhurst. Take these delightful moments from the Community Board 13 Coney Island Mermaid Parade party that didn’t make it into last week’s column, please.
How’s this for a come-on?
“Is that Tornado?” a lady asked before telling me she is an avid fan of the Screecher and that she was also once a ballroom dance teacher.
I can’t say I don’t get that a lot. Don’t let its diminutive dimensions and utilitarian appearance fool you. The motorized scooter I call throne for most of each day is an undercover hot rod that gets ample attention from observers with discerning taste.
But my wheels aren’t the only thing that keep me from being able to roll five feet through a civic function without being flagged down. I also get droves of well-wishers reminiscing about the good times at the Boy Scouts’ annual “Breakfast with Santa” fund-raiser, which they may as well go ahead and call “Breakfast with Santa Maria” at this point (I jest, and I digress).
Back when he could still make the steps to Parish Hall — with a platoon of party goers pushing me — your humble narrator donned a Kris Kringle outfit each year and held court, hearing the yuletide desires of each of the whippersnappers one by one.
Over the years, Santa Maria Claus packed in the milk and cookies to the point that he could no longer attend, but the spirit of his Christmases lives on, as evidenced by the admirers telling me, “I got your picture with my son when he was a baby and now he’s in college.”
Now is as good a time as any to make an abrupt U-turn across the median without signalling and say that journalists who today lament the end of celebrity access ignore the fact that one of the most celebrated celebrity features of all time was written without talking to its subject.
That’s right. All those namby-pamby Twitter addicts who curse the names of publicists, claiming the gatekeepers are multiplying and the windows of opportunity for the unfettered access that is the difference between a 400-word question-and-answer and an expansive cover story are closing are ignoring the classic Gay Talese piece “Frank Sinatra has a cold,” on which the modern touchstone “Carmine Santa Maria has hunger pangs” is closely based. And they ignore it at their peril.
To all the aspiring journalists reading this, celebrity-focused and otherwise, go forth! Seek out the little guy or gal, the person holding a mop or a bottle of water, the one standing listlessly in the rear corner of the cathedral, the one pressing her face in the window to glimpse the face on which she has bestowed all the world’s meaning.
Celebrities are people, sure, but they are written about ad nauseam, to the point that unearthing a new detail about their lives is an endeavor akin to deepwater oil drilling. But they are the characters that reflect to the public, the readers of newspapers, the watchers of television, and the users of Twitter, what they want to see in themselves. And those same readers, viewers, and unpaid commentators will always be surprised and fascinated when the camera turns the other way.
Happy Fourth of July, America! The pen is mightier than the sword and Providence knows some people’s prose need cutting. Stay free and I’ll screech at you next week.