By Jack Neworth

Security Guard Blues, Part 4

I’d intended to write about this Sunday’s Oscars but then it dawned on me I hadn’t seen a single movie in 2018. Whoops. Actually, I haven’t fully recovered from last year when “The Shape of Water” won Best Picture. Billed as a romantic drama between a woman and a fish, it only served to remind me of the nuance-challenged 1954 monster movie, “Creature From the Black Lagoon.”

Meanwhile, rest easy, this will be the last of my Security Guard sagas for a while. This one features the late Johnny Ardolino, barrel-chested and hot-tempered who was in his mid-60’s and lived in the Shores’ South building. He was a headache for security as he often played music so loudly neighbors called the office. (I would pray he did so on someone else’s shift.)

Colorful to the core, Johnny was a retired postal worker but always longed to be a famous singer. And he did achieve some notoriety as an opening act in nightclubs back east. To make a living, however, he worked for the post office and hated it. As it happens, Johnny was an excellent singer but was bitter about his failed singing career. Unfortunately, he took it out on me. Why?

Though I was a security guard at the Shores, I was still filled with optimism about making it as a writer. Unsolicited, Johnny predicted I wouldn’t be as successful in my pursuit as he had been with his singing. Ouch.

Another unfortunate thing for me, and his neighbors, is Johnny had a penchant for alcohol. That eventually led to his placing speakers on the balcony and, with a microphone, singing arias late at night.

In addition to being rather drunk, Johnny was rather belligerent and rather tough. So knocking on his door as a Security Guard to tell him to knock off the music was not something I looked forward to. In fact I didn’t rush up there as often Johnny would run out of steam fairly soon and I assumed just pass out in bed. Ultimately he would get evicted for his own late night version of America’s Got Talent, but this was long after I was a Security Guard.

So there you have it. Johnny could be drunk and mean and didn’t much care for me. Cut to many years later and my first and biggest job in “show business,” writing a script for director Robert Aldrich to be produced by MGM.

The comedy project was entitled “For Export Only” and was set in Italy in the early 1950’s. It had a “based on true events” aspect in that it depicted a rag-tag group of lower level Mafiosi being deported back to Italy as a result of the actual Kefauver Senate Hearings in 1950-19521 on organized crime. (The hearings were chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver D-Tennessee who would be Adlai Stevenson’s V.P. in their failed 1956 presidential bid against incumbent President Dwight Eisenhower and his Vice-President, Richard Nixon who would go on to be a crook.)

I had a writing partner on “For Export Only,” and one of the first things we did was decide who our characters were and what were their names. This was before the Internet so we used the phone book. (Actors attached to the project included: Anthony Quinn, Peter Falk, Burt Young, Tony Danza and Shelly Winters.) One of the names I suggested was Johnny Ardolino because it sounded so real. It had been years since I had seen Johnny and it didn’t dawn on me there could ever be a problem.

I was sitting in the Shores lobby, script in hand, waiting for my writing partner to pick me up to go to the Ambassador Hotel to deliver the script to Aldrich. As fate would have it, Johnny came into the building to visit a friend. Surprise, surprise, he was inebriated. And he wasn’t exactly thrilled to see me. Sarcastically, he asked how my so-called “writing career” was going.

I was delighted because it gave me the opportunity to mention Aldrich, MGM, and Anthony Quinn. Johnny’s one word retort was “Bullshit!”  “Oh, really?!” I confidently handed Johnny the script and he immediately began pouring over it. Proudly, I was hoping for an apology but instead Johnny went berserk as saw his name as one of the characters! Uh oh.

He yelled, “I’ll sue you, Aldrich, MGM and every other motherfu**er connected to this fu**ing project.” I thought he was going to punch me. Just then my writing partner pulled up in front. I quickly grabbed the script, “Take care, Johnny” and jumped into the waiting car. As we drove off my stunned writing partner exclaimed, “What the hell was that all about?”

In retrospect, maybe I should have written about the Oscars. This year could be interesting because there’ll be no host. (And, hopefully, no women falling in love with a fish.)

Jack is at: facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and jackdailypress@aol.com

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