Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mike Porco's Cousins and Brethren.

After speaking with Vincent Porco of the Bronx, I learn of the "other" Porcos and offshoot families from the same town. My grandfather Mike Porco was a late bloomer. Many of his known relatives from Calabria had made their way from Italy to New York a generation prior.

My notepad was made from the back of an envelope.

Mike came here in 1933. Vincent's close relatives took a boat in the 1890s. Vinnie's grandfather is Anthony. He's never heard of Mike Porco although he's well aware that there's a paternal link not that far distant. His Porco heroes were the business men of the Bronx who stayed uptown and ran the speakeasies and night clubs up there. Places like the Flame, The Victoria Café on 141st and 7th, and the Palm. Not sure if it's the same Palm in the city now. But the one in the Bronx was run by the Bastones. Probable relative Joe Bastone put up the lion's share of money to open up Gerde's for his cousin Mike in 1952.

Mike's rotating cast of cousins and brothers ran Gerde's on 3rd and Mercer. Youngest brother Luigi was there at the beginning long before John came to America. They converted the fare from German to Italian. NYU forced them to relocate a block north to 4th and Mercer in '57. Music still wasn't introduced there until '59.

Vincent does remember Club 845 which was over on Prospect Ave. That was where Mike took his first real job working 90 hours for $11/week. By the time his kids were born, he was running the service from the entire 90 foot long bar. Fitzgerald, Armstrong and Ellington played there in the 1940's. Mike got to know them too but not as well as he did Dylan, Ochs and Van Ronk.

There were other families related somehow strewn all over the place. The Guara family. Bastone, Puglice (they just pronounced it POLICE) and the Reeda family. Mike's wife was a Reeda and Vincent knew another Vincent Reeda but we've never heard of him.

He also told me that his beloved Uncle Dom lives up by me in Tillson Lake. I got his number and since he spent more of his youth in West Harlem and followed the music, he'd have more to dish.

Vincent remembered the Yankee Tavern that Grandpa bought in 1965 but he never knew a Porco owned it. My Uncle Angelo ran the bar service there and was part owner. It was on 161 and River literally in the shadow of the Stadium. The Tavern, along with and half the block where the Chock-Full-o-Nuts once was, burned down to the ground in the winter after the Yankees '76 World Series loss. They would win the next two but Mike gave up the lease. His only business then was Folk City and some properties that he held with my Uncle John. Vinnie Porco says that every family has more than one John.

1 comment:

  1. How interesting to learn more about Mike Porco! I sang at Gerde's Folk City around 1962. One of my favorite lady singers was Lynn Gold. I wonder where she is now.
    Orriel Smith