Salvatore Benedetto arrived home from college in mid- May, a few days earlier than his parents had expected. He’d caught a ride to New York City with his roommate Pauly and had called his folks when he got to Port Authority. He would have been perfectly happy to take the subway and bus back to Floral Park but they insisted on picking him up. That was fine with him since it gave him time to walk the ten blocks up Broadway to the Colony record shop, which was at the time the greatest record store on the planet. Sal spent an hour sifting through jazz records he had only read about and with the last of his cash, bought Sketches in Spain. Then he high tailed it back to the Northwest corner of fortieth and eighth, where his parents were just waiting in their brand new brown Rambler wagon. He hadn’t bothered getting his hair cut in the last few months and was hard at work on a developing something real cool under his chin. When he leaned down to open the back door, his mother’s lips froze in mid smile and his father nearly drove their new car straight up the sidewalk.
Although he’d been lead guitarist in the most notorious bad boy band in High School, The Mongrels, Sal had never gotten a chance to look the part. His mother had always bought his clothes at Robert Hall, and his brown leather laced shoes came from Florsheim’s. Every three weeks or four weeks, he’d have to submit to the torture of a semi buzz cut at the gnarly hands of Michael Abruzzi, the ancient owner of Michael’s Old Fashion Barber Shop. Michael was at least seventy years old and reeked of tobacco and Lilac Vegetal. That was all well and fine when Sal was ten, back then he didn’t mind the greasy kid stuff as long as his mom bought him a soda at Martin’s Candy store when he was done. But by the time he turned seventeen, all his friends had abandoned Michael for Primo and his wife Liza, the Unisex Hairstylists who’d opened their shop next to the Big Apple Supermarket in the new shopping strip on the other side of town. But he was still stuck at Michael’s, his big hands buzzing away, singing La Boheme at full volume while he shaved around Sal’s ears with a straight razor. When the big man was finished he’d slap Sal upside the head with that smelly after shave that would sting like hell and a flourish remove the hairy cape.
Whadda handsome Bambino! He would pronounce to the gallery of smiling women who held their little boys in vise-like grips so they couldn’t escape their sentence
See how handsome, Mr. Michael made Salvatore? Don’t you want to be handsome like that?
All the kids would give young Sal a dirty look like it was his fault that they too were stuck getting a buzz cut in this smelly horrible place. Now however, he looked like a normal college kid. He had traded his Florsheim’s for sandals and his Robert Hall wardrobe for faded jeans and granny glasses. His hair, though prematurely thinning on top, was well over his collar. For the longest time the Benedetto family rode in silence on the Long Island Expressway until Sal’s father finally blurted out, “You look like a homo” as they were passing Kissena Blvd on the outskirts of Queens. After that no one said another word.
Professor Dean Goldberg is the Director of the Communication, Art and Digital Media program at Mount Saint Mary College, a private liberal arts college in upstate New York. He spent more than half of his adult life as a film editor, writer and director for film and television and has written articles and reviews on film production and film theory. His article ‘More Than a Touch of Madness’ on Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg’s film Performance (1970) appeared in issue 15.3 of Film International. He is currently working on a book about the Hollywood Blacklist for Fairleigh Dickenson University Press to be published late ’22.