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~ Malden Musings ~

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“Stella Turns 90”


Debbie Gray-Silvestri dropped me a note recently to let me know of a “glorious gesture by some really caring people in this fabulous Malden community of ours.” In the spirit of full disclosure and with all due respect, Debbie Gray was inducted into my “Beautiful Women of Edgeworth All Time Hall of Fame.” I know that may sound awful by today’s socially aware standards, but what the heck, I just wanted to let Deb know that we all feel that (hubby) Richie is one lucky guy! So, Deb thought readers of the Advocate would be happy to see that there are “still great people out here in our sometime selfish and mean-spirited world.” Stella Pinkham turned 90 last week. Her Adams Street neighbors gave her a little surprise party with all her nearest and dearest attending (well, mostly all her nearest and dearest). Deb told me Bonnie Wayshak and her family along with next-door neighbors Dom and Sheila Fermano slipped into Stella’s backyard, set up some tables and chairs, filled the cooler with refreshments, presented her with a cake, and of course, everybody’s all-time fave, Pizza al Taglio. My note: I love how there are still neighbors looking after neighbors in Malden! Meanwhile at Mandi’s Hair Salon – where Stella has her hair styled on Saturdays – Deb also made sure her birthday wasn’t forgotten. Stella was serenaded with her birthday song, balloons were festooned everywhere, yet more birthday cake was consumed and her hair done gratis, a gift from Deb. A product of Edgeworth her whole life, Stella is a lovely and kindhearted human being. All agree on this. Happy birthday, Stella!

It is said in “Malden Musings”…

  • On a Stella Pinkham side note, I have known Stella, basically, my whole life. We moved to Malden in 1963, and shortly after entering Emerson we were introduced to the many friends and neighbors we still call friends and neighbors, to this very day. Stella along with Nancy Cagno, Laura Damiano and Pat O’Conner keeping a close eye on their offspring are some of my earliest memories as we ran wild outside the Emerson School. A sweetheart of a woman, Stella has never failed to make me smile with that sparkling personality of hers. Her Sicilian Pizza? Forgetaboutit! My top three Sicilian slices: Dorothy Drago Levine’s square pie, Umberto Galleria on Hanover Street in the North End, and Adam Street’s Stella Pinkham! Happy birthday, Stella, and many, many more. I’ll see you during the Procession at the Saint Rocco Feast! Stay well.
  • In loving memory of Dr. Claire L. MacDonald, April 20, 1959–June 6, 2023. Beautiful, inside as well as out. Sincerest condolences to the MacDonalds and the Baglios.
  • There was a rare Retirement Director at Malden City Hall Kevin (now a man of leisure) Morrison sighting at the Italian American Citizens’ Club last week. Kevin dominates the bocce court at the Club these days, as he once dominated the hoop court at Amerige Park in “Malden Back in the Day.” Kevin was also an outstanding baseball/softball umpire. At 6′ 4″ or so he struck a pose with theatrical flair behind the catcher that was hard to forget. His “strike 3” call was a sight to behold! Between bocce matches I chatted up K Mo and discovered that he is a big Gary Cherone/Extreme fan, citing Gary’s performance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley back in ’92 as the most dynamic 25 minutes of rock he’s ever witnessed. He also credits Gary for his uncanny ability to get his shot off against much taller opponents on the hoop court. Insert smiley face.
  • As we all know, the Forestdale Cemetery is a who’s who of wildlife: Red-tailed hawks looking for their next meal, snapping turtles gobbling up anything they can get their jaws around, Eastern coyotes lurking about and all sorts of birdlife creating a magnificent aural cacophony (who says I don’t know big words!). On a recent Friday morning, Honey Dew coffee in one hand, Malden Advocate in the other, and with my Merlin Bird App assisting me, I was able to identify seven different kinds of birds: Northern mockingbird, Carolina wren, red-bellied woodpecker, song sparrow, American robin, downy woodpecker and red-winged blackbird. “Holy cow,” as the Scooter used to say!!
  • Speaking of City of Malden Recreation Director Joe Levine’s old Magnavox console, on most of the records “Chills” owned, Redd Holt was the drummer. Holt passed away at age 91 not long ago. In the “my generation had the best music department,” I’ll never forget that summer of ’68 when “Soulful Strut” by Holt’s newest formation, Young-Holt Unlimited, was the hottest song on the transistor. Such fabulous music during the golden era of pop/soul music. Thank you for the wonderful music you gave us, Mr. Holt.
  • If the overflow crowd of supporters for Ward 2 Councillor Paul Condon’s kickoff fundraiser at Anthony’s is any indication of how he will fare this election year, then… forgetaboutit! Old Malden came out! New Malden, too! And everybody in between! The chant of “two more years” could be heard from Donut Villa to Evelyn Place!
  • Last week’s column featured my list of concerts, from best to worst. I omitted one from the “happy I got to see” list, Bauhaus. We saw them both times at The Channel – first time by accident. We drove into the Southie landmark to see the opening band, The Outlets, but were gobsmacked by Dan Ash’s and Peter Murphy’s presence and became fans. Next time they hit The Channel, we were in the pit and this time we knew every word to “Bela Lugosi’s Dead!”

As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – Rene Straccia’s dad Vinny was the best (her mom ain’t bad either!) Rene speaks on the passing of a legend: “Happy heavenly Father’s Day, Dad! If you knew my dad, you know he greeted everyone he loved with a big hug and a kiss. Everyone was ‘his friend’ from the girls at Honey Dew (who knew to make a fresh pot when he walked in but didn’t mind because of how he treated them), to the butcher at the meat deli (who knew to slice it ‘very thin’) and he actually had these peoples phone numbers! That’s how easy he was to love. The people next door, or his regulars who religiously came to hear him sing, and as most of you know, boy could he sing! They all came out for Vinnie! He loved his family more than anything. His children and grandchildren were his pride and joy. He especially loved his ‘baby’ Mia Rigano and the bond they shared was something special. His second love was music, and oh yeah, food – lol! He actually showed his love for you with food always bringing home your favorite or something you said you liked. He could talk to you for hours with such passion about music. He could also talk to you all day about food. He was a great storyteller and when he talked, you listened to every word. He told it like it was and didn’t sugar coat anything, but he had the biggest heart and would do anything for the ones he loved. He’d give you the shirt off his back and that’s what he instilled in my brothers and me. He left a huge void in all our lives when he passed but I know I can speak for all of us when I say, he left us with a ton of memories and his knowledge and wisdom about life lessons. We love and miss you Dad, Papa, Vincenzo, Vinny Boombatz aka Vincent Straccia Sr.”

Postscript: Count me in as one who worshipped at the feet of one Vinny Straccia! I just adored this man! Talented with charisma to spare and one cool cat! Vinny grew up in Boston’s famous Italian enclave, the North End. His love of singing and entertainment came from listening to vinyl his pops would bring home. Urban legend has it that Vinny was stung by the music bug listening to a neighborhood group called The Delphonics. Vinny “borrowed” the Delphonics name and started his own street corner group. Their first paying gig was at the Rose Coffee House in the North End, where they each walked out of the cafe $5 richer. On his return home from Nam in 1969, he joined the soul group “The Betterway” with Bobby Crowley (miss ya, Bobby), Tommy Fleming, Jimmy Martini and Richie Willis (Hi Richie). In 1975, Vinny, Bobby and Guy Chiapponi formed “Breakaway,” which quickly became one of New England’s premier disco show bands. In 1980, Vinny’s baritone became one of the original voices of North Shore Acappella along with Bobby, Guy, Maureen Vadala and Richie. The next 35 years were magical (I was there for much of it, and I remember most of it, I think). The happiness Vinnie and his gang of five brought into all our lives, priceless! Love you forever, my dear friend Vinny aka Vinny Boombatz.


—Peter is a longtime Malden resident and a regular contributor to the Malden Advocate. He can be reached at PeteL39@aol.com for comments, compliments or criticisms.

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