Richie Cremone has left the building. Yes, the living legend that he was checked out on us unexpectedly about a month or so ago and is, no doubt, probably part of Saint Peter’s heavenly choir as we read together. I say unexpectedly because he was supposed to depart this mortal coil many other times in the past, but just like Big Papi’s ’04 Boston Red Sox, he surprised us time and time again by roaring back and cheating the Grim Reaper. Of course, you know Richie! For all those out there shaking their collective heads and wondering who this living legend was, let me take a moment and educate you. His longtime companion Pete Robinson once described him as the only man in Malden who helped put at least three well-known local restaurants out of business. Honestly? He is much more than that despite what Pete would good-naturedly bust his chops about. For the last 30 or so years, he was that beefy guy behind the grill at the Saint Rocco Feast with the greatest, with the most contagious, with the biggest (expletive deleted) smile on his face. Yes, that was Richie Cremone. In his happy place. With friends. Grillin’ and chillin’ at the Feast. Smiling whether he liked you or not. That’s right, that was Richie Cremone.
I must admit, I write this under duress. I just adored that big slug. His passing hit me like a Hagler left-right. Just floored me. I wasn’t prepared when I got the news. I can say with much assurance that nobody was. I just adored that man, not only because he would gift me with as much of his famous homemade chicken soup as I could possibly eat (as many mutual jealous friends have speculated). No sir. I adored him because there was nobody ever created exactly like Richie Cremone. I see people out there right now shaking their heads in the affirmative!
A couple years back (pre-Covid), we did a late Friday night Tiki Island run – Sonny, myself, Joe, Greg, Tommy and Richie. The spareribs (on the bone, well done) were flying off the table. The mai tais were flowing. And Richie Cremone was holding court. What a night. He regaled us with tales (some tall, others taller) locked away in that massive brain of his until Charlie came by the table and told us to drink up and be on our way; “it’s closing time,” he told us as Richie snatched the bill up. What a night. Richie had that effect on people. He really did. I’m rambling but there are so many places to go when you are talking Richie Cremone.
Let’s go back to Brandano’s Restaurant. That is when I first started to hear the name Richie Cremone – when he first appeared on my radar screen. He was the barrel-chested, surly chef in the kitchen who created Brandano’s famous roasted potatoes. His skiffyskaf first made its appearance at Brandano’s also, I believe. According to Richie, he put Brandano’s on the map. Judi, what do ya think?! My brother Joe, after a workout at the Y, introduced me to Richie one afternoon while we were at the bar. Richie looked right through me as he placed another order of steak tips on the grill. It was love at first sight.
When Brandano’s closed its hallowed doors, Richie realized a lifelong dream and opened his own place, Cremone’s Restaurant. The name, not original, but the food – forgetaboutit! Before I go any further, I must add that Richie’s lifelong dream may have been to open his own bar, but his greatest achievement (in my humble opinion) might have been marrying up. His trophy wife, Toni-Marie, is whom I speak of – his greatest accomplishment (oh yeah, and those great kids of his, Julie Ann and Lindsay). Cremone’s was bumping. It was home to stealers, dealers and sidewalk spielers; con men, sly flies, flat foots, reefer riders, smokers and boiler stokers; dead enders, stew bums, tough guys, barflies, rich men, poor men and longshoremen. Insert smiley face – Richie’s outsized personality, the best chow in town and some of the best bartenders in the city (and more than generous pours) making it the go-to place in Malden for many, many years. I remember walking in one night with Greg Lucey, Bert Choff and Greg Phaneuf. Luce knew Richie well. He (re)introduced me to him. Remember the scene in “Annie Hall” when Annie (Diane Keaton) brings Alvy (Woody Allen) to Grammy Hall’s table for a meet and greet with dinner? Remember the look Grammy Hall gave Alvy, and how she visualized him? Well, it wasn’t as bad as that, but you get the idea, right? Insert smiley face. We had many laughs about that years later when Richie actually started liking and acknowledging me. I remember thinking Richie likes me! He really likes me! Lots of laughs indeed. Richie loved to laugh. And I loved laughing along with him. I am rambling again. Final thoughts, I not only adored Richie, but I also just loved the guy. And I miss him a great deal. And I always will. That’s it for now. But believe me. I’m not done talking about Richie. Love ya, dude!
“This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, my only friend, the end” – time for Part 3 of my top 200 basketball players in the history of my life while living and playing basketball in the best hoop city in the Commonwealth, Malden! This is by no means a definitive list. I’ve got great memory recall, but Father Time has diminished my ability to think on my feet as quickly as I did in the past. These are ballplayers that I have played with, and against, in my lifetime. If I have played with or against you and have excluded you or made a glaring error, please let me know and we’ll rectify that after I have carefully examined all the facts. They all have lived in Malden at one point in their lives or were born and raised here. The list is in no particular order. Joe wasn’t the best I ever played with/against (close though), and number 200 (Joe Frauton) was not the worst. Again, if I did not play against or with you in those glorious hoop days of yesteryear, that is why you aren’t mentioned here. Again, please take into account that this is a list of players from my era. The ’64 M.H.S. State Champ team would not be included. Never played with or against them.
For your reading pleasure, the third fabulous 50: Tony Jesi, Don Nally, Vinny Pagliccia, Maryanne Smith, Kenny Lee, Timmy Carey, Jimmy Mirley, Cliff Williams, Joey Hult, Joe Hachey, Rodney Marshall, Paul Finn, Joey Pisaturo, Mike D’Orlando, Jeff Carroll, Hank O’Brien, Ann & Colleen McBride, Susan Ciccarelli, Bruce Knight, Gary Dawson, Bobby Willis, Vance Ferratusco, Billy Murray, Steve Nelson, Tommy Stein, Dane Sparrow, Mike Byrne, Billy Coleman, Larry Green, Phil Scibelli, Terry Coleman, Cathy MacMullin, Tommy O’Brien, Peter Plachowicz, Paul Coleman, Bobby Foley, Freddy Cowans, Leslie Hume, Eddie Wilcox, Paul Stathopoulos, Larry White, Dave “The Pride of Public Facilities” Angelo, Howie Rodenhiser, Kevin Trodden, Billy & Frankie Curley, George MacKay, Andy Slavin, Joey Pagano and Paul & Sean Gilligan.